One of our contributors lived without a microwave for one month last year. It was at a time of uncertainty in her life, before she put down big roots (aka bought a house). It was an experiment. Below are some of her thoughts about that month.
Not having a microwave didn’t start out intentionally. We moved into a temporary rental, and I didn’t even realize we didn’t have one until our first night in the new place. No instant mac and cheese or oatmeal. No nuked leftovers. No quick sweat on the onions before adding them to an easy casserole.
Once I made it through the first week, I looked at microwaves online and in the store and realized that maybe, just maybe this was a purchase that could wait. We’d just gone through some major financial changes with me staying at home with our kiddos and moving to a new city. This was an unplanned expense, so we decided to forego it until payday.
What I did not anticipate were the other ways this change would be great for our budget, my transition to stay-at-home mommyhood and my desire to cook more- something I had put on my New Year’s resolution list too many times.
Being tight on budget meant planning my grocery trips too. What could I cook? I had worked 40+ hours a week and spent 40 min to an hour commuting each way since before kids so skillet meals were a go to. Lasagna that I could microwave in less than half the time as I could oven bake it? SOLD! Well now, I had to bring out my old tools. I used to LOVE cooking, I just hadn’t made time for it since my career got serious, hence the resolution. I had a few meals up my sleeve that were simple, and I was 90% sure I could handle them with my two littles.
Embrace the Adventure
I sat down and wrote out a plan on a calendar for one week. I ordered groceries for pick up the next day. (May I pause to say how absolutely DELIGHTFUL that is- no fear of grocery store tantrums, opening snacks in the aisles to get to the check out, no worry of juggling two kiddos in the parking lot.) Anyway, I made sure to plan food for breakfast, lunch, supper, and the most important part of toddlerhood- snacks. Meat that could be used in multiple meals- check. Meals that use the stove- check. Oven- check. Crock pot- check. I even thought about things that came straight from the refrigerator. I planned for a cheap meal each week to double and stash in the freezer because I had just joined a new Facebook group all about freezer meals.
That week, I cooked. I remembered that oatmeal tastes better off the stove. Reheating meals on the stove requires a touch of water in a covered pot or you end up with burned bottoms to soak and scrub later. Fried potato cakes are an excellent use for leftover mashed potatoes. Broccoli is so much more delicious when roasted in the oven instead of steamed in the microwave.
Actually cooking food made me think about flavor and seasoning more. I got a little adventurous and actually used the sriracha sauce that got packed with the kitchen still unopened. Planning helped me use fresher ingredients. I thought about portions in advance and about the leftovers in my fridge in a way I had never considered before. My toddler and I had picnics on the porch during the warmest February week I can recall. Food became more deliberate for me.
When payday rolled around, I thought about buying the microwave. I asked family to see if anyone had one lying around from college days, and unfortunately they were all broken.
Continue the Journey
So I took that as a sign to continue the journey. Two weeks down and two to go. One more payday.
I kept planning meals and snacks, ordering groceries, picking them up, and using those ingredients to make simple home cooked meals. We allowed ourselves two meals out. We planned one and the other was more like wiggle room. It was waiting around in case something happened that was unexpected- a disastrous dinner that didn’t turn out, getting caught away from the house at meal time by accident, the unpredictable.
I wish I’d thought to calculate more exactly what we were spending on food before this accidental experiment. I KNOW we saved money on food that month. It wasn’t all because I microwaved everything, because I didn’t. The microwave was just the catalyst to make me think more intentionally about the food we were buying. The experiment occurred at a time when I HAD time to cook and when I HAD to financially plan. I’ve never been a dieter, but we lost weight in the month we lived without the microwave.
In the end, I did buy one. I found one on sale for less than half the price of the first ones I had looked at. We didn’t need anything fancy, because I planned to continue our intentional relationship with food. I have used the microwave since then, but not with the same frequency or reliance I used to. I’m still enjoying my grocery pick up life. I’m now enjoying cooking. And best of all, we are all enjoying eating a little more because there is satisfaction behind it that tastes so damn good.