We gather together
The holiday season is not only a time for families and food — it’s an opportunity to save money and energy. Read on for some timely tips, not only for turkey day but for those getting an early start on their holiday decorating.
Savor an energy-efficient Thanksgiving feast
Make this year’s Thanksgiving your most energy-wise ever. Enlist the whole family —even those visiting just for the holiday — to come up with energy-saving ideas.
Along with your invitation to family and friends, ask everyone to bring more than a side dish. Instruct them to come prepared to share their favorite ways to save energy and reduce their monthly electric bills. After dinner, go around the table and have each person share a favorite tip.
Save your own ideas for last. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you show off:
Turn down the thermostat. With a full house and a hot kitchen, your house will be too steamy at its usual setting.
Don’t just stuff the turkey – stuff the oven. Since your oven will be running all day, make the most of it by cooking several dishes at once. A variation of 25 degrees in either direction from the recommended cooking temperature will still produce the desired result.
Use the oven light to check on your turkey’s progress instead of opening the door to peek at it every now and then. Every time you open the door, the temperature drops by at least 25 degrees.
Trade your metal baking dishes for glass and ceramic pans. Because those materials retain heat better than metal, you can reduce the oven temperature by as much as 25 degrees without sacrificing perfection. In fact, glass and ceramic pans continue to cook the food even after you take it out of the oven.
Cook at least one dish from start to finish in the microwave. Microwaves are faster than the oven and use about a third of the electricity.
Place lids on all stovetop pots. If they fit tightly, lids will keep heat in so you can lower the temperature. Plus, your food will cook faster.
Keep cleanup easy. Load the dishwasher completely full. With a mountain of dinner plates, using the dishwasher will be more efficient than hand washing.
Don’t rush to put leftovers in the refrigerator, which will work harder to cool off hot foods. Let leftovers cool slightly on the counter.
Turn down the thermostat. If the oven and stove are on all day, your kitchen will be hot and the rest of the house will feel warmer than usual. So, dial back the heat — substantially. You and your guests will be more comfortable and you won’t waste energy.
It’s holiday time. Keep your cool.
It’s hard enough to keep your cool when you’ve got a house full of company to entertain while you’re slaving over a hot oven all day.
Here are a few tips to keep your cool — at least in the kitchen.
Get up a little earlier. The house and the outdoor temperature are cooler in the morning than in the afternoon. The more cooking and baking you can do before noon, the more comfortable you’ll feel physically.
Open the windows. That will keep the air circulating, which will keep the kitchen cooler and help odors leave the house. For strong odors, turn on the vent over your stove, but turn if off once the odor subsides. Vents and exhaust fans suck heated air out of the house and waste it.
Turn the oven off. Baking heats up the kitchen like nothing else. Stagger baking times. Bake the pies in the early morning and then give the oven a break for a few hours before putting the turkey in.
Work ahead. Choose side dishes and desserts that you can start making a little at a time the week before Thanksgiving and then freeze them until the big day. That will make lighter work of Thanksgiving Day, keep your kitchen cooler and allow the chef to enjoy the holiday a bit more.
Invest in a pressure cooker — one of the fastest ways to cook food.
Dust off your crockpot. Slow cookers don’t produce any heat. If you’re making chili, stew or meat for a pre- or post-Thanksgiving meal, throw the ingredients in and let the crockpot do all the work for you.
Put your other electric cooking appliances to work. An electric fry pan or grill cooks up side dishes and main courses quickly, which means they create heat for only short spurts.
If you’re replacing your stove anyway, invest in an induction cooktop. Its burners are so powerful and efficient that they cook your food with less heat and in less time.
Serve some cold dishes. Fruit cups and side salads don’t require any cooking
Turn everything off when you’re not using it. Don’t leave the oven on after the pies are done just because you might be baking cookies in a couple of hours. Turn off anything that creates heat when it’s not in use — including the lights.
Is your fridge ready for thanksgiving?
If Thanksgiving is at your house this year, your family members aren’t the only ones who will be stuffed. So will your refrigerator. Is it up to the task?
If your fridge is more than a decade old, it might not be. Today’s models — those bearing the Energy Star label at least — use at last 15% less energy than current federal standards require, and 40% less than models in the early 2000s, according to the Department of Energy.
Yet more than 60 million households have refrigerators that are more than 10 years old, DOE says. By replacing it with a new, energy-efficient model, you could save up to $300 in electricity charges over its lifetime.
