The holidays are quickly approaching, football season is in full swing, and family gatherings are on the calendar – chances are, you’re starting to use your kitchen appliances more than usual. Here are eight ways to save energy (and energy costs!) when making your favorite game-day snacks or holiday meals that are guaranteed to be easier than winning your fantasy league or cooking the perfect turkey:  

1. Open your refrigerator and freezer doors only to quickly put food in or take food out.  
Leaving your refrigerator or freezer open longer than necessary will allow the cool air to escape and cause it to work harder to return to its set temperature – consuming more electricity. It’s estimated that open fridge doors account for about 10 percent of the appliance’s total energy use. 

2. Allow hot foods to cool slightly before placing them in your refrigerator.
Avoid placing hot leftover foods directly in your refrigerator or freezer – this will raise the temperature inside and will make the appliance work harder to cool, just like when you leave the door open. Instead, allow hot food to cool on the counter for five to ten minutes – just remember to never leave perishable foods at room temperature for extended periods of time. 

3. Keep your refrigerator and freezer full, but not overstuffed. 
Your refrigerator and freezer retain cold air more efficiently when they are full. If your fridge or freezer is empty, consider placing gallons of water inside to take up space. However, be careful to not overstuff it, as poor air circulation will result in increased energy use – save the stuffing for your turkey! 

4. Use a toaster oven or microwave to cook small amounts of food instead of your oven. 
Consider cooking or reheating small amounts of food, such as leftovers, in a toaster oven or microwave. A toaster oven uses up to 50 percent less energy than an oven, while a microwave uses about 80 percent less energy when reheating food. Not only will this help you save energy, but you will also reduce your cooking time and keep your kitchen cool. 

5. Leave the oven door closed while cooking. 
Resist the urge to peek inside your oven while food is cooking – each time you do the temperature in your oven decreases about 25 degrees. If you need to check your food, turn on the oven light.  

6. Prepare food to be cooked before turning on your oven.
Make sure that all of your food is ready to be cooked before preheating your oven. This will ensure that you are not wasting energy by running an empty, heated oven for 30 minutes or more while you are seasoning your chicken or combining ingredients for your casserole. 

7. Match the size of your pan to the size of your burner. 
Using a large burner for a small pan is probably wasting more energy than you think -- if your pan is 6 inches and you are cooking on an 8 inch burner, more than 40 percent of your heat will be wasted. Similarly, using a burner that is too small for your pan can increase cook time and cause food to cook unevenly. To save even more energy, consider placing a lid on your pan when possible to keep the heat trapped inside.

8. Wait until the dishwasher is full to run it, or hand wash dishes efficiently.
When it comes time to clean your dishes, only run your dishwasher when it is full. If you have a few dishes that need to be cleaned immediately, wash them by hand instead of running a partial load – just be sure to only run the water while rinsing. When you use your dishwasher, turn off the heated dry cycle, as this consumes the most energy needed to run your dishwasher. Air dry your dishes quickly by cracking open the dishwasher after it’s finished running to allow air to enter while keeping available heat inside. 

By following these energy savings tips not only will you help the environment, you will also help your budget. For more money saving tips contact your local Personal Financial Management Program office. The Personal Financial Management Program offers workshops and seminars on more than twenty money management topics. To learn more and find a workshop near you, click here.