How to Live Without a Microwave (& the one thing I miss)

Yes, you can live without a microwave! Whether you're giving it up by choice, or you're without one because yours is broken, this post has all the tips you need to thrive in your kitchen without a microwave.

Okay, so the title of this post seems ridiculous. But, I know from comments that I’ve received here and on facebook that many of you are wondering.

When people find out that we don’t have a microwave, they always ask 2 questions: Why? and How?

I’m writing this series to address both of these questions. The first post addresses why we don’t have a microwave. Today I thought I’d share some tips to make it easier–and admit the one thing I miss! Basically, I’m going through some of the most common uses for microwaves and sharing how we do them without a microwave.

Convenience Foods/Frozen Meals

First of all, we eat almost exclusively real, whole foods. So, we haven’t missed the microwave for the convenient/frozen meals because we didn’t eat those anyway. Some things we do instead for “instant” meals:

  • Leftovers
  • Sandwiches (very rarely for the kids and I, but hubby will sometimes take these for work lunches)
  • “Snack” plates with raw veggies & homemade ranch, a cheese stick, sliced cheese, chips & salsa, peanut butter, hummus & real food crackers, hard-boiled eggs, black olives, fruit, etc.
  • Salads
  • Soups–not instant, but these heat up very quickly in a pot on the stove.
  • Tacos

As an occasion treat, I’ll purchase my boys some of these boxed meals which they call “healthy lunchables,” since they aren’t allowed to have real lunchables. Although, again, I allow them on occasion as a very rare treat because, for whatever reason, they love them. And, I don’t think a once-every-few-months treat is going to make a huge overall difference when we eat real, whole foods at least 80% of the time.

Popcorn

Moving on to the few things that we did use our microwave for–popcorn tops the list. I love popcorn and it’s a healthier snack. However, the bagged kind that we were using before is awful in terms of chemical, processed, preservative, unpronounceable ingredients! Yuck!

We now use organic popping corn, and a popcorn popper like this one.

I’d like to eventually pop it myself in a pan (maybe one like this if not a regular pan), but for now the popcorn maker is something I can stick with–it actually takes about the same amount of time as the microwave kind! Not to mention it’s much tastier and I can feel comfortable knowing what’s in it. Be sure to get organic to avoid GMO’s.

Melting Butter

One of the things I did a lot with my microwave was to soften butter or melt it for recipes that required melted butter. It was so easy to just stick it into the microwave for 30 seconds. However, it’s really not worth it and I’ve found that it’s not a big deal. I still often forget to set out the butter to soften in time for easy spreading on bread, etc. I’m still trying to work on that one!

For melting butter, I use a 1-quart pan for 1/2 cup or more. Smaller amounts are a bit tougher because it seems like a waste to melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a large pan–most of the butter coats the sides, etc. So, for less than that I use something similar to a double boiler system–I put my butter in a small pyrex bowl like this one. Then I bring water to a boil in a small pan, remove from heat, and set the glass bowl inside the pan, with a lid on top of the pan. This is not an ideal system, but it works to melt my butter. If I’m using my oven, then I will sometimes put the same small pyrex dish in my preheating oven to melt that way.

I just recently discovered that there is such a thing as a tiny butter warmer or melting pot, and it’s very high on my wish list at Amazon! I’m so excited to get one of these, as it will make the process of melting butter so much easier since I won’t have to worry about changing methods, etc. I can just always use this little pan. And since it’s cast iron, I can still melt butter in my oven if I want to.

When we get to our new house, we’re planning to have a wood stove and that will make melting butter in the winter easy peasy on our woodstove top in one of these great little pans.

Leftovers

We heat up leftovers using our stove:

  • Soup and other dishes in a pot get heated up on the stove top.
  • Pastas, casseroles, baked dishes, or breads usually get heated in the oven at around 350.

We also use glass, oven-safe plates, so on occasions when I choose to heat up a plate of leftovers for each person, instead of entire dishes, I can do that easily as well–4 plates will fit in our oven at a time, and most things will take around 7-9 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Which, honestly, takes about the same amount of time as heating up individual plates, one at  a time, in the microwave, and we have the added benefit of having everything ready at the same time.

Thawing Meat

I never really used my microwave for thawing meat, because I was never very comfortable with doing that. I plan ahead and put my meat in the fridge in order to defrost it. In last minute situations, I give myself a little help by thawing it part of the time on the counter or water.

Confession: The One Thing I Miss

So, just to be completely honest here, I have to admit to missing one thing about our microwave– 4 minute baked potatoes! I used to have baked potatoes a lot more often when I could have them in just 4 minutes. Heating up my oven for an hour for a single baked potato for myself just isn’t very practical.

But, real baked potatoes taste better anyway, and it’s well worth the minor inconvenience to have that microwave out of our house.

Another silly thing that I used my microwave for a lot was as a timer! Now I use the timer on my oven, or a handy kitchen timer like this one.

