Water conservation is a big deal right now in California, but no matter where you live, we can probably agree that no one wants (or needs) higher water bills. Here are a few painless ways I save water in the kitchen that might work for you:
The first tool in my arsenal is an empty milk jug. Next time you empty a gallon milk or orange juice container (or a half-gallon one, whatever), rinse it out and keep it by the sink. (If you have room, keep a couple there.) Next time you need to run the water until it’s hot (or cold), capture that water in the jugs. Use it later to fill pasta pots, coffeemakers, the dog’s dish, etc. (Or keep a few filled jugs under the sink to add to your earthquake supplies.)
Second: Use the microwave. Many folks still boil their veggies in quantities of water on the stovetop (which also means another pot to wash). You can steam most veggies in glass serving dishes in the microwave. After washing the vegetables, there’s no need in most cases to add water to the cooking dish — Pyrex, Corelle, Corningware, etc. The water clinging to your washed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc., is usually enough to steam them. Zap them for a few minutes, shake the dish to move the pieces around, steam for a few minutes more, and drain. Then serve in the same dish with whatever topping you’re adding, and that’s even less time to spend at the sink later.
If vegetables must be boiled, though, think about cooling and saving that cooking water for later use. Add it to soups or stews (why not? It’s been boiled and sterilized), or just put it on your plants.
Three: Think about cooking water doing double-duty. For example: Near the end of the pasta cooking time, toss in some washed, chopped broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini for a brief, double-duty boil. Drain them together and toss with olive oil and chopped garlic, or whatever sauce you’re using. (Remember, that’s another pan you’re not washing.)
Or use the pasta water to cook a few hard-boiled eggs. I have drained my pasta water into another pot, put that one on the burner and boiled eggs for later use.
Another idea: After boiling some corn on the cob, I used the water to soak dried beans afterward. Total savings.
Four: Water glasses. (Inspired by catching my husband doing the full-soap thing on a water glass.) Really, do we need to scrub out a glass that’s only held water? Try this instead: Designate a glass or plastic glass for each member of the family. After use, deposit it back in the dish rack. Yes, if there’s lipstick or tomato sauce on the rim, you need to wash that off. But otherwise, if the same person uses his or her designated glass, no real need to wash it, at least not after every use.
Five: Speaking of drinking water, if you drink tap water (as we do), keep a bottle full in the fridge and refill as needed. You’ll always have cold water on hand and no need to run the tap. (But if you do, see tip no. 1.)
Six: Don’t forget Bowser and Fluffy. When you refresh the pets’ water bowls, use that water on your plants instead of dumping it down the drain.
In Southern California, we’ll always need to be water-wise, in big and small ways. Might as well save a dollar here and there if we can.
If you’ve got kitchen-friendly water-saving tips, please add them in the comments — and thanks, as always, for reading!
(c) copyright 2015 Laura Groch