How I Learned to Do Without 5 Common Kitchen Appliances

updated Jul 14, 2023
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Credit: Emily Han

There are certain kitchen essentials we can’t live without — whether those are the tools that are simply indispensable in daily cooking, or the special notes that make our favorite room of the house more beautiful.

Somewhere in the middle there’s a blurry area where those necessary kitchen items fade into ones that make cooking a little easier and more convenient. But they’re not necessary, of course, and at various times of my adult life there have been a handful of common kitchen appliances that I’ve done without. Here’s how I learned to live without some appliances that, at other times of my life, I’ve taken for granted.

Kitchen Appliances: Why Less Is More

When I first moved to New York my kitchen was tiny. Like, really tiny. It was maybe 10 square feet, and that’s being generous. It forced me to prioritize and be selective about the tools and appliances I brought into my kitchen.

Years later, that mindset has stuck with me (for the most part) as I’ve moved on to larger kitchens. Now I value open counter space and modestly filled cabinets rather than stocking up on tools I might like to have but aren’t an absolute necessity. But there was a learning process as I found other ways to get things done without these lovely — but ultimately, not necessary — tools.

1. Stand Mixer

For a long time I didn’t have a stand mixer, and it was simply a matter of lack of space. I didn’t have the space to store it, and I certainly did not have the counter space for it.

How did I do without? The old-fashioned way. I learned to rely on a handheld mixer or wooden spoon to mix cookies, I kneaded bread on the countertop, and I worked on my arm muscles when it came time to make whipped cream.

What I learned about cooking without a stand mixer

Most recipes that call for a stand mixer can be easily adapted to either a hand mixer, a food processor, or simple hand-stirring.

2. Microwave

I got rid of my microwave years ago. Sure it’s convenient, but if it’s not built-in under a cabinet, that microwave takes up a lot of counter space.

How did I do without it? I learned to rely on the stovetop and oven for reheating and cooking food. You definitely don’t need a microwave to reheat a slice of pizza. This can take more time, but often the food tastes even better when heated up this way.

What I learned about doing without a microwave

Heat leftovers in a saucepan on the stove. Crisp up sandwiches in a skillet or on a griddle.

3. Food Processor

There’s no denying that this is one super handy tool with many uses. But again, it takes up a lot of space, and I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to buy one.

I’ve learned instead to rely on my blender as a substitute. It chops, purees, and does just about everything I’d use a food processor for.

What I learned about doing without a food processor

A blender can handle pureeing and blending. For chopping and shredding vegetables, the tradeoff is time — you can do it by hand, with your trusty chefs knife.

4. Toaster

The truth is: You don’t actually need a toaster to make great toast. Great toast starts with great bread, and from there there are several equally good ways to finish the job.

When I decided to do without the single-use toaster, I learned instead to make toast in a skillet on the stovetop. It’s easier than you might think, and it makes the most unbelievable toast. If you enjoy crispy edges on your toast, a few minutes under the broiler is another great solution.

What I learned about doing without a toaster

The stovetop, the broiler, heck even the grill (if you have one) can make great toast.

5. Dishwasher

Here’s one kitchen feature that most people would prefer not to live without. But as much as we all hold this appliance near and dear, it’s not absolutely necessary.

I’ve spent most of my adult life without this helpful appliance, and as many of you who don’t have dishwashers can attest, a soapy sponge and a little elbow grease get the job done just fine. Even better? Get someone to help.

What I learned about doing without a dishwasher

Well, let’s get honest here — there’s not a lot to learn. My main advice? Get some help.

What kitchen features do you love but feel like you could live without (even though you really don’t want to)? Have you found smart ways to cook quickly without the modern conveniences of these appliances?