Smart, simple ways to save money (and the Earth) in the kitchen

Posted at 1:14 AM, Jun 23, 2016
Everyone wants to save money, and it’s even better when you don’t have to work that hard to do it. One of the easiest places to squirrel away a few dollars here and there is in the kitchen.
Here are 10 simple ways to save money that you won’t even notice. And as a bonus, you’ll also be helping the Earth while you’re at it. Truthfully, the two go hand-in-hand: the less water and gas you use, the better for the environment and your bills. We’d call that a win-win.
1. Rinse off foil and plastic baggies to reuse them
If you’re just using a piece of foil underneath a burger while you keep it warm in the oven, it’s easy to gently clean it with soap and warm water. Once you’ve removed grease, pat it dry with a towel and smooth it out to reuse. The same thing goes for plastic baggies—try to avoid using them whenever possible (they get used so quickly, it’s hardly worth the money buying them), but if you have to, turn them inside out once they’re empty, wash carefully and hang to dry. This is especially useful for the gallon-size freezer bags that are more durable.
2. Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones
Cloth napkins are a great alternative to paper ones. You don’t have to use a new one every time you eat (unless, of course, it’s spaghetti night), and you’ll find yourself naturally gravitating away from paper products as a whole. Even though there are plenty of cheap options for paper napkins, it’s hardly worth the 99 cents when you have to buy a new pack of 100 every week.
3. Scrape, don’t rinse plates
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to pre-wash plates before you put them in the dishwasher. Merely scraping any food waste off the surface (especially rice, which can expand and clog up the dishwasher’s mechanisms) is sufficient. According to Good Housekeeping, many dishwasher detergents contain enzymes that need to latch onto food particles in order to work effectively. If the plates are already squeaky clean, that’s a waste of money.
On top of that, you’ll save nearly 6,000 gallons of water a year when you stop pre-rinsing. The average dishwasher only uses about 5-8 gallons of water per load—by hand, you’re more likely to use almost 27 gallons and twice the electricity. Seriously, give your water bill a break. Just scrape the plates.
4. Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are at their optimal temperature
It’s tempting to turn your fridge and freezer down until they breathe icy clouds of air every time you open the door, but the likelihood is that your appliances are actually too cold—which is a giant energy suck. According to the FDA, your fridge should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder (but not too cold or you’ll damage delicate produce), and your freezer should be at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If your refrigerator or freezer doesn’t have an actual thermometer inside, there are plenty of inexpensive models you can purchase and stick to the inside wall.
5. Make coffee with a mesh coffee filter or French press
Paper coffee filters are expensive, and they go quickly. Even if you buy a pack of 100 (or 1,000 if you’re shopping at Costco), eventually they’ll run out. Not so with a wire filter or a French press. Although you’ll have to use a slightly coarser grind of coffee to avoid the bottom-of-the-pot sludge, you’ll never have to buy another filter. Plus, a French press is great if you only want a cup or two of coffee. No need to make a giant pot that you won’t even drink!
6. Get rid of your Keurig
This is a very simple trick: just get rid of your Keurig (or Nespresso) and you will save a disgusting sum of money every year. According to a 2015 article in The Atlantic, the tiny serving of coffee in each K-Cup ends up costing almost $40 a pound—nearly three times the price of a pound of ground Starbucks coffee. In a Time article from the same year, Caribou brand K-Cups versus traditional ground coffee were compared, showing that one K-Cup cost 66 cents versus 28 cents, respectively. “If you make three cups a day, 365 days a year, that adds up to around $723 spent on K-Cups, versus $307 for regular coffee brewers,” the article says. So save yourself some money, and just do it the old-fashioned way.
7. Unplug your appliances
You probably don’t think about it, but appliances suck energy even when they’re not being used. According to the department of energy, the average phone charger consumes .26 watts of energy when not in use, and 2.24 watts even when a fully charged device is connected to it. Now think about your coffeemaker, which uses about 1400 watts when active. How long do you keep it plugged in after the coffee has been made? Or any of the other various appliances in your kitchen that you don’t use as often?
Alone, 1400 watts here and 2.24 watts there won’t cause a huge bump in your energy bill. But once you add in everything else that’s plugged in all day without use, you can see why “energy vampires” can add 10 percent or more to your monthly utility bill.
8. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge
How often have you stood by the sink waiting for water to either heat up or cool down? It’s okay, don’t answer that. There’s a simple solution to not wanting to drink tepid water (like any reasonable human being): Keep a pitcher in the fridge so you can snag a glass whenever without running the tap.
9. Organize your fridge so you don’t have to keep it open
If you always know exactly where everything is in your fridge, you won’t have to keep it open searching for that half an onion (and as a bonus, things won’t get lost—which means less wasted food). Always keep eggs and dairy along the sides of the fridge where it’s coldest and actually use those crisper drawers for your vegetables. They’re there for a reason. Once you have the fridge organized in a way that works for you and your family, you’ll never have to go hunting again.
10. Use Tupperware instead of expensive plastic wrap
A single roll of plastic wrap can run you anywhere between $2.50 and $4. And if you’re constantly covering large bowls and plates, it runs out quickly. Ditch the cling wrap entirely and just use containers. You don’t even have to go out and buy them (although you can if you wish). So many foods come in reusable containers: shredded cheese, Chinese takeout, soups from the deli… the list goes on and on. Plus, it’s much easier to see what’s in your fridge when everything is in a container, instead of concealed beneath a drippy layer of plastic wrap.