Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Minding the Microwave: Reheat Leftovers Quickly withOUT the Mic

May 19th, 2009 · 41 Comments · Big Changes

I encouraged you in this post that you can reheat leftovers without using the microwave, either with a toaster oven/standard oven or a pot on the stovetop.  Obviously the beauty of the microwave is that it does this job much quicker (usually) than the traditional methods.  Another concern with using pots, pans, cookie sheets, etc. is the extra dishes load.

Time Management Tips

timesaverHere are some practical tips for managing your time and cutting down on dishes:

  • Put soup on to boil or a casserole/leftovers in the toaster oven as soon as you walk into the kitchen for the meal.  Often by the time you’ve gotten out everything you need for the meal, the food is hot.
  • Try to use the same dish for reheating as for eating:  either store your leftovers in glass, ovensafe dishes (Pyrex, Anchor-Hocking) or take a risk with your Corelle dishes.

    If you’re just gently reheating something like a thin layer of spaghetti for a youngster or melting cheese for nachos, you can probably get away with putting your plate right in the toaster oven, either on “toast” or “bake”.  I realized one day that I often saw people put pancakes on a plate in a warm oven, and I tried putting one in my toaster oven. It didn’t break.  I was excited with my new discovery!  Since December I’ve only lost one plate — I think the kielbasa I was trying to heat up was (a) too cold (frozen) and perhaps (b) too greasy.  It cracked the plate all to pieces.  Sad, but I’m going to keep using Corelle in the toaster oven because they can go right into my dishwasher.

  • Hang hot pads right near your toaster oven.  That way you can easily grab one to get your leftovers out and then put it under your dish on the table.  You’ll just get used to needing a hot pad under your plate.
    img_6622

    My husband installed a shelf above our toaster oven a few years ago to help alleviate serious lack of counter space issues. It's a great place to stick a nail and hang a few hot pads. At Christmastime, the festive hot pads are actuallly part of the decorations in my house!

    If you organize your space for efficiency, you’ll be more likely to feel positive about making a change.

  • Use one pot for multiple leftovers.  A single serving of soup or spaghetti and sauce, for example, heats up mighty fast in a pot on the stovetop.  With the microwave we’re often willing to go one person at a time to reheat our leftovers, so why not on the stovetop?  I’ll just heat soup, pour into a bowl, and quickly rinse the pot and dump the next person’s leftovers in it.
  • A little planning goes a long way. If you know what you’re going to have for lunch or dinner, you can usually plan ahead and just start the process 15 minutes earlier, then tackle a short task while your food is reheating.  Like I told you with my Best Ever Scrambled Eggs, if you can multitask to accomplish something while food is taking care of itself in the oven or on the stovetop, it doesn’t really “count” as taking longer to reheat.

My Microwave Story, Part Five

You’ll remember from this post that I started out with a simple baby step when I decided the microwave might not be healthy for my family.  I just chose to avoid it when I thought I could figure something else to do, but not to stress out about it.  I was pondering the differences in my lunchtime shortly after, and I realized life may have actually changed for the better.  Here’s my before-and-after:

Before:

  1. Get leftovers out, usually something different for me and my son.
  2. Put his in the microwave.  (Worry that he’s standing there watching it turn around.  More on this Friday.)
  3. Try to do another prep task in 30 seconds.
  4. Fail.  Mic timer beeps too soon.
  5. Get his food out of the microwave.  Put it on the table.  Tell him lunch is ready.
  6. Get my food in the microwave.
  7. Cut a piece of fruit.
  8. Test the warmth of my food.  Decide it’s not ready yet.  Add 30 seconds.
  9. Get drinks; get interrupted by microwave.
  10. Put my food on the table.
  11. Begin to yell for son to come quickly because everything is ready!
  12. Daughter, of course, needs a new diaper about now.
  13. Change daughter’s diaper.
  14. Food is cold.  Re-microwave son’s food.
  15. Re-microwave my food.
  16. Realize we still need drinks; complete that task.
  17. Realize we need condiments; get them out.
  18. Pray with son.
  19. Realize we need utensils; get them out.
  20. Take a bite of food.
  21. Decide food has gotten cold; re-microwave food.
    And now that baby is eating solid food regularly, I could add more interruptions to get her food, feed her food, and wash her face.  My microwaved food was always getting cold and needing to be re-nuked!

