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Life without a microwave

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When faced with a serious illness. it's amazing how much easier it becomes to give up certain things. Our microwave was one of those things.

When my husband was diagnosed with cancer last spring, it was one of the first things to go. We had already been in the process of changing a lot of things (food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.) but the microwave was one that we had been procrastinating on.

I have never read any absolutely firm evidence (i.e. truly scientific, extremely reputable studies) that microwaves are harmful to our health or that they are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). I imagine that even if such a study was performed, it's results would be kept very much under wraps by those who have money to be made. I have read many very educated opinions, as well as much intelligent speculation, that microwaves may possibly be very dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible. Even before getting rid of ours, I kept my daughter away from it when it was on, and I always tried to stand a few feet away as well.

Here are just a couple of articles I found online, discussing the dangers and studies done on the use of microwaves :

Proven Dangers of Microwaves
The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking
Microwave Cooking is Killing You

I am not going to try to convince you that you should all immediately go and throw your microwaves in the dumpster. However, I do think that it is worth reading about, and worth considering how you could learn to go without!

Here are a few tips that I have learned as I have gone back to the good old days of not being able to just nuke my food:

  • If you forget to take your meat out to thaw it, put it in a sink full of cool water. It's not as fast, but it definitely thaws faster (and safer) than just sitting on the counter. Sometimes I just adjust my cooking time to the fact that my meat isn't perfectly thawed.
  • Ground meat can be cooked frozen- simply flip it from side to side over medium heat, and each time scrape off the portion that has thawed.
  • Use a toaster oven to re-heat leftovers, instead of heating the whole oven. Ours came with a small tray that works great for a meal sized amount of food.
  • A pot or pan on the stove is such a fast way to re-heat soups, stews, stir-fries, etc.
  • Infant's milk and food should never be microwaved (it decreases nutrients, as well as heats unevenly and creates pockets where heat and steam are trapped). I try to remember to take out frozen baby food in the morning and leave it on the counter to thaw by lunch or dinner (unless it's meat or dairy). Lately I've been using a ceramic bowl in the toaster oven to heat it slightly. Running a glass jar under hot running water works well, as does boiling a small pot or pan with water and putting the bowl of food inside (note- this only works if your child is not feeding themselves out of the bowl- if they are, make sure to transfer the warmed food to a cool bowl before serving it).
  • For hot beverages, use a kettle for hot water or else heat the beverage in a pot on the stove. I make amazing frothy milk for lattes by heating it on the stove, and then pumping it up and down in a french press.
  • Please, don't use microwave popcorn (if not for any other reason than that the oils that make it taste buttery are terrible for you)! Get an old fashioned corn popper from a thrift store or garage sale, or just use an old camping pot on the stove top. Melt your butter on the stove, or in the nifty little compartment on top of the popper.

Not owning a microwave helps me to think ahead about my meal planning and thawing food from the freezer. I've gotten so used to preparing our food on the stove and in the oven, and in fact, I wouldn't really even want to eat soggy, nuked food anymore!

Has anyone else given up their microwave? Please share your tips for thawing, heating and re-heating foods!

Originally published December 2007

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42 Comments

  1. Wow, but I can’t get rid of the microwave I use it as my bread box. πŸ™‚ Thats about it. On very rare occasions I will reheat my coffee. It is just not worth taking everything out of it to use.

  2. We got rid of our microwave about 1 1/2 years ago and have never looked back. And since I have heard about the popcorn scare I am even more glad that we don’t have one. The only thing I miss is heating up our heating pads, the ones that have rice and lavender in them. But otherwise, I think we are better off without it.

  3. Good for you, Anastasia-Jane! You know, that’s been the only thing I missed, too! I had these great little hot pads for breastfeeding (for soreness, etc.) that I couldn’t figure out how to heat up. Other than that, I have no regrets at all!

  4. You can heat up heating pads in the oven! Just put the oven to your lowest setting (150-200), let it preheat, turn it OFF, and pop the heating pad inside the toasty oven for a few minutes (on a cookie sheet). Another alternative is heating them on baseboard heaters…if your heater is heating up, place it on, let it get warm, then remove. Of course, if you have an older baseboard heater, the kind that gets really really hot, don’t do this.

