Friday, September 25, 2009

Nana Says, "Eat down your cabinets and fatten up your wallet!!!"

After fruit picking this past week at Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ we have had an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. Often times I forget that I am normally cooking only for 2, my husband and myself, and not 10 thus we eat a lot of left overs or share with whom ever will eat it- neighbors, co workers, friends, the dog, etc. Our fruit picking expedition was no different. I picked about 14 large white stone peaches, equally as many Macintosh apples and approximately 4 lbs of veggies ranging from tomatoes to peppers. Though I often have delusions of cooking for an army when in fact its only a couple of lone soldiers, there is one mission critical rule that was drilled into my head by mom and Nana at birth- NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY!

In my family food waste is a mortal sin, punishable by lectures opening with a reminder of how many starving children there are in Africa and closed by stressing that money doesn't grow on trees. I'm sure many of us have heard a similar message but mine carried all the more weight when coming from a grandmother who made "Bone Soup". I'm not joking. If there were a carcass left over, you better believe it would be tossed in a pot, boiled in water and accompanied by whatever vegetables, beans and/or pasta were on hand. The crazy thing is, it was normally delicious and as you went for your 2nd bowl, Nana took pride in reminding you that "You wanted to throw it away...tisk!" She was right, too often we buy more than we eat and we dispose of the excess, confident that we can just buy more. Thank God for most of us that has, in the past, been true but just because it is our reality does that mean it should be? I think this ideal of convenient disposal is beginning to earn a little more thought from a lot of us as our Nation is financial boiling water. We are starting to think just a little bit more like our parents and grandparents and really think hard about how we can squeeze just one more wear our of that pair of jeans, one more wash out of that old washer and dryer or just one last pot of Bone Soup out of that chicken carcass.

I have a homework challenge for you all, should you choose to accept. Try something that I do once a month or so and "eat down your cabinets". This doesnt not mean that you gnaw on your mahogany cupboard doors in a fit of desperation, though what you do in your home is your business.. .I wont judge. What I mean is to take inventory off what you have and with out buying more food, cook what you have on hand. You will have to replenish your staples- bread, milk and eggs and possibly some produce. But see if you can make a weeks worth of meals with out making your usual trip to the grocery store. I have made this into an art form and here is how I do it.
1. Grab yourself a sheet of paper and a pen and make 7 boxes on that paper. Each box is going to be the menu for a night.
2. Head to the freezer and take inventory of the meat you currently have in your inventory. Write one of the meats in each box.
3. Inventory the fridge and the cabinets and challenge yourself to build meals using what you have based around the protein already in your fridge. If you get stuck or need ideas, email me! I love the challenge of coming up with something out of nothing and once you do it, you will love it too!
4. Stick to it and NO EATING OUT! I promise that you have enough food on hand to have dinner for a week. You just have to get creative. If you need to supplement a bit then thats ok, but try and keep it minimal and challenge yourself to eat up as much as you can of what you already have.

Think of the food in your cabinets and refridgerator/freezer as depreciating assets that you have already invested in. If you dont utilize those assets the assets gradually depreciate and before you know it your investment has plummeted to a value of $0. Dont let that happen. Your pantry is stocked with your hard earned dollars. You wouldnt throw your paycheck in the trash can, so why throw out your food that you have allowed to go bad simply because you didnt anticipate its decline?

I am interested to see how this goes for all of you. I have managed to save probably $100 a month or so by doing this. Dont waste anything! Save all leftovers and if they arent enough for lunch then make them into something thats ample. Keep me posted on your progress... I know you can do it. Make me and Nana proud!