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2. Cook Smart continued...

When you do use the stove top, think about exactly what food you'll be cooking, use the smallest pot or pan to do the job, and match the pan size to the burner size.

And you know how when you boil pasta, you can see the steam coming up from the pot? That means heat is escaping. Cooking without lids can use up to three times more energy, according to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. So keep a lid on it; as a bonus, your food will be ready more quickly.

There are also a couple of foods that can finish cooking by themselves. For example, bring a saucepan of water and ears of corn to a rolling boil (with the lid on). After one minute, turn off the stove and let the corn continue cooking in the hot water for about 10 minutes.

You can do the same for a casserole with a cheese topping. Instead of pulling it out of the oven, sprinkling with cheese and then baking for 10 more minutes, just turn off the oven, sprinkle the cheese over the top, and place it back in the still-warm oven for 10 minutes.

Speaking of the oven, you really don't need to preheat it if you're broiling or roasting, or if you're baking something for a long time, according to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. When you do need to preheat, try to minimize the time. If you know it takes 10 minutes to preheat your oven to 350 degrees, turn the oven on just 10 minutes before your dish will be ready to bake.

3. Don't Be Fridge Foolish

Don't browse in front of the refrigerator. Keeping the door open for long periods wastes energy.

Also, make sure your fridge door closes securely. To test the rubber-like seal around the door, just close the door on a dollar bill, and then see how easy it is to pull out. If you get your dollar back easily, your refrigerator door is probably leaking cold air. See about getting the seal repaired or replaced.

Is there an old refrigerator or freezer in your garage? Older appliances can be real energy hogs. Think about exactly how much extra fridge or freezer space you need, and get an energy- efficient model that fits your needs. And maybe you don't really need that extra fridge space. Keep in mind that running one large refrigerator is usually more energy-efficient than running two smaller ones.

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