Living Without: A Microwave

photo credit: Micheal Cote

Have you ever made a cake in the microwave?

I’m a child of the 80s and I still remember the excitement in our house when we got our first microwave.

It came with a cookbook and there were instructions and recipes for using your microwave to boil eggs and bake cakes. Yes, microwave baking was seriously chic back then.

Just minutes and the microwave oven could produce a lack luster version of what would take an hour in a traditional oven!

While the microwave certainly didn’t replace the stove it’s still been a valued piece of cookery for a lot of us.

Recently our microwave stopped working. We haven’t asked the landlord to repair or replace it (we rent a furnished apartment).

So I’ve been trying my hand at life sans microwave. Britt does/did it. Mandi is doing it.

Millions of people get by without a microwave so it shouldn’t be that hard, right?

There have been two things I’ve enjoyed about life without a microwave: more counter space (left empty because I do love a clean empty counter) and the taste of leftovers reheated with the oven.

It helps that a few months back I took advantage of a Pyrex offer through our grocery store and replaced most of our plastic food storage containers. The Pyrex containers easily go from fridge to oven.

Soups and stews were already being reheated stove top because I enjoy piping hot chili but I don’t enjoy it if it’s in a piping hot bowl.

I’ve read a few blog posts from people saying that microwaves are dangerous for your health but I’ve also read they are perfectly safe. Unless you are eating two bags of microwave popcorn a day like this man.

There’s only one thing I miss about our microwave: convenience.

I rely on batch cooking and leftovers to feed my family healthy meals. A microwave makes reheating leftovers quick and easy.

The extra step of turning the oven on, the longer reheating time, some days it feels like a chore. First world problem of course.

And though I used to think microwaved baked goods were disgusting, we’ve been treating ourselves to the occasional microwaved mug cake (I do 1 minute in the microwave, let stand for 20 minutes with a plate over it- perfection!).

So maybe that’s a positive? Not a chance I am making two single serving cakes and baking them in a conventional oven once the kids are in bed.

The other unknown to me is if this will increase our gas and electric bills. Our range/stove top is gas and the oven is electric.

My other half says we’re getting the microwave repaired or replaced but I’m happy to continue on without it for now.

While there are moments of inconvenience we seem to be getting dinner on the table just fine without it.

Anyone else living without a microwave? Does it make your life simpler?

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Comments

  1. Nicola B says

    We’ve not had a microwave since we moved in three years ago- the only thing it’s impossible to make is microwave popcorn! It does take a little longer to reheat/cook stuff on the hob or in the oven, but I think it tastes better. Mostly though, I like not having a microwave cluttering up the work surface!

    • theminimalistmom says

      Less counter clutter is probably the thing I like the most. We actually have an empty corner! And it’s easier to keep the surface clean. I don’t have to work around or move the microwave.

  2. Cherrill says

    I very rarely use mine other than for the timer. I lived without one for years, but our house came with a built in one. My biggest reason for not having one was the counter space it took. If ours went I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t replace it.

  3. Lori says

    We haven’t had a microwave in about 3 years and we wouldn’t have it any other way! We make popcorn on top the stove and it is 10x better than microwave popcorn and it really doesn’t take any longer. The flavor of food is so much better as well, heating stuff up in our toaster oven or stove top. No microwave is the way to go!

    • theminimalistmom says

      We got into stove top popcorn over the winter. Popcorn seems to be less popular over here and at first I couldn’t find microwave popcorn. I agree – it is 10x better than microwave popcorn.

  4. taylor says

    I got rid of our microwave for a completely shallow reason: it looked so ugly sitting out on the counter! And we have not regretted it. I’m pretty sure the microwave uses up tons of electricity…especially if you leave it plugged in all the time (the phantom pull or whatever). We have a toaster oven which really does a lot of things we would have used the microwave for. And popcorn popped on the stove is about a gazillion times better than microwave popcorn! in taste, and I imagine health wise too. Everyone says we will want one when we have a baby but I just can’t see it. water can be heated on the stove and a bottle set in it. If my grandma did it, I can too. So anyway…I’m pretty much in love with microwave-free living :)

  5. Rachel says

    I’ve not had one for years either (and I have 2 small children). The only thing I really wanted one for was for heating milk for my morning coffee. I like hot milk in coffee. I don’t like cleaning pans. But I was given a small Nespresso milk heating device which does the job perfectly and is so easy to clean. Everything else can be heated on stove top or oven.

    a microwave is just a habit. You get over it. Space is lovely!

