Waste Not

I read several blogs that are focusing on reducing the amount of “stuff” in their life and I’ve been very inspired. This year, I decided to try and focus more on not wasting (particularly food). My dad has always hated wasting food and apparently so does Bart’s mom, so for both of us, it was a change that made us feel good.

It’s been really gratifying for me to watch us use up the things we buy, rather than let them go to waste, in the name of convenience.

In the past, I’d open up a can of tomato sauce or evaporated milk, use half or a quarter of the can and throw the rest away because “it only costs 45 cents.” (I generally only use part of a can because I almost always half recipes, seeing as there are only two of us). Now, I’m making an effort to pour the other half in a tupperware because it’s not just the money – it’s the extra waste. (You would maybe not think that you would feel good about yourself for week about saving 13 cents of adobe sauce, but you would be wrong).

And, one of the things Bart and I have never been super awesome at is eating leftovers (unless it’s coconut chicken, but let’s be honest, in that case, the leftovers are non-existent). But now? I think we’ve only thrown away one leftover this year so far (and it was after we’d eaten it a second time – we just had SO SO much of it). I take the leftovers to work most days and if there are a lot (like the spinach sausage lasagna from last week), we have it for dinner a second time. I’m am ultra-proud of us. Also, Bart said he liked the spinach significantly better the second time around, so that was a victory too.

The other major change I’ve made is making the week’s menu (and shopping list) based on what we have left over from previous weeks, whether it be a spice, meat, or a sauce. The adobe sauce, for instance, that I bought two weeks ago, is being used again this week. I am making a pasta dish with eggplant in it, but I can’t buy a small eggplant at my grocery store, so I searched for a recipe that I could use the other half in (and it was a recipe that needed the other half-pound of sausage left over from the lasagna). This helps me keep my grocery bill down and use up the food I’ve already bought.

And really, I’ve found that not wasting is far more convenient. I can cook less (because leftovers = instant meal), I have to grocery shop less often, it’s easier to make up a menu since I already have some ingredients to go off of, I can shop faster, and I spend less time cursing myself when I discover that I have no more diced tomatoes, when I know I threw away a perfectly good half a can just a few days ealier.

Win-Win-Win-Win (unless the thought of eggplant twice in one week makes you wish for a quick death, in which case, you may not want to come over for dinner this week).

[Update: Here’s the Coconut Chicken Recipe of Happiness].

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  • Reply Miriam Higginson February 19, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Good for you. I never have understood people who didn’t eat leftovers (Ashley…) I have always LOVED leftovers – as you said, instant easy meal. And please, if you can’t bring yourself to eat something yet again (because there was lots) – freeze it!! A month or so later, another easy “free” meal!

  • Reply Nic February 19, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    That all sounds great, but it will be even better if you post the coconut chicken recipe!

  • Reply anne February 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Also, I think it’s FUN to google a recipe to use up the rest of some crazy ingredient you have on hand.

  • Reply Anne Glamore February 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    That “Anne” was me– Anne Glamore at Tales From My Tiny Kingdom.

    Lately Blogger is screwing up my comments- I’m on WP and can’t figure out how to correct this. I also want the coconut chicken recipe.

  • Reply Jess February 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I still throw away little bits left in the bottoms of cans because even if I put them in a tupperware, I still never use them. But now that I am on Weight Watchers I’ve gotten much better about meal plans, using up things we already have, and not wasting leftovers. It’s been a really great change.

  • Reply Merrick February 19, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    That’s funny that you guys decided to do that, because we decided to do it too! It’s seriously the best decision we’ve ever made. And it’s definitely cut down on our grocery shopping time…15 minutes last week!

  • Reply Carly Jane February 20, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Hi. I have been reading your blog for a few weeks–I found it on Alicia Langstraat’s (I also used to work at Freshman Academy with Bart). Anyhow, I just wanted to say: way to go!

    And thanks for the coconut chicken recipe 🙂

  • Reply janet February 20, 2008 at 2:11 am

    We survive on leftovers here. I can’t cook 7 nights a week!

    Today my way to lower consumption was to wrap husband’s b-day presents in Sunday’s newspaper.

  • Reply chloe elizabeth February 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    So fun to read! Oh…the joys of not cooking for one. It’s so much harder to not waste. Seriously.

  • Reply Anonymous February 20, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I’m with Miriam. Also, soooo many things taste better after the flavors have had time to “blend” (or whatever it is they do). Anyway, good for you and Bart. Love your blog for your book reviews and recipes.

  • Reply Heather February 21, 2008 at 3:31 am

    I have never cooked with eggplant, but we MUST put the coconut chicken on our menu. I did love, however, eggplant pizza in Italy. Then again, everything IS better in Italy . . .

  • Reply Kristi February 21, 2008 at 6:50 am

    I have half a can of evaporated milk in my fridge now, all thanks to your post, any ideas of what I can use that for—besides the carmel bars of bliss?

  • Reply Miriam Higginson February 21, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Evap. milk is just that – thicker milk. Add some water to it and it’s….milk. Put on cereal, shakes, soups, anything you’d use milk in. Now, that’s not the case with sweetened condensed milk! Make sure you know what you have.

  • Reply Miriam Higginson February 21, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    P.S. Sometimes I just pour left over condensed milk into my normal milk carton, you can’t taste it and then I don’t worry about a partial can sitting in the fridge going bad.

  • Reply heidikins February 21, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Good for you! Look at you being all green in the fridge! ;o)


    Um… in an environmentally friendly way, not in a “i need to clean my fridge!” sort of way… obviously.

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