I grew up in the “waste not, want not” generation. You didn’t waste time, or money or especially, food. I’ve eaten many a rotten apple rather than throw it away because that would waste the good part. In earlier days we were always admonished to eat every thing; the “clean-plate club” was made up of a virtuous group indeed. We were coaxed into eating the last kernel of corn and grain of rice with the reminder “Think of the poor starving children in (a) Europe (b) China (c) down South. My grandmother, whose knowledge of geography was severely limited had us worrying about the poor starving children in Utopia. Finicky attitudes toward food were not tolerated, at least among children. My mother allowed each child
one item of food from which to be exempt from eating: mine was bananas. Everything else, including liver, had to be consumed without complaint.
To this day something nags at me when I scrape perfectly good food into the garbage. If no one’s looking I might add some chicken broth to that uneaten squash and voila! Soup for lunch!
A compost heap eases the conscience somewhat. The stuff that goes there will serve a new useful purpose in the spring.
When I lived in Germany, my landlords told me to help myself to the ton of potatoes they put in the cellar every fall. But don’t eat the good ones, they advised, they would last longer. So we ate semi-rotten potatoes all winter while waiting for the good ones to go bad.
Because we had no running hot water, we never threw clean hot water down the drains. The buckets we put on our coal stove each morning held water that would be used to heat the baby’s bottle before my husband shaved with it. To this day I look around for another use for clean boiling hot water that has served its primary function, such as hard-boiling some eggs.
I have a friend who uses the water that the broccoli was boiled in to feed her plants.
All those plastic things that come into our house usually get to live another life. The container that the cottage cheese came in can be used to hold that left-over squash that will one day be soup.
My freezer is full of mystery food: little dabs of things that I forgot to label. I told my husband that when I die, he should throw it all out because I’m the only one with a clue as to what might be there. Or he could thaw it all out, put it into the blender and Voila! More soup!
Of course, frugality in this instance can be a bit of a curse. Not only are there many unwanted pounds in my life, but the plastic containers have taken over our limited kitchen space. Open a cabinet door and a barrage of plastic will rain on your head. I wisely have stashed the saved glass containers on lower shelves.
I remember when aluminum foil first came out, we used each piece over and over again, and the same with baggies and their offspring, zip-lock bags.
So I’ll continue to finish my milk, eat all my bread crusts and boil up chicken bones for broth. My thrifty Yankee ancestry wins again.