Saturday, January 21, 2012

Waste not, want not

Luscious Leftovers for lunch
 The other day I was dismayed to read that Americans regularly waste 25% of the food we purchase, totaling roughly $2150 per household per year! Yikes! My first reaction was a pretty self-righteous 'Well, not us!', but then I got to thinking about how much we actually waste. We certainly don't toss 25% of our food, but we do still waste some 
- and not as much as we used to, but enough to count.

Another day of Luscious Leftovers - for supper
 It used to be that leftovers often died horrible deaths 
in their cold plastic-ware graveyards  
and once a week I would clean the fridge and dispose of the forgotten leftovers with regret. 
I had great intentions ...
I meant to give this or that to the Historian for his lunch or warm it up for the kids.

Leftover soup and salad for lunch
Since I was raised with the 'Waste not, want not' way of thinking
 I really hate throwing out spoiled food, 
but the whole 'out of sight out of mind' thing got me every time. 

Our habits improved greatly when my husband started working the evening shift on Monday nights. 
Instead of making another full meal for just the children and I, we instituted the  
Luscious Leftover Buffet
Every Monday morning I quickly clean the fridge and take stock of the leftovers..
Intentionally using up the leftovers is fun - and it has worked out well because I often do my grocery shopping for the week on Monday night while our Dreamer is at ballet.

 I've written about the Luscious Leftover Buffet in this 2009 post, but I think it's worth repeating because it still works so well for us. 
It might work well for your family too!
Lots of time we are just in too much of a hurry and I 'take orders' and quickly plate up the leftovers,
but once in a while I let them take their pick buffet style and it's still a lot of fun!

Here's quick summary of how I serve leftovers with style:

  1. Spread it out. Everyone likes to make choices, and buffets are super popular with kids.
  2. Divide it up. A single small mug of chili, soup or baked beans is fun to pick up and that way everyone who wants a taste can get one. No one needs to see that messy casserole dish, so dish it up in paper cupcake cups or little custard cups and make it something special.
  3. Swap the cheese. Sometimes the cheese on the top of a casserole gets over browned in the process of reheating. I don't feel badly in scraping off a bit of the ugly cheese and putting on fresh. Fresh cheese also dresses up a cup of chili, reheated quiche, a bit of salad or a creamy soup.
  4. Keep it simple. Cold roast beef, turkey, chicken, bratwurst or ham can be served sliced 'as is' or in a sandwich, on top of a cracker or diced into some leftover salad.
  5. Put it on a stick - it's always more fun! 6" bamboo skewers are cheap $1 per 100, and they make a great 'finger food' supper when you put your leftover meats and cheeses or fruit cubes on a 'stick'.
  6. Cut it fancy. It doesn't take any extra effort to pull out your crinkle cutter then your paring knife, so why not cut up those fruits and veggies a bit 'fancy' and see if they don't liven up your buffet?
  7. Use those tongs. I don't know why our kids think this is the 'best part', but we use salad tongs for picking up things like sliced meats, breads, veggies and scrambled eggs.
  8. Make it a privilege. We are so blessed to have an abundance of food in this country - wasting is just not a choice. Making being a part of the buffet line a privilege that can be lost through grumbling or complaining can seriously brighten the attitude of those picky eaters.
  9. Set it to music. My husband started the 'music to match the meal' thing for our family when he took over the making of Mama Joy's Meatballs and serving them up with fresh green salad, a fresh loaf of crusty bread, and Dean Martin singing in the background. It made a simple supper more fun for all of us. I decided that we should do the same thing for 'The L.L. Buffet' and so I let the kids pick - they chose Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey 'Eugene Sings' and it seems to be a perfect fit!
The other thing that has really made a difference in wasting less is clearly simple - glass food storage containers!  No more  plastic ware graves hiding tasty morsels!  Yeah! Now that we can see the contents of every contain we are less likely to waste it - in fact it's made it super easy for my Historian to grab food for his lunches, so sometimes there aren't any leftovers for the buffet - which is just fine because the kids love 'breakfast for dinner' and that's just as fun!
My glass storage containers are wonderful - the lids are super tight and keep everything fresh, but not too hard for the children to remove.  Because they are glass, we can microwave them easily when needed. 
I was blessed by Dad and Mum with a big box full of various sizes of glass containers for my birthday last year and I promptly gave away most of my plastic food containers.  

It took me a while to realize that they were actually saving us money because we were wasting less food!

My last thought on the subject of food waste - where the leftovers go is just as important and how they are stored! It took about 3 months for everyone in this household to get on board with my 'TOP SHELF' only for leftovers rule, but I think we've actually adopted the habit. I hope!
Food stored at eye level gets noticed and eaten - not wasted!
Super simple concept, I know, but it works.

As always, my heart's desire is to please God with my simple life.
I am too wasteful. I waste my time, my energy, my resources, and my opportunities 
to share Christ with others. Our abundance lulls me into complacency and I forget that this ease we are so comfortable with comes with no guarantees. The bounty of God's provision is regularly under appreciated, taken for granted and enjoyed with little thought and even less thankfulness.
Once in a while I might sigh as I throw out 'unsalvageable' food as I remember the families living 
in the dump that we visited in the Dominican and  wonder how they would view our wastefulness.
Most days, I give it very little thought, until bold statistics rouse me from my ease.
I want to be a good example to our children.
To be frugal about our own needs so that we can be joyfully generous with others.
To be thrifty so that we can stretch what we've been given to meet the needs of others as well.
To be creative and ingenious bringing new life to things that others have deemed irredeemable.

To live waste not, want not so fully that they will one day have what they need,
and know how to care for it as temporary stewards of God's faithful provision.

To be properly 'wasteful' like the woman who poured costly perfume over the feet of Jesus,
pouring myself, with no restraint into the lives of others.

What about you? What are your favorite waste not, want not strategies?
You know how much I enjoy hearing from you.


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