Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Appliance freedom

Piece of $#!^ Sharp CarouselA few months back I mentioned that our semi-brand new microwave crapped out on us. Well, it finally completely kicked the bucket at the end of January and we've been living microwave free since then.

At first, I didn't realize how much we depended on it and it felt like we were going to be in dire straights without it. A lot of the foods we make for the kids are often heated up in the microwave. Well, as a result, they are eating a lot less of that type of food which is probably a good thing and the ones we kept are easily prepared on the stovetop or in the oven. While I miss it occasionally, it's good to know that we have completely adapted to life without it.

Which leads me to believe that we get so accustomed to using or depending on certain appliances we get the impression that we couldn't live without it. It's been about a year since Greenpa opened my eyes to the idea of living without a refrigerator. Up until that point in time I would have told you he's nuts.

I'll still tell you he's nuts, but this was a concept that had never crossed my mind. Now, the idea seems rather normal to me, although I wouldn't go without my fridge unless I had to. I can hear the tsk-tsking from Greenpa from a thousand miles away.

This is turning into another poll week, but I might as well run with it! This one is multiple choice.

52 comments:

Kim said...

You know...I was completely anti-microwave for a really long time. And, as such, I lived without one for a longer time. Although, I did (and do) have a small toaster oven.

My reasoning was two fold. First, it seemed to me that microwave cooking was fake cooking... I needed some sort of authenticity that stove-top/oven cooking offered when the microwave didn't. (maybe because so many of the things we are inclined to microwave are prepared "fake" foods.)

But, I was also laboring under the impression that like so many appliances (electric can opener,) it was a waste of energy.

That's when it was pointed out to me how much more incredibly efficient a microwave is than most oven cooking and than some stove top cooking.

How long does it take to bake two potatoes in my convection oven? At least 45 minutes. In my microwave? 9 minutes. The same sort of comparisons can be made for steaming vegetables stove-top vs. microwaving them. That's an incredible difference in energy consumption.

Unless I'm making some huge feast, or some other large item that will only fit in my oven...I rarely use it anymore. It's just so much more energy efficient to use the microwave or the toaster oven. Not to mention time efficient.

Now, I suppose this is all contingent on having new enough small appliances that they are energy star rated...and as such appliances that actually function as you expect them to without dropping dead when still new.

Robj98168 said...

I have to agree with Kim. I use my microwave to keep from using the oven. And I use my toaster oven for the same reason. And I use my Popeil Showtime rotissirie beacuase it is cheaper than cooking a roast in the oven. And I use my rice steamer because it uses less energy than cooking rice on the stove. My point is none of these items are a neccesity, but all save energy compared with a stove- no pre-heating, faster cook times.Now give me a GT Xpress Cooker, an ice cream maker and a solar oven and I will be in Hog Heaven!
Sign me- Appliance whore

kadnkadnk said...

We don't have a clothes dryer since our recent move to an apartment and I miss it only a wee bit. I'm fortunate in that my best friend lives next door (indeed, she's my landlord) and I've used hers for bedsheets and cloth diapers, but the rest I hang to dry on folding racks. Once it gets above freezing, I'll hang them outside on a clothesline, including the diapers and bedsheets.

Humidifies the house and saves the planet, what could be better?

Howling Hill said...

We got rid of our microwave a couple years ago. I don't miss it at all.

I've always hated the way nuked food tastes and, as you said, the food you put into the microwave is not food one should be eating anyways.

I could live without most of my appliances except my washer. I rarely use the dryer, I don't have a dishwasher, and I could grill my food, but washing clothes, especially jeans, is just beyond my coping capabilities.

Jan said...

I voted "washer" but as I typed out my reasons I realized I COULD live without it, but would prefer not to.

Wendy said...

