sanity savers: a semi-regular series in which I share quirky tidbits and habits discovered in my quest to avoid panic, head trouble off at the pass, and uphold law and order in the West (or wherever you hang up your spurs). While I certainly don’t think all of these ideas are completely original or something you’ve never heard before, I hope you find my ramblings helpful, inspiring, or adaptable for your particular situation.
When the turntable in our barely-a-year-old microwave died, I never would have guessed it would become one of my favorite sanity savers to date. But after several months of eating leftovers that were hot on one side of the plate and ice cold on the other we were ready to let it go. Sadly, another new microwave was not exactly in the budget. When we dropped the old microwave off at the back door of Goodwill we knew we were going cold turkey, and it was a little scary. I remember when my parents got our first microwave back in the day, and I haven’t been without one since. Not that I used the microwave for much more than defrosting things and reheating leftovers, but the thought of trying to reheat lunch without a microwave and a hungry toddler conditioned to insta-meals in the background didn’t exactly lower my blood pressure.
Here’s the shocking thing: after the first day minus the microwave I was hooked. Why?
1. Time—The amount of time I gained by not having a microwave is what surprised me the most. Now, instead of frantically trying to get cold lunch items ready before Spud hears the microwave go, “beep, beep, beep”, I spend a much more leisurely 10 or 15 minutes preparing lunch while everything heats on the stove or in the oven. Today, our reheated spaghetti, green beans, and corn took around 25 minutes to prepare, but in that time I was able to finish some paperwork, clean up the kitchen, and make plans for the afternoon while Spud played. The pressured, hectic feeling that used to surround lunchtime for me has been replaced by a definite air of calm, and I love it. On this point alone, I would recommend not having a microwave.
2. Everyone eats together—At meals when the whole family is present and eating leftovers, people don’t have to wait their turn to use the microwave, and we all eat together—very important!
3. Food heats better—Had I searched, I’m sure I could have found some factoid stating that ovens/stoves, etc. heat better than microwaves. But I didn’t, so this is completely my own opinion: food reheated on the stove retains its warmth better. Plus, there are no more shriveled pieces of food that got zapped for too long.
4. Organization—Not having a microwave forces me to think ahead and be more organized. Now, if I forget to pull something out of the freezer in the morning that we need for dinner I have to get creative, and fast! We’ve eaten several meals of spaghetti without French bread while I learned this lesson. Now I’m much more motivated to check the next day’s meal plans the night before so that I don’t end up scrambling for a solution at the last minute.
What I’ve learned and am still wondering about . . .
1. Pots & pans vs. # of burners—When there are several different kinds of leftovers to reheat and/or many people eating them, things can get a little tricky. Sometimes there aren’t enough clean pans or not enough burners. Thankfully, we have three cast iron skillets that serve us very well in the oven or on the stovetop in addition to our regular pans, and many of our leftover containers are oven-safe glass.
2. Extra dishes?—I haven’t noticed a huge difference in the numbers of dishes I’m doing. I’ve been disciplining myself to wash the pans, etc. used for reheating immediately after they’ve been emptied so I don’t have to deal with dried-on food later. I’d much rather wash a few extra pans each day than eat food microwaved in plastic containers.
3. Electricity?—I’ve heard that microwaves are huge electricity hogs, so I’m hoping to see a slight improvement in our electricity bill (maybe?). It would be a nice bonus, anyway!
How do you reheat leftovers? Have you gotten rid of your microwave (or stopped using it)? Has it been a positive experience?