Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reflections on 5 Years of Microwave-Free Living

Our microwave oven kicked the bucket five years ago this month. At first, we were frustrated - the darn thing hadn't lasted nearly as many years as its predecessor, and a new microwave didn't fit into our budget! What on earth were we to do? While it's true we probably could have gotten one off of Freecycle, or possibly at a thrift store, after we'd calmed down a bit, we took the critical step of thinking "do we actually need to replace this item?" Heck, we'd lived without a car for three years (while we had two little kids, no less!) Surely we could live without a microwave?

We thought about what we actually used our microwave for, and the answer was basically 4 things:

1. Reheating half a mug of cold tea or coffee
2. Reheating leftovers
3. Thawing frozen foods
4. Melting chocolate

Not a whole lot, when it came right down to it. Surely we could figure out how to accomplish all of these jobs without a microwave? After all, we'd both been half grown before our family households even owned microwaves! And it sure would free up some extra space in the kitchen if we didn't have a microwave hanging around.

As it turns out, we figured out how to accomplish all of the above quite easily and have never looked back. We do get some house guests who are rather incredulous that we don't own a microwave (they seem to think we're leading them on, and we must have one hidden somewhere) but we don't mind at all!

In case you're wondering, here's how we do all of the aforementioned tasks in our microwave-free home:

Reheating hot beverages: We've learned to drink the whole darn mug while it's still hot! It's actually forced us to slow down and be more mindful of our cup of tea or coffee. At first I occasionally had to resort to reheating half a cup of cold coffee in a small saucepan on the stove, but I can't remember the last time I had to do that! I've learned to take the time to enjoy it freshly-poured.

Reheating leftovers: We purchased a thrift-store toaster oven for seven bucks. It's still going strong five years later, and has already outlasted that final (bought new) microwave of ours. I found some small baking dishes at the dollar store, which fit perfectly in the toaster oven two at a time. They are just the right size for heating up a single serving of leftovers. It takes 10-15 minutes to reheat food, rather than 2-3, but the quality is much better - the taste and texture are just like freshly cooked, and the food stays hot MUCH longer.

Thawing frozen foods: When possible, I take out the food I'm going to need for the next day the night before, and let it thaw overnight in the fridge. When I forget to do that, I thaw it in a stainless steel bowl filled with lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes (I only do the warm water thaw when I'm going to cook the food immediately afterwards).

Melting chocolate: I use an improvised double boiler; a stainless steel bowl placed over top of a saucepan of boiling water.

I know there are at least a few people thinking "but how do you make popcorn?" because I get that comment a lot! We've used a hot-air popper to make popcorn since long before our microwave died. You can also do it the good old-fashioned way in a pot on the stove.

Is there a common modern "gadget" that you've learned to live without? I'd love to hear about it, so please leave a comment!


  1. I'm not sure I want to give up my microwave. However, I do use it for more things than you did and consider it an elecricity saving device, cheaper than turning on our electric range.
    It is amazing what we learn to do without and actually feel okay about it! My hat's off to you!

  2. I quit microwaves a year ago. I don't live as frugally as you so it wasn't primarily because of that, but I'm learning to live more "cleanly" which included no more microwave popcorn and no more of those frozen-microwaveable-meals. I can't imagine I'd ever buy one again at this point, both because of the $$, but also because I would resent giving any real estate to one now, lol. Plus I genuinely enjoy stove-popped popcorn.
    btw, I came to your blog via Sue Burness's facebook - she posted a link here. I've bookmarked you :)

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Nancy, it's nice to meet you! I am finding there are more and more of us choosing to go microwave-free, for lots of different reasons. Popcorn is definitely much tastier when it's not made in a microwave :)

  4. Our microwave died but we had my Mom's so we are using that and it has a built in toaster so...I guess we will use it until it dies- still that is food for thought- the appliance I am weaning myself off of is the dryer. Unless it rains for two days I hang things on the back porch. They smell great and get some wind-tumbling most days. Love the way sheets smell.

  5. Vetmed: I don't own a clothes dryer. I hang out in nice weather, and in bad weather I have a line in front of my woodstove & another in the basement. It doesn't take long!
    I use a microwave only to melt/make things for my business. (Being in a hurry all the time is not good!)

  6. i am not a fan of microwaves. we ditched ours when we moved to the new house 2 years ago. lo and behold, it's my husband's birthday and guess what the MIL got him? a new microwave. really wish she would have checked with me first. i have no room for it and no need for it either.


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