I couldn't participate in your poll, because there isn't one of those items that I can't live without. I KNOW that I can live without all of them - especially as I live in the northeast, where we have a lot of cold months (no need for electric refrigeration, although we use it), and I have a woodstove that I could use to cook with. I've not had a microwave since we moved into this house, and while there were times that I thought it would be nice to have one, I've never succumbed to the temptation to get one, because I don't have space in my kitchen for a microwave :).

I can live without all of them, but like Jan, I find that I prefer not to. The washer is the one I would miss the most ;).

Jenn said...

Our microwave broke on us during the summer. At first it was a HUGE pain in the rear, but we didn't have the extra money to replace it. Now, I don't even notice that we don't have one to use. We have just addapted. And we are way better for it, I'm sure.

Susan said...

I put cooktop and washer, but Wendy reminds me that the woodstove we use for heat is perfectly good for cooking food as well. Washer is nother story, though, at least until we're through with diapers. I'm not sure how NIM managed to get through his time of handwashing diapers in the bathub, but he is a better person than I am. Once the diapers are gone, though, that, too, would become a little more expendable...

maryann said...

When our microwave finally was laid to rest we opted for a convection/microwave combo over the stove unit. I have to admit, I LOVE IT! We use 98% of the time for cooking and it is so much more energy effecient. It has a real nice micro/conv combo function that half nukes/ half bakes the food so it's done a lot quicker but you can still get the baked crispness. I don't buy any processed foods so the choice of what we cook isn't a problem, just the amount of energy to cook it.

jewishfarmer said...

Like other of your readers, I voted "washer" since I do have two kids using diapers at least part of the time. But I could live without it - we don't use a fridge anymore, we have a microwave but leave it upstairs on a shelf until the occasions when we need it (and we only have it because we inherited it).

The thing is, a lot of people live without all these things, and their lives are not unmitigated misery. I guess I'm weird, but while my immediate thinking when something breaks down is "oh, damn, must fix now..." at some point, I actually get curious about what you do without it. And it almost always turns out not to be that big a deal.

Sharon

DC said...

We haven't had a microwave for at least a decade. Microwaved food tastes like crap. I have also read that food cooked in microwaves is chemically altered and may pose a health risk, though I don't believe there is conclusive evidence on this subject.

Also, our clothes dryer broke a few months ago, and we have been hanging up all our laundry to dry -- we even found a way to dry king sized sheets inside, which I thought would be impossible.

There is actually very little that we truly need to survive and thrive. Some things do make life more convenient, though. We really do rely on our clothes washer and conventional oven. I suppose we could get by without them, but it would be tough.

Chile said...

When our microwave broke a few years ago, we tried to do without. The problem was that, although I don't cook with it, I reheat with it a lot. It was using more gas to heat food on the stove than it did in the microwave. (I've noticed our gas bill has gone up since my sweetie started heating our water for coffee on the stovetop instead of in the microwave.) Reheating food in the microwave also meant less dishes, which saves water, soap, gas (to heat the water), and time. Within 2 weeks, we replaced the microwave.

I can live without a clothes washer or dryer, dish washer, and whatever the last choice was, but don't take away my fridge or microwave for now. Thanks.

Adrienne said...

Interesting, about living without a fridge. What about the gas you're using if you're always making extra trips for meat and other things that can't be kept around without a fridge?

I haven't had a microwave in years, and don't miss it at all.

Hit Pay Dirt said...

I'm with Kim. Even though I really like using a stovetop to heat food - if a food needs to be heated I now try to do it in the microwave. It's just so much more energy efficient.

I voted for the clothes washer because I seem to use ridiculous amounts of water when I hand wash. Although in retrospect, maybe I should have voted for the dishwasher because I'm absolutely certain it uses less water for dishes than I do.

Great idea for the poll!

fay said...

When I moved into my new apartment I realized some of these things. I didn't have a microwave, but realized that I only really used it to reheat leftovers and could manage that on the stovetop. I also realized before the gas was connected that I can't live without a cooktop (I had to live on salads and pizza deliveries for a few days).