When shopping for a new refrigerator or freezer, read the EnergyGuide label. It tells you how many kilowatt-hours of electricity the unit will consume over a year of operation. The smaller the number, the better. Look for refrigerators that have a freezer on the bottom or the top as side-by-side designs consume more energy. Chest freezers are typically better insulated than upright models.
Whether you’re buying a new fridge this year or not, follow these tips for more efficient use around the holidays:
Brush or vacuum your refrigerator’s coils regularly to improve efficiency by as much as 30%.
Keeping your refrigerator full shouldn’t be hard this time of year. Doing so will help unit retain cold better. If you have trouble keeping it stocked, fill the extra space with bottles or containers of water.
If your milk is frosty in the morning, reduce the refrigerator’s temperature. Refrigerators should be set between 36 and 40 degrees F. Freezers should stay between 0 and 5 degrees.
Put a dollar bill in the door’s seal to see if it is airtight. If the dollar slips out easily, so will cold air.
This Thanksgiving, thank a farmer
It’s easy to take electricity for granted when all we have to do is flip a light switch or plug a computer in to use it.
And it’s common to forget about the farmers who spend their days and their lives making sure we have a safe and plentiful supply of food to eat, when all we have to do is drive to the grocery store and pick up whatever we want.
Here’s a friendly reminder to thank a farmer as you slice into your golden, juicy turkey this Thanksgiving.
Here are seven reasons why, courtesy of the nonprofit Farm Policy Facts:
- America’s food supply is among the world’s safest. Plus, we have plenty to eat and generally pay affordable prices for it.
- Farmers work really hard to get that food on our table. They don’t get to take a day off when it’s 100 degrees outside or snowing like crazy.
- Agriculture creates loads of jobs: more than 24 million and counting in the U.S.
- Our country’s farmers produce about 40 percent of all the corn in the world.
- Each farmer feeds an average of 155 people.
- For every dollar you spend on food, guess how much farmers get? Twelve cents.
- Some farms are big, corporate enterprises. But most are family-owned.
Run full dishwasher to save water, energy
Chances are, you’ll run your dishwasher several times on Thanksgiving Day: after breakfast, after you clean up your prep mess and after dinner.
Each time, stuff it as full as your turkey. If you run your dishwasher when it’s loaded to capacity instead of washing a half-load at a time, you’ll use way less water and electricity.
Here are five other energy-saving dishwasher tips:
Stop rinsing.You’ve been doing it for years, but newer dishwashers do such a good job that you’re simply wasting water and time if you’re still washing the dishes before you load them. A surprise: Loading unrinsed dishes could save you up to 55,000 gallons of water over the life of your dishwasher.
Air dry. Selecting the “heated dry” option is unnecessary. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an “air dry” option, prop open the door once the cycle completes and let the load dry naturally.
Afraid of spots during an air dry? Use a rinse aid. It will speed drying time and prevent spots on glasses.
Run the dishwasher after dark. Just about everyone washes dishes right after dinner, so the demand on your electric cooperative is greatest then. Also, after a long day of cooking and a house full of company, the last thing your kitchen needs is the heat that your dishwasher produces while it’s running.
Finally, get your dishwasher away from other appliances like the oven and refrigerator. Because all of those appliances emit heat, they force each other to work harder — and wear out faster — when they’re too close together.
Homeowners have started decorating their homes for Christmas earlier and earlier — often before Thanksgiving.
If you’re ready to start hanging lights, take safety precautions. Nearly three people per hour are treated in hospital emergency rooms for decorating-related injuries during every holiday season according to the National Safety Council.
Here are five ways to keep yourself safe if you have decorating duty this season:
- Inspect last year’s lights before using them again this holiday season. Discard any with frayed or exposed wires, loose connections or broken sockets.
- Decorate the tree with kids in mind. Place breakable ornaments and those with metal hooks near the top of the tree where little ones can’t reach them.
- Likewise, some holiday plants, including some varieties of poinsettias, can be harmful to children and pets. Keep them out of your home — or at least out of reach. And keep the number for the Poison Control Center handy: 800-222-1222.
- Use sturdy ladders when decorating outdoors. Indoors, climb step ladders instead of onto chairs, which aren’t designed to support someone in the standing position.
- Don’t hide extension cords under rugs or furniture. They can overheat and catch on fire. And when you take the tree down, unplug extension cords. They’re not designed for permanent use.