6 Ways to Save Money In the Kitchen

This article is by Adam from Money RelationshipSubscribe to his site to get free updates on his journey out of debt.

I’ll admit it, the kitchen is my wife’s zone. I only enter it to get something to drink, empty the dishwasher or grab a snack. That’s about the only time I’m in there. I’m the guy who likes to sit around and think about ways to save money, not cook. So, while my wife has been hard at work cooking (which I LOVE honey!), I have been thinking about ways we can save money every month in that particular department. There are plenty of things in the kitchen that you can save money on. Some things could add up to hundreds of dollars per month while others may save you a few cents. Either way, you can save some money and may even help the environment in the process. Here are a few that I came up with and be sure to add yours in the comments!

1. Unplug the Vampires

Most of you have probably already heard this, but many small appliances continue to use power even when they are turned off (called vampire energy loss). For example, my wife and I have an amazing 4 slice toaster by Kenmore. It was a wedding gift and we are really glad we put it on our registry. However, it has these bright blue LED lights on them that constantly stay on when plugged in. I know LED lights are supposed to be really low on power consumption, but there is an even cheaper way of running it. Unplug it! There are other appliances that you could unplug after use such as mixers, coffee makers, radios and microwaves. By unplugging them, you can save a few bucks a month and maybe help out the world a little.

2. Don’t Heat Your Kitchen With Your Oven

Obviously, your oven is a big energy consumer when on. Therefore, it’s best to keep its use to a minimum. When you are using it, only open and close it when starting and finishing the meal. There is no need to keep opening and closing the door. That just makes it have to work harder, thus using more energy. It’s also not necessary to pre-heat for most items. It just makes you have to keep the oven on longer.

3. Turn Up the Temperature in the Chill Box

A lot of people love to turn down the temperature in their refrigerator. I’ll never forget the day I went to visit a friend and got some milk out of the fridge. It had ice in it! Talk about a waste of energy. Your fridge is probably the biggest energy consumer in the kitchen. Turn up the temperature just a little. Experts say that between 38 and 42 degrees is an optimal setting to keep your items fresh and save energy in the meantime.

4. Skip the Pre-Rinse and Dry the Dishes By Hand

I used to use the pre-rinse cycle on the dishwasher every so often. I always thought I was doing more good than harm because I was getting some of the grime off  before the “final” wash. After thinking about it, I was just wasting a TON of water and using up electricity to heat it up.

Most people now use a dishwasher to wash their dirty dishes. I know we do. I’m not really sure what the savings (or added costs?) are when compared to washing by hand but if you do use the dishwasher, skip the dry cycle. The heated dry cycle uses a lot of energy and it’s better to dry them by hand or let them air dry.

5. Buy In Bulk

My wife and I bit the bullet last week and joined Sam’s Club. We live in an apartment so space is limited but we feel that we can make up the cost of the membership in about two months of shopping. We mostly joined for the produce, meat and lunch items (for packing) so it shouldn’t take us long. Heck, on our first trip we saved about $15 compared to the prices right next door at Wal-Mart.

One of our favorite gifts from the past few years was a Foodsaver vacuum sealer. My wife and I don’t eat a whole heck of a lot so we often found ourselves wasting meat or having it get freezer burnt after throwing it in a ziploc bag. As many of you know, freezer burnt meat isn’t that appetizing. The vacuum sealer helps us keep the food fresh and taste like it just came from the market.

6. Shop Smart

Another great tip is to shop smart. When grocery shopping, look for great deals and always be looking out for coupons on the items you purchase frequently. My wife and I don’t coupon but would like to try it out (maybe?). We just don’t know where to get started or if it would benefit us since we don’t spend a fortune on groceries like a family of 6 would.

What other tips do you have? Share them in the comments!

Comments

  1. Good sound advice and tips on saving money. One thing I’ll say about the grocery shopping is don’t do it when you’re hungry or you’ll end up buying unnecessary items. Also keep your impulse buys in check, ask yourself “do I really need that?”.

  2. We have a small family of three (Mom and two grown kids)and have benefited greatly from my daughter’s coupon clipping. She started last year with one of her friends that has a family, and they’ve both done an amazing job of saving money. She’s only buying things that we would normally use, so we haven’t had to do much more then make space for five or six boxes of Special K or other cereal when it’s on sale.
    We did drop our Costco membership and joined BJ’s because they accept coupons. BJ’s is also much closer and isn’t near a Houlihan’s that costs money for lunch on the shopping trip.
    I used the food saver vacuum sealer for years and brought it out a few times trying to drum up some interest, as it does an amazing job of keeping foods fresh in the freezer or fridge. My machine is about 15 years old though, and is more complicated to use. I keep waffling about replacing it, but am waiting for the RIGHT sale!
    The impressive part, to me, is that my daughter is 24 years old and this has become a neat game for her to play. Sometimes we take the savings from the week and donate them to a charity with an urgent need, other times she just gets to gloat for a couple of weeks about the deal she got. She does all of the planning and shopping, I just pay for it. I don’t cook anymore, as it’s too hard on my back, so the kids make meals from time to time.
    You have great suggestions in this article, but there is one that I disagree with slightly and that is about preheating an oven. If you have one of those hanging thermometers in your oven you will notice that it doesn’t take ten minutes to preheat, depending on the oven. I have found it necessary to preheat when BAKING especially (cakes, bread, cookies)in order to have the end product bake evenly. It doesn’t matter with casseroles though.
    We unplug the toaster because I’ve never trusted toasters, ours in a cheapy, but I’m afraid of fire.
    Keep smiling, and keep SAVING!

