Thursday, August 02, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

So, in trying to get back to the Frugality/ Savings theme; I had thought I was finished with food subject but then it occurred to me; I had never gone over frugality of food itself and avoiding waste, which can be a huge cost to a lot of people.  I hope I'm not repeating myself on this one too much but if I am just overlook me.  I did a little research and the results were kinda sickening.  In the US, food is second only to paper products in the amounts of thrown away.  They estimate that for EVERY American there is 400 pounds of food discarded every year.  They also estimate that each family in America wastes between $500-2,000 each year by throwing food away.  This is generally food that was bought but allowed to rot or expire before being used or food that was prepared but thrown out because no one wanted to eat leftovers.  Now, this is a BIG pet peeve of mine; especially when it is an animal product that is being thrown away.  It's bad enough the way most factory farmed animals are raised but then to have their abused bodies just thrown in the trash because somebody didn't want a leftover hamburger......well, let's just say it gets to me a little.  But even if that aspect of it doesn't concern you, the way food prices are skyrocketing, any waste, for any reason, is cause for concern.
Let me relate a little anecdote to illustrate my point.  Allen and I have both worked in other people's houses for years doing repair or remodeling work, both together and on our own.  We have worked for the super rich and the desperately poor.  Now, in the poor's case it was the landlords paying for the repairs etc., as you might expect.  In all of our experiences we always noticed one thing.  If you were in a poor person's house you would almost always find loose change laying around the house; on the floor, on tables, behind appliances, wherever.  I never recall seeing money laying around a wealthy person's house.  And no, I'm not blaming these poor people's total circumstances on a few dimes here and there but there is a significant point to be made.  If you think a little waste here and a little waste there don't matter, you're wrong.  Little bits add up fast and to a greater extent than we might realize.  When you have to throw food away, not only have you wasted your initial investment but you often have to buy a replacement.  And then there is just buying unnecessary things.
I cringe to think I used to buy chicken broth.  I'm almost embarrassed to admit that.  It is SO freaking easy to make chicken broth.  I bake a whole chicken and we eat on that for 2-3 days.  If we get tired of baked chicken I make chicken salad or chicken enchiladas or whatever.  As we eat I save the bones by putting them in a baggy in the fridge.  If it's going to take a while to collect enough or I already have broth made I store the baggy in the freezer and just add to it.  Then when I need broth just pull the bones out and presto!! fresh broth!  Then, in the winter, those used bones get thrown in the wood-burning stove and their ashes get put on the garden.  I try to use every part of any animal that comes into this house.  Fat, broth, scraps go into dog food if we don't eat it.
If we have a glut of some veggie or fruit I freeze, dry or can it if we can't eat it all then.  Jack and I have butted heads more than once over leftovers.  He will eat them but thinks after one day they are no good and will throw them to the animals.  This pisses me off.  I generally cook so that we don't have tons of leftovers ,but if they are refrigerated promptly, leftovers can last up to a week with no problem.  If you cook just a plain roast or whole chicken one night you can spice it up into something else the next night.  You don't have to eat it the same way every time.  I generally eat most leftovers for lunch the next day anyway and that's a great way to use them if you take your lunch to work.  Or even if you don't!
I think another horrible waste area is where people freeze stuff and it stays in there for years.  If it's ever cleaned out it's thrown away.  I try to rotate my freezer stuff regularly, keeping the oldest stuff up front where I can see it.  It's not terribly hard to do.  For example, I stack all my veggies separated by type.  Like all corn in this stack and all beans over here etc.  Dating the packages is essential as you would guess, and then just pull the older bag off the bottom or put the new on the bottom when you put it up.  I keep all my meats separated too; that way you can easily tell how much of what you have and plan accordingly.  It's easy to work out a system that works for you.  I know I look at things differently and my methods may not make sense to some.  The main thing is just date everything and keep it halfway organized.
Another area some may not think about is recipes.  What I mean is, if you don't have a certain item that is not essential, just substitute what you do have rather than go buy the other.  For instance, I found a fabulous recipe for an apricot cobbler.  Well, I didn't have apricots but had tons of peaches and it was great.  Now, that was a no-brainer but you can get really creative with substitutions.  I mean, I've even read about people substituting large mushrooms for hamburger patties.  Why not?!
I also don't pay a tremendous amount of attention to expiration dates.  Now, I don't make Jack eat rotten food or anything like that but I have found, by doing a little reading, that soured milk makes GREAT pancakes or other breads.  One word of caution on that though; I only use organic, non-homogenized and barely pasteurized milk.  I would never try that with the ultra-sterilized, homogenized fake milk crap.  And I mean, soured milk not spoiled rotten, chunky milk.  That gets poured on the garden on the rare occasion I have any.  It usually never gets to that point though!

