It has occurred to me more than once as I’ve gotten older that I’ve become my mother. Not that it’s a bad thing—my mother was a remarkable woman. But she was also a product of the Great Depression, which meant that literally nothing was ever wasted in our house while I was growing up. A leftover teaspoon of vegetables at dinner got tossed into a large container in the freezer. When the container was full, she made vegetable soup. My sister-in-law once commented that my mother’s vegetable soup never tasted the same twice. Little did she know.
Growing up, we recycled boxes, Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows. This meant gifts had to be opened carefully so as not to tear the paper. I can remember reusing the same paper for several years in a row. Throwing out a cardboard box was an offense punishable by death. (Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. You just wished you were dead after the tongue lashing for wasting a perfectly good box). We had a whole collection of boxes in the attic—nothing that was ever the right size or shape for what you needed, but nevertheless, a shrine to cardboard.
It has taken me years to actually throw out salvageable wrapping paper after opening a present. I finally rationalized that I can buy several new rolls of paper on sale after Christmas for half-price, which cost next to nothing. The boxes have taken me a bit longer. When I couldn’t get into the storage room over the holidays because of all the empty boxes, I made the bold and painful decision to get rid of half of them—but only half. Baby steps. I even threw out a few oft recycled gift boxes, which had been repeatedly taped to hold them together. I’m sure my mother is turning over in her grave, but my storage room looks much better.
I admit I will occasionally recycle plastic silverware after running it through the dishwasher. Old ratty clothes which are too worn out to take to Goodwill get left in the closet. I can’t stand the thought of throwing away clothes. Besides, I might need them for painting projects and such. Yes, I really need all fifty stained and holey shirts and pants. And leftovers don’t get tossed out unless they are no longer recognizable or resemble a science project. The one thing I have put my foot down on, however, is reusing plastic bags. I simply refuse to wash out baggies and reuse them as my mother did. In the first place, I can buy a box of 100 new baggies at the dollar store. In the second place, it is a tedious waste of time to wash and dry baggies. In the third place, it grosses me out to think of reusing them. For some reason, my mother-in-law did the same thing, so it must be generational. However, she went so far as to reuse Styrofoam drinking cups. I don’t care how many times those things went through the dishwasher, there was still an “odor” that lived in the porous material of those cups. Plus teeth marks. As gross as reused baggies are, they don’t compare to the grossness of reused Styrofoam cups.
So what got me thinking about this topic? It seems I spent a good forty-five minutes with my salad shooter today grinding up old bread heels into bread crumbs. Nobody in our house eats the heels, so into the freezer they go. When I can’t find anything in the freezer because of all the bread heels, I take them out and make bread crumbs out of them. It saves a lot of money. Well, actually, I can buy a can of ready-made bread crumbs pretty cheaply, so I probably saved us about $1.59 for all my effort today. I don’t know how long bread crumbs last in the freezer, but I have enough for the next couple of years or so. These bread crumbs will never be thrown out, no matter how frostbitten they become. As my mother taught me, waste not, want not.