Simple refrigerator tip: Energy efficiency 1, 2, 3…

refrig opnWhile my family and I have been enjoying the weekly produce from our CSA, I have also made my fair share of refrigerator snafus over the weeks.  (Note to self: an overloaded fridge will freeze mustard greens and kaboko cabbage faster than you can SAY mustard greens and kaboko cabbage!)

Besides keeping the door closed as much as possible (unlike this photo!), here are three simple ways to keep it as energy efficient as possible:

  1. Keep it filled up but NOT overcrowded (yea, that freezing issue!) – if it starts to look a little empty, a few covered pitchers of water will do wonders.
  2. Cover EVERYTHING – anything that is uncovered will release moisture and make the refrigerator work overtime to keep the contents cold.
  3. “Give it some space” – while you might be tempted to buy the largest fridge on the planet, it truly needs about 2 inches of space on all sides for proper air circulation and you especially don’t want anything that “heats” (dishwasher, stove, oven, etc.) nearby because it again makes it work harder than it needs to.

There you have it… 1, 2, 3… may your refrigerator runneth over with healthy (unfrozen) produce!

Simple kitchen tip: cook & conserve

pot on stvEach and every day, I “cook up some love” in the kitchen by way of plenty of home cooked meals.  While they may not be gourmet, they are loving prepared to keep my family healthy and nourished.

But there are also some very simple ways to cook up some conservation too… by way of not overconsuming energy and resources.  At first glance it may not seem like much, but add it up over time and you’ve also cooked up some conservation!  Give these simple tips a try:

  • Skip preheating the oven – if you are roasting, broiling or baking for an hour or more, don’t preheat.  It simply isn’t necessary.  You can also shut off the oven 5 minutes before your cooktime is complete… the oven still holds the heat and keeps on cookin’!
  • Use the right size pots and pans – small pots and pans on large burners waste energy and resources.
  • Use lids – yes, a covered pot of water does reach boiling quicker than one that is uncovered.  And crank it up (as long as the flames aren’t escaping the sides). Water doesn’t need to slowly reach a boil, so get it rollin’!ovn open
  • Use the microwave – whenever a microwave can be used for cooking or to do the early steps, use it!  Microwaves use 4-5 times less energy than your oven.
  • Prepare only what you need – while cooking up a tremendous batch of whatever you’re serving may sound like a good idea at the time, make sure it will actually get consumed instead of eventually winding up in the trash or disposal.  If not, food obviously goes to waste but all of the resources to produce that food got wasted as well.

See… simple! Happy cooking and conserving!…

Skipping steps in dish washing = lots of conservation

Like you, I cook and prepare meals… a lot. Often “three squares” a day for the health and wellness of my family so I know we’re all getting good, nutritious food.  But I’m often amazed at the amount of plates, bowls, glasses and utensils that are left in the wake!

dishwash by handI’ve evaluated hand washing vs. using the dishwasher and found, overwhelmingly, that (if you have one) the dishwasher is the route to go to clean the aftermath and conserve water, but here’s my misstep… I always felt it was necessary to do a little bit of pre-rinsing before everything went into the dishwasher… boy was I wrong.

According to Consumer Reports, up to 20 GALLONS of water can be consumed to pre-rinse what goes into our dishwasher.  Ouch!… that’s not conservation!  All you need to do is scrape off everything you can and load ’em up! The other fact I’ve learned is that we really shouldn’t pre-rinse since detergents actually work better when there IS some “food soil” left. Well, my husband is going to be VERY happy about that after tonight’s dinner mess.dishwshr dr open

Besides skipping the pre-rinsing and the pre-wash cycle you should also skip the heated drying cycle.  This actually saves 50% of the energy used for the load.  The better option:  OPEN the door as soon as the dishwasher shuts off. The contents are at their hottest and will evaporate the remaining water and moisture quickly, and in no time everything will be dry… and you’ve really, REALLY conserved!

So there you have it… skip a few little dishwashing steps but make one big step for conservation!

Toxic? When non-stick pans mean non-“healthy” too…

An essential part of maintaining good health is doing plenty of cooking at home, so we can control and select our own ingredients and food choices.  But what cook doesn’t love their collection of non-stick cookware?  Well, what if I told you those conveniences can be hazardous to our health?

non stck cookwr(This is the part where we all sigh and our shoulders droop a little, I know!)

I just learned that non-stick pans can actually omit toxic fumes when they get too hot.  Yes, throw another log on the “disappointment fire”!  It seems these aluminum pans, coated in Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE (also known as Teflon), can emit fumes when subjected to high heat. Inhaling these fumes can actually cause flu-like symptoms. And although the long-term effects haven’t been extensively studied, we do know that exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, elevated cholesterol levels, as well as weakened immune systems.

(A few years ago I remember one of my non-stick pans starting to flake away.  I tossed it out but, surprisingly, the flakes are actually inert.)

The better options for cookwares are actually stainless steel for stove-top cooking and glass bakeware for the oven. Cast iron is another safe choice. Unless you’re willing to replace all of your non-stick cookware, you can feel a little “stuck”, but there are guidelines (compliments of EWG) to lessen your exposure:cast irn pn

  • Cook at lower temperatures and don’t pre-heat your pans at high temps.  It may take a little extra time, but it’s worth it.
  • Never bake at over 500 degrees (some research even says not over 450 degrees).
  • Use your exhaust fan.
  • (A little side note too:  these fumes are highly toxic to birds, so keep your feathered friends far from the kitchen.)

If you’re like me, you’re probably not inclined or prepared to replace all of your non-stick cookware, but just use these tips to play it safe and the next time you’re in a position to buy replacements, make the wiser choices … and then invest in some good scrubbers!

De-chlorinate tap water in one simple (free) step.

wtr pitcherI’ve always been, and will always be, an advocate of drinking tap water over bottled water.

Some readers agree, others have said “never without a filter first”, but one of the most common comments is the concern over the chlorination of tap water.   A good filter can remove the chlorine but did you know you can remove the chlorine in one simple step, even without a filter?

This is all it takes…

Fill a pitcher with water, leave it (uncovered) overnight on your countertop and by morning, your water will be chlorine-free… the chlorine will actually evaporate out of the water overnight!

Drink it throughout the day, store it in your refrigerator, cook with it….what you do with it after that is all up to you.

That’s it for today… short, sweet and (chlorine-)free!