  3. Organize!!! I use boxes in my freezer and have a “system” for my fridge shelves (leftovers-labeled!- only go on the top shelf; condiments, eggs, and other open jars on the second; heavy drink containers on the bottom). This has drastically cut down the excitement of finding a “mystery” safely tucked away inside a Ziploc or Tupperware, but I also use up what I have before making something new.

    Also, if you use a lot of spices, buy the ones you use most in bulk. (Either in bags or if you buy the big jars at Sam’s, transfer most of it to a bag.) Put a bit in your spice bottle in the cupboard then vacuum seal the rest and stick it in your freezer.

  4. Um…how does a device keep using energy when you UNPLUG it? I think you meant to say the continue using energy even when TURNED OFF.

    Otherwise, fine ideas.

  5. I’m pretty sure Adam meant to say “unplugged.” That would be frightening if appliances managed to drain power even when UNPLUGGED! I’ve corrected the text.

    @Joanna: I like your organization strategy. We do something similar in our fridge. Nothing like finding those month old leftovers with penicillin growing on the top!

  6. I really enjoy your blog and have gotten a lot of great tips. As one of the above comments noted, whether or not you need to preheat really depends on what you are baking…most people aren’t regularly making souffles, but that’s an extreme example to illustrate – it just won’t work if you don’t preheat.
    I am a single person and also thought coupon use couldn’t really affect my budget greatly. I have been proven otherwise. I now get most of my toiletries for free! It’s a bit more complicated than just clipping coupons (need to match up with sales or rebates) but there are websites where others have done all the work for you. Some of the basic ones that are totally free are couponmom or a message board thread called the grocery challenge on msn’s women in red message board. Definitely worth looking into. 30 min to an hour of “work” each week for me saves $25-$50/week.

  7. Make the most of what you have….all the leftovers go in a jar in the freezer for soups/stews.

    Bones, turkey carcass, etc get pressure cooked down for broth and to get the rest of the meat off for soup.

    Plant a garden and eat from there first, and use edible landscaping in your yard so there is always something to eat available.

  8. I love using our vacuum sealer for long-term items (like multiple small pot roasts), but I use regular off-brand Ziploc Freezer bags for items we’ll be using in the next two weeks.

    The vacuum sealer just takes too long when you’re talking about sealing up portions for two people over the next two weeks and the freezer bags are good enough to keep things tasting fresh if you don’t push it a month or more.

  9. I would not worry too much about traditional couponing if you are already saving by buying products that are generic or are store brands.And if you are, hopefully, spending more on fresh foods, there are rarely coupons for them.

    You can waste huge amounts of time clipping and sorting and still not have many coupons for the things you use. The temptation with coupons is to start buying stuff you never would because you “have” the coupons and in some cases have worked to get them. (FYI: We give away the coupons we don’t use and share with friends.)

    Clip only those coupons for products you already use (or may want to try for the first time) and pay attention to store coupons, which can offer big discounts. But always watch the prices. If something is already overpriced and you save, you’re not really saving at all with a coupon.

    Also considering buying in bulk via amazon.com, for example, which is easier for those of us who do not have cars and cannot even get to a BJs or costco. Alice.com is great too.

    Another great way to save is store savings programs such as CVS bargain bucks. Again, you have to be careful not to buy things just because they are on sale or have special savings attached to them. We shop carefully and do well with the “extra bucks” program at CVS–and we can get great deals on branded products we otherwise find too expensive; we shop the sales at drugstore.com and are especially watchful of prices at alice.com, which also includes online coupons.

    Yea, it takes time to monitor prices and to keep track of prices but it’s worth it in the end.

    The key thing is flexibility: In brands, product types, etc.

    Having a shopping list is a start, but then you have to roll with what is on sale at the stores.

    When fresh veggies are high, as they have been recently, we cut way back and resort to frozen.

    We adore tomatoes, for example, but prices have risen something like 300% due to the bad weather. They are temporarily off our list.

    If you can have a garden, grow as much as you can. We wish we could but our apt. gets no light. Otherwise, we’d be doing herbs and more.

  10. I’m surprised no one has commented on the most obvious money saver: hand wash the dishes instead of running the dishwasher. It does take a little more time, but it will save on electricity and water.

