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Money-saving tips to EAT up

By Samantha Vercellino

20151027_EatUp_fbAs the days get shorter and colder, chances are we’ll be spending more time inside—and cooking. But before hitting the kitchen, look at these tips to ensure maximum savings during the festive-but-frigid months ahead.

Plan accordingly. You don’t have to spend all day in the kitchen to prepare a meal your family will enjoy. Give the oven and stove a break by finding recipes that don’t require any cooking. (Try these no-cook dinners.) Make extra portions and freeze it for a later date, or put it in Tupperware to reheat and eat during the week. Leftovers save you energy—and time! Also look for cold sides or dishes that can cook in the oven simultaneously with the entrée. (Everybody loves fruit salad, right?)

Debunk the myth. Your grandma may swear by “preheating the oven,” but it’s a costly energy mistake to make. Preheat only when necessary (bakers take note), and then keep the preheating time to a maximum of eight minutes. Oven lovers should also opt for ceramic or glass dishes over metal pans when cooking. They hold heat better and allow users to knock 25 degrees off the oven temperature.

Don’t peek. Fears of overcooking your lemon chicken or fingerling potatoes may be enough to get you to open the oven door, but resist the temptation. Every time the door is opened, the inside temperature drops by as much as 25 degrees, which forces the oven to exert more energy. Buy a timer to sound an alarm or eye your food carefully through the oven window.

Size matters. Being more efficient in the kitchen doesn’t end with ovens. When using the stovetop, match the size of the pan to the burners. More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air. (For example, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40 percent of energy.) Paying attention to size could save you $36 annually for electric stoves, and $18 for gas.

Keep it clean. Not only is it sanitary but keeping your stove burners clean also increases efficiency. Remove dirt and grime from your burners before it builds up. Dirty burners absorb the heat instead of reflecting it up to the cookware. When it comes to ovens, invest in ones that are self-cleaning. Their insulation makes them more energy efficient. However, if you already own one, run its self-cleaning cycle once a month, and always after it’s been used to reduce energy.

There’s more to life than the oven. Pull out your crock pot, microwave and toaster oven instead of using the oven and stovetop. They draw less than half the power of regular ovens and cook food for a much shorter period of time. (Find discounts at CouponCabin for kitchen needs.)

Sharing is caring. No one likes to eat alone, so host a family and friends’ dinner. (Throw the perfect dinner party.)  The warmth from the kitchen and excess body heat will let you lower your thermostat a degree or two. Each degree lowered can save up to three percent on you heating bill.

Have an appetite for even more tips? Check out CUB Energy Saver, our free, online tool that can help you save potentially hundreds of dollars a year on your power bills.