    Our microwave is on our list of things to get rid of. πŸ™‚

  5. You know, this is something I hadn’t really thought of. I’ve been trying over the past year to use the microwave less and cook “real” food more – trying to do the latter led to doing better at the former. πŸ˜›

    I can, however, make one suggestion that works for me on not using the microwave: when I plan out my dinner menus for the week, I figure out what meat or other products I’ll need defrosted by a certain day. I pull out any meat that is needed within 1-3 days and put it in the refrigerator to defrost. If it isn’t done in time (for something needed the very next day, for instance) I will use the microwave to “nuke” it – but at least it’s for less time. This doesn’t always stay neat and tidy with red meat but the chicken breasts I have that are individually packaged (then packaged bulk and sold at Costco) work out real well like this. They defrost and their packets keep things from oozing or dribbling until I open them in the sink for preparation.

    Hope that’s of help to someone!

  6. Mrs. Taft, great tip! I’ll try that!

    Thanks, New Yorker!

    Good tip, Melonie. I also try to take my meat out in advance. Thawing meat (that I’d forgotten to take out) used to be one of the only reasons I used my microwave. Now I just use the water in the sink trick, and although not quite as fast, it works pretty good.

  7. My family never had a microwave while I was growing up (I was born in 1971), so I grew up thinking that everyone made popcorn in a pot, warmed leftovers on the stove, etc.

    Once I married my husband (whose family was first in line for a microwave in the ’70s), I started using it to reheat foods and make popcorn, etc. I have heard about the potential dangers of using the microwave, so I have started to go back to my roots.

    My kids think it is delightful to make popcorn in a pot and most things taste much better reheated in the toaster oven (less soggy).

    Also, while cleaning up dinner, I look at my meal plan for the next day and take out anything that needs to thaw right then, so it has time to thaw before the next night. That saves time, too!

    When I do use the microwave, I try to avoid using any plastic containers.

    May your family be blessed and your husband’s health remain in tact.

  8. I haven’t given mine up completely (hubby would never allow it!) but I do use it very rarely and when I do, I stand away. Always have. It just kind of weirds me out.

  9. We stopped using a microwave several years ago for food, and were just hanging onto it for heating water, then got a kettle. I didn’t feel good about using it, whether or not it ever proves beyond a shadow of a doubt to be harmful, it just goes against the whole notion of slow food. We do fine without it, and now have much more counter space for all the ferments!

  10. Hi Stephanie,

    We haven’t completely given up the microwave yet, but we’re definitely in the process. We bought a toaster oven a few months ago, and it’s been a great substitute for the microwave. It even has a warming section on top where I can thaw buns, etc. while I’m cooking my food. I’m also trying to re-heat things in a pot on the stove. We still use the microwave occasionally, but we’re trying to adjust to doing without it for the most part so that some day we can give it up altogether and not even miss it. πŸ™‚ I figure microwaves are a pretty new invention anyway – people got along for a very long time without them!

  11. We lived overseas for a few months without a microwave. I learned to reheat a lot in the oven by putting the food in an oven-safe dish, adding a little bit of water, then covering. The water steams the food and keeps moisture in. This is a great way to reheat chicken and especially pasta.

  12. Toaster oven, all the way! I love it – it is quick and easy and food is not soggy or such in the toaster oven! Plus, you can get rid of the toaster, too!

  13. I haven’t given up my microwave by choice, but I have been forced to do without it. My fiance and I are currently getting our new house together (he’ll be moving in this weekend, I have to wait till after the wedding). While our appliances got delivered two weeks ago, he still hasn’t had the opportunity (or the extra set of hands) to install the microwave.

    Reheating pasta in a skillet on the stove (or in an electric skillet) works great. It doesn’t over heat like the microwave and maintains its temperature for much longer.

  14. We didn’t choose to get rid of a microwave, we just never bought one after marriage because we were tight on money. πŸ™‚ It took a couple months to adjust, but I’m so used to the stove, electric skillet, and oven now that I don’t feel like I need a microwave.

    Whether it is unhealthy or not, since we only have three tiny counters in the apartment kitchen, we don’t have room for a microwave. Necessity is the mother of invention, and seems like this time it was a blessing in disguise. πŸ™‚

  15. Wow, I’ve never even considered this. Thanks for the heads up. I’m going to start paying attention to how much we use our microwave to see what it would take to get rid of it. Thanks!

