Cooking with less energy

Best choice

A gas hob with an electric oven, or gas ring and electric hotplate are good options for cooking, from an environmental and financial point of view. However, gas can be difficult to obtain. Although a paraffin stove is cheap to buy, it is a major cause of fires and needs to be very carefully used. A Hot Box is an excellent addition to any cooking appliance.

Free cooking – the Hot Box (hay box)

A Hot Box is made up of two cushions flled with polystyrene. The Hot Box costs about R140,00 but the same effect can be created by simply wrapping a pot in a blanket or sleeping bag.

Using a Hot Box for cooking can save you up to 60% of cooking costs. Food such as rice, porridge, soups or stews that have been brought to the boil on the stove can be put into the ‘Hot Box’ with the lid on the pot. The cushions or blanket will keep the heat in and the food will continue to cook.

Note: Do not use a Hot Box when you are cooking with oil. Dishes are usually cooked in approximately the same amount of time as normal cooking methods, with the added benefit of greater nutritional content and improved taste and texture (through lower heat cooking). Pots are easier to clean as food does not get burnt.

Case study:

Salathiso is a group of HIV-positive women from the Kayamandi community on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. As a collective, they have started producing Hot Boxes – a product they identifed as a solution to their own energy needs and in reducing the burdensome costs of fuel. The proceeds from the sales are shared amongst the women. For most of the group this is their sole source of income.

To support this initiative, find out more or to order a Hot Box

Cooking efficiency tips

  • Check that rubber seals on ovens are not worn or perished as this will use up more electricity.
  • Buy the smallest sized appliance that you can for your cooking needs. This will save fuel.
  • When buying any cooking appliances, check the energy-efficiency ratings.
  • When buying paraffin stoves or gas rings, ask the retailer to show you a “Letter of Authority from SABS” and if in doubt call the SABS Regulatory on tel. 012 428 6375. The SABS stamp alone is not a guarantee of quality and safety.
  • Use a kettle to boil water. A kettle uses 50% less electricity than heating water in a pot on the stove.
  • Only boil the amount needed, but make sure the element is covered.
  • Soak beans, samp and lentils overnight as this saves time, money and several hours of cooking.
  • Keep your paraffn stove clean as this will make your stove more effcient – your fuel will last longer and the smoke from the stove will not be as poisonous.
  • When a pot of food has reached boiling point then you can reduce the heat as the food will continue cooking as effectively. It does not have to boil vigorously all the time.

source: SMART Living Handbook

Cooking with the sun

On solar cooking
More about solar cookers here
Where to get solar cookers

Get practical

Make a simple solar cooker
The R50 solar oven
A solar powered parabolic cooker
Make your own hot box

Other energy topics

Mathew Walton puts his house in order
Keeping your house warm

Go green home