waste not want not

On a cold February night when I was home from college, my family and I enjoyed a venison meatloaf dinner; mashed potatoes, broccoli, all the good stuff. As my sister and I were cleaning up, she dumped the remaining meatloaf in the trash can. “What are you doing?!” I cried, “that’s good meat, we can eat it for lunch tomorrow” I chided her as I scooped the meatloaf out of the trashcan (for the record it was just sitting on top of some crumpled napkins. I realized this still may not decrease the grossness factor for some). Her fiancee looked on in horror, water dripping onto the floor from the dish he was drying- “you just picked up that meat from the trash can, that’s disgusting.”  So then I was peer pressured/shamed into keeping it in the trash rather than rescuing it for meatloaf sandwiches the next day.

I should tell you, before you think I’m totally nast that I have an extreme disgust of mold/rotten food. A bad incident with some fruitflies/limes/cornona bottles in college produced me seeing a hotpocket once more than should have been viewed after I caught a whiff of the mold. I have a gag reflex sometimes when I even think about mold.

With that said, I also hate wasting food. When we came home from a conference last week I found some yummy tamales I had meant to put in the freezer still sitting in our fridge. The conversation with my husband went like this:

J: do you want some tamales for lunch?

D: Ummm, aren’t those like 6 days old?

J: Yeah, but I’m sure they’re o.k. I’ll just make some guacamole to put on top of them (like this would help?)

D: Jess, they have chicken in them. Meat goes bad after a few days.

J: Well, let’s just look it up. (This is how we usually solve our fights. The iphone is a tremendous boon to our marriage) Typing in “how long does meat keep in the fridge” ensues on the search engines on both of our macbooks. Dave finds a site that says no longer than 2-3 days. I find one that says 3-4.

J: See, it’s only been 5 days since I bought the tamales! I’m sure once I microwave them, they’ll be fine!

D: We have enough going on this week that I don’t really want to take the risk getting food poisoning. If you want to, go ahead. Since when did you become the person that wants to eat old food?

Scowling, I threw away the tamales and grumbled about it the whole time. 

So, now you might think I’m nasty AND cheap. And, yes, part of the reason I hate wasting food is that I feel like it’s throwing away money. And I think about the people in the world who don’t have the option to throw away even the things I compost.  Though it sounds cheesy and trite like when my mom said it after I wouldn’t finish my lasagna “there are starving children in the world” it’s still true today, just like it was back in 1985.  

One of my friends in Philly has gotten creative about not wasting food. timmy cookin' it upWhen we visited his community house last summer, he pulled open his freezer & proudly showed us his gourmet selection of meat, bread & other items. “all of it was free!” Dave, always one for a bargain, asked “what do you mean free?” Our friend timmy then explained how he and his housemates are “freegans” (here is the wiki link for a longer explaination: and basically collect food that stores in the area are throwing away that will expire the next day. So none of it has actually gone bad, but the stores will be liable if anyone buys it and it goes bad a few days later. I give them props for being creative about not wasting even though I don’t think I could get up at 2am to dumpster dive for about to expire english muffins.

So, what do you hate wasting? Food? Time? Water? What has been the most creative way that you’ve used up leftovers?The most creative thing I did lately to not waste food was to use quinoa from dinner the night before for breakfast the next morning. We were leaving for a trip that day, so I just heated the quinoa and ate it like oatmeal with raisins and milk. It was actually pretty good & really healthy!


  • akentuckycreation

    I also hate to waste food. They call me the Kitchen McGiver ( if you are too young to know what that means, Google McGiver). I have a lot of recipes/menu plans on my site that actually use leftovers for another meal. I hope you will check it out. I don’t think I would dumpster dive, but most of the meat in my freezer has the red price tags where it is outdating that day. If you use it that day or freeze you are fine.

  • Grace

    wow, this is nothing, yall would think Dave & I are downright disgusting… we eat stuff WAY older than that…. especially Dave. I grew up poor & hun-ga-ree… I don’t throw nothin’ away, unless it’s beyond nasty, molding & un-edible… & I’m still alive. Shoot, I would ate those tamales. 🙂

  • Lisa

    I agree with Grace and I grew up in the burbs. Oddly enough, my parents through out everything. It drives me nuts. That meatloaf thing could have happened in their home, but I don’t get why. Is it so terrible to have to eat one small piece of meatloaf by itself the next day? I don’t get it.

    I mean, we do waste some food (especially fresh stuff when we go out of town or end up not eating at home for a stretch) but we really try to avoid wasting it. I even freeze the milk before a trip. It lasts past its expiration date if you freeze it and come home.

    I’d much rather waste time, water, or electricity than food. I guess it’s just the stupidity to me of buying more food when you have perfectly good food to eat that you just simple chose not to eat that really gets to me. Like why do we go grocery shopping to buy new food when we have old food to eat first? Or why go out to eat so that your dinner from a few nights ago can rot? Hate that feeling.

  • April

    I would have eaten the tamales!! My rule: don’t eat something on the same day of the week. So, if you made something on Monday, you can eat it any day until Monday comes back again.

    I, too, think about the poor kids with the distended bellies when I toss extras into the compost. And I wish that we could have a super-cool Star Trek transporter that could wisk my extra food to the kids on the other side of the world. Heck, I’d make them a meal every week if I could do that!

  • Cindy

    I am sitting in Kampala, Uganda after spending a week in Mbale where I witnessed true hunger every day. Women and children pawing through garbage, crying babies with gnawing hunger. I learned years ago that you waste nothing in Africa. For example when I was teaching women to make vegetable pies, I was chopping a pepper and scooped out the seeds and the whiter flesh and proceeded to through it away. The women asked, “What are you doing?” I said, “We don’t eat this part in the U.S.” They responded, “We do!” When I returned to the U.S. I really tried to not waste food and composted all of our scraps to make rich compost for the gardens. Since I have been teaching food safety and hygiene for many years, I would hav smelled the tamales and found out if they had been refrigerated immediately after the first meal. But I have a really good sniffer as opposed to my younger sister who often eats food beyond the point of no return and her kids end up with “flu” which most likely is food poisoning. Regarding how God has spoken to me about waste and hunger: what is enough for you? Peace.

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