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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Meet "Toastie"! (using a toaster oven to trim the electric bill)

"Toastie" (or his look alike cousin, we went through two) has been a member of our cooking family since early 2000. "Toastie" was our primary oven from 2000, all the way through to early 2009, when we finally got our kitchen finished. And, now, he's going to help me save money on our electric bill this year! Okay, so cutsie-ness aside. Using our old toaster oven will save us money.

When our wall oven went out, for the last time (insulation on the wiring completely flaked off), we went several months, with the hope of replacing it, and no oven whatsoever. I spent about 8 months finely tuning the craft of baking bread in a makeshift oven on the stove. I can tell you this, it wasn't easy keeping up with the bread demands of my brood of 5.

It became clear that we needed to take our time replacing the oven, and redesigning our kitchen. So we bought a toaster oven to take care of all of the baking and broiling. We were just thinking of this as a convenience item, to help me with baking. Never did we consider just how cost-effective a counter top oven can be.

Enter the toaster oven. It's just a $49 Wal-Mart special. You wouldn't think a toaster oven to do all the oven work that a family of 5 might need. But it really did. I baked 2 loaves of bread at a time. I roasted whole chickens. I baked birthday cakes, 1 layer at a time. I roasted small beef roasts. I kept my family supplied in cookies, granola, muffins, biscuits, pizza, lasagna, all with this little oven.

Oh, I drooled over ads for large ovens. GE had a particularly tempting ad campaign to "cook big", at the time, with their range oven. But we were taking our time, and in the end I can see that was wise.

When the kitchen was finally complete, and I had "real" ovens, once again, I was very happy to switch over, so that I could "cook big". The toaster oven went to live in the garage, waiting for a friend or neighbor to have need of its services.

All those years, using a toaster oven saved us money, and we didn't even realize it.

Toaster ovens use about half the electricity of a standard oven. You can turn a toaster oven upside down or around and find the wattage information. Our toaster oven is medium size, and uses 1400 watts. Smaller toaster ovens can use as little as 1200 watts, while larger ones can use as much as 1800 watts. Compare this to a standard wall oven, which uses on average, about 4000 watts. Why heat up a 30-inch box, when your casserole dish is only 9 inches in diameter?

After reading on CT on a budget about her frequent use of a countertop oven, I thought I should take a closer look at the electric savings I could be making, if I brought our toaster oven out of retirement. And since I had one just chomping at the bit to be of service again, I brought it back in from the garage, and made a place for it on the kitchen counter.

No doubt about it, microwaving will almost always be the cheapest method of cooking/heating. But there are times when a standard oven produces the desired texture. Microwaving a pizza is not as satisfactory as baking a pizza. Microwaving a whole chicken would leave the skin all clammy. Whereas a standard oven gives you that nice crisp skin. Sometimes I prefer the drying effect of the standard oven, such as when making garden lasagna. A microwave would leave me with a soupy bottom layer. And while you can microwave bake moist bar cookies, I just can't picture crisp gingerbread men coming out of my microwave.

I do love my microwave for moist cooking of many of my favorite foods, such as oatmeal, scrambled eggs, even quick breads like corn bread. And the speed of a microwave is very freeing at the end of the day. If I've done the prep work early in the day, I can quickly microwave the rest of dinner, in the evening, and have it served in about 10 minutes (yes, we timed this the other night, my girls and I. We wanted to see if we could get dinner served in 10 minutes.)

But on days when I'm looking for standard oven baking, without the need for the whole wall oven to be heated, I use the toaster oven. It's just the right size for a single casserole dish, or keeping warm a tray of bean burger patties, while the rest fry up, or making that small 2-loaf batch of French bread so that we can have garlic bread or bruschetta with dinner.

Will I get rich on my savings? No! But, figuring I use the toaster oven 2  hours per week (about my use these last couple of weeks), instead of my wall oven, I'll save about 12 cents per hour, or, 24 cents per week, or, about $1 per month. While not a huge savings, every last bit counts. (My savings are based on an electric rate of just over 8 cents/KWH. Most of the US pays far more, and could see greater savings per month.) I may find that I use it more when cooler weather returns, and I'm serving more casseroles for dinner. So, my monthly savings may sky-rocket to $2 per month.  That's $24 a year, and nothing to sneeze at. $24 is enough to buy groceries for several days, or, pay our electric bill for over 2 weeks in summer, or, pay for gas for our less-used car for 1 month, or, you get the picture -- $24 is something.

Would I go out and buy a toaster oven, just for the electricity savings? At retail prices, probably not. But if I had one in storage, or could borrow one from a friend or relative who wasn't using theirs, or I found one for a steal at a garage sale or thrift shop, then I would definitely use a toaster oven for smaller oven needs.

I would also like to point out that this is one of the money-saving strategies which won't require additional time or labor of mine, to achieve the same results. Many money-saving strategies do require extra work and/or time on the part of the participant.

If you're curious how the various electric cooking appliances stack up, in the right-hand side bar is a reference with use and cost (based on my rate of about 8 cents/KWH), from least expensive to most expensive. Toaster ovens and microwaves are at the top of the heap, with standard electric wall/range ovens at the bottom.


  1. Lili
    My Oster convection oven was a pricey one, I paid something like $69 ON SALE years ago, at least 10 years most likely more, at Sears. It became one of my Christmas gifts that year, as it was on my "list" of wants for Xmas. I made a point of asking for it when I divorced, as I was keenly aware of the savings it provides, while being a multi function appliance in the kitchen (bake, broil, toast). It has more than paid for itself. They now make larger ones, that will accomodate a 13 x 9 x 2 pan-something that I will consider when this one dies. Great for baking white/sweet potatoes, doing a pan of brownies, stuffing, a small casserole, etc.

