With the recession still kicking throughout the country, many families are taking measures to live less expensive lives. And as you might expect, one of the first places you can save on is probably the kitchen. As the busiest room in the house, it’s where you use the most energy and spend the most on consumables. If you spend about $200 a week on groceries—the average for American families—you can probably slash it down to under $100 without sacrificing the quality of your meals.
And it’s not just about food. Today’s design ideas for kitchens are made with the frugal homeowner in mind: efficient lighting, sustainable energy, work-conducive atmospheres. Companies are constantly rolling out new designs that combine style and function, and often at very reasonable prices. Even if you’re not planning a remodel anytime soon, you can get a few cost-cutting ideas from these designs. You may not notice it, but the savings do add up over time. Here are some small steps you can start with.
You’ve probably seen the ads for green building and environmentally friendly homes. It’s not just a trend: people are really starting to realize the value of sustainable living, especially in the midst of the recession. Contrary to popular belief, going green isn’t some kind of high-end lifestyle—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Especially in the kitchen, there are lots of ways to “green up” without going a dime over your budget.
So how do you build an eco-friendly kitchen? Start with small changes in your cooking and eating habits. Take out your meats overnight instead of quick-thawing them in the microwave. Turn off the range fans when you’re just simmering your food. If you’re leaving for most of the day, try using a slow cooker—it uses less energy and allows you to use cheaper ingredients and meat cuts. Make it a habit to turn off the lights every time you leave, even if it’s just for twenty seconds.
Start an Herb Garden
Of course, you can’t get greener than growing your own produce. While not all of us have room for a personal vegetable farm, it can’t hurt to start with the small things. Herbs, for instance, are very easy to grow and cost very little in maintenance. If you use them in everyday cooking, the savings will pay off pretty fast. Start with common herbs like basil, parsley, and mint, and once you’ve got the hang of it, you can add more specialized herbs.
What’s great about herb gardening is that you don’t need a whole lot of space. A small patch in your backyard is usually more than enough. You can even grow some of them indoors – keep a few small pots close to your window so they’ll get enough sunlight. Or you can hang them in a sunny area close to your workspace. Not only are they more accessible, they also make a nice complement to your kitchen design.
Use Water Wisely
You may think you’re being frugal with your tap, but a lot of Americans use more water than they really need. Find little ways to save on water consumption, such as doing dishes in bulk and carefully measuring water for cooking. You don’t have to use hot water all the time, especially if it’s just going into the pot. Another thing you can do is wait for the dishwasher to fill up before turning it on—most models use the same amount of water and energy no matter how big the load is.
It may also help to follow the water guidelines in your area. They’re not just laws you have to follow; the rules are designed to encourage better kitchen practices and keep your water bill in check. Most government agencies have a set of guidelines for proper water use, so try to pick up a copy from your local office.
Do Some DIY
Kitchens get more abuse than any other part of the house, so it’s normal to spend a bit on kitchen maintenance. But who says maintenance had to cost an arm and a leg? It doesn’t—especially if you know the right tricks. Often, the bulk of maintenance costs go into labor and installation. That means if you can do the work yourself, you can cut off your maintenance budget by half, or even more.
Most kitchen repairs can be accomplished with just a few tweaks. Even a beginner can fix a pipe, replace a floorboard, or patch up a stained counter, with the right tools and a bit of practice. You can get a friend to help you if you’re not sure how to go about it. With some kitchen DIY, you can take charge of your own kitchen and save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run.