  16. I too have reduced the amount we use this tool. ACtually I could get rid of it now and would not miss it. The only thing I use it for lately is softening butter when cooking. I could do it another way but I tend to forget and need it. Since becoming a SAHM I have cut back on using it, the key is being organized and remembering to take stuff out. Great tips and I am sure many will get alote out of this.

  17. We have one, but don’t use it much at all. We’ll be replacing it with a nice stainless steel heat vent sometime in the future.

  18. We can’t physically get rid of the microwave because it is built into our home, but we almost never use it. Maybe twice a month, I’ll briefly nuke something, but it’s completely out of the ordinary to do so. We have transitioned to using the toaster oven and the stove top for reheating foods.

    You’re right, stove-top popcorn is far better than anything that comes out of those microwave popcorn packs! Justice pops his in coconut oil and tops it with melted Kerrygold cultured butter and sea salt. Holy cow, is it good! I have to stay away when he makes it because it does upset my tummy if I eat more than a few bites.

  19. we have not used a microwave in 4 years or so. before that we had one built into a couple of our houses and even then i rarely used it. i have forgotten how life was like with one, in fact! lol.

    i too use the sink full of cold water to defrost things and usually just “defrost” hamburger while cooking it on low. i do not even have a toaster oven, so that’s not a necessity either (i’ve thought of getting one, though).

    my dh LOVES popcorn, and now that he cannot nuke some of the nasty stuff in a bag, i enjoy making him some with coconut oil, sea salt and butter, or sometimes i make “kettle corn” and use a bit of sugar and reduce the salt. YUM.

  20. we gave ours up and after a few simple adjustments like you mentioned we were fine! love your blog- glad i found it.
    i didn’t know about your husband. is he doing better now? we are going thru this with my dad.

  21. Wow. Another great THINKER post. πŸ˜‰ I still use my microwave… often. That toaster oven (that I don’t have) is looking like something that might go on my Christmas list. Thanks for the info!

  22. I’m getting married next June, and we’ve already decided to forgo a microwave. The nutrients are gone, nothing tastes as good, and it just takes up too much counter space for my liking!

    I’m thinking on a toaster oven though…do you really like having one?

  23. We tossed our microwave a month ago and have not missed it not once. One of the best things we did. I never realized we could actually live without it. But, we can!

  24. Tami, my husband is doing well again. 1 year out of treatments and still in remission! I’m sorry to hear about your Dad… it’s a tough journey, but God definitely used it for good in our lives. Blessings on your family.

    Alison- you wanna know what’s amazing on popcorn? Melted butter, sea salt and nutritional yeast flakes. Seriously, it’s amazing. I stuff myself til I feel sick, I like it that much. πŸ™‚

    To those who wondered about using a toaster oven- we adore ours! We use it constantly, for toast, for reheating leftovers, for making things like salmon melts, and occasionally for making a part of dinner or dessert if my ovens in use or I’m only using a small dish and don’t want to heat the whole oven. If you get one, you will be so pleased with it, just make sure you get one that’s a decent size and quality.

    Hey wait, I’m supposed to be on vacation, aren’t I? πŸ™‚

  25. We try not use ours much (although dh is not quite convinced) and definitely NOT with plastic. But it’s built in and came with the house so we won’t be getting rid of it yet. As far as popcorn goes, I can’t even stomach the bagged stuff anymore! My dh treats me by popping ours in cocnut oil in a pot on the stove and then adding a bit of butter. WONDERFUL (but addictive – beware)!
    My family thinks it weird when I whip out a pot to re-heat something or thaw in the water. But I feel beter about it. Thanks! Great topic!

  26. oooo I just found your blog and LOVE IT! I got rid of my microwave about six years ago, and never looked back! Our lives are so much healthier. Another benefit of getting rid of your microwave is you cut down on the amounts of processed foods you eat because you are FORCED to really cook. NO more popping hot pockets in the microwave for dinner, now I make real meat pies if I want something like that!

