Disclosure: I wrote this blog with significant input from my wife Claudia! Anyone who knows my knowledge of the kitchen could tell you I can mix cereal with milk, turn the dishwasher on and, um, well that’s about the extent of my cooking abilities.
Cooking at home can be a great way to save money when compared to eating out or buying takeaway, but there are even cheaper ways of doing it.
There are a few websites out there that encourage doing big cook ups, say, once a week or even once a month. It’s a great idea and can be taken one step further to make it even more efficient. Most ovens can fit a fair bit of food in them, and if you have the space, do all your oven cooking at the same time. So much energy is used up each time you need to preheat your oven that if you were to do a month’s worth of baking all at once, you would save yourself a decent amount of energy and money. It all adds up and you can squeeze a few more savings if you are able to do your big cook ups during off peak or shoulder electricity times.
Leave the food for freezing out on the bench until it has cooled to almost room temp otherwise you will just heat up your freezer. It can be a balancing act between going into the freezer too early and spending too much time on the bench beforehand – the last thing you want is food poisoning. But if the food is cooked right through and reheated properly when you eat it you should be safe.
If it’s really cold in your house in winter and you normally need the heater on, try to time the start of your big bake up to when you would have to get your home warm. Many ovens, especially fan forced ones, spit out a lot of warm air doing the job of a small gas furnace and warming the room as they cook.
When boiling on the stove, turn your hot plate off about 30 seconds to a minute before you need to pull the pot off. The heat retained in the stove will continue to cook your rice/pasta/2 minute noodles ‘til they are ready (obviously this won’t work with gas). Ok, so you won’t buy yourself a return airfare to Paris with the savings from this tip, but it does lessen your chances of forgetting to turn the hotplate off. To give you an idea of my level of culinary skill, I once left a hotplate on overnight. At my sister’s place. She never asked me to housesit for her again.
Most amateurs know that black bananas can be turned into a cake, but there are a few other tips for avoiding food wastage. When you’re cooking pavlova, don’t chuck out your egg yolks. Throw them into a pan with a couple of whole eggs for a yellower-than-normal but still tasty omlette. Rather than throwing them in the compost, leave the ends from your bread loaves out to dry and crush them up to make great breadcrumbs (I believe they are made from the same ingredients).
If you have a bunch of ingredients in your fridge that don’t go together to make up a normal meal, make an abnormal meal. You might be surprised how good random bits and pieces can taste when thrown together.