I try to cook as much from scratch as possible, but I do cheat sometimes, for instance using a curry sauce from a jar to add to fresh meat and veg. However, I wouldn't be without my microwave because it is brilliant for:
- making porridge and custard and thickened sauces without burning them or having them stick to the pan. Porridge can be made in the bowl you're going to eat it from and a sauce can be made in a microwavable jug so it's ready to serve. Cuts down on the washing up too.
- stewing fresh fruit. A microwave stews things beautifully because you don't have to add any extra liquid and the fruit just stews gently in its own juice.
- cooking small portions of vegetables in virtually no liquid and for minimal time, so you don't lose all the vitamins. Ideal for a couple or person living alone.
- re-heating your own home cooked food that you froze. Especially now there's just the two of us and packs of meat are too large to eat at a single sitting, I freeze the leftovers in single portions and then every so often I can have a no cooking night and still be eating home cooked food.
- thawing slices of bread. Because we eat bread so slowly, a loaf kept in the kitchen goes mouldy before we can use it all. To cut down on waste, for years I've kept bread in the freezer. Once a loaf has cooled, I slice it and freeze it. Then, using a technique similar to slate splitting, I can separate just the right number of slices and thaw them in the microwave when needed.
- speedy baked potatoes. OK, baked potatoes are probably best done slowly in the oven, but if microwaved (stab them all over before you do this!) and then rubbed with butter and popped into a hot oven for a few minutes to brown the skin, you end up with a decent replica of a real baked potato in a fraction of the time and in the summer you don't need the oven on for ages when it's hot.
So basically, don't assume that because someone has a microwave, it's just used to zap ready meals. It's another mode of cooking that has it's own particular strengths and weaknesses. If there are lots of you living in the household, a microwave isn't so useful. The way the cooking times work, by the time you've microwaved enough potatoes for 6 people, you would be better off doing them the traditional way in the oven, but for a small household, they are brilliant.