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23 June 2007

Cutting costs in the kitchen

My sink overlooks our vegetable garden so washing up is a slow and pleasant task.

We spend so much time in the kitchen it easy save a few dollars just by doing things a little bit differently. Over the course of a year, those few dollars can really add up.

Kitchen Sink
Keep a square container in your sink. Fill this with all the water that you use for washing vegetables, hands and general kitchen duties. Each time it’s full, take it outside to water your plants. You can also use your sink container for small amounts of washing up. I use a 6 litre D├ęcor square plastic container and it sits neatly in my half sink. As it’s got the litre capacity marked on the side it’s easy to see how much water I’m using.

Use dishcloths that can be reused many times. I use cotton dishcloths that I knit myself. They last for a few years. I use them for a couple of days and then add them to a dry pail in the laundry. Every week I soak them in a small amount of napisan and hot water and then add them to the next wash. You can knit different colours for different rooms so you never use your bathroom cloths in the kitchen.

When washing vegetables like potatoes, pour water into a small bowl and after peeling, put the potatoes in the bowl. Swish them around and remove most of the dirt and peelings. Tip this water out and fill your bowl again to finish off the vegetables in clean water. This will use between 3 – 6 litres of water. If you stand at the sink peeling potatoes under running water, you’ll use about 10 litres of water per minute …and it will all run down the drain.

It is often said that dishwashers use less water than hand washing, but water is not the only resource dishwashers use, they also use electricity and chemical cleaners. If you use a dishwasher you might like to audit your water and electricity usage to see if it’s more economical to wash up by hand. You can do your own small audit by reading your meters – water and electricity. Use the dishwasher for a week and record your water and electricity usage at the beginning and end of the week. Do the same for a week when washing up in the sink. When I did this I found that it was more economical to wash up by hand if I used the dishwasher every day. By doing a small amount of hand washing – things like pots, tea cups that are used during the day and certain bowls that although small, take up two spaces, etc – I can use the dishwasher every second day. By then it is completely full and I use a bit less water and electricity.

Only use the dishwasher when it’s full.

Experiment with your dishwashing powder. I have found that blending dishwasher detergent powder with 50 percent bicarb, gives an excellent result. Use vinegar as a rinse aid.

As with all your appliances, keep your dishwasher clean so it gives you the best performance.

You can save a lot of power by being mindful of how you cook. When something comes to the boil, turn the power down so it keeps simmering and cooking without the high heat.

When boiling vegetables in a saucepan, keep the lid on. It will retain more heat and cost less to cook.

Make two meals at once - things like soups, casseroles are the easiest, and freeze the second meal for later in the week.

When you bake, do a few things at a time. Bake a few loaves of bread and freeze a couple, or bake bread and cake or biscuits at the same time.

Invest in a steamer – either steel or bamboo. You can boil pumpkin, potatoes, and any hard vegetables in the saucepan, while steaming tender vegetables on top. Doing this will save you the extra cost of a second pot on another part of the stove.

Keep a small container in the fridge for off cuts that can be used to make stock or soup. Things like celery and radish tops, the top bit you cut off carrots, turnips and parsnips. The feathery tops of fennel. If you haven’t made use of these vegetables after a couple of days, use them in your worm farm, for the chooks or compost.

Invest in a slow cooker or crockpot. It costs less to cook in and will give you fabulous soups, casseroles and a whole lot of other goodies with little effort.

Plan your menus. This will save you time and money.

Stockpile groceries. The will also save time and money. I have a post on stockpiling in my post archives.

Save glass jars that can be given a second life storing food in your kitchen.

If you find you have a lot of vegetables in the fridge that are past their prime, make some vegetable soup and freeze it. It’s always reassuring to know you have food ready to go in the freezer.

Rotate the stock in your pantry and stockpile cupboards. Put new things at the back and use from the front.

Keep the seals on your fridge clean. Check them occasionally to see that they’re sealing properly. You can do this by holding a piece of paper over the seal while you close the door. If the door doesn’t hold the paper, you need new seals.

Keep your fridge organised and clean.
Use your fridge wisely. Don’t push things to the back. Know what needs to be used and never waste food. Clean out your fridge today and start with a clean slate.

Here is a green home guide that may help you save dollars and the environment at the same time. It is written for my local area in mind but the advice is universal.


  1. I love the dishcloth tip! I do that too. I use knitted dishclothes for the kitchen and crocheted washclothes for the bathroom so I can tell them apart. Medium shades work best as the color doesn't fade as noticibly as dark colors and they don't get as dirty looking as light colors.

  2. HA! there are people out there! ; )Welcome Lyn. That's a good tip on the colours, thank you.

  3. Thanks for the tip about washing dishcloths, Rhonda. I stopped knitting them a while back as I was disappointed that they only seemed to last a few days before they went tatty, grubby & faded out. I'll get knitting again and try your Napisan soak method. Your blog is always an inspiration and a joy to read! :>)

  4. thank you Maggie. Yes, the napisan works well. Are you the NZ maggie? : )

  5. Yes Rhonda, I'm across the ditch! :>)

  6. Rhonda

    I found you through a link from Path to Freedom. Yep we are out here. Glad to know another on the path to SANITY. I am from the first generation of city kids, born of farmers and hill people looking for an easier life. Little did they know that almost all of us would return to the land. I love growing and providing for my family outta my little patch of earth.

    Thanks for the read.

    Knowledge is power, only if you use it.

  7. I have a dish pan in the sink and when I go to do the dishes I only fill it enough with water and a bit of soap to wash the dishes. Then as I wash the dishes to rinse them I slowly run water over them into the same pan. Turning off the water between groups of dishes. Then set the dishes in the drainer to dry. There are only the two of us now at home and not that many dishes. When that water is done being used for this and wiping the counters etc or whatever other jobs...the water is taken then outside to water something. I used to use a wash and a rinse pan and take 2 outside but find I use less water now doing the one pan method. It still is not too full to carry it. The water can also be used to flush toilets. Sarah


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