With the cost of living crisis bearing down on us and energy and food costs soaring – and likely to get worse – we should all be looking for ways to save money and reduce our electricity and gas consumption. Arguably, we should have been looking into this more keenly before the price of absolutely everything started shooting up, since the amount of food waste produced by British kitchens is absolutely crazy. I don't have any suggestions for ways to drastically cut your bills – believe me, if I knew how to do that, I would tell you – and do it myself.
However, if your current kitchen setup, and approach to fridge management, are causing you to spend more than you should, these three simple tips could at least help to ease the pain a little.
1. Get an induction hob
I thought of starting this piece by saying, 'Replace all your appliances with newer and more expensive ones!' In practically all cases, if your current oven, fridge freezer, hob, washing machine and so on are 5-10 years old, a new one will beat them for energy efficiency and pay for itself within a few years. Sadly, it then occurred to me that replacing all your major appliances is not a great cost-cutting measure.
However, if there is one major change you should make it's moving from a gas hob to induction. That's both because the cost of gas is rocketing, and because induction is extremely energy efficient.
We have an extensive guide to the best induction hobs. Some of them are quite expensive but there are some affordable options in there as well. However, my top tip for anyone on a budget would be to get a single, plug-in induction hob and use that instead of your gas rings. The Electriq one pictured here is under 40 quid at Appliances Direct and has 10 power settings, with a maximum output of 2000W. That means it can cook quickly and very controllably, while the energy efficiency inherent to induction cooking means you'll quickly recoup the cost of buying it.
Although please make sure your pans are magnetic. Steel and cast iron pans work great with induction hobs, but pans made of other materials will need to have a layer of steel in the base. Thankfully most modern pans do, but check with a magnet before moving on to induction, because if they aren't magnetic, you'll need to buy a new saucepan set as well.
Of course, if you only cook on one hob ring, you will inevitably save money compared to cooking on more – it does require more discipline and an extensive recipe book of one-pot ideas, which brings us on to…
Get an Instant Pot or air fryer
When I say 'Instant Pot' here I am talking about any multi-cooker, not just the ones made by Instant Pot. It's just that most people use the term 'instant pot' to mean that type of device, regardless of who makes it, and the term 'multi-cooker' doesn't quite seem to have caught on.
Both multi-cookers and air fryers are one-pot marvels that can transform tired ingredients into delicious meals. They'll generally do this in a much more energy-efficient way than using your oven or hob, saving you money on power costs as well as food bills. That's because they're smaller and faster than most ovens.
Many people already own at least one of these devices, but keep it in the cupboard next to the juicer and yogurt maker. However, now would be a great time to get it out and make the most of the delicious dishes and useful energy savings they can serve up. You don't already have one? Take a look at our guides to the best Instant Pot and the best air fryer and you'll find options to fit most budgets.
Instant Pots are best for making liquid-based meals, ie: stews, soups, casseroles and stocks. Air fryers are generally better for crispier fare. However, with their multiple cooking modes, both are more versatile than that overview might suggest.
If you're someone who tends to end up with a fridge full of ageing vegetables and other ingredients, and no idea what to do with them, an Instant Pot might be the best option. I have on occasions almost literally emptied the veg drawer of my fridge into mine, chucked in some bits of chicken or other protein, and a few herbs and spices, and the multi-cooker has magically served up something very tasty about 30-60 minutes later. That is the magic of pressure cookers, which is what Instant Pots are, at heart.
You can also get devices that are both a pressure cooker and an air fryer, if you can't make up your mind which to get. The Ninja Foodi SmartLid range of cookers is staggeringly good.
Use your microwave
Alternatively, why not start using your microwave oven again? If indeed you've ever used it in the past. Microwaves are incredibly energy efficient compared to a conventional oven and modern ones are able to cook food and brown it, so you aren't left with something resembling a horror movie prop.
Perhaps the main use for microwaves, if you don't want to return to the 70s and cooks meals from scratch in them, is for reheating leftovers quickly and safely. If you eat more leftovers, by definition, you are going to spend less on food.
Bonus tip: switch to LED bulbs
If your kitchen – or anywhere else in your home – is still lit with incandescent bulbs or fluorescent tubes, you are almost literally burning money. Even if you made the switch to CFL bulbs – the previous champion for energy efficiency, although not for brightness or quality of light – LED is still a significant step up. LED bulbs last longer, use less energy and also tend to throw a much more pleasing light, with a higher maximum output.
The stylish gold standard for LED bulbs is Philips Hue of course, but there are far more affordable LED options available today. You can pick them up at your local supermarket or hardware store, or peruse Amazon's extensive selection of LED lighting options.