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On Life Without a Microwave

My sister was shocked when she realized we no longer have a microwave…and that we chose to get rid of it and aren’t planning on replacing it!


Although I’ve read a fair amount about the dangers of microwaves — and at times have wondered if the very aggressive cancer that took my grandmother suddenly three-and-a-half years ago might have been related to the fact that she cooked almost 100% of her food in the microwave for at least a decade — it was really wanting the extra space back in my laundry room that led to our decision to get rid of it.

Our laundry room is right off the kitchen and, to save counter space in the kitchen, it’s been home to our microwave since we moved in almost six years ago.

Three years ago, it suddenly started sparking while cooking, and I thought for sure we needed to replace it. But it stopped just as suddenly as it started and would only spark intermittently when we heated peanut butter, chocolate, or butter — strange, right? — so we kept using it.

Then we did the Simplifying for Fall challenge last August. The idea of getting rid of the somewhat scary appliance and having the extra counter space in my laundry room for folding clothes was very appealing.

The first week was pretty tough. The microwave was sitting in our foyer for a few days, and a few times, we snuck over to use it on the floor to reheat a meal or make a cup of tea.

But slowly got used to preheating the oven before making leftovers for lunch and heating water or milk in a saucepan for tea. {And my mom recently got me a whistling kettle after letting all of my tea water boil out of the saucepan for the umpteenth time!}

At this point, however, we have fully made the transition, and I often choose to reheat things in the oven even when we have access to a microwave (at our parents’ homes, for example).

Here are my best tips for life without a microwave:

1. Set a timer.

While the boiling water issue was easily solved with a whistling tea kettle, the easiest way to make sure you don’t get distracted and ruin something you’re heating on the stove or in the oven is to simply set a timer. I am the queen of distractability, so I set timers constantly on the oven or on my phone (thank you, Siri!) so that I don’t completely forget about something!

2. Store leftovers in oven-safe glass containers.

To make it easy to reheat leftovers, we use Pyrex for pretty much everything, which means we can simply transfer it from the fridge to the oven to reheat for another meal.

The one thing we can’t transfer to the oven, of course, is the plastic lid on top of the Pyrex, so we either use foil or an upside-down cookie sheet to cover the container while it’s cooking. Covering helps the food heat faster and also keeps it from getting dried out or overdone on the top. For dishes with sauce on them, we’ll often stir in a little milk or water to keep the sauce creamy as well.

3. Reheat to 350 degrees.

There’s actually some flexibility with the temperature you use for reheating food in the oven, but we tend to stick with 350 degrees for most things. To save time and energy, I’ll often move my dishes to the oven while it preheats rather than waiting for it to be ready.

4. Thaw in water.

I’ve only recently discovered that the fastest way to thaw something — a package of meat, a jar of sauce, etc — is to actually leave it in its packaging and place the whole thing in a pot of cold water. While my goal is to pull things from the freezer to the fridge the night before we need them, I sometimes forget to do that, and thawing them in cold water for an hour or so (depending on the size) is a great way to speed up the process!

5. A small saucepan is your friend.

I use a small saucepan on the stove to melt things like butter, peanut butter, chocolate, coconut oil, etc.. Peanut butter and chocolate work better in a makeshift double boiler than directly in the pan to prevent burning.

6. Plan ahead.

The biggest challenge in microwave-free life for us hasn’t been the method of cooking but simply getting used to the extra cooking time required. For example, a large sweet potato can be cooked in 10-15 minutes in the microwave but can take an hour or more in the oven. It’s not actually any more time intensive; it just requires a little planning ahead to make sure you start things early enough. Really, this just comes through practice, and while we ended up changing our food choices more often in the beginning because we hadn’t planned enough time for them to cook, we don’t run into that very often now!

Overall, I love microwave-free life: I have taken full advantage of the space in our laundry room (where our printer now sits — ha! — so that I can easily print out homeschool assignments), I don’t have to wonder whether there is any danger from the microwave, food tastes better when it’s reheated in the oven, and I feel like we’re one step closer to a simpler, slower life instead of one of convenience and rushing.

Do you have a microwave? Could you ever give it up?