If you’re considering getting rid of your microwave, another good alternative is a toaster oven. It’s quick and more convenient than a conventional oven for small jobs. We don’t have a toaster oven, so that’s definitely not necessary, but if you’re concerned this might be a good compromise.

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Comments

  1. gabrielletylerblog says

    Thanks for sharing this. I rarely use mine, but I don’t think I can give it up. But as you showed us, you can still melt butter and do those little things without one. So, that’s something I will be thinking on!

  2. Lee says

    When I was a child my mother had a “potato baker” pot that she used on top of the stove. It had openings around the bottom (inside) and a solid shelf above that, with a tall domed lid. Not sure how long it took, but for a couple of potatoes it makes sense.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I need to look into something like that! Thanks for sharing :) Right now I mostly use the slow cooker which doesn’t heat up the house, but requires more planning…and 4 hours instead of the 4 minutes it took in the microwave! lol. We don’t eat a ton of baked potatoes though so it works just fine.

  3. says

    Great post! Our microwave blew up one day and we just never replaced it. Mostly because it took up so much counter space in our smallish kitchen. Great tip on melting butter in the double boiler system. That’s been what I miss the most.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Yes, that is another benefit! We have very limited counter space as well. I’m glad We had already given it up before moving here because I probably would have been stressed out trying to make room for it :)

  4. Life Breath Present says

    Haha! We don’t use a microwave either. We have one and once upon a time we used it, but ever since moving into our house 2 years ago, we’ve intentionally kept it in storage. In fact, I often forget we even own one, but we do keep it around for family that visits because they’re soooo accustomed to using it and (honestly) aren’t interested in learning a new way of doing things.

    Also, we don’t have a popcorn popper, but what a great idea. Usually, I do make it on the stove and Monkey Boy loves “helping” and watching it pop! As for butter and warming up things, also the stove and the oven, though I may have to try your ‘double boiler’ method for butter softening/melting! :)

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I completely understand family that isn’t interested in doing things a new way. They have learned to deal with our lack of microwave, but some still bring paper plates with them every time they come! lol. (we have a paper free kitchen)

  5. says

    I’m with you here, although I have to say I’m not a fan of using the oven either unless I know I can fill it up, but I think it’s a personal quirk. :) We weren’t sure if we could go without a microwave, so we decided to unplug it and see how that worked. We haven’t plugged it back in yet! :) I use a toaster oven or the rice cooker a lot, in addition to the stove.

  6. Bret says

    This series really excites me, but one question. What do you do to heat leftovers at work? I’m a teacher and have 30 minutes to eat and can’t do lunch meat because I am pregnant so I usually microwave leftovers from dinner. Suggestions?

    • Crystal Brothers says

      I would probably pack a cold lunch when possible (grilled chicken, salad, black olives, veggies with dip, etc.). If it came down to it and I needed to use a microwave on my lunch occasionally at work, I would probably just do it and don’t stress about it. No one can live perfectly 100% of the time, we just do the best we can. I hope this helps :)

  7. Gabrielle says

    so microwaves use nonionizing radiation (low frequency radiation) and actually emit less radiation than sleeping next to someone for 8 hours (and people emit ionizing radiation-aka the cancer causing kind). on a daily basis people are exposed to what is known as background radiation and on average come into extremely low exposures of radiation daily. so the likelihood of microwaves harming you is low, unless you literally microwave your head.

    there is also no defintive link between nonionizing radiation and cancer like there is with ionizing radiation (UV, Xray, Gamma radiation), which has been rountinely substantiated.

    also as a fun fact: bananas contain radioactive potassium isotopes but are perfectly safe to eat because the amount is so low. like always the amount of exposure is what causes the problems. and typical microwave use is not enough.

    i respect your decision not to use them, but i also just want people to know that there are different types of radiation and they all don’t work the same.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Hi Gabrielle, I have another post dedicated to some of the reasons that my family chooses not to use a microwave. We all have to make the choices based on our own personal research and what we feel is best for our families :) Thanks for visiting! I’m sorry you were offended by my tips intended for those who either choose not to use a microwave, or don’t have one for other reasons (space, finances, broken microwave, etc.)

    • Anne says

      Gabrielle, I appreciate your information but many people prefer to avoid as much radiation as possible. I was a firefighter and our meals were constantly interrupted, but we managed to heat/reheat them without a microwave and the meals were great, and kept us strong and healthy enough to do the job. I’ve recently started avoiding microwaves because I learned they destroy a very high percentage of nutrients in our food. I hope you check out Crystal’s other reasons for choosing other cooking methods before making your final decision, but whichever you decide, enjoy your meals and thanks again for adding some facts to the discussion.

  8. says

    I don’t use a microwave, haven’t for a very long time. For potatoes, I use my instant pot, much quicker than baking for an hour, and a make a couple at a time. I keep them in the frig. When I use as leftovers, I set them on the counter to come to room temp while I make the lentil chili or steamed veggies. Then put those things over the potatoes and they heat up the potatoes.

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