(I also stopped using my fridge a couple months ago, but that's more of an ongoing experiment and might fail come summer. It's not too hard in the winter...)

As they say, invention is the mother of necessity.

noradawn said...

I have two words for you: Solar Oven! Don't buy one in April, but we bought one in March and it is so awesome! I love baking without turning on an appliance. Recipes can take a little longer, but really, is that such a big deal? It's also great for heating up leftovers. You can make one yourself, but check out Global Sun Ovens if you have $200 or so to spend (maybe replacing a broken micro.) They are very sturdy, go to higher temperatures, and the company does third world mission work.

Chile said...

Ok, speaking of doing without a fridge, I need help. I was roasting beets last night. They weren't done when the other dish in the oven was done, so I left them in while the oven cooled. This morning, I realized I forgot about them last night so they sat in the oven all night long.

I'm pretty conscious of the 4-hour limit to prevent food poisoning but I'm not sure if roasted beets are likely to grow the bacteria involved.

What do ya'll think? Should we risk eating them?

Anonymous said...

Chile, on the roasted beets I think you're safe, I've left mine in the oven overnight also and haven't died yet. If you're still worried toss them with some balsmaic vinegar, taste good and the vinegar should killoff any potential bacteria.

asrai said...

I rarely use my dryer. Sometimes to wash clothes I use my daugther's bathwater and just soak them (most of my husband's laundry needs some freshening he wears something once and then discards it). I wish I could find a washboard to scrub a few things. Then I spin them in the washing machine and hang them on my clothes horse in the playroom.

But I cook and bake a lot so I couldn't be without those things. Most of the time I use my toaster oven since my family of three eats very little.

Tameson O'Brien said...

You need another box...none of the above. I used to demo hearth cooking at a living museum. I live in NH - it's 40 degrees a few feet below ground. I have many things I hand wash either because the washer doesn't do the job or it's too harsh. I love my microwave we use it for steaming veggies and cooking rice and cooking pasta - heck I am able to go all summer using only the microwave and the grill, but I could very easily adapt to not using one, especially if I had another method going already (hearth or wood cookstove type arrangement). Nope there wasn't a single thing on the list I would cry over if I lost, so I'll have to vote none of the above.

Tracy Glomski said...

I’d find it challenging to live without the clothes washer, cooktop, and refrigerator/freezer, in that order. I actually would not be able to keep my current job without the clothes washer (I’m a massage therapist, and the State of Nebraska requires a wash temperature of 140°F—hot enough to scald the skin if I attempted the “grape stomp” method).

Marie said...

Last year I had to get rid of our toaster and coffeemaker. We moved into an apartment building that turned out to have a major roach infestation, and they'd chosen those two appliances to use as maternity wards. I really hate throwing stuff away, especially if it still works, but it was unsanitary. So now I use the broiler for toast, and I bought a Melitta one-cup "coffeemaker," which is like a plastic funnel you pour the water through directly into the cup. I love all the counter space I have now!

Sarah said...

My point is none of these items are a neccesity, but all save energy compared with a stove- no pre-heating, faster cook times.
Sure, and I use some small appliances too. BUT I don't think their energy savings make up for the energy that was put into producing them in the first place. If you're getting used appliances then it's not so bad, but going out and buying a new rice steamer because it's more energy efficient than the stovetop is NOT doing the earth any favors.

Lissa said...

I could live without all of the items included in your poll, but not without drastically changing my lifestyle in ways that I'm simply not prepared to do other than for short experiments of a few weeks or a month.

I live alone in a small townhouse, but my professional life requires a certain attention to the details of appearance -- I can't afford the time of washing clothes by hand, and I don't have enough space to hang dry everything.

I travel frequently and work long hours, so generally cook once per week (if that) and eat my locally-sourced whole foods from the fridge and freezer, reheated in the toaster oven or stovetop. I have a microwave which I use only infrequently, but the others are items of necessity for me.

