Making a Microwave Free Home a Reality

In the early 1980′s, my family and those of my aunts and uncles were all gifted with a fabulous new device by our loving Grandparents… the Microwave Oven.  I remember all the excitement as the women enjoyed visions of faster meal preparation.  We took that ugly, brown box with an orange push button, and a turn dial home and plugged it right in.  Our family has been slowing dieing from enjoying microwaved foods since.

Until now. A few months ago we decided to ditch the microwave.  It was a decision that I thought would be difficult although we only used it to boil water, pop corn and rarely to reheat leftovers.  My husband was all “we don’t need a microwave, we never use it anyway.”  Since then, I’ve become more anti-microwave and he’s wondering if we do need one. But, we’ve discovered that its not all that difficult to live without.  (Stay with us after the jump for tips on unchaining your home from the microwave.)

There are mixed responses as to whether or not a microwave is DANGEROUS to our health.  Does it change the molecular structure of food and beverages heated within?  Does it release cancer causing rays? Does microwave heating cause containers (like plastic) to leach toxins into food?  What about microwave popcorn causing health issues?

These are questions that we may not see answered in our lifetime.  We know the government says microwave heating is safe but that could be another example of corporations having politicians in their very deep pockets.  Snopes states that microwaves are safe and that any claims otherwise are bogus.  I’m not sure I buy that either.

I remember the days of believing a microwave was safe but still not allowing my pregnant body anywhere near it while it was on (though I had no such qualms about consuming what was prepared inside it).  I see the warning signs everywhere about possible interference with pacemakers (go ahead and have a heart attack so we can continue to cook food quickly).  Even the term “nuking” food turns me off (nuking sounds an awful like a nuclear bomb, eh?).

Regardless of claims to the safety of microwave use, we don’t feel they are necessary in our homes (but then I don’t use chlorine bleach either which appears to be a very unpopular and even extremist stance).  We also know that a Raw food diet has many health advantages and that if we must cook, we like to do it the old fashioned way.  Here’s how we manage without:

Reheating food- stove top or in the oven, sure it takes longer, but the food tastes better and doesn’t get mushy.

Boiling water- tea kettle or pot on the stove or through the coffee maker.

Popping corn- air popper.  We never made the microwave popcorn bags anyway, I used to place popping corn inside a small paper bag with the top folded down to pop in the nuker.  Now, we just pull out the air popper and have a bowl full of healthier popcorn.  There are no worries that our popcorn bags might leach chemicals into our tasty treat.  You can also pop corn on the stove top.

Reheating coffee/tea/hot cocoa- I pour it into the empty carafe of the coffee pot and turn the unit on.  It reheats within a couple minutes and tastes more like it originally did.  This can also be done in a pot on the stove.

Defrosting- I remove the foods a day or two in advance and leave in the fridge to defrost.  It took me a bit to remember to plan ahead, but it also makes life easier.

And for everything else, there’s the fabulous toaster oven.  We currently use our oven on broil to reheat/toast items like leftover waffles, pancakes, pizza and bagels… hopefully soon we will have a toaster oven to call our very own and make this process simpler.

For us it just makes sense to ditch the microwave.  After all, we eat naturally and organically… we don’t bring toxic chemicals into our homes… we pay close attention to our environmental impact, so why would we continue to use an item that MIGHT be dangerous, is unnecessary and in opposition to our healthy eating lifestyle?

Photo Credit- The Abandoned Microwave by Robyn Gallagher on Flickr under Creative Commons.

Disclaimer: Please don’t throw your microwave out- Freecycle it, Craigslist it, Donate it, Recycle it (use Earth911).  Our built in was included when we sold our home.

Comments

  1. To each his own, but I’d personally argue that the biggest health risk of the microwave is how easy it makes it for a person to eat junk…

  2. Crimson Wife, I’d agree with that statement. For us, it just doesn’t fit into our lifestyle.

  3. There’s only one thing I really use it for now: cooking rice. I have a wonderful little microwave rice cooker that I find does a much better job of cooking small amounts of rice than anything else I’ve tried. I always reheat leftovers on the stove top because they taste better that way.

    From a technical perspective though, all the microwave is doing is making water molecules move faster, which is all a conventional cooking method does too. It is faster because the energy being delivered to the food is carefully tuned to the resonant frequency of water. If you remember your high school physics, when you hit the resonant frequency, the effect of the energy is magnified (the same thing that caused the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse).

    John- I have a counter top Rice Cooker which does a beautiful job of making yummy rice. We have had the same cooker for 8 years now and looks to go another 8 or more! – Jamie Ervin

  4. It’s interesting to see that someone who is environmentally conscious would rather consume more energy (ie. boiling water on a stove top) than use a microwave to boil water. The Microwave is arguably the most energy efficient way to cook meals (including cooking fresh vegetables), I think we should get people to stop using electric ranges, which are fueled by coal burning plants, and use more Microwave-based cooking devices.

    (Response by Author)
    Adam- we don’t “cook” fresh vegetables… then they are no longer fresh. Food is best consumed in its natural state which is a big part of why we don’t need a microwave in our house. As to your statement about microwaves being the most energy efficient, I’d like to add this quote:

    “Given this logic, (microwave is slightly more efficient than a gas stove) it’s hard to believe that an electric stove top would be any better, but an analysis by Home Energy Magazine found otherwise. The magazine’s researchers discovered that an electric burner uses about 25 percent less electricity than a microwave to boil a cup of water. That said, the difference in energy saved by using one method over another is negligible: Choosing the most efficient process might save a heavy tea drinker a dollar or so a year. ‘You’d save more energy over the year by replacing ONE light bulb with a CFL or turning off the air conditioner for an hour… at some point over th whole year,’ says Michael Bluejay, author of a website about saving electricity.”

