by Tamara Martfeld
It is that time of year when many in the northern hemisphere barbeque. Many do it simply for the enjoyment of cooking outdoors, the unique flavor of barbequed foods, and for a change from the various indoor cooking methods. All of these reasons are great, however, there is money to be saved in the process.
The most obvious savings are realized by simply cooking outside instead of inside. Regardless of the type of heating method used inside there is heat generated. When it is summer, this is not generally considered a good thing. Heating the house in summer generally means an increase in the cost of cooling by fans or air-conditioner, or just being more uncomfortable. Heating the food outside keeps the heat outside and eliminates the extra cost of cooling the house.
By cooking in quantity additional money can be saved. Cooking in quantity saves some money on your fuel source. Even if a little additional fuel is needed, it is usually not as much as it would be if you cooked the items separately. Many items can be eaten cold as long as they have been cooked – chicken and shrimp are two such items. If you choose to simply eat the items cold you are saving the additional heating cost on a future day (be sure to store the food safely until you eat it). The extra food cooked can also be heated in a microwave on a day there is no time to bar-b-queue, generating less heat than would be generated if another cooking method was used. Finally, the extra food can be frozen so that you can have the barbeque flavor in winter.
For those who really want to save or who like different flavor food, definitely use some of your grilled items in the winter. I have smoked a chicken with hickory and then used the bones for soup (see the article “Minestrone Soup for Saving Money” if you do not know how to do this). The flavor was wonderful. I have also used grilled vegetables in soups – another great flavor. And of course, barbequed meat in the winter is a great treat.
If you use charcoal, there is yet another way to save money. Get two large empty cans, one slightly wider than the other. Cut the larger can so that it sits reasonably tightly over the smaller can as a lid – you want to reduce the air flow as much as possible, but total reduction of air flow is not necessary. I cut mine down to about an inch high, but any shorter size will work. When you are done cooking place the left-over charcoal into the smaller can and cover with the larger can, then leave it on the grill to cool. Next time you bar-b-queue start with the left-over charcoal as at least part of the pile. This reduces the amount of new charcoal needed for the next meal. I have been able to cook a separate meal using just the left-over charcoal from a previous grilling session. An additional benefit is that you have a safe place to put charcoal as it cools off.
For those who use charcoal there is a great charcoal starter which also saves money. Save the ends of candles – the part that is not safe to burn. Get an old pan or a cheap one to melt wax in and a metal can for the wax which fits inside the pan. I am not sure you can ever get the wax out, so the pan will be useless for anything else. Save cardboard egg cartons. Put one full charcoal briquette in each egg slot of the cardboard egg carton. Place the egg carton on several newspapers or another item to protect the counter from heat and any wax leaks. Put the ends of the candles in the can, then place the can in the pan with some water and heat to melt the wax. Make sure the pan always has water in it. The wax only needs to be melted, not at any given temperature (if you make candles the temperature can make a difference in the quality of the candle). Pour the wax over the briquettes, then let them cool. Place one waxed briquette in a pile of charcoal and light the cardboard. The money you are saving is from 1) using your candle ends and egg cartons that would have been thrown, and 2) not buying charcoal lighter in liquid or solid form. I tested these against a similar product which came on the market in the last few years and these lit the charcoal faster. I tested the two products in two piles of charcoal in my grill at the same time. The difference was at least 15 minutes. I have been using these briquettes for about 40 years. These are also safer to light and to use than most charcoal lighters on the market.
However you cook your food or enjoy the outdoors, have lots of fun and be safe. Using the tricks here can add to your vacation fund. Every penny counts when you are saving money.