  6. Cari says

    I am living without a microwave now for the first time since my childhood (I am a child of the 80′s as well) and I don’t miss it at all. I make real popcorn on the stove, reheat on the stove and now use a teapot – imagine that :)

    I really wouldn’t have the space for it now anyway so it’s goodbye “modern convenience”….

  7. Taynia @ The Fiscal Flamingo says

    I must admit the idea of giving up our microwave has never crossed my mind. Its just always been there. But you had me at more counter space. Now I must give this some serious consideration. My biggest struggle would be reheating my coffee. I never drink it fast enough. Thank you for this. Really!

  8. Anne says

    I never really got used to using a microwave, so I don’t mind that we’re not owning one now. In fact, I didn’t want one. :-D My microwave cooking involved too many “exploding” sauces and messes to clean up for me to really try getting accustomed to it…
    By the way, for saving electricity/gas there is the old-fashioned way of stacking pots (I don’t know what you call that in English) and steamers. I often do that – e.g. cooking pasta and stacking another pot on top in which I reheat the frozen pasta sauce. You can either use bamboo or metal steamers, special rings to put on the lower pot and stack the other one on top – or just flip the lid of the lower pot so that another one can be stacked on top (doesn’t work with all lids/pots). If your pots are the same size anyway, you might just stack them as is.

  9. Ginny says

    We haven’t had a microwave for about three years and don’t miss it. The only thing my toaster oven or stove top can’t do better is heating up my bean bag I use for neck pain. You must get a decent toaster oven and remember to take frozen meat out ahead of time. My mom gets very stressed out by our not having a microwave, but it was really a waste of space that made good food worse.

    • Susan says

      We haven’t had a microwave for almost 7 years now. We can not live without our toaster oven, though. In fact, I’m not sure of the last time we used our big oven. The toaster oven pretty much works for EVERYTHING! Oh, and we have a air popper for popcorn.

  10. Nada says

    I started using a microwave less when I had my first child. I read it affects the nutritional value of food and personally, I didn’t care for how warmed up food (soggy, dry, etc.) comes out.
    Instead I started using the toaster oven that my husband has had for a while, and I love it. It still takes longer than the microwave, but much less than an oven; especially since it warms up so quickly because it’s so small and it works great for reheating food. Ours fits a full 9×9 inch baking pan which allows us to warm up dinner for 3.

  11. Shelley-Lynne Domingue says

    I have never owned a microwave in my home.
    I have found the best way of re-heating my food is to steam it. I can get it really hot and it doesn’t lose any of the flavour. That said, it would be harder to do with a full family, I am single
    But I just looked up as I was typing and see that Anne above me covered it. I do what she does ;)

    By the way, I love your blog. Still working on becoming more minimalist.
    best wishes.
    Shelley

  12. Sherry says

    I use a toaster oven instead of a microwave. I got a rotisserie one that also had convection. So this way I could use it for a toaster, rotisserie, warmer, and a dehydrator ALL IN ONE! It has worked out great. And because of the health controversy over if Microwaves are safe or not & the rumour that Russia didn’t allow them for a long while because of safety concerns, then I decided not to chance it & got rid of my microwave about 7 years ago. As a single mom, I am not even missing it at all and it heats up leftovers very quickly and is much smaller than an oven so it doesn’t need to heat up all that extra space like a big oven does.

  13. B-Man says

    We make popcorn with an hot air popper my sister gave us at her garage sale. It is our second and we make a lot of popcorn. So we don’t use the microwave for that. But we use it for so much else. The kids melt their cheese for nacho chips, the kids reheat some dinner for lunch. I am pretty sure the Mrs and I could go without but the ease of use for a 10 year old and an 8 year old, along with the safety compared to them using the stove top would be hard to replace. However, the idea of all that counter space is pretty inviting. We will be discussing this today.