    Mr. Bluejay reiterates “most of us won’t put a dent in our overall energy use just by choosing one appliance over another.”

    Read the full article here: http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/06/16/earth-talk-the-most-energy-efficient-way-to-heat-a-cup-of-water/

    This post WAS NOT at all about saving energy by choosing a cooking device, it was about making choices in the kitchen which impact the overall health of our family. We have chosen to NOT include a microwave because it doesn’t fit into the picture of healthy eating, which should include much Raw food and cooked foods should be prepared in the safest way to preserve the most nutrition. Why would I buy organic veggies if I’m just going to zap them in the microwave? Instead we give them a quick rinse and enjoy them fresh and crisp, possibly with a bit of dip.

    That’s good eating. – Jamie Ervin

  5. The microwave excites the water molecules in food. The plastic only heats up because of its contact w/ the heating food. It’s no more dangerous than heating food on the stove and pouring it into a plastic container; but if anything is leaching into the food it isn’t BECAUSE OF the microwave.

    Also, converting electricity directly to heat via short circuit, which is essentially what a heating element is/does, is the least efficient way to heat food. I’d be interested to see what this does to your electric bill. Although since you didn’t really use the microwave much to begin with I guess you wouldn’t really notice the difference.

    Revdon- I give you the same response I provided for Adam’s comment above. -Jamie Ervin

  6. Heather says:

    I appreciate the effort to do the better thing for your family. I would also like to eat all natural and organically but can’t afford it so we do the best we can. Everything is good in moderation and as long as it is in a realistic fashion. For instance, with your kids. There are going to be times when eating your way will not be possible….ie. friends homes, restaurants, etc.

    Heather- with a family of 7 plus several daycare children, I’m feeding 10+ people every.single.day. We have a VERY tight budget for groceries and we still manage to eat healthfully. Here are some simple steps: Buy local, spray free produce. It may not have the Organic label because certification takes a long time and is pricey. Know your grower and be informed about your food. I just purchased a bunch of zuc’s locally (at the Farmer’s Market) for $0.25 each, you can’t beat that price unless you are growing your own. Buy Organic milk/dairy products on markdown day (I find out what time of day and how many days before expiration items are marked down… our stores mark down in the late afternoon 5 days prior to the dairy expiration date. This allows me to buy Organic milk at $2.50 a gallon, yogurt, sour cream, etc… also at 50% off). Make your own bread… I’ll be posting a whole wheat SIMPLE bread recipe later today. It takes a little time twice a week to make enough bread for our household. This bread costs $1-$1.50 a loaf depending on added ingredients. Comparable bread at the store will run $4-5 a loaf. Grow a garden (even a square foot or planter boxes if you live in town or condo/apartments). With a bit of research and a small amount of time, you can feed your family well for less. We don’t buy prepackaged foods (except occasional Gluten Free treats) because they are expensive and lack in nutritional value.

    As to your response that its not possible to feed my kids this way away from home, I say… Yes, I can. I pack all my kids lunches and snacks for school in Laptop Lunch Systems. I send snacks/food to share when they visit friends and inform the parents of their dietary requirements. That said, I’m not going to freak out if my kids are given veggies cooked in the microwave on the rare occasion. We also generally encourage the kids and friends to hang at our house… so we’ve become the “cool” place to be without compromising our values. As for restaurants… well, we avoid those as much as possible, it’s a rare treat and there are plenty of restaurants that offer healthy eating options. – Jamie Ervin

  7. It’s funny, we were talking about ditching our microwave yesterday. Besides the negatives that both you mentioned we’d also get back about 2 feet of counter space. We rarely ever use it anymore. Great when we lived in a dorm (we didn’t know any better) but not so much for a family.

    D- Good for you! We also lack in counter space… that’s another point I failed to mention! When you cook healthy, homemade goods, every inch of counter space is VITAL. :) -Jamie Ervin

  8. That’s funny, we ditched ours too a little while ago. I heat all my solid food left overs in the toaster oven and it tastes so much better. Only takes a couple of minutes longer. The microwave took up so much space and we only used it once a week max. We prefer to eat and prepare our food fresh, if there are leftovers I just heat up soup on the stove top (no burn spots like in the microwave and takes the same amount of time actually). I think the day might come soon that people will know its dangers. Actually there is a ton of research that proves it, but it is not widely published and certainly will not reach mass media.

    BTW, no difference in my energy bill either!!!

    Anastasia- I’m glad to hear things are going so well! We definitely haven’t noticed an increase in our power bill and I’m not expecting to. But then, we are also an A/C free home, which isn’t popular, isn’t always comfortable but is better than the environment. :) I bet a lot of these people who proclaim how much energy their microwave saves DO use A/C in their homes. I’ve seen lots of the research you speak of and I personally do worry about the safety, but I decided to NOT take that on here… as you can see from the responses people aren’t ready to hear it! -Jamie Ervin

  9. Phil Cooper says:

    Jamie, this blog entry sound like you’ve been reading Dr. Joseph Mercola’s site. He has some useful information there, but much of it is suspect or out-and-out junk science and quackery. He, like many others who scream about electromagnetic radiation, doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and, in fact, much of the supposed “science” in this area has been shown to be fraudulent or a hoax. You’re more likely to die from a lighting strike than suffer ill effects from a microwave oven. Use your microwave oven and other electronic appliances in good health and don’t worry about it.

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