Growing up, I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with one set of my grandparents. They had a wonderful home on Pender Island. Several weekends a month, I would pack my little overnight bag and hop the ferry. Less than two hours later, I was happily nestled in their wood-stove heated home. We would play Canasta and Crib, Yahtzee and Boggle, work on jigsaw puzzles and bake wonderful things. I learned how to do crossword puzzles and some basic knitting skills, which, sadly, I have since forgotten.
Their home on Pender was tiny. A kitchen, front living room, two wee bedrooms and a bathroom. The bathroom was a very welcome addition, as there only used to be an outhouse way out in the treed area behind the house. The path to the outhouse was scary in the imagination of a young child. Banana slugs seemed massive and sinister, spiderwebs plagued every trip and the bats zipping and swooping in the dusky sky were promise of vampirism or rabies. I only went when it was absolutely necessary and preferably with an escort who could protect me from whatever else my mind could conjure.
My grandparents were masters at making their dollar go far. My grandpa used to wash and reuse aluminum foil, margarine tubs and plastic bags. Every jar ever purchased was washed and used to store dry goods, provided the seal on the lid was intact. The lids that were compromised, found those jars being used in the shed for salvaged nails, screws, bolts and anything else he needed to save, sort and store. Items of clothing that wore out from wear and tear, were used to polish the silverwear, tie up the plants that required staking in the garden and other household cleaning purposes.
Food waste was non-existent there. Every part of the produce that was grown or purchased was used, if not for direct eating, my grandma saved it and used it in stocks and soups. Fruit scraps were baked into muffins, loaves, cookies and cakes. What could not be used was composted directly into their garden.
Man, times have changed.
We have become a very disposable society. People seldom think if they can truly afford something outright. The question is “what are my payments?” After we tire of something, or a new model is released, we feel compelled to discard a perfectly good item and keep up with the Joneses. Man, those Joneses can be annoying.
We live in an age of perceived visual perfection. Thank-you Photoshop for letting us erase our lines and warts, whittle inches from our waists and even create images that just aren’t real. When we shop, we expect our fruit and veggies to be flawless like the images we see in media. We want everything to be available to us year round. Climate and natural growing season be damned! We want tropical fruit in winter and root veggies in the spring. Factor in the real costs of shipping these non-seasonal items around the world, and we get into a whole different discussion. There is some real merit in shopping local. You are supporting local farmers and their families. Dollars stay within your community.
I have been called frugal, cheap, a pioneer and a few other phrases. Some of my kitchen ways are reminiscent of my grandmother’s. I hate wasting money. So I often make my own coconut milk and get coconut flour in the deal from a bag of organic coconut shreds. I do the same with almonds. When I was eating certain grains, I was grinding my own flours as I kept package purchases to a minimum and prepped only what I needed. I can’t stand wasting food. When we have brussel sprouts, I save all the less than pretty outer leaves. Some days I sauté them into my scrambled eggs, voila! Veggies in the morning, or I roast them in the oven, in bacon grease I have collected and saved. Tasty snacking. Seriously, try it. You’ll thank me.
Now, we all have bought cauliflower in a bag. The convenience of pre-cut florets is fantastic. No leaves to compost, no thick stem to try to cleave through. Strangely enough, a cut up head of cauliflower occupies way more room in the fridge than the intact thing. Ever notice that? Weird. What irks me about the bagged stuff, other than the plastic, is the cauliflower crumbs at the bottom of the bag. Now there is a waste, right? Wrong! Claim those crumbly little bits along with stem trimmings and turn them into cauli-rice or mashed cauliflower. You get to use all of that lovely cruciferous veg you spent your hard earned dollars on.
Know someone who juices? We all do. All that juicing creates a lot of pulp waste. There is still a lot of flavour to be coaxed from that pile of mash. Add it to a pot with some sautéed onions and or garlic, simmer a few hours and after you strain it, you have some amazing vegetable stock. No chemicals or preservatives. Your soups instantly become way tastier. I use a silicon muffin pan and freeze my stock in 1/4 cup measures to make life easy when I need to use it.