Thursday, July 9, 2009

Using What We Have

A friend emailed me recently that she was cleaning out her fridge and freezer prior to going on a long trip. She plans to disconnect the unit and leave it open while she is gone. She indicated that she was diligently working her way through the groceries that she had on hand rather than buying more and that this was a discipline, since what she had to eat wasn't necessarily what she wanted to eat.

This is a uniquely American dilemna, I think. (And is dilemna spelled with an n as I think that it is, or two m's as the Google spellchecker is telling me? I don't think I have ever seen the two m version and I can't find my old spelling dictionary anywhere around the computer.) I digress.

Americans are blessed with such an abundance of food as well as the refrigerators, cupboards and pantries to store it in, that we can easily overbuy from any reasonable or responsible supply.

My current refrigerator is smaller than my old one, but it still has far more food within it than I can expect to consume in a week. Perhaps more than I can consume in two weeks. The freezer is also full. I have not used all of the pesto that I made with so much love last Fall, and I must do so. It would be a shame to see that go to waste. There is no ice cream in the freezer--partly because I no longer eat anything with soy in it and partly because there simply isn't room for ice cream.

A round plate with fruit, very pretty, resides on the kitchen counter. What possessed me to order so much? Of course, when I order online, I don't see how many that will be. Still, one organic apricot went moldy and so did one lemon. It hasn't even been hot. Better to have bought less or shared more with a friend who visited for lunch on Friday.

I am considering using what I have as a challenge to clean out the kitchen. What can I have that is delicious and nutritious? What will be merely delicious? How unbalanced will my diet be if I try this experiment? I will run out of milk and definitely need to buy that.

Another challenge would then be to buy only what I need and will truly use within a defined period. The period should be defined by how long things will keep and the need should be based on a standard of nutrition that begins with protein grams, adds carbohydrates, adds calcium, adds fat and then includes fiber. (Vitamins and minerals will come primarily from supplements as they do now.)

If I were to devise this challenge and stick to it, how much money would I save? But that is probably not the whole point. The principal point is to cut down on waste and recognize that while so many people in the world go hungry, I am an American who can watch cooking shows, and be tempted to make food that is really beyond the necessary (I saw a segment this afternoon where someone put corn stuffing into meatloaf); an American who can eat anything at anytime from anywhere in the world and who can decide that I am bored with what I have on hand and order out from an array of restaurants that deliver the cuisine of the world to my door. (Limited by my budget, of course.)

All of that is good and I like it. Still, I am wondering how I will fare if I give myself this challenge. No ordering anything except milk until I have used up what I have. (I'll let you know.)

I am grateful for my kitchen and its pantry and a goodly array of supplies. For the pesto and one dozen lemon cupcakes in the freezer, I am also grateful. For the kale from a friend's garden, for the community of sharing that is my neighborhood with all of its gardens and fruit trees. For the community of sharing that is the Internet, too. (I wouldn't have the overstocked dilemna without the Internet.)

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