    Keep up the good work Rachel, you’re a super star.

  14. Karen says

    Our microwave also packed in recently and we have decided not to replace it for now. I also have 2 small kids and rely on leftovers for meals but we are managing fine with our traditional stove. I initially thought I would need it to sterilise baby equipment but I am doing fine without it. I use our steamer basket and a saucepan to steam sterilise breast pump parts and bottles. It only takes 10 minutes on the stovetop. The microwave steriliser took 8 minutes so not much time difference there. I love reading your posts. As my young family members are the same age as yours I love the weekly reminders that they don’t need as much as others tell me they do.

  15. Lesley says

    My microwave is built in. So it doesn’t take away any counter space.

    I also live in a hot climate. We prefer to minimize oven cooking time in the warm months, as it heats up the kitchen and puts more stress on the air conditioner. So at dinner time, I would much rather reheat leftovers quickly in the microwave than heat up the entire kitchen for something accomplished quickly and easily another way. Same reason I use the outdoor grill and the crockpot more in the summer months. :)

  16. Tonia Wight says

    As a recently ex-student to me a microwave, though ugly and taking up valuable counter-top space, is a life-saver. It reduced my electricity bill by 60% (to be fair cooking took most of my electric bill, as everything was turned off most of the time) when I bought one as an undergraduate, and I kept it all the way through 4 years of postgraduate schooling and still have it 1 year later. In terms of taste, I think it really depends on how you use it. I mainly use it for reheating, never for baking. Things like rice and frozen peas cook perfectly in half the time and I can’t honestly taste the difference, but you couldn’t pay me to ruin a cake in it – that would be against my religion to put a cake in the microwave. Each to their own :)

  17. helsbells says

    We have been sans microwave for about 5 and a half years and I really can’t say I miss it. I think they are pretty ugly and I did feel like they weren’t totally safe. I also read somewhere that they alter the atomic structure of the cells (think they did some test on brest milk) which frightened me. The only thing I think it would be usful for is defrosting stuff when I forgot to take it out of the freezer on time! We don’t really have leftovers because we eat everything!

  18. Andrea says

    When we moved to our current place 5 years ago, i ditched the microwave because i barely used it anyway. I am always amazed when people are ‘surprised’ that we don’t have one. I just don’t even think about it. Now, that said both my husband and i *do* use the microwaves in our offices for leftovers for lunch, but on weekends i manage to repurpose or reheat or whatever just fine without a second thought.

  19. Valerie says

    We too have been living (almost) without a microwave for about 3 years. When we moved into our small house it was choice between the microwave and the toaster oven – no contest the toaster oven won. We still have the microwave (husband is attached to it, but I’m working on him to get rid of it)it’s in the basement and almost never gets used.
    A good toaster oven is key – I love mine, with lots of pre-sets on it that turn off by itself – almost as convenient as a microwave, fast and everything tastes better.

  20. The Domestic Fringe says

    I am not a big fan of the microwave, in fact, we lived without one for about a year and a half. Then my brother went out and bought me one. He got tired of coming to my house and not being able to pop stuff in.

    Since then we are on another microwave. If I didn’t have children, I would go without it, but I do have kids and a husband who works very weird hours, so it’s helpful. Bottom line, I could definitely live without, but because it makes our lives slightly easier from time to time, we’ve chosen to have one.

    ~FringeGirl

  21. Nicky says

    I’ve never had a microwave ….. I use almost exclusively stove-top and am fine with that. I do use the microwave at work sometimes to heat leftovers and honestly don’t prefer it.

  22. MerryMary says

    Hurray! I’m not so strange after all! I’ve had people gasp when I’ve said we don’t have a working microwave. That did change a few weeks ago, but we went without for many months. I really mostly missed the light shining down on the stove top! Oh, and being able to re-heat my chilly cup of coffee on a whim! But we got along fine, too! The rest of the family may not agree with me, but I’m the one who always gets the meals and snacks out, so I think I have the most say in this… I must say I don’t think I’ve ever washed so many pots and pans, though! I love eating Paleo(marksdailyapple.com and nomnompaleo.com) so stove-top cooking wasn’t that challenging! Funny thing is, when the new and cheapo microwave went in, I was so used to not having light on what I was doing, I kept forgetting to switch the new bright one on!! Ha! Living without a microwave just sounds harder than it really is!

