Couple Cooks Homegrown Veggies in Solar Cooker; Cuts Costs by Rs 20,000/Year

Solar panels and parabolic solar cooker on the terrace.

Bengaluru residents Ravikala and Prakash Baliga have adopted a sustainable lifestyle which leads to them saving thousands each month.

Following a sustainable lifestyle is not just one person’s decision in a family, it requires the buy-in of every family member. For 50-year-old Ravikala Baligal the desire to implement small changes in her day-to-day life was always on her mind. When she moved to Bengaluru, the desire started materialising.

Speaking to The Better India, Ravikala says, “My husband Prakash Baliga and I have been married for close to 25 years now and have lived in different cities. Finally, when we decided to make Bengaluru our home, I started convincing Prakash to help me implement some long-term practices to lead a sustainable life.”

Being in their own place also helped in putting some sustainable practices in place.

A parabolic solar cooker on the terrace
Prakash Baliga with the parabolic cooker.

As a volunteer at a Children’s NGO in the city, Ravikala says that she learnt about many energy-saving and sustainable practices like rainwater harvesting, composting, etc. “Even before I was married to Prakash, his mother used a solar cooker for cooking and even though I had not used it, I had heard about it from her. That inspired me to try it as well and even though my husband wasn’t 100 per cent convinced I wanted to give it a try.” She adds here that all they needed was a mindset shift.

Harnessing the Sun’s Energy

A collage of fresh tomato and spinach from the terrace along with a preparation of baked vegetables.
Fresh organic vegetables from the terrace garden.

“The one thing that we have in abundance is sunlight and therefore I was sure that using a solar cooker would not be very difficult,” says Ravikala. Some of the apprehensions that her husband had included the time this cooker would take up but Ravikala says over repeated use, one gets used to it and can time how long it takes for food to get completely cooked.

Almost 13 years ago, Ravikala and her husband installed a solar heater in their home and she says that it is on very rare occasions that they turn on the conventional water heater in their home. “Only on occasions when there is no sunlight and it has been raining incessantly do we switch on the water heater,” she adds. She also says that in many of the independent houses of the city there is a solar panel installed on the terrace.

“This may be feasible only in independent houses and getting it done for larger apartment complexes might need the consensus of all residents and that might be a problem,” she says. The two key ingredients in making this shift, according to Ravikala are patience and family support. “There are many people who give up on it because of the amount of time and patience the process requires. So before you make the shift, make up your mind on seeing it through,” she adds.

‘Solar panels help save money too.’

Composting at home and growing greens as well.
A look at Ravikala’s home.

At Ravikala’s house there are four solar panels installed on the terrace. She says that they manage to generate enough power to store in the inverter, which is then used to run all the appliances at home. “In Bengaluru, there are frequent power cuts but because we have the inverter we hardly even realise when the power is cut. It’s only when the WhatsApp group starts buzzing with activity about the power cut do we realise it,” she chuckles.

In one year, their electric geyser is now used for only one month during the monsoon time and that, Ravikala says, amounts to a good amount of savings. The couple is able to save about Rs 300 each month by not utilising the electric geyser and in a year about Rs 3,300.

“This coupled with the fact that I now use the solar cooker for most of my cooking means a huge saving on gas as well,” she adds.

Drumstick sambar and idli cooked in the solar cooker.
Food made using the solar cooker.

Other than the monetary benefit of using the solar cooker, Ravikala adds that the food cooked in it also has immense health benefits. Having spent close to Rs 7,000 on the solar cooker, Ravikala says that the normal gas cylinder now can be used for an additional 25 to 30 days each month, which is a great saving.

She adds, “I understand that most people would like to understand what their return on investment (ROI) will be in such cases but for me, it is much more than that. It is about harnessing the power of the sun efficiently.”

Ravikala also enjoys tending to her plants on her balcony and terrace and says that she grows most seasonal vegetables and fruits. “While I am doing all the work on nurturing the plants and watering them well, at present only the monkeys are reaping the benefit of the fruits and vegetables. They seem to be enjoying the fruits of my labour,” she says laughing.

Currently, she is growing various greens like spinach, coriander, mint, chilly, tomato, turmeric, ginger and also has a drumstick tree.

A house with various flowers and trees.
Prakash and Ravikala’s home in Bangalore.

“Until last year I could harvest more than 300 drumsticks and would get tired distributing it to family, friends and neighbours. This year, the monkeys have decided to feast upon them,” she says.

In conclusion, she says, “If I were to calculate the savings I can attribute to this way of living I would say it can be pegged at over Rs 20,000 a year. However, what makes me immensely happy is the satisfaction I feel living this way.”

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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