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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

A confession

Yesterday I believe I failed to really express the point of what I was explaining. My point was that we throw away far too much food in America simply because of a date stamp.  At no time in our history have we ever bought so much only to throw it in the trash. The amount of food thrown away in America could possibly feed a whole other country.   Hmm.... quite possibly more than one.

Several months ago I was reading a cookbook I got from the library.  It was published right after WWll when food was really scarce and being rationed all over the world.  I can't remember the name of the book but a quote from it went like this..... "if every household in America saved the grain of just one slice of bread a day for a week, we could send enough grain to foreign countries to produce 1,000,000 loaves of  bread for starving people" which really got me thinking about how we live today.  With even more families in America today, than there were back then, the amount of grain saved would be much higher than that. 

We live by a stamp on a package rather than our own knowledge about food safety.  Yes, the date stamp is useful, but at the same time it shouldn't be our only way of knowing when food is not safe to eat.  We have lost our ability to know how long food can last, what to do with it before it goes bad, and how to buy only enough for our need. 

We (the older generations) have failed to remember how we used food in different ways until the last bit was eaten.  We have also failed to teach this knowledge to our younger generations.  When I talk about frugal meals on this blog I don't mean skimpy, full of filler meals.  I mean using and serving hearty food until it's all eaten.  Here's just one example to give you an idea of what I mean. 

The life of a loaf of bread
Day 1 it's served fresh with a meal. 
Day 2 it's sliced for sandwiches. 
Day 3 it's soaked in eggs and fried. 
Day 4 it's made into a soup or a pudding. 
Day 5 it's made into croutons 
Day 6 it's ground up into crumbs to coat a meat or used as a casserole topping. 
Day 7 it's last remaining crumbs are added to a new loaf of bread 

By the end of day six there should be nothing left of that loaf of bread except a few crumbs.  There are many variations for the life of a loaf of bread but you should see my meaning.  Today, instead of using bread until every crumb is gone, there are people who throw half a loaf away and buy another loaf.  Not everyone; though there are plenty who do. 

Throwing food away, like we do today, is not sustainable.  The fields are being overworked to produce ever more throw away foods.  Chemicals are put on the fields to help grow crops and the chemicals are poisoning us.  Even as I do my house clean out I'm painfully aware of the amount of food I'm giving away to charity.  I should never have bought so much food in the first place unless my intention was to donate.  The cost of food is getting higher and higher which means more of our earnings are going toward the purchase of food and less for other things. 

 Other countries are depending on our food more and more.  There are countries of starving people.  I keep wondering..... will there be a war over food someday in the future?  Not tomorrow or the next week or next year but maybe eventually?   

Up until about the time of the economic down turn of 2008 my food budget was an average of $10 a week and I ate really well.  Somewhere along my way I started spending a lot more than that and blamed it on the cost of food getting higher instead of my own failures.  What I failed to remember was how I managed to spend only ten a week and eat everyday.

True, I did buy a lot of discounted foods.  I could find much more of it back then.  These days I believe more people are taking a second look at discounted foods because of the economy.  This makes the discounted foods more scarce.  I believe if I really try, I can get back to a smaller food budget.  I don't think I can get back to $10 a week but I can surely do much better than I've been doing the last couple of years.

What I can do is make better use of the food I do purchase until there is nothing left of it.  It won't be easy for me because I hate cooking for just one.  I'm going to go back through my old cookbooks to help my senior memory remember the way we did our cooking back when I was young.   I don't want to turn this blog into a food blog either.  It's supposed to be all kinds of ways I save money.  At the same time I believe the quickest way to start saving money is in the kitchen. 

Older cookbooks have recipes for using foods we don't think of today. Someone asked about how short dated milk is used other than drinking.  Well, I can use it for gravy or in sauces.  Next I can make cottage cheese which is super simple to do.  I can make some other kinds of cheese as well, like mozzarella, and even hard cheese if I have the right supplies.  My Grandma Mama used milk to make house paint but I don't think I will go that far myself.  

Here, let me show you an example of one of my old cookbooks.  It's from 1963. 

Have a look at an example of what's inside.  Frugal cooking was the theme of the book.

Look at the bottom chapter on this page.   The recipes were "easy on the bank" which is what we call "the budget" today.

Here's another page in the book.  Notice that leftovers were used until the last bite was eaten.

The older generation (like me) has failed to teach our children the value of being thrifty, frugal, conservative, sustainable, green living, or whatever it's called these days.   Too many years we've listened to the ads telling us to buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend.  We've been told "there's plenty more where that came from so throw it away and you can buy more". 

I don't want to live that way anymore!  I don't believe "there's plenty more" is going to be there for us in the future.  I want to go back to a simpler life.  I want a life where the stuff I own has real meaning to me instead of the stuff owning me. 

When my generation was young we ate foods that young people of today hear about and say.... eeewww!  you really ate that?  Foods like beef tongue sandwiches, rabbit stew, fried squirrel for breakfast instead of bacon or sausage and many other foods like that.   When I was young we knew how to make our own lunch meats and hot dogs.  We made a lot of things that are considered convenience foods today. 

Ok, I could go on and on about the past but my work is not getting done with me sitting here type-talking.  I hope I've explained a little better what I was talking about yesterday.


kathi said...

MARK DOWN MEAT. or CLEARANCE MEAT. let me tell ya. THAT is what i GO FOR. i mean if a package of pork bits WAS five bucks. but i can get it for THREE. i'm GOING THERE. My baby girl looks AGHAST at me. one day she thought i was going to "fight down" a little old lady for a BIG PACKAGE of PORK STEAKS. i waited. i let the dear lady look. but THE SECOND she PASSED BY.. they were MINEEE. you USE em. you repackage them. you freeze them. and LIFE IS GOOD. I AM so EXCITED as my OTHER daughter "fessed" MOM. i ALWAYS look for the CLEARANCE MEAT. yup.. SOME of them LISTEN. giggle.

jillyヅ said...

I believe that even without a date stamp, far too many throw out food. I know we do. Too lazy to cook sometimes, so we go out to eat, and then what is in the fridge goes to waste. We have really been trying to work on this, and it is shocking the amount we do waste some weeks.


Joyful said...

Well said. It sounds like I need to visit again and see what I can learn. Kudos to you.