If I'm able to change my life, making room for another person to share the work with, or a job where I can work from home, those needs will change, but right now I'm not willing to make those alterations.

Anonymous said...

I did without a microwave and dishwasher for about 3 months at the same time do to them dying at the same time and I thought I was ok for a while. But, being a stay at home mom with 2 kids 3 and under I really needed the microwave back. I cook 3 meals and 2 snacks every day for us all, minus hubby for lunch and snacks, and I was basically stuck in the kitchen all day either cooking or washing dishes. I use the microwave for cooking veggies, rice, etc., we eat very little processed food. Needless to say we replaced the microwave before the dishwasher. I do feel that I really tried giving up the microwave and was really ok without it for a while.....but not forever!

scifichick said...

Asrai, you can get a washboard here: http://www.redhillgeneralstore.com/wash.htm
I keep looking at it because I'm trying to do most of the laundry by hand, but I haven't bought one yet.

maryann said...

Asrai, Better yet since the buy nothing challenge, I have 3 old ones I've either inherited or picke up at antique stores lying around. I'm willing to part with one if you want to pay for the shipping or live close enough to pick it up. let me know, you can get me by email: ma3sea@yahoo.com

Segwyne said...

As a child, I lived for years without a fridge, freezer, microwave, or dishwasher. We didn't have a washer or dryer either, but we went to the laundromat, so we still used them. I have lived with using the woodstove as a cooktop, though my mother never used it as an oven. We had a propane stove/oven for summertime and baking. I have washed out cloth diapers by hand for seven months before. It used to take me an hour each night to wash them in the tub. I don't know if it is because I am not used to washing by hand or because they were so dirty. Last year I hung all my clothes on the line, or in the closet with a fan if it was raining. I voted that I cannot live without a clothes washer. I know that when the time comes I will, but I wash clothes for 6 and do a load of laundry every single day, not counting the periodic sheets day. I don't know how they get their clothes so dirty every day, but most of the time I cannot say, "That didn't get very dirty, you can fold it and put it back in your dresser." I do rewear my jeans for 3 or 4 days before I wash them. I am going to hang onto my clothes washer as long as I can.

Cheap Like Me said...

Can't? Well, none of them. I wouldn't *die* without them. But I do love my dishwasher, and I prefer the stovetop inside than cooking on a grill or building a fire on the driveway. ;)

Catherine said...

I currently have two microwaves. The first one came with the house we bought last year and is leaking radiation according to our inspector so we never use it. It's one of those that's fixed above the stove so we're waiting to replace it but I can't stand that those things cost $300 or more. For crying out loud.

I chose the stove top although I'd hate to lose my washing machine also. And my oven. And my fridge. Oh geez.

arduous said...

I put washer, but then I suddenly realized I don't even own a washer. So I'm not sure if that's what you meant, but I have zero problem going to the laundromat for clothes. (We do have laundry in my building, but the laundromat is across the street and half the time I just go there anyway.)

I wish that apartment buildings would have appliance libraries. I don't need my slow cooker every day. I need it about once a week. It would be cool if someone else could use it at other times and we could all share appliances instead of everyone having their own.

I think I could do without everything else though. The fridge would be annoying, but I could probably do it (especially if cheating was allowed and I was able to use the fridge at work.)

But in the end, I think the point for me is ... right now I think my use of appliances is very energy efficient. As other people pointed out, a microwave is more efficient than an oven. Now if my microwave conked, I would certainly not go out and get a new one, but I would definitely scour Craigslist for a used one because while I CAN do without a microwave, I know my electric bill would be higher without it.

homebrewlibrarian said...

I finally decided that microwaved foods made me too nervous and stopped using mine for that. I will use it every now and again to heat water for my hot water bottle if I'm feeling a bit chilly when I go to bed but otherwise it sits on a shelf unplugged.

