7 Ways to Save Water While Cooking

December 30, 2014 | By | Comments (17)


On a recent visit to my local farmers’ market, I saw this picture posted on the wall of one of my favorite booths. The farmer had decided to let his drought struggles be known to his customers by posting his recent water bills and a scribbled note of what he’s doing to lessen his water usage. I took this picture, bought 3 grapefruits, and continued on.

Later that evening, as I was dumping water from my salad spinner into the sink, his note came to mind and it got me thinking: What are some ways I can save water when I’m cooking? (Which isn’t the same as “when I’m in the kitchen,” because I would hope everyone knows to run the dishwasher only when it’s completely full.) What I mean is, while I’m actually washing, chopping, and cooking dinner, what can I do to save water? I sat down and made this list.


 1. Steam vegetables rather than boiling.

Steaming only uses an inch of water rather than a few cups or quarts, and is generally healthier too. In the Sunset test kitchen, we like this steamer because it’s inexpensive, takes up very little space, and is durable enough to last a few years even in our professional kitchen.


2. Use a bowl instead of a colander.

Since a bowl is only so big, using one automatically limits the amount of water you run. Swish the vegetables around in the bowl and pull them out—you can wash a few things in the same water if it’s not too dirty and you’re not worried about cross-contamination (cooking solves that issue).


3. Reuse the water.

Save that water you used to wash the vegetables (or boil your pasta) and use it to hydrate your garden and houseplants. (Strain it to remove any floating food bits that might rot or attract rodents.)

4. Peel the dirt away

Next time you start to rinse vegetables like carrots or potatoes, grab the vegetable peeler instead. It’s a fast and easy way to clean off the dirt without turning on the faucet.

5. Defrost in the fridge.

It’s true that putting frozen foods under running water helps them defrost quickly, but it also takes a lot of water. Plan ahead and put frozen food in the refrigerator the day before you need it. Your food will defrost slowly and safely without using a drop from the tap.

6. Make one-pot meals.

It’s easier to cook it all together and it’s much easier to clean up when you’re done. Here are a few of our favorite one-pot meals if you need a little inspiration.


7. Soak the small stuff.

Here in the Sunset Test Kitchen, we have a container that we put all our silverware and small utensils into to soak throughout the day. This way, all those tools are practically clean (with no rinsing needed) by the time we put them into the dishwasher. There are no crusty neglected utensils to scrub later, and we’re not pulling peanut butter–coated spoons out of the dishwasher when it’s done washing. And when you’re done soaking, you can dump the water in the toilet to force flush, saving you another gallon or so.

If you have any other great kitchen-related water tips that you’d like to share, please put them in the comments section below. We’d love to hear them!


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  4. chandra

    I like to use the steamer while boiling food! I make one dish in a pot that creates steam and use a bamboo steamer placed over the top to steam my veggies! Two or three dishes, one pot of water!

    August 2, 2015 at 1:02 pm
  5. Sarah

    I notice that I rinse my hands a lot when I’m chopping things. Instead of running the sink every time, you could use a wet/damp towel and just wipe your hands.

    July 30, 2015 at 8:17 am
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  8. Mary Ellen Morgan

    If you are handwashing dishes, put the stopper in the second sink to catch rinse water. After rinsing the fjrst few d u ses, you will have enough water to dip rinse the rest.

    July 11, 2015 at 12:20 pm
    • Angela Brassinga

      Great idea Mary Ellen!

      July 13, 2015 at 1:43 pm
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  11. Karen

    Mia, I peel the carrots first which takes off all the dirt and then rinse the carrot. I spend no time scrubbing off stubborn dirt as I have already peeled it off!

    April 9, 2015 at 7:49 pm
  12. Mia

    Please DON’T do #4. “Peel the dirt away” That ISN”T a food safe procedure.

    You don’t want to contaminate the newly exposed part with the dirt from the outside that will remain on your peeler or knife. Rinse first, using a water saving method, then peel. You can reuse the water on your decorative garden plants if you catch the rinse water in a dish tub.

    April 9, 2015 at 3:18 pm
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  14. Peter

    Follow Harold McGees advice to cook pasta in a very small amount of water. Essentially just enough to cover, put pasta in cold water and turn heat on. A side benefit is that most of the time the remaining water is thick with starch and great for making a quick sauce (or loosening up a thick sauce)

    January 7, 2015 at 12:49 pm
  15. ywwp

    one quick solution: All washbasins have a controller to water flow below it. It is always turned to full 100% water flow. If it is rotated little to reduce water flow to wash basin, it will save water. Check this – http://wp.me/p3dJz1-d2

    January 1, 2015 at 10:22 pm
  16. Marsha

    These are some really practical and creative suggestions! Even though I don’t cook as much as I’d like, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my water consumption. Going to see if there are ways I can incorporate some of these tips into my skin care regimen.

    December 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm

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