Save Energy in the Kitchen Without Buying New Appliances

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Typically, I cook three meals a day, only occasionally eating out at bars and restaurants. This saves tons of money, but it also means cooking is a big part of my electricity bill.

If you want to save energy in the kitchen, the most significant step you can take is investing in high-end appliances certified by Energy Star. Unfortunately, that’s an investment not everyone can afford to make. These are some free and simple ways to cut your electricity consumption in the kitchen without buying brand-new appliances.

Refrigerator

Is your refrigerator running? Then you’d better make sure it’s running efficiently! Since they’re on 24/7, fridges use a lot of electricity. There’s no use switching it off for a few hours a day, since it usually takes more energy to start back up than it does to idle (also, it’s pretty precarious in terms of food safety). Instead, try these tips:

  • Set the fridge temperature to between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius and the freezer to -18. Your food isn’t any safer at cooler temperatures, and this will cut the electricity it takes to keep it cool.
  • Don’t put your fridge right up against the wall. You need to leave space around the back to let air circulate. Pressing it too close to the wall will lead to a clogged vent and fan.
  • Turn off the fridge and clean the vent and fan at least two to three times a year. The less dust and debris, the better your fridge will run.
  • Keep the fridge and freezer well-stocked. Things stay colder when they’re close to other cold items. If you don’t keep much food in there, consider adding bags of ice in between food items to help them stay at the right temperature.
  • Don’t put hot food in the fridge. Let it cool a bit before it goes in so it doesn’t warm up the air inside.
  • Defrost your freezer periodically and leave about 5cm of space around the walls to allow for air circulation.

Stove/Oven

Electric ovens can be energy hogs. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce their impact on your energy bill:

  • Cook with a smaller appliance when you can. Microwaves, slow cookers, and convection ovens all use less electricity than a standard oven.
  • Clean the oven at least once a month. This will help it heat up faster and run more efficiently.
  • When cooking on the stove top, select a pan that matches the size of a burner. If you use a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner, you’ll waste over 40% of the heat.
  • Do your cooking prep (washing and cutting vegetables, seasoning meat, etc.) before you turn on the oven.
  • Cook larger portions, or even multiple meals, at once. Store the leftovers for later. It takes less energy to cook a lot of food and reheat the leftovers than it does to cook multiple meals at different times.

Dishwasher

True or false: washing dishes by hand uses less water than running the dishwasher. Turns out it’s false! Most modern, energy-efficient washers can get the job done with less water than most people can by hand. Of course, they do use electricity, but you can reduce that amount:

  • Only wash when the dishwasher is full. Washing large amounts of dishes and cutlery doesn’t use any more water than a small load, and it uses less electricity than multiple uses.
  • Instead of running the dry cycle, remove the dishes once the wash cycle is over and let them air-dry in a drying rack.

 

How to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Bigger

You can use light and colour to give your small kitchen the illusion of space.

It’s said that the kitchen is the ‘heart’ of every home. I think of it more as our home base. We go there to eat, cook, and prepare food, obviously. But we also gather in the kitchen to read, work, talk family business, and drop off ‘found’ items (if you find something out of place somewhere in the house, it usually ends up in the kitchen).

Point is, everyone agrees the kitchen is an important, multi-functional space. So why are some of them so small?

I’ve toured houses where the kitchen is most generously described as a ‘nook’. It’s especially bad in some century homes, built back when people preferred lots of tiny rooms instead of a few big ones. If that’s the heart of your home, you’d better take it easy, or the whole place might collapse.

Having lived in an apartment or two, I know what it’s like to deal with small kitchens. Here are some tips to help make it work.

Use Colour and Light

You can’t always make your kitchen bigger, but you can create the illusion of space through careful use of light and colour.

Natural light always makes a space feel larger. If you have a window in your kitchen, don’t cover it with blinds or curtains; embrace that light and let it shine. Use generous amounts of task lighting and ambient light to make up for it at night.

Colour is another important factor in the feel of your kitchen. While dark colours don’t always make a space feel small, it’s tricky to get the balance right when it comes to petite rooms, so it’s best to choose lighter shades for your walls and cabinets. Streamline your colour palette to a few basic colours and use it consistently throughout the kitchen for a unified design.

Decorate Lightly

It’s easy to make a small kitchen feel cluttered. When it comes to decorating, use a light touch, paring down your collection to a few favourite items. Be sure to leave some free space on the walls for balance.