  11. Your blog has been a big jump start for us as we get our financial house in order! Our biggest tips for saving money in the kitchen are:
    - Plan your meals – I am trying out plantoeat.com – You can upload all your recipes (it’s fast!) or enter your own. This site actually creates a grocery list for you, which you can organize by store. I love that feature because I know what’s cheaper at Trader Joe’s, the local veggie market or Whole Foods.
    - Make your own chicken stock. We have soup once a week so I was spending a boatload on stock. Instead, I now make my own stock from the bones of our $5.99 organic rotiss. chicken on sale at Whole Foods every Tuesday. I toss in odds and ends from celery, carrots and onions that I keep in a freezer bag. Easy, fast and cheap!
    - Thanks for the tip on temp in fridge.

  12. Manufacturers produce coupons in a 7 – 10 week cycle. Within 2 weeks of the coupons being released, the item will also go on sale. There are numerous websites that keep track of when there is something on sale WITH a coupon. That is when the best deals are to be had. I like theobsessiveshopper.net for my area (Las Vegas) and some other western states. Couponmom.com also does the same thing with a more national reach. 2 normal places for coupons is the Super Shopper in your Sunday paper and the Red Plum that comes in your mail on Tuesdays. They are most useful if you get as many SS or RPs as you have members of your family — then buy that many of the item on sale using the coupons. Often neighbors will give you their SSs and RPs since they just throw them away. I hope this helps. More info on either of the above websites. I save hundreds of $$ every year. Very simple.

  13. Thanks for the tips.
    Here’s one we use, not a big saver, but of course added to all the little savers adds up….depending on what you’re baking, turn the oven off 10 minutes before the cooking time is up. Our oven is highly insulated (a self clean which I’ve never used) and I can turn the oven off ahead of time for cakes, cookies, of course casseroles. (I don’t make souffles or fancy stuff) Just don’t open the door till the time is up or the heat will escape.

  14. To add to Susie above…. if you use cast iron pans, you can turn the burners off before the item is done. The cast iron pans hold the heat and will continue to cook for awhile after the burner is off.

    Or…my fav…. use the cast iron pans on the woodstove top, and you don’t even have to turn the stove top on :)

  15. “Don’t Heat Your Kitchen With Your Oven”

    I agree with your comments regarding this item, but I would add one more point. On those occassions when you DO use your oven, you definitely SHOULD heat your kitchen with it. That is, once you’re done cooking, rather than just closing the door and trapping the heat in the oven, leave the door ajar, so the leftover heat can be put to use heating the rest of your house and easing the workload on your furnace (assuming, of course, that it’s winter).

  16. Aah! Kevin took mine! We have an apartment that is about 110 years old, so it is really drafty and the radiant hear doesn’t help much unless you crank it. On cold nights, I make a point to cook in the oven and then leave the door open after to help out with heating the house!

    I also agree with Sarah that couponing can cause people who are not careful to overbuy or buy stuff you otherwise wouldn’t. But I have to say I save SO much with coupons, so I do advocate them. They can be overwhelming though, so start small and stick with products you already use, and try to pair them with the grocery store circular sales to make the most of the coupon. When I first started I would shoot for 3 coupons a week, paired with a sale. From there I tried to use more as it got easier.

  17. Sometimes, we actually heat our kitchen with the oven.

    In the winter, after we’ve finished cooking our meal and have turned off the oven, we leave the door ajar to let the warm air into the kitchen. It really makes the it toasty warm!

  18. I didn’t read all of the comments so I am not sure if someone already suggested this but when you joined Sam’s Club did you take advantage of the extra membership? We are thinking about it and you get an additional membership for someone outside of the family so we asked a buddy if he wanted to go half-sies(yes, I did just say halfsies). This would take the cost of membership down to $20 in our area.

  19. It actually takes less water to run the dishwasher than to wash dishes by hand.

    Also cooking from scratch will save lots of money. Especially if you make bread.

    Also stop buying bottle water. Drink tap water. I bought us all resuable bottles and we fill up everyday and drink.

    Give up paper towels. Use dish towels, rags, washclothes instead. The savings are great!

  20. I am lucky enough to have a Bargin Barn near that you buy by the cases, no membership dues, use food stamps, coupons,discounts, rotate items at ea trip.
    I am only going every 3 months. I get tolet paper,cat and dog foods also cheaper. This time I was able to buy bird seed at a discount.
    thanks Frugal Dad.

  21. My kids love cooked winter vegies, but I love raw salad vegies. Subsequently, I was throwing out more than half a lettuce each week because it went revoltingly mushy & brown, but I was the only one in the house who ate it, and there is only so much lettuce you can have with every meal… it doesn’t go so well with gluten-free muesli. Unsurprisingly.

  22. An excellent post. However, the comment on the temperature of your refrigerator concerns me. Having been in the food and hospitality industry for years, the lower the temperature in the fridge, the longer food lasts. One degree lower generally balances out to any extra day of storage for fish and shellfish, for example. Of course, you don’t want to freeze items, like the milk, but storing food over 40 degrees is actually unsafe and could easily cause food poisoning. Generally, commercial kitchens keep the fridge around 36-38, though we open our doors a lot more than the average home user.

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