So, I think that is really about it on the food topic.  I will try to be back soon with another subject for ya'll!!


ErinFromIowa said...

You are preaching to the choir here Annie! This site is where I go to first when I do not know how to do something. It has some excellent advice on food safety.
Are you familiar with Sonny Landreth? How did I not know of him and his musical skills all this time?
Garden update: going to yank a tomato plant and plant zucchini in the pot. We shall see. ;)

Woody said...

Great point about the loose change.

We waste little. What gets "thrown out" is feed to dogs, chickens, pigs or the compost pile. Theresa gets a little irritated when I save odd ends of lumber and hardware, but I have used so much of these items over the years. I have occasionally folded under pressure to clean out a hardware bin, with the criteria that if it hasn't been used in ten years it should go. Never fails that I find a need for a culled item shortly after the purge.

HermitJim said...

All very good points, my friend! I am one of those that love leftovers...always have!

Some things just seem to taste better after the first day.

Cooking just the right amount to avoid waste is an art form, I think!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

While I agree with Erin's comment about you preaching to the choir here, Annie, I also feel there's always something new to learn. Sadly, we have sometimes wasted food by buying too much of something, but within the past few months we are buying less and saving $ too. It's become a sort of game to stick within a weekly shopping budget. Leftovers are great for all the reasons you described and also for not having to cook as much for a day or so. The trick as HermitJim noted is to know just the right amount to cook!

Ed said...

We end up throwing out some food especially since we don't have animals to feed it too but not much. I hate throwing away money and that is what it is.

This morning we had banana muffins made from some almost too far gone bananas. Man were they good.

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! that looks like a great site! thanks for the link.
The name Sonny Landreth sounds very familiar... hmm.

Hey Woody! Yeah, it frustrates me because Jack will save every last tin can or bottle but will throw food out to the animals in a heartbeat. I'm like WTH?? lol!

Hey Jim! I like leftovers too! they are good, sometimes better like you say.

Hey Bea! I kinda look at it as a game too; to see just how far I can go or use something else or whatever.

Hey Ed! yes, it is basically throwing money away. I know our animals profit from our discards so it's not really wasted but I still am stingy! lol!

Frugal Canadian Hermit said...

I could'nt even imagine throwing away 400 pounds of food per year myself. I can see it being done though. There is the odd occasion where I might have to throw food away, but I'll bet it don't add up to 5-10 lbs per year. It's very seldom. I usually cook just the right amount of food for each occasion, but I do love left overs too, and can't imagine anyone not. It's so tastey and simple. Pull it out of the fridge and nuke it. Life just don't get better than that, does it? Well ok, there are things I can think of that do get better, but not many.

Aunty Belle said...

OH goodness--this is an inspirational post. Uncle an I doan get a gold star, but let's jes' say I'se conscious of what I do wif' food.

First thang is , I deliberately cook too much--two chickens, extra pork chops--whatever, because we have some for leftovers, I freeze for later in the month. I do this reasons other than food frugality, though that is in mah haid too--but I does it to cut down on electric bill, an' to have "spare" dinners in the freezer when I'se too busy to cook, or to give when somebody is injured, has a new baby, etc.

Worst failure is lettin' various types crackers go stale--but the birds will eat iffin' I cain't use 'em in somethin'.

I hate throwin' out veggies and fruits--so I use a special agricultural (natural!) rinse that prevents mold or fungus--stuff keeps for 10 days at least, often more. I save heels of celery, carrots, stems of broccoli an' asparagus, parts of onions to make a veggie broth that I cook rice in or make into hearty vegetable soups with dried beans.

I use coffee grounds in the roses, banana peels on orchids, egg shells go in water that is poured on houseplants, all else goes in compost.

I ain't so committed when it comes to other stuff--need to reform--but seems to me that food is a sort of trust. It is the fruit of other's efforts, it is worthy of respect.

Jes' because it is purty, I recycle gift wrapping material--ribbons, tissue, bags, paper--and will even wrap gifts in newspaper--sports section or stock reports fer fellas. Inside out grocery bags doubles as mailing paper or wrapping paper, if not used to drain fried catfish, that is. Heh.

But....I'se guilty. Youse gonna see loose change 'round heah--

edifice rex said...

Hey Aunty! good to hear from you! well, they's exceptions to every rule, you know..;) I'm sure ya'll look after your finances pretty well.
All those are great points on the food and scraps! I do "overcook" sometimes myself in order to put some away for later and doing that to conserve energy with the stove is a very good idea. thanks!

edifice rex said...

Hey Mark! didn't mean to skip you dude! lol! yeah, leftovers are great!! I don't see why some people turn their nose up either.
I seldom throw food out myself but I bet it adds up to more than I would like anyway..but then, some animal gets ours in some form so I guess it's not wasted, in a way. :)