  23. jasi says

    we have a microwave, it’s built in above the stove and came with the house. but we really don’t use it. leftover pizza is amazingly crisp in a hot dry pan. oven cakes are better. and despite being a minimalist myself, we keep an air popper because we enjoy popcorn at least 2x a week. we’re movie people and the kids take turns deciding on flavoring, sea salt/rosemary is my favorite.. microwave entrees are the only reason i could think of that would make a microwave worthwhile. i haven’t had once since college so i’m all set.

  24. Quinn says

    We have one now, but didn’t for the first two years of marriage, and won’t have one once we move out of this place. My husband likes having one, but I hardly use it. I hate the taste of food warmed up in the microwave, so it’s usually stove top of nothing for me.
    The only thing I really like about having one now is softening butter. You can melt it in a sauce pan, but if you forget to get it out of the fridge in time for those room temp. butter needs, you are up a creek.
    I might suggest either making crepes (with nutella of course, and added delight is to be found if you top with bananas and brown sugar) for dessert, or keeping a pan of brownies in the cupboard.

  25. Kay Wilson says

    Oh yeah, I remember going to YMCA microwave cooking school so I could coordinate a meal. Rarely use it now but it is built in over my stove so does not take counter space. I have a “Stir Crazy” popcorm maker, yummy!

  26. Celeste L. says

    If I weren’t addicted to a cherry stone heat pack that requires the use of a microwave, I’d ditch mine with scarcely a second thought. My husband, on the other hand, will nuke his leftovers every time to avoid having to wash a pan.

  27. Celeste L. says

    I forgot to add that we have lived without a microwave several different times over the course of our marriage. The last time was over the summer months, hence it did not interfere with the use of my beloved heat pack.

  28. Liz Mallory says

    My parents have a microwave, but they rarely use it. Instead, they use a toaster oven. It preheats pretty quickly and requires much less time than a conventional oven, especially since it’s a convection toaster over. They’re pretty cheap these days too. Sometimes they say they can reheat things in it faster than their microwave would do it! They got one with an extended/rounded back, so it fits a pizza perfectly ;) My husband and I are thinking of getting one like it!

  29. Melissa L. says

    I finally bought a microwave when I was pregnant with my second child. It was frustrating to reheat small portions for my 2 year old in our oven. I was always making too much and wasting it, or not enough and then expecting him to wait all over again. And then there was the extra pan to wash . . . . It was, and is, a sacrifice of our already miniscule counter space. Our toaster oven gets daily use and sits on top of our microwave. I still use it just for reheating. I dislike microwave popcorn, and I make popcorn in a pot my grandmother used for popping popcorn (I LOVE POPCORN). But I still rely on the microwave for reheating, because it uses less time and fewer pans.

  30. Elaine Shanks says

    Wow, I had no idea that so many people chose to live without a microwave.

    I use mine all the time – mostly to defrost or heat left overs up. Could I live without one? Sure, I did so for the first half of my life. And would I like my counter space back? ABSOLUTELY! But my microwave earns it space on my counter top where as some other things do not.

    The only improvement I would make in my house would be to make the microwave a built in appliance over the stove (and I still may do that as I believe it would be a plus in reselling my house to a majority of the population who uses microwaves regularly.) I don’t know that I would voluntarily give up my microwave – but if a future living situation required living without one – I think I could adjust!

    Great post and comments.

  31. Pamela R says

    We’ve been without a microwave for, what seems like, ever. (10 plus years.) We also do batch cooking and reheat in the oven or on the stove. It does take a bit more planning, but the food tastes great and there is a great deal more counter space in our little kitchen. We cook for a family of five and so many people have tried to give us a microwave, but I have found that it really works well for us without one. We also said goodbye to our lovely toaster oven when going gluten free four years ago. I thought that we might regret it (nice to heat small amounts of leftovers), but it turns out, with five people eating, there was little use for it. (Although if it were just the two of us again, I think I’d go for it.) Good luck with the transition.

