Salads are out, warming bowls of soup are in, as we’re finally free to forget about ‘bikini bodies’ and build up a layer of ‘insulation’ to keep us going through winter.
But if you’re conscious of using too much energy, how can you cook your favourite comfort food in the most energy efficient way possible?
Sarah Scrivener, Smart Energy Expert at British Gas, says: “When fighting the chills with winter warmers, it’s important to remember you don’t need to have the oven on for long periods, when whipping up comfort food in the microwave takes minutes.”
Here are Sarah’s top tips for energy-efficient winter warmers:
1. Jacket potatoes
Cook a jacket potato in the microwave for 10 minutes rather than for a whole hour in the oven and save around 32p.
With the average large jacket potato costing 25p, this saving can actually be more than the price of the potato itself!
2. Beans on toast
Heat baked beans in the microwave rather than on the hob, then let the heat of the beans melt the cheese instead of putting it under the grill.
Tuck in to beans on toast with this method once a week over the winter months and you can save 36p.
3. Pumpkin pie
Save energy (and precious time) by swapping fresh pumpkin for a handy can of pumpkin puree - the perfect consistency for pie filling. It might be tempting to use fresh pumpkin for this autumn classic, however avoid using the hob to boil the pumpkin and save 21p when cooking three pies – plenty for celebrating with family and friends.
4. Macaroni cheese
Although macaroni cheese is traditionally made with a white sauce or roux, there are great recipes for a one-pot ‘mac n’ cheese’ – boil the pasta in milk and allow the starch to thicken the milk into a sauce, then add cheese. By keeping all the ingredients in one pan on the hob and using 5-minute quick cook pasta, you can save 24p per four servings. Simply dig in once it’s ready on the hob and skip the oven, and you’ll save a further 11p on top.
5. Chilli con carne
Keep the cold at bay with a warming chilli con carne and save 36p by cooking rice in a microwave steamer rather than on the hob for your weekly chilli night during the winter – there’s much less chance of burning the bottom too!
6. Shepherd’s pie
Let the meat thaw in the fridge overnight so it’s ready to cook the next day and pop the potatoes in the microwave until they’re soft enough to mash – without using the hob, you can save £1.20 on your winter supply of shepherd’s pie.
Whether you’re using beef, lamb or pork, cook casserole in a slow cooker over several hours rather than in the oven. Not only is the meat guaranteed to be melt-in-the-mouth tender, but you’ll also be saving 40p. Help the meat to cook even more quickly and use less energy by cutting into smaller pieces.
Use a lid to trap heat when making soup. It maintains the same level of boiling without having the hob turned up as high and can save up to 3% in energy costs per pot.
To save even more energy, try making simple soups in the microwave, such as a warming chicken noodle soup – this can save up to 50p for a family serving versus making it on the hob.
9. Roast dinner
Pre-boil potatoes before roasting them. Or better still, pop them in the microwave for five minutes before crisping up in the oven and cut energy costs by 75%. Cooking a roast chicken in a pressure cooker takes around half the time compared to in an oven, and it’s especially good for extra succulence. If you like it crispy, simply put it in the oven for around 15 minutes at the end.
10. Hot chocolate
Hot chocolate is a low cost and energy-efficient way to warm up on a cold winter night. Using hot chocolate powder and boiling only the water you need in the kettle can cost as little as 1p in energy. If you like it milky, boiling milk on the hob will cost just 2p.