Saturday, December 13, 2014

Waste not, want not

While growing up, I had a great aunt who made massive pot roast dinners. She passed away when I was in middle school, but I remember visiting her and feasting on tender roast beef, carrots, potatoes and whatever else she decided to throw in there. She would clean up the left overs, stick them in the fridge, and we would have roast beef sandwiches and other variations for days. Aunt Sissy always said, "waste not, want not". It was one of those little sayings that rattled around in my head for a long time until the day came when I was an adult and it dawned on me "OH! Waste not, want not! I get it!" Not sure why it took me so long to figure out what she meant with that idiom. 

I've been reflecting a lot lately on how to take baby steps to a zero waste lifestyle. It all seems so overwhelming, I mean...could we be the kind of people who spend $14 on a compostable toothbrush? Our current life straddles somewhere around 80/20...sometimes 70/30 depending on the chaos of the week. We very rarely throw out food (unless it went moldy faster than we anticipated) and we recycle everything that fits the bill. We keep a small waste basket under the sink, a compost bucket on the counter top, and end up spending 6 dollars a month or less on actually throwing things into a landfill. With Christmas coming, I actually added a few zero-waste items to my list from Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home. In the meantime, it's baby steps! 

Here are a few example how we have been "wasting not" over the last few weeks:

Chicken stock from our meat birds that we raised this summer. We kept the feet, necks, and innards to make a yummy stock that we can use in recipes throughout the year. 

My parents came to visit for Thanksgiving with a truckload of things in tow. They are downsizing so they had just cleared out their freezer and brought us pounds of freezer burnt meat. Instead of chucking it in the garbage, we thawed it, cut off anything that looked really bad, then made use of our new meat grinder to make breakfast chicken sausage and ground beef. 

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A family favorite around the holidays is shrimp cocktail. Our family got a little out of hand while boiling them up for the pre-Thanksgiving feast. We have been chipping away at almost 6 pounds of shrimp making things like shrimp stir fry and soon, shrimp scampi. 

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My most favorite recent "waste not, want not" practice was inheriting family heirlooms to help build our home. My grandmother passed away three years ago last week and in the haul of items that my parents brought over at Thanksgiving was her set of Friendly Village China and some other kitchen/dining items. She had an eighteen person setting! We also inherited my great-grandfather's buffet and corner cabinets that have been in my parents home since I was a little girl, which are all solid maple (that would cost a fortune these days!!). We have been in our home since April and actually waited a long time to start decorating and buying pieces of furniture. In my mind, these things mean so much more than whatever I would have been able to find at a department store. If inheriting family heirlooms isn't a possibility for you, I would encourage you to run out and grab someone else's at a consignment shop or antique store. You never know what you can find outside of a Walmart!

What are your favorite ways to waste less and use more? 


  1. Oh I love this! I actually feel like I waste so much. We go thru an insane amount of trash. I need to work on getting rid of the paper plates and using less paper towels. Honestly if so, I would be good to go. But washing up by hand six sets of dishes a minimum of three times a day is overwhelming. As far as food goes- I think I do quite well and whatever does go bad or any scraps goes straight to feeding our hogs, so I feel alright about that.

    1. You have an army to clean! :) Feeding the hogs must be fun, we figured we would have to search high and low for food scraps even if we got just one!

  2. Love these ideas & that old-fashioned saying! I grew up hearing it as well, and it took a long time for it to "click" with me. I try to find a way to repurpose/reuse everything before throwing it out, and I tend to be a fixer instead of a replacer :)