When Liz and Sam Cox moved into an Airstream trailer four years ago, they had to seriously downsize. One of the first things to go was the microwave.
"It was me, my husband and two cats," says Liz. "You just have to eliminate things, and we knew the microwave was something we could live without."
They cooked on two burners — similar to a camp stove — and a toaster oven. When they moved into a home in Colorado Springs a while later, the house already had a microwave, but they were so used to living without one that they stuck it in the closet.
"Everything just tasted so much better when it wasn't microwaved. Plus my husband thought it was creepy and so unnatural radiating your food."
People who choose to live without microwaves do so for various reasons. Some have health concerns about radiation. Others want to live a more minimalistic lifestyle. Some say food simply tastes better when it comes out of a conventional ovens. Others just want the counter space.
The FDA has said that microwaves, when used correctly, pose no health risks. (The one overriding concern however, has been the use of BPA plastics in the microwave.) The agency has said that microwaves don't reduce the nutritional quality of foods and are more energy-efficient than traditional ovens because they cook faster and don't require time to heat up.
But when it comes to counter space, there's really no argument!
Thinking about going microwave-free? Here are tips to help you live without one.
Plan in advance. If you know you're going to need something out of the freezer for tomorrow's dinner, make sure you take it out tonight and put it in the fridge. You won't have the luxury of putting it in the microwave to defrost. If you forget, you can thaw food by keeping it in a sealed package and immersing it in cold water in the sink. Change the water about every 30 minutes as it warms up.
Use glass storage containers instead of plastic. It can be easy to pop leftovers right from the fridge into the microwave — but you shouldn't be doing that with some plastic containers anyway due to the BPA health concerns mentioned earlier. Use glass instead — then your leftovers can be put right into the oven or toaster oven for reheating.
Don't buy frozen dinners. You may be in the habit of having a few easy foods on hand that you can just zap for the kids or for a fast meal when you come home late. Make sure you buy convenience foods that can be heated in the oven or on the stove, too.
Buy real popping corn. Microwave popcorn is an incredible invention, but stovetop popcorn can be fun to make and tastes great.
Get a timer. Whether it's the one on your phone or a cute twisty one, get a timer and use it. One handy microwave function is that it turns itself off when cooking time is over. But a pot of water on the stove can boil itself into oblivion, but burned reheated pizza is no fun.
Give it a test run. Not ready for the full-out commitment of donating or recycling your microwave? Stick it in the garage or basement for a month or two and see how you fare without it. If you find yourself running to it every time you need a cup of hot water, maybe this test isn't for you. But if the lure of 90-second popcorn isn't too tempting, you can probably handle life microwave-free.
Liz Cox admits there were a few bumps in the zap-free road. The first time she tried to make popcorn on the stove, it started popping all over the room. "Instead of turning it down and putting a lid on it, I just ran away!" she said. They have since learned how to pop on the stovetop and have discovered that it's delicious.
She said she misses being able to melt butter for a recipe or heat up coffee when it gets lukewarm. Everything — from leftover pizza to spaghetti — has to go on the stove or in the oven.
It can be annoying, she says, but ultimately, they end up not having as many leftovers as they did during their microwave days, so they waste less food. "I've gotten really good about cooking just enough for the two of us, so we don’t really need the microwave to heat things up."
The Coxes' ultimate goal is to live in a tiny house, so they have no plans to get a microwave again.
"It is a lot about minimalism and having less stuff."
Photo of glass containers: Le Do/Shutterstock