Easy Change #8: Cut back on Microwave Use


This is part of my Easy Changes series. To see other easy changes you can make today, go here. And if you like what you're reading here at Plus Other Good Stuff, click "like" on that box to the right!

I mentioned in my recent meal plan that we don't use the microwave to heat up leftovers. Let me clarify: we still have a microwave. But it's in the basement.

Why We Moved Our Microwave to the Basement

1. To free up counter space. 
We have a small kitchen. Now I have more room for kombucha and water kefir on my counter!

2. To encourage us to use it less.
When the microwave was right there, we used it to heat up leftovers all the time, even after I decided to try to cut back our usage. I realized the only way for us to use it less was to move it somewhere less convenient. So down it went.

The Best Reason to Stop Microwaving Leftovers


I'm gonna tell you why microwaves are scary in a minute. But first I want to tell you an even better reason to stop using your microwave to heat up leftovers, that has nothing to do with your health.

Microwaved food tastes gross.

Microwaved pizza turns all floppy and squishy. Microwaved beans and rice heat unevenly. Meat gets rubbery. Your food will go from still cold in spots to burn-your-tongue hot in seconds. Then it gets cold much faster than food cooked in an oven and you have to stick it in again.

But if you heat up your leftover mac & cheese in the oven...it turns into baked mac and cheese! Your oven roasted potatoes get a little extra crisp! Your pizza still tastes like pizza! You may actually start looking forward to eating those leftovers!

(Here's a great post highlighting more ways that not using your microwave can make your life easier and tastier!)

Why Microwaves are Scary

I don't want to fill you with fear, so I'll start by saying that we still use the microwave. We didn't get rid of it because it still comes in handy once in awhile.  Like when you're pregnant and you need a bean and cheese burrito (that you so shrewdly made ahead and put in the freezer) at 11 PM. There is no time to wait for it to heat up in the oven! You are hungry now! (In that case, it's actually convenient that the microwave is in the basement, because that's where the chest freezer holding the burrito is too.)

Nonetheless, microwaves kinda freak me out. Research is conflicting (when isn't it?) but there are enough people out there telling me that microwaves are dangerous for me try to use mine less. If those people are right, the possible dangers of the microwave include:
  • denatured food (loss of nutrition and changes to the molecular structure)
  • radiation which may cause cancer and miscarriage


How to Heat up Leftovers without a Microwave

If you're the slightest bit worried that microwaves may not be safe, try heating up food without one. You can do it! Yes, even you! (Stop avoiding eye contact. I'm talking to you.) Here's how.

1. Use a pot on the stove. This works especially great for soups, stews, curries. And it is seriously fast! Yes, you dirty an extra dish, but it's worth it, even to me, and I hate doing dishes.

2. Use the oven. The most common way for us to heat leftovers is to put them in a bowl or on a plate and put it right in the oven set to 350 or so. It takes 10-20 minutes, but there is plenty to do while we wait. It's a great time to catch up on dishes, nurse the baby, or play with the 2 year old. We then (carefully) eat right out of those dishes.

3. Use your trusty iron skillet. Do you have a trusty iron skillet? If not, go buy one. Sometimes you can find one at a thrift store, but I got mine at Bed Bath & Beyond for 20 bucks minus 20% with a coupon. It never leaves my stove top because we use it so frequently. Yesterday we heated up leftover spaghetti and meatballs on it because we didn't have time to wait for the oven. I just put in a little olive oil, plopped in the food, covered it, and stirred it every couple minutes.  It took no more than 5 minutes.

4. Get a toaster oven. I hear these are great for heating leftovers instead of a microwave. They do it faster than an oven and without heating up the whole house. We don't have one now, but it's on my wishlist for someday when we have real jobs and a bigger kitchen. :)


Other Common Uses for Microwaves, and How to Make the Switch


1. Popcorn. Stove-popped popcorn is delicious! We had some at a friends house last night popped in lard and it was seriously amazing. Good-bye "butter flavor," whatever you are!

2. Steaming Vegetables. If you have eight dollars, buy a steamer basket and steam your vegetables on the stove in a pot. It's fast and easy!

3. Melting Butter. Get some stainless steel measuring cups. (They last longer than the plastic ones anyway.) Put that half-a-stick of butter in to the 1-cup measure and put it right on the burner. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and watch that butter melt away. Or, melt butter in an-oven safe dish while the oven preheats. (Maybe even in the dish you're going to make something in. Then pour it into your mixing bowl, and what's left behind just greased your pan!)

4. "Baking" potatoes. Peirce potato with a fork. Put potato directly on oven rack. Bake potato at 400 until tender. Read a book while you wait.

5. Heating Water for Tea. We used to use a regular tea kettle, which works just fine. Then it got gross so for awhile we used a plain old pot. Then we asked for this electric tea kettle for Christmas. (Thanks mom and dad!) We were shocked at how fast this thing heats water! Some people who have real jobs and houses use something called a hot water dispenser. Looks like it would be super convenient, though I'm very happy with our tea kettle. :)


The Challenge


I challenge you to try it. You don't have to throw away your microwave, or even move it to the basement. Just try to use it a little less. Choose one of my suggestions and try it out. It's easier than you think!

Do you use a microwave? What do you use it for most? Share in the comments!

 This is part of Monday Mania and Real Food Wednesday, and Simple Lives Thursday.



  1. I have been reading alot about microwaves too and am trying to cut down on usage. I was thinking I should ask Joanna what she knows, and then this came up! Perfect timing :) Thanks for your knowledge.

  2. Wanna know how we cut back? By owning the worst, most ghetto, most unpractical microwave on the planet. Seriously, it came with our house, and is like one of those tiny ones you have in college dorms. It has one dial, and takes forever to heat up anything. This strongly discourages me from using it. And I try to have some loose "rules" about what I will and will not heat in it- no meat or stock. Nothing in plastic. So I usually only use it to reheat starches and vegetables, and even then I avoid it. Baby steps, right!

    Oh, and the hot water dispenser... my parents had one. Some hunters who my dad allows to hunt on his land gave it to them. Yes, it was nice for the first like 5 years, but they have awesomely hard water (tastes great, though!) and it eventually gunked up. Plus my mom isn't really a tea drinker, so it only got used when I lived at home, and I can't imagine how nasty that heated water can get when it doesn't get used regularly. I'm with you- I like my tea kettle a great deal!

    1. Ha! That would be good motivation! Someone melted a plastic bowl full of Ramen in one of those my freshman year of college. At three AM. Yes, it set off the smoke alarm and we all had to go outside in the middle of the night. Good times!

  3. First I unplugged it. Then I moved it to the laundry room (next to the kitchen) now it is unplugged in my home office and will be heading off to college in a couple weeks with my daughter. Then, no microwave. My other 7 kids will be very annoyed. But they are good sports and will get used to it! Everything tastes better heated in/on the stove!

    1. Christy, good for you! It will be great to not have the temptation to use it. :)

  4. I love melting butter while the oven preheats! I just despise popping butter in the microwave...it never melts and makes a mess! A toaster oven is next on our list too...would be great to just heat up pizza in a small oven rather than heating the big one.

    Also, to keep your water kettle from getting gunked up (which WILL happen over time just like your on the stove kettle or a hot water dispenser), use filtered water from your brita or fridge. Your tea will taste better than it ever has & will make your kettle last longer. I've had mine for 2 years now & still looks like new! I also love the kettle when I need water boiled faster than on the stove -- I can just pour it into a pot from there!

    1. Yes! I always use filtered water but I forgot about that reason for doing so. Great tip!