Minimalism Meets the Microwave

The microwave oven is one of those marvels of modern convenience that even after 73 years in existence is still the subject of controversy. Just the other day, I saw a post on Facebook about how microwaving broccoli removes 98% of its nutrients. (That’s not exactly true, by the way. Cooking broccoli by any method, especially those involving water, removes some of the nutrients.) There are folks who stand firmly in the anti-microwave camp because of the potential of certain plastics to release harmful chemicals when heated. There are others who believe microwaving can increase carcinogens in our food. On the other side, there are folks who swear microwaves are not only safe, but they are the healthiest way to cook.

Personally, here’s what I believe – the microwave is a giant piece of counter clutter (at least in our home) that serves zero purpose beyond reheating leftovers. Seriously, I’ve looked at our microwave just sitting there for the past 4 years, spending most of its days as a timer for whatever we’re cooking on the stove. So, one morning, while Angie was cleaning up the kitchen, I mentioned ditching the microwave. “Let’s do it!” she said.

We posted the microwave on Marketplace and within an hour, it was gone. Our counter now looks like this:

I’m not advocating that everyone ditches their microwave. I am, however, suggesting that we ditch clutter, whatever form that clutter may take. In this scenario, the word “microwave” could just as easily be replaced by any number of things. Do you have too many dishes? One too many televisions? Maybe an end table that’s only purpose is to serve as a clutter catch-all? Those are the things I recommend ditching. In our case, it just happened to be the microwave.

Several years ago, we stopped using the microwave except to reheat certain leftovers, like rice or pasta. This was a decision we made based on our own research and a desire to eat better. At the time, we were moving away from processed foods, including microwavable convenience meals and side dishes. Though microwaving itself might be safe, processed foods definitely are not and neither are most of the plastics that they come in. A package might say BPA-free, but there are many, many other chemicals in microwavable packaging, such as glues and dyes that can potentially be harmful. And don’t even get me started on microwave popcorn! That stuff is bad on so many levels!

Around the time that we stopped using our microwave, we also bought a hot-air popcorn popper. I can honestly say, I now prefer the flavor of lightly-salted hot air popcorn over any other (including the sinfully delicious and ridiculously overpriced popcorn at the movie theater). We also started batch cooking so that we could avoid answering the question of “what do you want for lunch?” with something quickly zapped in the microwave. Today, we make a huge pot of soup or chili once a week and that serves as lunch most days. We usually pair it with a salad or a grilled veggie quesadilla. And of course, in a pinch, we rely on the most steadfast of lunch menu choices, a good ole peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Aside from quick meals, we also used our microwave for melting butter for baking, quickly thawing foods, and heating water for tea, but even those have substitutes. I’ve started heating the butter (which is now vegan butter) in a ramekin while the oven is preheating. We try to remember to set out frozen foods early enough to thaw or we put them in water to speed up the process. And heating water – well, you can do that on the stove. Without the microwave, things do take a bit longer, but when I consider the pace at which we want our life to go, there really is no reason to rush. We can wait a few extra minutes for a great cup of tea.

It has been nearly a month since we sold the microwave and neither of us has missed it. The internet, yes, but not the microwave. This tells me that it really was just a piece of counter clutter that needed to be removed and I kind of wish we’d done it sooner.

Do you have a microwave? What, if any, modern conveniences have you decided to live without?

Dates, Diets, and Decluttering

The first month of our 48 Really Great Dates project is in the books. Though we had a few hiccups, we managed to have a lot of fun, doing some super simple activities in/around our town. We spent a total of $39.56 on five dates. Here are the highlights:

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To read all the details, be sure to visit our 48 Really Great Dates page.

For one of our dates, we attended a health fair, where we had our cholesterol, glucose, and BMI checked. For as much as I love to pick on Angie for her exercise routines, something seems to be working for her. Her numbers were great. My glucose was good but the rest left room for improvement. That, along with back pain that just wouldn’t go away last month, prompted me to take my health a bit more seriously. I don’t want to be old before my time and I don’t want to start a medicine collection.

For the most part, we eat a plant-based diet. On occasion, my mom will cook something with meat and we will eat it. These meals are very rare though. The more common problem is sweets. I don’t actually crave sweets and would never bake a cake on my own but my mom absolutely loves to bake and we end up with at least one cake, pie, or cookie a week. I certainly can’t eat all of these but I also hate not eating some of them. After all, she worked hard to create them and it makes her happy. And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I can’t throw them away without feeling like I’ve just destroyed the planet. It’s a dilemma, for sure!

While I figure out how to redirect my mom’s baking efforts, I’ve decided to work on a few other areas of my diet, cutting out things that may or may not be adversely affecting my cholesterol. The first item to go was cheese. We are not vegan so we’ve always maintained an exception for farm fresh eggs and certain cheeses. What can I say? I love cheese. But, I don’t want my love of cheese to break my heart…literally. So no more cheese. I don’t mention eggs because we aren’t eating them now anyway. We only eat eggs in the summer, and even then, only on occasion. I also cut out plant-based oils for the time being, even though they have some health benefits. Our salads are now being dressed with hummus. Our macaroni is being made with sweet potato “cheese”. It’s different, but good. If my cholesterol goes down, I’ll know what permanent adjustments I need to make in my diet. If not, I will talk to my doctor about other options (and believe me, I don’t want to do that).

In addition to the dietary changes, I started a daily stretching routine to help with my back. When I was 14, I had spinal fusion surgery to correct a 54 degree scoliosis curvature. Over the years, I’ve had problems with my back but nothing like the pain and stiffness I had in January. An x-ray showed moderate arthritis in my lower spine. Needless to say, I was not happy with the diagnosis (or myself) so I added the stretches and made a promise to walk at least 150 minutes a week – either outside or on the treadmill. One of the unused perks of our apartment is a very fancy fitness room – a room that I had previously never entered in the 2 1/2 years that we’ve lived here, until last month. So far, I’ve kept my promise and I’ve lost 5 pounds to boot.

Here’s the stretching routine that I pieced together from various Youtube videos:

When we haven’t been dating or dieting, we’ve been decluttering. I swear, I don’t know how so much stuff comes into our home when we buy next to nothing, except food! Yet, we managed to eliminate more than 50 items over the past few weeks, not including paper. We sold 11 puzzles and a lamp; donated a box containing boots, plastic containers, an unused garlic press, a magazine rack, and more to Goodwill; and gave my niece a stack of notebooks and personal care/toiletry items that we were never going to use. We even found a home for the Christmas tree that Angie rescued from the dumpster and repainted.

How’s your year going so far? Have you made any major lifestyle changes? How are your decluttering efforts coming along?