Three appliances that can help you save money on cooking
1. Air fryer
Part of the reason why air fryers have taken the world by storm is that there’s not much you can’t cook in one – and there’s a whole lot less mess to clear up after than with traditional deep-frying methods. It’s also cheaper than using an oven!
Crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside: whatever you put in your air fryer, you can look forward to it being cooked to perfection thanks to the clever way the convection heat circulates the food to cook it evenly and quickly. Food groups you can happily pop in an air fryer include:
- Meat and fish – chicken, bacon, meatballs, salmon; you name it!
- Other proteins – such as eggs (omelette or hard boiled) and tofu
- Veggies – from brussels sprouts to mushrooms, much of what you have in the fridge in the way of veg will happily go in the air fryer (see below for the exceptions!)
- Carbs – fried rice, chips, pizza and even ravioli – the air fryer will get your carb fix ready in record time
- Desserts – doughnuts, muffins and cookies are all great for baking in the air fryer
Even air fryers have their limitations, so here’s what not to put in yours:
- Large joints of meat or whole chickens – these won’t cook evenly
- Foods coated in a wet batter, such as tempura – the batter will fall off, as it needs to be submerged in oil to set
- Cheese – this melts, sticks to the bottom and makes a mess!
- Broccoli – this tends to dry out
- Leafy greens, such as spinach – these fly around inside and won’t cook properly, although kale can work if you weigh it down by coating it in olive oil
Top air fryer recipes
Start the day with air fryer cooked bacon and eggs – it’s a great way to get your bacon crispy without ending up with it saturated in oil. You can do hard-boiled, poached, fried or scrambled eggs in the air fryer, and omelettes work really well too. If you have any odds and ends of veg that need using up, such as mushrooms or peppers, why not chop them up and add them to your omelette? It’s a great way to reduce food waste!
Later in the day, use your air fryer to conjure up succulent chicken breast or spicy chicken wings. Add a nice glaze for extra flavour, as loose seasonings such as herbs and spices tend to fly off in an air fryer. Steak and chips can be cooked in the air fryer, as can tasty salmon fishcakes.
The air fryer is also your ally when it comes to sides. For a healthier alternative to potato wedges or chips, why not make courgette fries instead? Air fryers are great for cooking courgette or aubergine, as the moisture that can come from these vegetables in the cooking process evaporates away to leave nice crisp results.
Air fryers are particularly good for preparing food that can be cooked from frozen (always check the packaging to see if it is an option) or reheating frozen leftovers as long as you ensure they are fully defrosted beforehand.
2. Slow cooker
If you’ve not yet discovered the joys of a slow cooker, you’re in for a treat this winter. These clever devices have been around for donkey’s years, but they’re coming into their own during the cost-of-living crisis. Simply load them up with the ingredients and let them get to work – you’ll get to enjoy the smell of delicious food slowly filling your kitchen over the next few hours, almost as though someone else is cooking for you!
Not only are slow cookers inexpensive to run, but they’re also great for conjuring up delicious meals that make use of anything you’ve got in the fridge. Think hearty stews, warming soups and spicy curries that you can easily add any vegetables that need using up. Slow cookers work less well for lean and skin-on meat, and for delicate veg such as courgettes and asparagus. Avoid putting dairy products in, as these tend to curdle.
Slow cookers are also great for batch cooking, so you can save money by scaling up your cooking and freezing it in portions for easy meals another day.
Finally, the humble microwave is another appliance you can make more use of if you’re looking for ways to save energy. Microwaves make short work of heating food that would take many times longer in an energy-hungry oven or hob, as well as being handy for defrosting and reheating food you’ve been saving in the freezer. They’re perfect for enjoying leftovers the next day, too!
But there’s more to microwave cooking than that. Did you know that you can use it to steam potatoes and vegetables quicker than you could on the hob? Just pop them in a microwave-friendly container with a couple of tablespoons of water and put a lid on to keep the steam in. Jacket potatoes also take a fraction of the time in the microwave compared to an oven, while microwave risotto takes the hassle (and energy!) out of stirring one for ages on the hob.
In fact, you’ll find there are microwave recipes for most foods, from pasta to chilli to fish, and once you start using this trusty appliance more, you’ll be amazed by just how much it can do. You can even get creative with baking in the microwave – yes, really! Google ‘microwave mug cake’ and you’ll find all manner of tasty recipes for quick cakes that only take a minute to cook. Less time, less effort, less energy; it’s a win on all fronts. Bon appetit!