I love making meals out of nothing! It's so rewarding. I don't know if you've seen those cute little BluApples in the Simple Savings Ye Olde Shoppe but I thought I was pretty good at not wasting food until I read the product write-up. It made me realise that I was actually still wasting a lot more food than I thought - and a lot of money. My bank manager asked me just yesterday how I was finding life living in town compared to the farming life we left almost three years ago and as I thought back to how different things were - free eggs, unlimited beef and lamb, two hugely productive vegetable gardens and an orchard full of fruit trees - I had to admit that our food costs had at least doubled, even tripled. Obviously we knew at the time what we were leaving behind and that our living costs were going to increase but we certainly didn't predict they would increase by that much. And here was I until recently still throwing out food!
It's funny how sometimes you can read or hear about something and it strikes a chord at the time but it's not until later that you really take the information on board. There are two things which have really had an effect on my not wasting a single morsel lately - apart from the obvious change in income - and both of them have come from Simple Savings. One demonstrates the financial cost in the food we waste and the other relays the amount of time and effort that goes into producing the food, only for it to be thrown away. I remember reading a Vault tip a long time ago now - I think it might have even been a Hint of the Week - called 'Stop wasting food with a penalty tin', In order to stop wasting so much food the contributor began fining herself the actual amount of whatever it was she threw out - even if it was half a bottle of something she would have to put half the purchase price into the penalty tin. At the time I thought 'wow, what a great idea, I should do that!' and promptly did nothing about it. But now, all this time later I am keeping it in mind every time I go to the fridge or pantry. Whilst I don't have a penalty tin, I'm staunch about not wasting a single thing. No WAY am I going to throw out something I've paid for! Whatever it takes, I'll find a way to use it up. I have a 'soup bag' in the fridge where I pop in all sorts of odds and sods such as bacon rind, a wrinkly carrot or a wilty celery stalk and use them to make soup. My fridge even has a 'crumble drawer'! In this goes all the fruit that is past its best, or been battered around in the boys' lunch boxes and brought home. This has always been a problem particularly with apples in our house but now I just add them to the drawer and when I get enough to make a crumble the boys get a yummy dessert. Mango's, pears, peaches, nectarines, they never get the same crumble twice but they love them all!
The second thing which has made a real difference comes from one of Fiona's past newsletter articles where she talks about Mother Nature destroying Australia's banana crop a couple of years ago. Obviously this was terrible for consumers as the price of bananas went through the roof but most of all I remember feeling dreadful for the growers. This was their livelihood destroyed. So much time, so much effort went into growing those crops, only for it all to go to waste. Ever since then, I have had flashes of conscience. Whether it's been an apple or half a tub of cream cheese I've thrown out, I get a real attack of the guilts. Someone has put time and effort into making and growing this product, only for me to throw it away. What a shame. What a waste of all that time. How disrespectful of me. What right do I have to treat the food someone else has grown and made as though it's nothing? Except since my change in circumstances its not just the odd flash of conscience; it's become constantly ingrained. Being the emotional, marshmallow hearted wee thing that I am, I just can't bring myself to waste anything any more. I kid you not, I was almost in tears this morning when I put two bread crusts that were beyond saving down the waste disposal. And as for all the cherry tomatoes in the garden that had fallen off and rotted after the rain, I was devastated. All that time growing in our garden, planted and nurtured by Noel, never to be picked and enjoyed as they were intended. I blamed myself for not getting to them fast enough. Poor little tomatoes! And I felt that I had let Noel down as the grower. The only comforting thought was that these little tomatoes scattered on the ground were full of seeds that would grow lots and lots of new little tomatoes so their lives had not been totally in vain. Told you I was an emotional wee thing didn't I!
Anyway, soft hearted I may be but nonetheless I pride myself on not wasting ANYTHING any more. I am the queen of diversifying! When I ran out of bread I made cheese scones using Sophie Gray's three-ingredient recipe from the $21 Challenge book. When I made butter chicken and realised too late to my horror that I had no cream, I used up the last of the natural yoghurt and nobody knew the difference. The other night I made an amazing chicken pie out of leftovers. I had no bacon like the recipe said. I had no mushrooms like the recipe said. Just chicken - oh and a piece of watery pumpkin. But what I did have was a packet of onion soup, so I threw that in with the watery pumpkin and chopped onion and a pinch of mixed herbs. And it was MAGIC!
Since the streaky bacon episode I've got a bit braver about sneaking foods into Liam from the 'forbidden list'. I realise that evening meals are a bit of a write-off when it comes to getting him to eat vegetables but there's nothing stopping me from cramming his sandwiches with salad and they all get wolfed down. I have also learned that if I want Liam to eat salad with his evening meal I must not put them on the table so he can help himself. Not a chance - but if I put them on his PLATE, then he eats them! Still nothing, and I mean nothing, even my fabulous pie could get him to eat pumpkin, no matter how small and well hidden it was! At least it meant more for the dogs - yes I ran out of dog food too so I cooked up some pasta odds and ends and added some leftovers to it. Even the last scraps of meat on the drumsticks that I made for dinner two nights before and had already cut off the bulk of the meat to make my pie got turned into chicken noodle soup. I realise that for many SS'ers this is no doubt already second nature but for me it's a journey of discovery and I'm loving it!
My favourite domestic triumph so far though was last night when I was giving the pantry a quick tidy up and came across three squashed mini sized Moro bars brought home from a past hunting or fishing trip. I was about to throw them out - no way would the boys entertain the idea of a flattened chocolate bar in their lunch box - but then I had an idea. What about if they were all nice and melted in the middle of a muffin? Surely someone else would have thought of that before? I hopped online and Googled 'moro bar muffins' and there were HEAPS of results. I chose this recipe, chopped each squashed mini bar into quarters and 20 minutes later there were a dozen delicious, golden, tempting looking muffins cooling on the bench. Waste not, want not, yippee!