  27. We are building a house and will not put in a microwave. (Instead we’ll have a stove/oven combo, a double wall oven unit and a woodstove!) When our electrician was wiring the kitchen he asked about a microwave. We told him we weren’t going to have one. He just didn’t get it! Wait till we tell our cabinet man the same thing! πŸ˜‰

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful, well-researched posts! I’m not a big blog reader, but I make time for yours. πŸ™‚

  28. I haven’t owned a microwave since I was a kid. (Well back then my parents owned it). I learned all my cooking without one, so that helped. I would never get one as I don’t like the taste for one, and for two, I don’t think its the safest either.

    I have a toaster oven and use that a lot. I also reheat things up on the stovetop. I have it as part of my evening routine (on a checklist on my fridge) to get the meat out (or soak beans) for the next day’s meal/supper and I put it into the fridge in a bowl and it thaws by the time I need to cook it.

    It is really not hard to do these things.

  29. Oh I also forgot to add that once I saw some phamplets from my local health unit talking about how you need to have your microwave tested to see if it leaks. That sort of scared me. Apparently stuff leaks out the door if its not sealed properly (happens with age). Not sure what it was. Maybe its covered in the links I didn’t read that you left. Anyways for the local health unit to recommend testing, sort of scared me! Its good they do the testing, but its the need that scares me.

  30. We gave up ours a couple of years ago, for food. It’s built into the house. The only thing I use it for is heating up a grain-filled bag for warmth on a specific place on my body. I don’t miss the way things taste, coming out of the microwave. I never liked the way it cooked anyway. I use the toaster oven, a single burner, and an electric kettle for the stuff it used to do – and I already had those things. I found myself learning to heat things up before I got to the starving point. I don’t even use it at work – I put my hot lunch in a stainless steel insulated jar.

    I never use a toaster. If I need something like that, I use the toaster oven.

  31. I checked out the links but was disappointed that they were not current articles. Would love to see some current research on this topic. Otherwise I’ll never convince my hubby to even consider it!

  32. When our microwave gave up the ghost 4 years ago we did not replace it for health reasons. One thing I do to reheat food is to steam (using a steamer in a large saucepan with water and covered with a lid) it on top of the stove. This is what I do for solid foods such as French toast that was leftover and frozen. It does not take long to heat foods this way. I used to do heat the French toast in the toaster, but it dried out. The steaming method works much better. Also do the same thing for baked oatmeal that has been frozen in serving sizes. This works so well. I use the steamer to lightly steam veggies and other foods as well.

  33. Does anyone know if heating pads warmed up in a microwave are dangerous for your health? I use one constantly. On my neck, my feet, etc. I would think that as the microwave nukes it, the rice continues to emit radioactive waves, at least for a little while after it’s taken out of the microwave… Any thoughts??

  34. Raven, I really don’t know about that for sure, but I would think that your guess could be right. That would be my concern, too. One of the comments above, from Mrs. Taft, suggests a couple of ways to heat up heating pads without a microwave. I bet if you google it, you could find a few more ways. πŸ™‚

  35. Thank you so much for this post! I came across it a while after you wrote it, but it was the perfect time for me. Recently our microwave has begun turning itself on and off and beeping error messages across the screen. No, it’s not possessed, but it is quite annoying in the middle of the night. My fiancee and I have been worried that we’d have to spend a big chunk of money on a new microwave, thinking “How will we ever function without one?” Well, your post and the wonderful comments have shown me that I won’t miss our microwave one bit, what I’ve really been missing all this time is the massive amount of counter space that the darn thing hoards underneath it! Once I toss the microwave, I’ll have use of about 4 square feet. In my itty bitty kitchen, this will be amazing. I often resort to peeling potatoes and chopping veggies in the living room because there isn’t enough space on the counter.

    I’m through rambling now. I’m just so happy to have come across your post right now before we dropped $200 we don’t have on an appliance we don’t need!

  36. While pregnant with both of my children I was very leary about using the microwave – funny how after they were born I was no longer bothered by it πŸ™ I find I use the microwave mostly to reheat leftovers. In my case, I have a built-in microwave so it doesn’t actually take up countertop space. Getting a toaster oven would take up more space LOL. But in the long run, I’m sure it will be worth it!

  37. I enjoyed this post. My husband and I do not use the microwave as it is so dangerous to our health. I enjoy your blog. My husband and I are missionaries to Brazil and do try to live simply and healthy.

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