When I was a kid, my mom would always do this:
[Sniff, sniff] “Does this smell weird to you?” or [Take a bite/sip] “Does this taste bad to you?” I would run screaming from the kitchen. She would taste it again, shrug her shoulders as if to say, “Who knows?” and throw the stuff into whatever meal she was preparing. I was suitably horrified.
I’d like to think (at the ripe old age of 26) that I’m a little older and wiser, and that I’m not so finicky as I was in my youth. But last winter I realized that I was wasting more than a little food and it didn’t feel good. I felt slightly guilty every time I found a bag of wilted lettuce or wrinkly, rubber carrots in the back of the fridge or that loaf of bread just starting to mold, but into the trash it went. I was tossing out anything that wasn’t perfect. Until one day I read an article about food waste in the UK which estimated that the average household was throwing out 25% of food purchased for consumption. I was more ashamed of the waste of the world (more specifically mine) than I was by my mother using slightly “off” food. It was one of those aha! moments where you realize you can’t carry on as you have been. I’d need to shop smarter—not buying more than I can use. But no matter how smart I shopped, there would always be less than perfect foodstuff in my fridge and pantry. I needed to get over my juvenile squeamishness—there’s nothing wrong with a limp carrot.
These days, my conscience doesn’t have to work overtime and I can honestly say that – although the food coming out of my kitchen is often the product of questionable, debatable and suspicious origins – life (and the food I’m eating) has never been better.
I so get were you are coming from – worked full time for the last 5 yrs and would shop but then be to tired to cook! so out the food would go to make room for the fresh food I bought and well you know how it goes!! Then we moved to a new country I dont work and all of a sudden I am cooking again and not wasting anywhere near as much as I used to! And have found my love of cooking again!
As you well know, Maggy, I love giving over-the-hill food a second chance, but you have to know when it’s worth saving and when it’s gone too far. As you rightly point out, there’s nothing wrong with a limp carrot for a soup or stew, but that pink-hued sour cream I threw away this morning… I didn’t even bother to sniff it.
Great topic, Maggie. Have thought about this a lot and felt the same guilt feelings. Working on it!
I immediately smiled when I read your first paragraph. I, like your mom, ask my son all the time to smell or taste something, especially milk. Of course, I have smelled or tasted it myself first, but I for some reason like to get a second opinion. With the ultra-pasturized milk products today, they seem to last longer than ever.
Shopping at Costco I see families with overflowing mega carts and always wonder — can you really use all this stuff? A couple months ago I was excited to see a 5 lb bag of organic carrots at Costco and was so excited, but I still have them. Really, how many carrots do you add to a stew or salad? So I’m thrilled to make your Curried Carrot Soup today and feel a little less guilty about my wrinkly produce. Thx —
I find I throw out more stuff here in the US than I did when I lived in Sact I had plenty of students who invited themselves over regularly to clean out my fridge, but it seems much easier to buy too much and waste it here.
Bob M says
Yupper’s! That 10 lbs. of potato’s for $.99 was a great deal. Now being single trying to use them up :-)!
Lisa S. says
In Europe you can buy 4 eggs in a little carton or 3 carrots, celery by the pound and singles of so many things. I’m among the guilty, cause I love bargains…
Rachel Speece says
i try to be less wasteful with our food, and find my self smelling and taste testing rather often. but having such a finicky family ive learned not to ask for a second opinion. i make it, feed it to them and they never know the difference! 😉
Lisa S. says
Yowww – I made the carrot soup. We must have liked it, cause 3 of us ate it all! Yum. And it probable was the only way that 2 of us could use up most of a 2 lb. bag of carrots. Thanks!