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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Normalizing a Waste-Nothing Mindset

There is nothing sensational about this photo's subject matter to other frugal warriors. It's half of a banana and a large bite of cornbread under a glass bowl sitting on my placemat. I eventually ate the cornbread bite as a pre-dinner snack yesterday and the half-banana will be used in tomorrow's smoothie.

Our whole family does this all of the time. If we can't finish what we've started, we refrigerate perishables or leave less perishable remnants at our places at the table.

When my son was a small boy, any leftovers from meals were reincarnated into his next meal's offerings. So, a partially eaten apple might become a personal mini-microwaved apple crisp, while a couple of bites of meatloaf might be reheated and served with toast for breakfast the next morning. Even a partial glass of milk became cocoa for breakfast or a "milkshake" with lunch. My kids simply grew up with this, so it never seemed yucky or strange to them. 

Both my husband and I grew up in never-waste families. Part of that was due to the times, and part was due to a lot of mouths to feed in my husband's family. (At one point, both grandmas lived with the family of 5 children.)

We try to be careful not to over-serve ourselves, but sometimes even our adult eyes are too big for our stomachs. We just try to not let those occasions become a source of waste. Anyway, I know that you all do some rendition of preventing wasted food similar to this. Every once in a while, I just like to say that part of frugality out loud. Non-frugal folks might not understand, perhaps thinking it better to throw out food remnants than to have them hanging around for a few hours or a day. But you all get it, right? It simply makes me feel better about our stewardship of our tiny sliver of the world's food supply.


  1. I agree! Both our parents lived during a time when food was scarce so they wasted nothing and that's how we grew up. I still do the same now as well as when the children were young. I told my kids "you'll eat it one way or another"! Something not eaten was always transformed into a more desirable offering. Yesterday part of a loaf of bread started to mold and after analyzing and finding out only the bottom was turning I cut the bad part out and made french toast. Also, some leftover smoked grilled steak (discounted meat) turned into a second meal of stir fry. The first night was smoked on the smoker. I also have leftover smoked chicken that I need to turn into something for tonight. My brother's lady friend throws away all uneaten food from every meal because she doesn't like to eat leftovers. This is also why I like buying discounted fruits and veggies at stores because I know there is a way I can make something delicious out of someone else's discards. And we haven't died yet from eating something less than perfect.

    1. Hi Alice,
      I like your take on buying discounted produce, keeping it out of the trash because you are willing to put it to good use. I think the perfect-looking produce we've become accustomed to seeing in markets for decades has made us think that only perfect fruits and vegetables are delicious or healthy. I'm glad that you're trying to use the stuff that others will pass over.

  2. I love this, too. We (hubs and I) are notorious leftover eaters. That is how I raised our five kids as well. However, they don't adhere to it as adults. It is painful to see the waste but they know that we will eat anything left so we are the recipients of quite a few meals - both purchased and home cooked. I don't understand it. They are the ones with the tightest budget but will throw money at fast food and then not eat all of it. We do have a lot of gene pools we are dealing with (we have five adopted children) - but at least they know our values. Thanks for the post!

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      I don't understand it either. When we've eaten in restaurants, my husband and I have been appalled and amazed by the amount food that is left on others' tables to be throw out. We always, always ask for a bag or foil and take home absolutely everything that is not liquid and would be thrown out after our meal. I sometimes feel like the server thinks we're being cheap to take home bread from a bread basket, but the thought of throwing it out sounds like a terribly wasteful idea. Your kids may come around at some point. It takes some of us longer to learn some of life's lessons than it does others. But yes, lucky for you as you get all of their leftovers!

  3. Oops, my clumsy fingers just lost my comment. Anyway, no surprise that I do this as well. I was frustrated this past weekend. I worked most of the weekend and we had potlucks to make it more fun. My coworkers kept leaving baked products uncovered and I was making jokes about being the mom and covering them back up. I wonder how much food goes to waste simply because people don't take simple steps to keep the food safe and fresh. And now I will end my rant.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Good for you! You know my first thought -- you work in a healthcare setting and we're just coming out of a pandemic. So why would anyone who presumably has healthcare protocols in the back of their minds not cover food back up at a potluck after serving themselves? Plus the bonus is the food is more appealing later on, not dried out, etc. I'm glad you were being the "mom". And others may follow suit at some point, seeing your example.

  4. Add me to the crowd of eating everything on your plate - however not at once if you're not that hungry, so as not to encourage overeating. That's the way my mother did it and the way I did it with my kids, and we continue that today. Great minds...

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I think that's a balanced way to approach it -- eat it all, eventually, but not forced in one sitting. Yep -- great minds . . .


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