    Love my table top oven!

    1. Hi Carol,
      Have you had to replace any elements, yet? Our first toaster oven needed a new element after about 4 years, and we were able to order it and change it out ourselves. When the next element burned out, they no longer made a replacement for it. Bummer. That's when we bought this GE. But just an FYI, you may be able to keep it working for a very long time, if you can replace the elements.

      Funny that I never even realized the savings of using our counter top ovens, all those years. Must've had Mommy-brain (young children, many sleepless nights, very active days). But as it was my only oven at the time, I estimate that I saved well over $500 during that time. Nothing to sneeze at!

  2. I have often toyed with the idea of getting rid of t.he microwave and replacing it with a toaster oven. For the most part I literally use the microwave to reheat things or maybe melt butter. I don't have the kitchen space for both, but as our family size shrinks I am making fewer and fewer large dishes.

    1. Hi Shara, '
      we actually have a spot for our microwave in the pantry. As it doesn't get hot, it can sit on a shelf alongside foods. Just a thought.

      I really like having the option of a toaster oven. It's nice for casseroles, or making garlic bread, or keeping cooked foods warm, when I don't want the big oven on. The first couple of weeks that I was cutting way back on electricity meant that I was reluctant to do anything in the wall oven, because I could see for myself how fast it made the meter spin.

      I often see toaster ovens on sale right after Thanksgiving, along with other small appliances marketed as gifts. And I also see them at thrift shops from time to time.

  3. I've been thinking about getting a toaster oven! With 2 adults & 2 teens in the house, our wall oven is on at least once a day heating or reheating (not baking).

    Also, there is additional savings in the summer if you run a/c in your house. A wall oven heats the house a LOT and the a/c need to run extra to cool it down again.

    1. Hi Sharon,
      If you used a toaster oven daily, instead of the wall oven, it could pay for itself in a year, depending on your electric rates and purchase cost of your toaster oven. And you're right, NOT heating the house can be a priority in summer, if you also have A/C. Good luck with the decision!

  4. hi lili,
    i have a small toaster oven and i use it for pizza,bread and buns. a microwave stand on my wishlist,maybe christmas.
    have a wonderful day,
    hugs regina

    1. Hi Regina,
      A toaster oven is just the right size for so many baking items, isn't it?! And as Sharon pointed out (in the comment above yours), it doesn't heat the kitchen up like a wall/range oven does, in summer.
      I hope you get your Christmas wish! Many months left to drop hints!
      I hope your day is lovely, as well!

  5. I purchased my toaster/convection oven at Aldi. Because we live in So. Florida, I use mine outside on the back covered patio, so as to not heat up the house while paying for A/C. I have also used it in the attached garage. I never considered that the small oven would be more cost-effective for the price of the electricity, but thanks for the info!!

    1. Hi Valarie,
      Very smart to not heat up the house, while trying to cool it with the A/C! You and Sharon, above, are thinking along the same lines. And you've been saving money on your rates, to boot!
      I know a lot of people also use their crock pots on covered porches or in garages, so as not to add any heat to the kitchen in summer. It just sounds like the smart thing to do. Why add heat yo a space that you've paid to cool?!
      Thanks for your comments!

  6. The only oven I have at the moment is a toaster oven and it's great for a single person household. I use it almost every day to make pizza, bake potatoes, roast veggies and bake. If I'm roasting meat I tend to use the slow cooker, which frees up the oven for roasting veggies.

    Good to know it's saving me money :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      It's always nice to find out something like you've been saving money, and didn't even notice any sacrifice!
      You can do a lot with a toaster oven. When this was my only oven, I baked 2 loaves of bread at a time, or roasted whole chickens. The way you have your kitchen set up is very efficient with the energy use. No appliances that are really over-sized for a single person.

  7. There's another money saving aspect to the toaster oven that might not be a factor for you because you live in such a temperate climate. But a toaster oven will put out MUCH less heat than a standard one, requiring less use of the air conditioner when it's 100 degrees outside!

    I have a very tiny toaster oven, that actually isn't much bigger than a standard toaster. In the summer months I use it a great deal for roasting veggies or one chicken breast or piece of salmon - mostly because I just can't bring myself to heat up the house with the real one!

    1. Hi Cat,
      You know, in pioneer times, it was common to have both a summer kitchen and a winter kitchen. The winter kitchen was in the main living quarters. While a summer kitchen would be set up in a lean-to, outside the main living areas. This was done to not heat up the house. If I lived where the climate was very mild, I think I would set up an outdoor kitchen on my back porch.

      There is so much that you can do in a toaster oven, even if it is a small one. So often when I'm making dinner, if I've got something that needs to go into the oven, its often just a portion of the overall dinner. Last night we had roasted veggies with our dinner. The rest of the dinner was cooked on the stove top. But the veggies went in to the toaster oven.

      Your toaster oven probably hardly draws any electricity at all, as it's so small.

    2. I totally LOVE the idea of summer vs winter kitchens! Many of my neighbors do most of their cooking outside on the grill during the summer months. I haven't tried this yet, mostly because I've only been eating meat for a year or two so it never seemed worthwhile to have a BBQ grill. Plus those gas grills scare me... I've seen WAY too many stories of people setting their houses on fire with those things. But, maybe a small charcoal grill would be worthwhile. Not sure how much charcoal costs though. Hmmm....

    3. One of those tiny hibachis would be just the right size for meat for 2 people, or meat and veggies for 1. And as they're so small, they really can't take too many charcoal pieces.

  8. I know this post is over five years old but I was wondering if you could take a screenshot of the controls on the right. I've got the same toaster oven but the markings are almost faded.


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