Since I'm only cooking for myself, I'm not seeing much of an uptick in electricity usage by using the stove or oven to heat/cook foods. But then I wasn't using the microwave much anyway, certainly not daily.

Now at work, all bets are off since there's no stove top, only a microwave. I will heat up my lunch but that's not even every day. It might bother me but my choices are eating cold food or bringing in my own hotplate, pots and pans. My co-workers already look at me a bit askance now ;0

While I'm intrigued with the idea of having no refrigerator, I could live without everything on the list. It would be better if I had a woodstove so I could make a clean break but I don't. Not yet anyway.

Kerri in AK

Louise said...

I chose all appliances except dishwasher and clothes dryer... I don't fancy washing clothes on a washboard; I need my freezer and refrigerator or risk spoilage which is not being frugal; I have my mom ( 88) living with me and when she is ready to eat she wants it NOW so I use my microwave a lot. I do have a convection oven but find that foods cook unevenly in it.
Now had you included computer in the list... I would give up all the appliances if I can keep my computer. LOL
Louise in Alberta, Canada

CindyW said...

It's interesting to me that the poll shows more people can't live out a fridge than a cooktop. Hmmm. I get most of the appliances are somewhat optional. But how do you cook without a cooktop? Collect wood and cook in a fire pit? I must be missing something :)

lindbeam said...

i marked fridge/freezer. i have a baby and no washer/dryer in our apartment, which makes washing his diapers tricky since i'm working full-time. we have a nifty spin dryer that helps get the extra water REALLY out of his bulky diapers so they hang-dry fast. a spin dryer is a great in-between for people who want clothes dry fairly fast (especially for us that have almost zero space!) but don't want to use the time/energy/money that a heat dryer requires.

Beany said...

We have been microwave free since our roommate took hers with her when she moved out. I didn't grow up with it so I don't rely on one. I have been thinking about going fridge free ever since greenasathistle mentioned it on her blog. If I make a bit more money ($10,000 more per year according to my current budget) then I could have my husband stay home permanently and thus not rely on a fridge since he'd be able to make all our meals everyday without worrying about stuff going bad. Once a month cooking wouldn't work though...

I've never had a dishwasher...so I can live without it. And we've been drying nearly all our washloads on the clothesline for over a year now. And I didn't grow up with a dryer either.

I've cooked using a woodstove and personally I prefer it (food tastes better), so I wouldn't mind going back to using a woodstove when we settle down.

I'm thinking of making a cheapo solar cooker and this summer and a more permanent one later this year so see how I can deal without the use of a conventional oven.

jewishfarmer said...

For cooking without a cooktop, I love my solar ovens, and in the winter we use the wood cookstove, which also heats the house. There are a number of other alternatives, including earth ovens (outdoor masonry ovens that use very small quantities of biomass) and rocket stoves. www.aprovecho.org has a lot of information on environmentally friendly cooking and heating.

Sharon

Anonymous said...

I can live without owning a personal clothes washer (and I do), but I wouldn't want to live in an apartment complex without one.

stella said...

uh-oh...is this related to the May challenge that CC is cooking up?

Chile said...

Oh, yikes, Stella, you may be on to something!

Crunchy Chicken said...

stella & chile - what I'm cooking up is far more frightening.

kimberly said...

i don't think any of those things are impossible to live without... i mean, i already don't have an oven, a microwave, a dishwasher or freezer. i use a public clothes washer, but don't use the dryer. i guess the only thing is really the stovetop. but i don't use that much either, 'cause i'm both lazy and unable to cook much other than pasta, or warming up soup. people definitely do convince themselves that they need these things though... i know a lot of people who don't make changes in their lives 'cause they think they couldn't live without certain things, and are too unwilling to try.

kimberly said...

cindyw - in response to your stovetop question, there is also the raw food movement. i'm an accidental raw food vegan: i hate buying and cooking meat, so i don't. i'm also lactose intolerant, so no dairy. and i don't cook, so most of my food is raw. it's really easy to adapt to, actually... and i feel a lot healthier than ever, which is a bonus, 'cause it saves me time as well.

