Independent Living Skills: Microwave Meals

Cooking at home can be a challenge. To keep it simple, we often think that stocking up with microwave meals is a simple way to be able to have a complete meal. It’s not always that simple.

Microwave Oven vs. Conventional Oven

First of all, most meals have two sets of instructions: Conventional Oven and Microwave Oven. A conventional oven is just the regular oven that is part of the stove. Decide which way you want to heat your meal and then find those instructions.

English: The interior of a microwave oven ‪中文(...
English: The interior of a microwave oven ‪中文(繁體)‬: 微波爐的內部 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Cooking Temperature

Second: What temperature do you need to use? For a conventional oven, you will look for a number. For a microwave, you will look for a setting such as low, high, medium, or 50% power.

Cooking Time

Third: How long do you need to cook it? There is often more than one step. Read carefully. If it says half a minute, that is the same as 30 seconds (:30) on the microwave. Do you know the difference between minutes and seconds on the microwave timer? Do you know the difference between hours and minutes on the conventional oven timer? It makes a huge difference. If you guess wrong, you could end up with burned or frozen food.

Special Instructions

Last: Look for other instructions. When a meal contains different foods in the same package, the foods often need special treatment. You might need to remove film from part of the meal, let it stand, stir, rearrange, and so on. Do you know what these words mean? If not, call someone and check. Otherwise, part of your food could be dried up or still frozen when you try to eat it.

TIP: To keep this easy, buy a single item such as one burrito, and add a salad or fresh fruit as your side dishes.


1. Before you start cooking, think of someone you could call in case you run into difficulty. You could even call them before you start and review the cooking instruction together over the phone.
2. Always stay in the kitchen when heating food. Do not leave the room. You need to be there in case the food starts to overcook. You could also forget that you are cooking if you leave the room. If you leave the oven or stove on, you could burn something or start a fire.
3. Use two hot pads or oven mitts when removing hot dishes from an oven.
4. If you burn yourself, run cold water over the burn right away. If the skin gets a blister or bubbles up, call someone for advice on what to do.
5. If something on the stove or in the oven starts smoking, turn off the oven or burner and get help.

Living on your own means cooking for yourself. It gets easier with practice, so keep trying!

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