When I was a kid, we had an electric can opener. I’m sure it was the latest greatest thing in the 70’s kitchen, but it always took about 10 minutes for me to open any cans. The can would always slip off the magnet. Parts of the can wouldn’t get cut, and I’d have to make the can go around 2 or even 3 times to get the contents out.
Once I was on my own, I bought a hand-held can opener that I found much easier to use, quicker and that used no electricity.
I will never buy an electric can opener. I find them inconvenient, expensive and unnecessarily bulky. Fortunately, not all kitchen devices are created equally. There are other kitchen devices that Jon and I use on a regular basis that make cooking easier and use less energy than our standard oven and stove top.
Not only does this save us money because of energy efficiency, they also make cooking easier. And when cooking is easy, take out is a lot less attractive.
Summer bonus: Cooking on your range or in your oven tends to add a lot of heat into your house, making your air conditioner work harder. Since most of these other devices are smaller and self-contained, they make it easier and cheaper to keep your house cool. While this might not be as attractive in January, it sure is nice in July.
I’m going to start with the one device most Americans have in their home: the microwave oven. The microwave is the most energy efficient means of cooking, but microwaves don’t always do the best job of cooking with your flavor and nutrients intact. The microwave oven is fast and efficient, but we find that its best use is reheating things that are already cooked.
The microwave reheats your leftovers conveniently. Not only are you less likely to waste less food if you put your microwave to work, you also can make larger portions at one time (which uses less energy) when you know you can quickly and easily reheat.
Microwave ovens save you money because they give you options on days you are tired and might otherwise pick up takeout. That’s no small thing. While we don’t keep a lot of frozen dinners around, we generally have some leftovers in the fridge or freezer that can be pulled out on days we just can’t face “real cooking.”
We also tend to buy a lot of frozen vegetables, since they have a longer shelf life than fresh veggies and we aren’t always as good about cooking the fresh stuff as we should be.
The Convection Oven
For Father’s Day 2 years ago, i bought Jon a convection oven to replace our worn out toaster oven. He was thrilled. Using our convection oven, which uses a fan and exhaust system to circulate warm air within, has distinct advantages over using our conventional oven.
- It’s smaller, so it takes less time (and energy) to preheat. It can take 2-3 minutes instead of the 15-20 it takes our conventional oven.
- Blowing hot air around allows you to cook for less time and at a lower temperature.
This results in a 20% reduction in energy usage for cooking the same item!
We bought a larger convection oven, and it usually suffices if we want to cook something in the oven. While I don’t use it for cookies and it won’t hold a turkey, it will hold most frozen pizzas and casserole dishes. For daily oven use, this is our go-to machine.
The Slow Cooker
We use our slow cooker often. Jon loves to use it for soups, stews, and especially big chunks of meat. Not only is a slow cooker really energy efficient (it’s incredibly cheap to cook on low all day) but it can also turn tough, less expensive cuts of meat into tender main dishes. That can save you a lot of money on the grocery end!
Slow cookers are also pretty convenient. You can set up your food, leave it alone for hours, and come home to a delicious meal. And usually letting the food sit a little longer doesn’t hurt it, unlike on a stove top or oven.
You can get slow cookers in a variety of sizes, and they are easy enough to pick up and take to a party or potluck.
The Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker
One of the best ways to avoid wanting to add the infamous Latte expense to your life is to brew your own coffee at home. We use a traditional drip coffee maker with a heating plate. We usually turn off our coffee pot as soon as the coffee is brewed and use a microwave to heat up second or third cups if we find them a little too cool. This makes for better coffee and less energy usage than keeping the coffee hot on the built-in heating plate.
This year, though, Jon’s thinking about a new coffee maker for Father’s Day. He wants one that pours the brewed coffee into a thermal carafe to keep the coffee warm.
The advantages of the thermal carafe coffee maker are that there’s no hot plate, which saves energy and allows the coffee to keep its flavor better. If you are already turning the coffee pot off after brewing like we are, you are already getting most of the energy saving benefits of using one. Thermal carafe coffee makers also tend to cost more than traditional coffee makers.
That said, the thermal carafe does make it a little easier to carry your hot coffee around, whether it’s to the table, the patio or to work. It sounds like a really easy, really good Father’s Day gift idea to me.
The Rice Cooker
Rice used to be something we cooked occasionally. Since we unpacked Jon’s rice cooker (it had sat unused for years) we cook it all of the time. Where before any time I picked up rice it tended to be more expensive blends and boxes, we now just pick up a big bag of brown rice and a big bag of white rice and cook them together.
Not only is rice cheap, brown rice is a great source of fiber and protein. White rice is cheap too, and mixing the two half and half makes a blend we all like (even the picky kid.) Putting slow cooked stews over rice makes for an easy, inexpensive and healthy meal.
Recapping Kitchen Devices
I’m not a big fan of having things just to have them, and I have a lot of kitchen devices that clutter up my counter without a lot of use, like our cappuccino maker that has been used 3 times in the last 6 years. Buying a lot of kitchen devices can cost you money and add more stuff to your life.
That said, there are a lot of kitchen devices that can make your food preparation (and your life) simpler and more efficient. One of the best money saving tips I ever got was “Learn to cook. and then do it.” Prepared foods are expensive and not nearly as good for you, but they are convenient. If you can make cooking other foods more convenient instead, you’ll eat healthier and save money.
What are your favorite kitchen devices for saving money?
Image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net with changes