April 27, 2012

Living Without A Microwave

A microwave is not the only way to be energy efficient -
hot soup below, leftovers warming above
In an interesting turn of events, our faithful 22 year old microwave oven broke days after I wrote about it in a Make It Last post. Linda and I took it to the local appliance recycling depot, then talked about (shudder) going shopping for a new one.

"We didn't always have a microwave", Linda pointed out. We wondered if we needed one now. It is true that microwave ovens are a more energy efficient method of cooking, but then so is a crock pot, and we still have one of those.

"But what will I do without a microwave?", I thought in a moment of semi-hysterical kitchen nightmare panic. It passed quickly and I got down to some more rational thinking. Was it time to banish 'Mike" from my kitchen?

What microwaves are really for is speed and convenience. A microwave takes 15 minutes to do the same job as an hour of cooking in an electric oven. But at this point in our lives, we are more into a slower pace, and don't want to sacrifice quality for convenience. I enjoy cooking, and there is no need for me to rush.

I gathered my courage and suggested to my sous chef that we try living without this 'essential' appliance and see how things go. It was my Chef Ramsay moment, and Linda was fully supportive of our move toward slow cookery.

We didn't really cook in our microwave anyway. Reheating/thawing - yes. Cooking - no. But it is taking a while to adjust from the instant, on-demand heating of the old magnetron exciting the molecules in our food. It feels like camping, and for me that is a good thing.

I have to think differently now, and adopt a more purposeful approach to heating food. My local electricity utility estimated that, "using a microwave instead of your oven four times a week could save you more than $20 per year on your electricity bill."

What about the energy required to mine minerals, process the raw materials, manufacture the different components, assemble the product, ship it to me from overseas manufacturers, then dispose of it at the end of its life?

For a hundred dollar microwave it would take five years just to break even on the energy savings. For us it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Shopping trip averted - balance restored. We are living without a microwave. What's next - living without a fridge?


  1. good choice! microwaves are unhealthy. love your blog. look forward to your posts daily. Peace.

    1. Thanks! Glad you are with us on this.

      We were aware of some of the health issues related to microwaves (destroys vitamin B12 for example), and that had an effect on our decision. Whenever I used our microwave toward the end I would turn it on and run for cover.

      What we noticed the most, almost immediately, is how much more quiet our home is without the microwave droning on and on.

      We like quiet. Peace and quiet.


  2. Anonymous4/29/2012

    Because of my limited mobility and energy stores, I can't manage with out a microwave and other conveniences . I'm really bothered by the fact that there are life changes I would make if my abilities would allow. Not sure how to reconcile this inside myself. Guess it's give and take.

    1. In cases such as yours conveniences are amply justified.

      I guess the changes we make are always dependent on our abilities, both mental and physical, and these are constantly changing.

      You never know - a microwave could make its way back into my kitchen in the future.

      All of this is hard, and we are all doing what we can, with what we've got, at the current moment. I am all for the give and take - we have to be gentle with ourselves, and others.

      Take care.

  3. But if your microwave lasts another 20+ years, you will save money. (And you can get them cheaper than $100.) No value judgment here. Honestly, my personal war is against the electric can opener. Takes up counter space and has no reason for being.

    1. That is funny - I am with you. It seems like there is a kitchen appliance for just about everything these days. No wonder people want such huge kitchens.

      We use a swiss army knife to open cans...

  4. Anonymous5/04/2012

    I gave away my $100 microwave about 3 years ago. I was living in a small place and it was taking up too much space on my counter (and it was plugged into the only electrical outlet in the kitchen). I first moved it to the garage for a few months to make sure I wouldn't miss it. I didn't. So off it went to the thrift store.

    Honestly, I'm amazed at how little I need to cook delicious food. I certainly discovered that a microwave wasn't necessary. Glad you didn't buy another one.

    I also just listened to to the woman who lives without a fridge - pretty interesting.


    1. I am finding the same thing, and have only had to make small adjustments when I prepare food.

      The thing I like the most is how much more quiet it is without the drone of the old nucleoid oven.

      Glad you checked out Living Without A Fridge - she posts good stuff that encourages us to think differently about resource use.

  5. We haven't had a microwave for over 18yrs. Now it's weird to have access to one, I'm so used to living lo-fi in the kitchen. (:

    One luxury item I do have is a countertop kettle. LOVE the convenience of hot water with a click.

  6. Good for you!! Microwaving food zaps a large portion of its nutrients and vital life force. You essentially end up with somewhat flavorful cardboard. Yum...
    Plus, microwaves wreak havoc with the human body. Not a good thing.
    We haven't owned a microwave in years and get along splendidly. We use a toaster oven for cooking and don't even need to turn on the big, hot oven. This is good for Texas in the summer!

    1. Erin, It is amazing how little we miss our microwave. We gave away our toaster oven, also, and were planning on replacing it, but haven't. I don't miss it either because we have a small kitchen and I like a perfectly clean counter space so I can go crazy cooking or baking.

      Unlike Texas, it rarely gets hot in our location here on the beach. A cooling breeze blows through our place right off the ocean. Air conditioning means opening the windows. But I do wonder about the extra energy we use in the big oven vs the toaster oven.

      There are always trade offs!


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