Kitchen hacks that save time, money and the environment

Like almost anyone you care to mention (hey, maybe even you, dear reader?) I have not enough time in my life, and not enough money in my bank. Does that mean that I can't have be at least halfway environmentally friendly? Happily, not a bit of it. Not crapping up the planet can actually save you time and money.

I present to you my top tips for saving time, money, and doing a bit to minimise your impact on the environment. They're meant for students, but apply to anyone.

Buy in bulk
If you are lucky enough to have a place where you can go and buy stuff without any packaging, that's your most world-loving, environment hugging choice. If you're the 99 percent of other people that don't have that option for whatever reason, you can still use bulk buying to save a few pennies and packaging. 

Your local supermarket or grocery of your choice will often have different sizes of store-cupboard staples like cereal, teabags, or pulses. If you have space and cash, buy the larger version: it's almost always cheaper to buy big in the long run.  Here's a worked example to show you what I'm trying so inelegantly to explain: Tesco sells easy cook long grain rice in 500g, 1kg and 2kg bags, priced at 75p, £1.20 and £2.25 respectively. While the bigger bag costs more to start with, the rice is cheaper. If you buy the small bag, the rice costs £1.50 per kilo, the medium bag is £1.20 per kilo, and the big bag comes in at £1.13 per kilo. Buying the bigger bag of anything normally works out cheaper in the long-run. It also means you'll have to go to the shop fewer times to stock up on all stuff, and less time spent in supermarkets it always good for the soul. And, if you're buying bigger bags of stuff, the packaging to product ratio is going to be smaller - bonus green points.

Feed your freezer
Bear with me for a second, this won't automatically sound like it's going to save you time and money in the long run, but hold on. You know when you're making up a big old curry, chilli, soup - anything that's made in one pot with sauce? Make some extra. If you've got some veg going bendy at the back of the fridge, or a couple of extra tins of beans knocking around, just double up the amount you're cooking. If you've got the energy and supplies, make double the amount you usually do. (It may seem like a proper pain at the time, but chopping a couple of extra veggies is less whole effort than making a whole new meal, which is what the extras end up as: stick any exta portions in the freezer.

The next time you you're feeling too knackered to cook, defrost your extra scran and enjoy. A meal from the freezer is going to be way cheaper and involve way less unrecyclable guff than ordering a taekaway or buying a ready meal. Having a fully-stocked freezer also saves you money in another way: it takes less energy to keep solids (like food) rather than gases (like air - the contents of an empty freezer) cool, so you end up saving on your electricity bill too.

Use up what you've got already
In kitchens across the country, in the backs of cupboards or buried in the bottom freezer drawer are lots of lonely foodstuffs in need of using up. There are tins, jars, packets that always get passed over when you're wondering what to cook. If you're feeling energetic, make a list of the contents of the cupboards, freezer, and fridge. Once you've got everything in front of you, you can start to make up lists of meals that you can use them up in. Got some tinned tomatoes, lentils, and pasta? Make up some vegan spag bol. (Supercook is a good resource that can help with that: you just put in what you have in your kitchen, and it'll spit out a recipe using what you have. It's an omni site, but it's a good starting point for inspiration.)

By using up what you have, you save yourself another trip to the supermarket to pick up new meal ingredients and the money they would have cost, and there's no food waste because those things at the back of your cupboard and freezer don't end up going off and ending up in the bin. Everyone's a winner.

Ignore what you're told
You can save yourself a few bob and a few minutes if you try and ignore kitchen rules wherever possible (apart from these ones, they're golden!) Not only is it fun to not do as you're told, it can also be a way of saving cash. Take those suggestions on the side of the washing powder box saying you need a whole scoop to get your clothes clean? You don't. A couple of teaspoons is enough to get stuff clean. Do your clothes say to wash at 40 or 60? Nah, don't bother. 30 is fine for most things. Cooking something in the oven and the packet says 30 minutes at whatever temperate? Turn your oven off 5 minutes early, and the residual heat will be enough to cook it through. You'll use less energy, it'll cost less, and there'll be less emissions. Can't argue with that.

Don't save anything for best
You know that nice bottle of rum that someone gave you for your birthday? You put in on the shelf for a special occasion, because you'd never normally buy yourself something that nice, or fancy, or expensive? Maybe it's a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates, or whatever. You know the one I'm talking about. Here's my top tip: why not pour yourself a bit of that rum, or open that box of chocolates. Someone bought that rum for you so you could enjoy it, not leave it on the shelf. Treat yourself. Why spend money on bad rum when you've got the good stuff waiting for you? Today is that special occasion you've been waiting for.


  1. Great tips. I have been trying to use what is there instead of rushing out to buy more but I still have too much at the back of the cupboards and need to get better systems for using this!

  2. All excellent tips! especially the last one, I had a tendency to just save the nice items but finally learned to just use them and enjoy. :-)

  3. Like you. I have been trying to use what we have in our cupboards, especially this month with the snow 'snowing' us in and weekends when we haven't gone out grocery shopping. I like your 'Don't dsave anything for best' mostly, and that does not just mean food and drink, I have a load of good crockery, cutlery and glasses that never get used and saved for that day when we have guests come on over - they never do as we live in the valleys, so why don't we enjoy them while we still can!

  4. Great tips and a great philosophy. The only one I've conceded I don't get on with is the making extra and freezing. Somehow remembering to defrost things, or taking the time to defrost things, doesn't work well for me and my frozen meals languish in the freezer unused! It doesn't help that we have a small overflow freezer in our shed where most of those stocked up meals live, but our inside freezer is always full so I think for me using extra for lunch leftovers is the better solution :)

  5. All excellent tips. Back when I had a family of five to feed, I used to buy things like rice and beans in 25 pound sacks. I still buy in bulk when practical, but within reason. I like the tip about turning off the oven early, and if I ever find myself using the oven (haha) I'll try to remember to do that. The thing we seem to have the hardest time with is using things up.

  6. I DREAM of having a big ol' chest freezer to fill up with bulk items when my bank account is feeling fuller. It's actually on my actual list entitled "Dream House" (along with a corner bath, wood burner, and craft room). Our freezer now is pretty teeny tiny and it's so sad having to cram everything in :'(


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