After:

  1. Decide together what leftovers we will be eating; more often the same thing.
    added bonusAdded Bonus:  Avoiding the microwave encourages me to choose the same leftovers as my son, ultimately requiring me to get fewer items out and simplifying lunch.
  2. Put something in the pot on the stove or on the tray or in glass dish(es) in the toaster oven; turn on heat.
  3. Focus attention on the rest of the meal.
  4. Cut fruit.
  5. Get out utensils.
  6. Find veggies to munch on.
  7. Pour beverages.
  8. Prepare baby’s food.
  9. Pull son’s food out (he’s afraid of hot things!).
  10. Call son to table, pray for meal, gather all the things I forgot about.
  11. Pull own meal out.  Eat – drum roll, please!  — hot food!  A mother’s dream, really.  We don’t eat hot food very often.
  12. After one or two bites, turn attention to feeding baby, getting son something else, or [fill in blank].
  13. Return to food…which is still something that could pass for “hot”.  Not bad!

Usually, in truth, the food is ready by the time we’re ready.  Sometimes we put the food in the toaster oven and play a little more.  This makes my 3-year-old deliriously happy, and I don’t mind a little downtime either.  I’m generally a tiny bit less stressed at lunchtime, so I prefer planning ahead and starting early to the rushing around to keep up with the microwave.

Rushing to Get Lunch?

If we have to get lunch quickly, like when we’ve just come in from shopping and it’s already 12:45, I can easily get food on the table, especially for the little ones, in 5 minutes.  You choose sandwiches that day, or start with yogurt as an “appetizer” while other things are cooking.  There are also many leftovers that heat up very quickly for a single serving:  soup in a pot or a taco on a cookie sheet (at least hot enough for the son) in the toaster oven are two examples.  Crudite platters are also nice and quick if you have veggies cut in advance, always a good practice to get families to eat more veggies.

I do hope this helps you figure out one more hurdle to avoiding the microwave.  If you’re ready to commit, just to considering other options one opportunity at a time, please visit the invite post and leave a comment to be counted.  Then you can use the fun widget in the sidebar and count up your “Microwave Minutes Saved”.

More on Mind the Microwave in May:

13 Surprising Benefits of Microwave Un-use coming Thursday…

This post is part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, Talk About Tuesday, and Works for Me Wednesday.

Other Interesting Posts:


Tags: ··

41 Comments so far ↓

  • Tammy L

    We don’t have a microwave, and not having one at all seems to be the best way to encourage alternate methods! :)

    I also wanted to mention that Corelle says that using their dinnerware (plates, bowls, etc.) in the oven or near a direct heat source can cause the dish to shatter at a later time. (The heat weakens it and makes it susceptible to breaking.)

    We use Corelle dinnerware, but I re-warm things in a pan on the stove or in an oven-safe dish. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Ouch. I knew it was too good to be true. Thanks for the warning – sounds like my broken plate may have just been used one too many times in the oven and the kielbasa was the sausage that broke the camel’s back…plate. Bummer. I have a few glass plates from a garage sale, so maybe I’ll focus on using those in the toaster oven. For 25 cents, I won’t cry if they break, either!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • dreamer

    Thanks for these tips, I may just have to try this for a few weeks. After all, the pioneers got alnog just fine without microwaves!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    They sure did…break out the cast iron! ;) Thanks for visiting!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • The Lazy Organizer

    Great post! We stopped using our microwave a few months ago and we couldn’t believe how easy it was. We all thought it would be really hard.

    One thing I do with soup is just keep it in the pot I cooked it in. I stick it in the fridge so the next day we can pull it out and put it back on the stove without any extra washing.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Oh, I love it! I’m a “lazy dishes gal” so that fits perfectly in my kitchen! Thanks for the tip!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mary Reply:

    Please be cautious of the type of pan used for storage. Stainless steel is non-reactive, so would be the best choice.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    A very good point!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Crystal

    I just found your blog this morning, but I wanted to say a huge “Thank you!” I’ve been battling discouragement and the feeling of being overwhelmed as I’ve begun to rethink all of the issues surrounding feeding and caring for my family.

    It all seemed like too much to ever tackle for someone who grew up in a family that worked hard at avoiding the kitchen altogether. Old habits are hard to break…and so comes the guilt.

