Challenging Normal: Do You Need a Toaster?

I am not a morning person. Neither are my daughters. We usually keep breakfast quick and simple around here on weekday mornings. This often means cereal or bagels, but recently I bought some frozen waffles because my three-year-old is in love with waffles, and I just don't have the energy to make waffles from scratch most mornings. 

For months I wavered over the idea of frozen waffles because we don't have a toaster.

I'm sure we are not unique in the small home community in this respect. Toasters cause a fairly significant energy spike: we are hooked up to the electric grid, but a lot of tiny housers have to be very mindful about energy consumption in their small spaces.

Then of course there is the issue of space itself. A toaster is not huge, but it does take up a fair amount of real estate in a tiny kitchen.

The space issue is what ultimately led us to do away with our own toaster, but it was not an easy decision for us. It amuses me now that we waited so long to go toaster-free, but at the time it seemed a little crazy. Everyone has a toaster, right? It's one of the first things that you register for when you get married. (Right after the blender, which we won't be getting rid of any time soon.) Could we really get by without one?

It took me a little while to get used to using the oven or stove top to toast bread, and I will be the first to admit that I don't really understand the energy ramifications of this decision. We have a propane stove, so the raw electrical consumption is not easy for me to calculate and compare. I do know that when I use the toaster, I can only toast two things at a time. For a family of four, this means multiple toaster cycles. With the oven, I can toast enough for everyone at once, and if I am already using the oven for something else, throwing in a few slices of bread is about as energy efficient as it gets. I would be curious to see the actual numbers, but I don't dwell on it too much. I like to think that the lower environmental impact of owning a small home kind of balances out any increased energy usage associated with not owning a toaster.

I usually turn on the oven at 350 degrees and put the bread in while it is warming up, and then at the five minute mark, I flip the bread and turn off the oven. It reaches the perfect toastiness after sitting in the residual heat for another two or three minutes, but of course every oven and slice of bread--or waffle--is different. (In other words, don't blame me if you burn your toast!)

As I pulled a couple of waffles out of the freezer this morning, I was reminded once again that living in a small home requires us to ditch some of the assumptions that we make about what is necessary for comfortable living. I don't miss my toaster at all these days, and I think it's funny that I once thought that I needed one.