Switch to Small Appliances

Appliances inevitably occupy quite a bit of real estate in your kitchen. However, unless you’re cooking for lots of people every night, you don’t really need full-sized appliances. There are lots of alternatives out there for people living in dorms and other small spaces. Singles, couples, and small families can make due with a miniature fridge, dishwasher, and oven.

To maximize the use of what little room you have, you should put away any appliances you don’t use every day. Designate a specific cabinet as your “appliance garage” and use it to store blenders, rice cookers, and other specialty items.

Get Smart with Storage

Getting organized is the best thing you can do for a small kitchen. The Internet is full of clever, do-it-yourself solutions for kitchen storage, from extra shelves to hanging pans. If you aren’t the hands-on kind of person, try using a wire shelving unit – it’s not much to look at when it’s empty, but plenty of designers have used them as part of a beautiful kitchen.

 

You Missed a Spot: 10 Kitchen Items Everyone Forgets to Clean

It happens to the best of us.

You have company coming over. It’s go time. And you’re not ready.

Perhaps you caught wind of some last-minute guests. Maybe you made plans weeks ago, but work left you no time to clean during the week. Whatever the reason, your kitchen is a mess, and you need to make it *somewhat* presentable in time.

Of course, that’s when we start to cut corners.

We focus our effort on the big-ticket items – the counter tops, the stove, the stainless steel fridge that holds fingerprints like an old-fashioned fridge holds magnets – and forget the little details.

But that’s alright! You’ll get it next time. Just keep these kitchen cleaning tips in mind when you tidy up and you’ll never miss a problem spot again.

10. Ceilings and Corners

In your kitchen, the walls and ceilings get dirty faster than the rest of your home. All those splashes of oil from the stovetop or bits from the blender can get grimy if you leave them alone.

Take time to clean crease, grime, and spilled food from those nooks and crannies.

9. Wall Art

Just as the walls in your kitchen get dirtier, so do the things that adorn them. Smudged glass and dusty frames take away from the beauty of your carefully-selected pieces. Dust off the tops and sides of your frames, then take them down to give the glass a good clean.

Be sure not to spray water or cleaner directly onto the frame, as liquid can seep behind the glass and damage your precious art. Instead, wipe it with a slightly damp cloth.

8. Drapes, Curtains and Blinds

Of course you remember to Windex your windows, but when was the last time the drapes got some attention? Though they may look clean, curtains and other hanging upholstery can trap everything from pollen to dust mites and bacteria.

The next time you clean your windows, take down the coverings and wash them according to the label. You can save time by vacuuming them regularly.

7. Cutting Boards

Whether you use them a little or a lot, it’s very important to sanitize your cutting boards. Both wood and plastic cutting boards can be a major source of cross-contamination.

It’s best to sanitize them with a chlorine bleach solution after each use, but if you can’t find time for that, use a different cutting board for your meats, fruits and vegetables, and other foods.

6. Sponges

Sponges are a haven for bacteria. Washing them with soap and water isn’t enough.

You can kill most of it by heating a moist sponge in a microwave for one minute, or popping them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle. But you should still replace your kitchen sponge frequently, especially if it starts to smell.

5. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans usually sit idle during the winter months. That’s when they accumulate mountains of dust bunnies on the upper side of the blades. If you don’t clean them often, you’ll end up with a shower of dust the next time you turn on the fan.

You can easily remove the dust with a warm, soapy cloth. Just be sure to use a stable stepladder to reach those high places.

4. Cabinet Handles and Doors

Kitchen cabinets tend to get grabbed by dirty hands, becoming a hot spot for – you guessed it – bacteria.

You can thwart these tiny pests by disinfecting knobs and handles every so often. If the cabinet hides something messy, like a garbage bin or dog food, you should wipe down the inside of the doors as well.

3. Garbage Can

Sure, you take out the trash every week. You know not to leave dirty bits and pieces on the bottom of the can. But your kitchen garbage can will still accumulate grime.

If you garbage can smells bad even when empty, it’s time to give it a thorough clean with a disinfectant and odour cleaner.

2. Dishwasher

Who washes the dishwasher? You do – or at least you’re supposed to. The filter gets clogged with food debris and soap scum, and the sides are marred by hard water deposits. Neglect it for too long and you’ll have mold.

Luckily, cleaning the dishwasher is a fairly simple process.

1. Small Appliances

Perhaps the most neglected corners of our kitchens lay with our humble appliances. We love our toaster, blender, and coffee maker, but rarely do we remember to clean them inside-out.

To keep your food tasting fresh (not funky), be sure to clean your little appliances when you clean the oven and stove top.