    So I want to thank you for helping me to realize that I can take one step at a time. That’s ok. I’ll certainly be a regular reader of your blog in the future. It’s been an answer to prayer this morning.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Crystal,
    I’m genuinely touched that my little ol’ site was an answer to prayer. That makes my week. I’m happy to have you onboard and hope the Baby Steps can be helpful in your family. I’m convinced that God honors the efforts we make for our families (even if they don’t appreciate them in the here and now)!
    Blessings, Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • exhale. return to center.

    thanks so much for this.

    we have been microwave-free for about four years now. really don’t miss it at all. except for one thing — those cozy little buckwheat-filled wraps that you can toss in the microwave for two minutes and then snuggle with for two hours. haven’t figured out a way to get that instant blast of wrap-around warmth without the mic.

    exhale. return to center.’s last blog post..what’s working :: our walking rope

    [Reply to this comment]

    Anna Reply:

    That is also something I miss!! (but the only thing we miss about our microwave) I did buy an electric heating pad for times that I really need to apply heat to a body part. Another option would be a good old-fashioned water bottle thing…they used to put hot water in it and take it to bed? I can’t remember what those are called.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rachel R.

    Another helpful trick to keep dishes from breaking is to put them into a *cold* oven and then turn it on. That way the oven and the dish warm up together, so there isn’t as abrupt a temperature change. (I usually use oven-safe Pyrex in the oven, but I’m still nervous about putting a refrigerator-cold glass dish straight into a hot oven!)

    Rachel R.’s last blog post..How to Make a Coupon Box

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Link Appeal - May 19, 2009: GNOWFGLINS™

    [...] usage during the month of May. She’s also put up 10 tips for avoiding the microwave and how to reheat leftovers withOUT the microwave. (Here are my tips for how to reheat foods without the [...]

  • Rachel

    thanks! this was helpful, our microwave broke down and we couldn’t afford even the cheapest models but i have an old toaster oven i’ve never used (can’t even remember who gave it to me) and i can’t stand cold leftovers so i have my solution!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • KP

    When we moved, our new house did not have a microwave. My husband was ready to go out and buy one. I said, “Wait, let’s see if we can live without one.” He looked at me as if I were crazy, but agreed to try to live without a microwave. I mentioned that our grandparents survived without microwaves. 5 years later, we are still microwave free and doing fine. We have simply found other ways of heating our leftovers and thawing and boiling water. However, when family visits, they are usually flustered and lost that they cannot reheat their coffee or warm up their food in a microwave. LOL

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Peggy

    Our microwave broke last month. FINALLY! The ONLY time we miss it is on “clean out the refrigerator” day. But, after I reheated some chicken fried steak on the stove for hubby, and he was impressed with how tender and juicy it came out (instead of dry and rubbery) I think I might have convinced him we can live without it.

    By the way, a great way to heat up pasta is just to put it in a colander and pour hot water over it! Then you can add your heated sauce and it’s like new, just store it separately from its sauce.

    I am looking into a toaster/convection oven. We have the space now that the microwave is gone.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Peggy,
    what a great chance to rejoice in what most would see as a huge problem! Ha!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • singhal

    This is a very interesting and useful post. Thanks for sharing. I too have always used oven or pot to reheat my food when at home. I was glad to know other people having similar thoughts about how unhealthy microwave can be.
    However, I have my lunch at office everyday and the only method for reheating is of course a microwave. I’ve been trying to think of any alternate method I can use/separate appliance I can buy so that I can avoid re-heating in a microwave. I definitely dont have space for an ‘oven’.. look forward to your suggestions on that! thanks!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Singhal,
    So sorry it took me so long to respond…I got absolutely behind on comments when I released the second edition of the snacks book and truly have never caught up.

    My husband likes a thermos style container for leftovers, at least things like soups and stews. Other than that, packing cold things/eating cold leftovers would be the only thing I could think of other than a stand-alone burner, but that’s getting complicated! ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Beckie via Facebook

    Or. Just use the microwave. Heat an eat

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Amy via Facebook

    We got rid of ours a while back and I doubt I will ever want one again. The downside is when I read new recipes that so many of them have microwave-only directions. I have to remember how a microwave works (it’ been several years since I used one to do anything more than heat water), so I can translate it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Alexis via Facebook

    We didn’t have a microwave in our new house for six months. So I discovered how to make naked potatoes in the oven. I ask myself now why was I ever doing it in the microwave?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christal via Facebook

    Ok then @Beckie. Do your research. Anyway, I purchased a toaster oven large enough to house a regular dinnerplate (oven safe) & I will try to store leftovers in corningware bc they are wonderful frig/freezer/oven/stovetop ware =) my micro is for storage plus its over the oven & its my light/fan/timer. I would <3 to replace it with a convection.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    Great Tips! We’re always wondering about that.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Angela via Facebook

