Becky, knowing my love of doing all sorts of crazy calculations regarding money savings wanted to know if I did the calculations, figuring out how much money was being saved and over how long, by minimizing cooking time using a pressure cooker, and if I compared that to the cost of a pressure cooker to decide if it was worth it.
To be honest, I've tried calculating how much I spend on each minute of cooking time with my gas stove, but I haven't managed to figure out how much money it costs per minute or even how to start figuring it out (we have large and small tanks of gas delivered here, but I have no idea how many whatevers it is gas is measured in, in each of those tanks), so no, I haven't compared the money saving with utilities by using a pressure cooker with the expense of the pressure cooker.
However, I do know for a fact that having a pressure cooker saves me money. Big time. Enough that I don't need the utilities calculation to find out if it was a justifiable expenditure. I even recently bought a second pressure cooker!
Here's how I use a pressure cooker to save money:
Beans, beans, beans. Beans are the frugalistas best friend, since they've got protein, are versatile, and they're cheap. But while beans are certainly cheaper than meat, canned beans aren't so low cost. To really save money with beans, you need to use dry beans, which are a fraction of the cost of cooked beans.
The thing is- I get it. Dry beans are a royal pain in the neck to deal with. Even after soaking, they take ages to cook, and most people simply don't have the patience or the energy of watching over the stove for many hours just so they can have beans. Before I got my pressure cooker, I rarely, if ever, cooked dry beans.
Since pressure cookers cook things much faster, depending on the bean, you can easily cook your (soaked) bean in the pressure cooker in 10 to 30 minutes instead of the hour to 4 or 5 hours it would be without.
Pressure cookers. Making bean making manageable, since....
Giblets, necks, and other cheap poultry. Some of the cheapest meat available where I live (and most places) are giblets such as gizzards and necks. While a properly cooked gizzard and/or neck is amazingly delicious, wonderful texture, etc... an improperly cooked gizzard or neck will be chewy and rubbery, gross and off putting. The difference between unappetizing hard giblets and delicious ones? Cooking time. To truly get this meat soft, you need to cook it for hours on the stove. And gizzards especially, since they're even chewier than necks.
I absolutely refuse to cook gizzards in a regular pot. It takes 3-5 hours before it gets soft.
With my pressure cooker? An hour, tops.
Gizzards and I are now best friends. They're one of my favorite parts of the meat- because of their taste, texture, and price, with the added bonus that each time that I cook up gizzards, I get a big pot of chicken broth as well. And it is only thanks to my pressure cooker, which made me not be scared of cooking gizzards.
Cheap beef. Along the lines of the gizzards being easier and faster to cook in the pressure cooker, beef works the same way. I've written a longer post elaborating just how I do it, but I use my pressure cooker to cook up harder, tougher, much cheaper cuts of beef, to be able to use them in recipes that call for soft, expensive meats. I refuse to pay high price for "quality" beef since I can make all those recipes requiring "quality beef" with my cheapo meat, thanks to my pressure cooker.
Fast meals. As a family who tries to eat as healthily as possible, and with numerous food restrictions, not to mention on a budget, we strive not to have any processed foods in the house.
The thing is- I'm human. I have my times where I have no energy to cook, no patience to slave in the kitchen, and definitely not in the mood to wait for a long time for food to cook, especially if I was out of the house all day and we get home and the kids are hungry and I don't have anything waiting. In many families, I know that during such situations, the answer would be takeout, or if not that, prepared processed foods from the freezer or shelf stable processed food for meals.
For me? I just throw a few things together in the pressure cooker, and usually in minutes, a whole one pot meal is ready. (Examples- sliced potatoes, sliced veggies, and chicken. Or butternut squash chunks, fish, and carrots. Or lentil soup.)
No takeout or processed foods here, but I can still have my super quick and easy to make dinners.
Pressure canning. Though this isn't true about my pressure cooker, but only is true about pressure canners which can double as pressure cookers, I felt it worthwhile to mention here.
Canning is a great way to save money, because you're able to preserve foods bought cheaply in season or that you grew or foraged yourself. However, while water bath canning can be done with no pressure cooker or even any special equipment, for safety reasons, you can only safely can acidic items (such as fruit or pickles), because otherwise it is the perfect breeding ground for botulism, which can be deadly.
With pressure canning, your cans get to such a high temperature during the canning process that it eliminates the risk of botulism, and you can therefore expand the possibility of what you can can. I want to get a pressure canner one day, so I can can greens, beans, chicken, chicken broth, etc...
More Nutrients: Because pressure cookers cook things faster and without the steam escaping as much, your food retains more nutrients than it would in other cooking methods, which means you get more bang for your buck nutritionally by pressure cooking.
Lowered Utilities: And of course, there's always the aspect of reduced utilities because of the faster cooking times- usually 1/3-1/5 of the standard cooking time- which would mean, theoretically, that if you cooked everything in a pressure cooker instead of in regular pots, your utilities usage (and therefore bill) should be lowered by 66-80%.
So, have I convinced you to get a pressure cooker yet? Convinced yet it's a financially sound decision?
Buying a Cheap Pressure Cooker
If I have- don't jump immediately to go buy one, since they still are expensive.
If you can wait a little bit until you see one on sale, that is best. I got one from Groupon for approximately $70 (thanks to my wonderful sister, Violet, who knew I was in the market for one and alerted me to the sale), more than half off its usual price.
If you live in the US, Amazon has pretty decent prices for pressure cookers- from $25 and up. Walmart.com and Target.com also have them for good prices.
If you live locally to me (not in the US), it may be worth buying it from the US and paying someone to ship it to you abroad, because even with the high shipping costs, they're still much cheaper in the US than they are locally.
There are also pressure cookers on ebay, that, while more expensive than in the US, have free international shipping, and work out to be much cheaper than our local pressure cookers.
So now that I've convinced you to get started with a pressure cooker, here's some of my favorite pressure cooker recipes to get you started:
Do you have a pressure cooker? Do you feel it saves you money? What do you think are the biggest money saving aspects of your pressure cooker?