  32. Erika Myette says

    We thought ours had died a few weeks ago, and were totally ready to just go without, for all the same reasons- but then it turned out all my husband needed to do was reset the outlet, so we still have it. I’d love to be done with it (we didn’t have one for 2+ years in Honduras and clearly survived) but there’s a couple things I’d like to know how you do. How do you heat drinks not made with water (not boiled in a kettle)? Or reusable heat packs (ricesock style)? Some things I just gave up those years in Honduras, but I’m not 27 anymore…:)

    Erika, mama to 3

    • Anne says

      Hi Erika!
      I heat drinks in a regular pot on the stove. Also, with some things (like hot chocolate or milk chai) I used to mix hot (boiling) water and cold milk/cream instead of heating it on the stove. You don’t drink it boiling hot anyway.
      But stove top usually works fine as well. Milk doesn’t actually take longer than the microwave, but you need to stay with the milk and stir it, so it doesn’t burn.
      I don’t use rice socks (You could heat it in an oven as well, but I only have the regular big oven and that is too much effort for a rice sock) I have a hot water bottle instead.

  33. JennC says

    We have a built in microwave, but we seldom use it. We have a double oven of sorts – it’s the standard size, but instead of a drawer it has a second small oven. That thing gets used all the time. It has a toast function and some other fun settings too so we have no toaster or toaster oven. I enjoy having fewer things to clutter the counter or cupboards. But then again, we do have a mammoth espresso machine which earns it’s place on the counter by producing some fabulous espresso. Mmmmm.

  34. se7en says

    Well… I have a feeling that convention says we have to have certain items in our kitchens, wether we need them or not. I confess my mom-in-law said I couldn’t live without a microwave and bought me one years ago. It sits on our counter and we use it as an expensive bread bin. I group up without one, so I just don’t have the “habit” of using one, but I would hate to hurt her feelings and it sits on the counter in honour of her!!! Similarly the dishwasher that broke about eight months ago – we use it as drying rack… but seriously, who needs an expensive dishwasher as their drying rack!!! Should I go on!!! I live in a kitchen full of defunct appliances… the only ones I actually can’t do without are the coffee machine, my kitchen aid mixer and the magi mix… the rest can all go!!!

  35. Tiare says

    My in-laws have been without a microwave for more than 5 years and don’t miss it at all. It led them to the “slow food movement”, in turn, has helped them to be more healthy eaters who are aware of what they’re eating, where it came from, and how it’s made. Good on you for doing the same.

  36. Julie says

    We have a microwave, but we don’t use it. Well, my 4 kids and I don’t use it, sometimes my husband does. We don’t use it because the nutritional program my kids and I are on discourages the use of one…it says it decreases the nutritional content of the food when said food is cooked in a microwave. It is actually faster to reheat on the stove top or oven than in the microwave for us, as I am usually reheating quantities to feed 5-6 people. The microwave was taking longer when we used it(prior to the nutritional program we are on). We haven’t used it for almost two years and I want to get rid of it…ya for more counter space to work on.

  37. JulieB says

    We lived without one for more than a year, and I was happy to leave it at that. We’d had an over the stove/under the cabinet one that had an exhaust fan and came with the house. When that died, I thought about not getting one again, but my husband purchased a counter model (we both agreed replacing the previous one was terribly over-priced so we simply bought an exhaust fan). When the counter one broke (something like a week after it was a year old) I told my husband to forget it, since I’d only used it for frozen vegetables anyway. I was just as happy for the next year and loved the extra counter space, but my husband and son missed microwave pop-corn, so my husband purchased a new one, but smaller. Ironically, the popcorn bags are too big for the microwave, and they just burn. I’m just as happy about that, since I am not thrilled about the extra chemicals in the bagged popcorn. My son is now old enough to reach for the air popper., and while it’s another appliance I’d be happy without, it gives him a healthier treat and is more easily stored than the microwave. It may be time to suggest sending the microwave to someone else… ;)

  38. erin says

    ours went out about 5 years ago and we never replaced it. i agree with the above poster who said that it’s just a habit. once you break it, there’s not a need for it anymore. however, my 87 year old grandmother wanted to heat up her cinnamon bun last year at christmas and was pretty horrified that we didn’t have one. sorry, grandma!