    I’ve been trying to get another toaster oven since mine mysteriously vanished. I don’t like using the microwave for anything other than melting soy wax for candles at times. Knowing what they do to just simple water is scary enough (dead water that won’t even keep a plant alive)…and think, they were banned in Russia because they depleted food of every vitamin. I can’t get these facts through to my family; so, when I’m not there things get nuked.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • TerriAnn via Facebook

    We got rid of ours a few months ago. We don’t even miss it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lindsey via Facebook

    I tend to avoid the microwave at home, but it’s my only method of reheating food at work – and I hate cold lunches. :( Wonder if my boss will let me bring in a toaster oven…

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sharon via Facebook

    Put mine in the closet when I needed more counter space for the Thanksgiving pie-making extravaganza, and haven’t pulled it back out yet. And I haven’t really missed it…

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Monica via Facebook

    i got rid of the microwave and dont really miss it….my toaster oven works just fine to reheat

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sandy

    I got rid of my microwave tow years ago after returning from visiting my kids in Portugal, who did not have a microwave. I also did it for the health issues — have not missed it at all. Course I am old enough to have known life before microwaves, so for me it was just returning to the way it used to be when we got along fine without microwaves!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Charry via Facebook

    We stopped using ours just this year in january. It took some effort adjusting but now I don’t even think about it. You get better at the non-microwave routine with time. My microwave now makes for a great place to store my bread while it is rising.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Heather

    We got rid of our microwave several months ago and we do not miss it. We replaced it with a toaster oven. The ONLY thing I miss is the ability to heat my neck/back hot pack filled with beans :(

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tanja Funk

    I had been thinking, that when the time came, I would maybe not replace the microwave. Lo and behold, hubby brings home a toaster oven, given to him by a food rep. (Hubby manages a grocery store). With designated space for a microwave and ZERO counter space to give up, we (I) decided to switch to the toaster oven just to ‘test’ if we could do it. Turns out, we only used the micro for heating up leftovers, steaming veggies, defrosting meat, and heating milk for my coffee. And the only one of those I’ve missed it for is defrosting (b/c I am SO bad at remembering to take meat out). I too found that food/milk/veggies done on the stove seem to stay warmer longer, have a nicer texture (big thing for me), even taste better. And *bonus* – we use the toaster oven to, go figure, make toast! I’ve always preferred an appliance be useful for more than one thing. Hullo, the toaster can only make toast? C’mon. So the toaster and the microwave are sitting in the laundry (storage) room waiting for the next trip to the thrift store. (And whoever buys the microwave is in for a real treat – my super expensive Tupperware microwave multi-cooker is in there too)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christina

    I love love love all your practical tips so much! I know it’s not really the focus of your blog, but I’d love any advice you have for moving, especially with small kids.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Andrea Merrigan

    Great post! I still have a microwave because my husband cant part with it. He would rather warm things in the microwave then be patient enough for the toaster oven, oven, or stove. The ONLY thing I use the microwave for is to warm up my mugs of coffee that get cold…which happens all the time since I get distracted and forget to drink it. Any suggestions on how to warm up my coffee, hot chocolate, etc that gets cold? I know I could warm it up on the stove, but that just make a pot dirty I have to clean:(

    [Reply to this comment]

  • singhalc

    One option is to use a coffee mug warmer. They are fairly cheap (between $10-$20). I use the one by Mr. coffee and I have been very satisfied with the functioning. Just google ‘coffee mug warmer’ and you’ll get detailed information. It is not just about the unhealthy aspect of microwaving. I like to take sips as I am working throughout the day and a mug warmer helps you maintain a consistent temperature of your coffee so you dont need to go to the microwave reheat for every sip !! hope this helps!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Andrea Merrigan Reply:

    Thanks! I will have to check it out. Have you had any trouble with mugs breaking or anything on a warmer?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katie via Facebook

    I love using the toaster oven… everything is heated through, no cold patches, and all the food gets done at the same time. Don’t miss the micro a bit. (My husband does tho…)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • via Facebook

    Lindsey Mote – for soup especially, a good thermos really does work! :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lindsey via Facebook

    That’s a great idea! I haven’t had a thermos since about. 4th grade :)

    [Reply to this comment]

Leave a Comment

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

PTE350