If you haven’t heard of roasting a chicken, using the leftovers for sandwiches and boiling the carcass for soup, I reckon you must be living in an alternate universe devoid of poultry and all its derivatives. The SOARCFAF (“Stretching out a roast chicken for a fortnight”) doctrine is a sensible principle that lots of us could benefit from but don’t always commit to, like post-partum Kegels. And there’s no denying that in today’s austerity-led climate, money-saving tips have become a necessity for many cash-strapped families. But perhaps it’s time to look beyond the little ol’ chook in our mission to make our pennies go further? Instead of fixating on what we cook, let’s also focus on how we cook it. Here are a few energy-saving ideas to try:
1 Learn how to “sit cook”
Ever put your gym kit on and thought it enough of an exercise to forgo the treadmill and warrant an evening of restorative Netflix? Then “sit cooking” is right up your alley. Here’s what you do: let your food come to the boil in a pan, tightly pop the lid on and turn the hob off, allowing the residual heat to work its magic. This technique is perfect for cooking boiled eggs, fish and vegetables, but you must have a proper pan lid to keep the heat in. It works for ovens, too – turn it off 15 minutes before the recommended cooking time if it’s been on for a while and it should stay hot, as long as you don’t open the door to take a peek at your roast spuds.
2 Save energy by making your oven multitask
Imagine your oven is a working parent who’s simultaneously handling a Skype call and eating lunch, while mopping the brow of a feverish child – make it multitask. Bake a shepherd’s pie, a tray of veggies or a casserole alongside your evening’s lasagne then simply reheat in the microwave later.
Get into other good habits, like putting lids on pans and matching pots to the size of your burners – these actions will encourage foods to come to the boil quicker and prevent heat escaping around the top and sides of your skillet. Similarly, use glass dishes in the oven as they retain more heat than metal alternatives (so cook quicker and take up less energy).
3 Use your toaster
Buy a toastie pocket and you can safely grill almost anything in the toaster, from sliced garlic bread to waffles, instead of wasting energy by whacking your entire oven on for a miniscule tuna melt (any grease that drips out will be caught in the bag).
4 Invest in a pressure cooker
My friend was once gifted a large red pedal bin by her husband for Valentine’s Day. I never understood why she didn’t just toss him around in the bin juice gathered at the bottom of the old trash can for being an absolute banana, until my own beau bought me a pressure cooker years later. It was then that I became a fan of the practical present.
Pressure cookers (Lakeland and Robert Dyas have good selections) cut regular cooking times in at least half, by cooking foods in a high-temperature, pressurised-steam environment within a safely sealed pot. Throw in anything from beans and barley (unsoaked!) to frozen meats and vegetables, to tenderise ingredients that would ordinarily need to be boiled for hours or roasted slowly.
5 Or, get more organised and embrace slow cooking
The slower sister to the pressure cooker, slow cookers lengthen cooking times, but use little energy when they’re on (about the same as a traditional light bulb) to create flavourful stews and hotpots. The lower temperature and longer cooking period gently tenderises cheap cuts of meat by melting away the connective tissue, turning a mishmash of ordinary ingredients into a scrumptious feast. Plus, it’s dead convenient if you can get your act together – put it on in the morning to arrive home after work to a fragrantly bubbling, home-cooked meal instead of spending £20 on a takeaway. Try John Lewis.
6 Zap it with a microwave
Jacket potatoes don’t have to be baked in the oven for an hour – 10 minutes in a microwave will do the trick, although you’ll have to sacrifice the crispy skin. Scrambled eggs are easy to make too, as well as fish, vegetables and even pasta. Heed my advice and stick to making cakes in the regular oven, though. No matter what you do,
microwaved mug cakes will always taste like egg-flavoured rubber.