  39. Maya says

    I used to have one as a student and used it all the time! I would nuke lots of processed food though, not a big fan of cooking. When I moved cross continent though I passed it on to my sister and havnt gotten a new one yet. So thats now going on 4 years without. The only thing I miss is the defrost function, i often forget to take stuff out in the morning. Having said that i recently purchased a steamer and that thing is amazing! It will defrost stuff and I love that I can just chuck in some vegetables, switch on the timer and let it get on with it. No more standing around in the kitchen watching pans. Half the time Id get distracted and let stuff burn anyway (as mentioned cooking is not my thing). Steamer has been my life saver and gotten me eating much healthier. I can happily do without the microwave now.

  40. Sarah Bleach says

    We haven’t had a microwave for 10 years now. Most people gasp “how can you live without it?” when they come into our kitchen. Perhaps I am a couple of years older than the microwave generation, but we never got the hang of cooking, reheating or even defrosting with one. The last microwave we had, built into the stove’s range hood, was used mainly for “hiding” baked goods, bread, etc., from our dog! We’ve had three kids during our “microwave free” years and I honestly cannot think of a time when I said/thought “darn a microwave would make my life so much better”. Living minimally ensures that food prep is easy, sometimes planned ahead of time, and usually portioned for one meal, so there are minimal leftovers. We have cut down (or out) our kitchen’s gadgets and once-use appliances, activities, toys, books, clothes, art supplies, TV, etc., etc., and simply have more time for family time and family meals (at all times of the day),. We also have more time for having family & friends over. Simple recipes also aid in stress free entertaining and keep some of the grey hairs at bay!

  41. Chantel says

    Ours broke a couple months ago and we decided not to replace it. It is kind of a bugger when you’re hungry and you have to wait a little while longer to heat up leftovers, but…overall, i’m not missing it that much. And, I have even less use for our few remaining plastic storage containers. Indeed, Pyrex is great to stick right in the oven! Does anyone know where to find replacement lids? I”m running low!

  42. taylor says

    i forgot to mention one change we made after getting rid of our microwave. melted – or at least softened – butter is, for whatever reason, something i come across in most recipes. we keep our butter in our pantry. my mom does it that way, and my husband works in food safety and hasn’t come up with any reasons as to why it would be harmful to eat non-refrigerated butter. we do keep the box of butter in the fridge, but the stick we use is on the butter dish, covered, in the pantry. maybe that tidbit will help someone on the verge?

  43. Chantal says

    I haven’t had a microwave for about 15 years when the one in the flat a uni mate & I shared blew up. There were green flames & that put me off getting another one! I’m not even sure what I’d use one for now. My kids have made it to 6 & 3 without us ever feeling like we need one – I really don’t know if the kids know what a microwave is as I can’t recall ever talking about microwaves with them. I’m trying to embrace a bit more minimalism/simplicity/frugality lately so I guess not having a microwave is just one less thing to buy/mend/replace.

  44. Chantal says

    I should add, we also didn’t replace our toaster when it broke – we simply use the grill in the oven. I freecycled the coffee machine & the breadmaker & just use a coffee press & make bread by hand. We’re left with a kettle, food mixer & a fryer (which my husband really wanted & even put up a special shelf for!!) along with the cooker. I’m sure lots of people probably feel sorry for us but it’s so much roomier in the kitchen & we really don’t miss the gadgets.

  45. nikkol daniels says

    Ours broke down over 9 months ago. It is a built in one that is over our oven. Since we can’t replace it I finally figured out that I could use it as storage for all my spices. So it is perfect as it is right above the oven! :)

  46. Michele says

    I’m go happy to have come across this post! Our microwave broke a few weeks ago and I’m been living w/o it ever since. My hubby wasn’t keen on not replacing it but so far he hasn’t complained much. I love the extra counter space! Yes, leftovers do take a bit longer to re-heat but no one will starve if they have to wait a few more minutes to eat. ;)

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