melanietai said...

i lived for many years with my only appliance as a propane burner and weekly trips to the laundromat. 5 years with either no fridge, sharing one next door, or a cooler. but also i was in hawaii where fresh food was plentiful year round, i was a vegetarian and happy drinking soy milk. now i live in lake placid,ny where there is still plenty snow on the ground. i get a delivery of raw milk every two weeks. once a month i get a delivery from a csa farmer who takes our orders for meats, eggs, frozen berries, honey, jams, etc. everything is local and without the means to preserve it, i'd be eating a lot more foods trucked in from far away. ideally i'd have a chest freezer outside. instead of cooling a box inside my heated box. crazy!

Yielded Heart said...

We gave away our microwave a couple of years ago and we've never looked back.

And I can't even remember when I last used the oven. But the toaster oven we use once in a while. We've hardly been using the burner, too, as we eat a lot of raw foods lately.

As far as washer: I grew up in a country where we had someone come in and do our laundry- by hands. In college, I usually hand-washed them myself. So I don't think I want to part with mine. (Especially when you're a family of 5, almost 6, actually.)

Sweetpeas said...

Obviously people lived for generations w/o any of these so I COULD live w/o them all. I think, assuming I had access to a wood-burning range, the freezer is the thing I'd have the hardest time giving up. I just SOOO prefer the taste of frozen fruits & veggies over canned & also use my freezer alot for stocking up when something basic that we use alot of goes on sale, I'll get a bunch & freeze it till we need it. (though I suppose in a world w/o any appliances, I wouldn't be shopping at stores either LOL. But still brings us back to needing to preserve fruits & vegetables in teh summer for use in the winter, and I prefer frozen (it's easier & I like the taste better LOL).

Jess said...

Hmm...I have actually lived without all of the listed appliances for varying periods, and could probably live without them again, if I were prepared. I would want a cold room/root cellar if I did not have a fridge, though. So they're all optional, really. But I would be mighty unhappy if someone took my coffeemaker or laptop away...

Anonymous said...

Another appliance you didn't include was the electric water kettle. I use it to prepare a hot water bottle at night in wintertime, and to make coffee/tea, and for certain foods (water for couscous, for example). Also: if you're making pasta on the cooktop and don't want the burner on so long, you can boil half the water in the electric kettle, and then add it to the half that's *slowly* coming to a boil on the stove. Much faster way to do it.

Of course, the electric kettle is only efficient if you ONLY boil the water you know you need.

Carpe Diem said...

We recently moved into a new home and decided that the microwave was a 'perceived need' item and didn't take the old micro with us. I haven't missed it AT ALL!

I used it mainly for defrosting, so now I plan ahead and take my freezer items out in the morning or the night before needed.

Robbyn said...

Where's the option on the poll for "CAN live without any of these"?

I know I'll probably get punched for saying this, but my husband and I are in agreement that we realllllyyyyyy believe microwaving food somehow alters the nutrients differently than conventional cooking does, making them sort of "non-foods," since we've found that for ourselves and many others, the taste and satisfaction in eating things microwaved is just not the same as with other sorts of cooking.

Ok, now you can throw the rotten tomatoes (ducking!) :)

Stephen B. said...

Wow, so many comments already. Will anybody even see mine?

I can live without all of them, but I'd still love to keep a very small fridge. I get unprocessed milk once a week from a local farm and it just won't keep any other way.

I can live without a microwave too, as I never cook in one. But reheating? Yes, that saves a lot of power over the cooktop not to mention less dishes washed, etc. Still I did without growing up.

daharja said...

I voted stove top, microwave and washing machine, but on retrospect I could live without all of them if I HAD to. They just make my life an awful lot easier being there.

As for a fridge and dryer, I would hardly miss them. And I mean it.

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