The Green Phone Booth welcomes Alison, who writes about life, family and superheroes at The Secret Life Of A Warrior Woman.
My parents grew up during the privations of World War Two and its aftermath. Everything was used to its max and sometimes beyond. My mother, in particular, inherited the can't-waste-it mentality - she still uses pots that must be pushing 50 years old.
And I learned at her knee.
I thought it was common to cut the leg off a pair of nylons when I got a hole - then pair it with a similarly mutilated one. Wearing two midriffs held my stomach in well and of course I got more life out of the healthy legs that were left.
I mentioned this apparently brilliant notion of thrift to my friends one day only to have them fall about laughing. They had never heard of such a thing. So I asked them if they didn't cut open bottles of face cream and scoop out the dregs that collected around the bottom and the top.
They did not.
They also didn't save scraps of soap and squish them together nor did they swish water around a bottle of shampoo to get a couple more latherings.
So, I don't know. Maybe I'm out of step but I still do all these little things. Seems commonsense, cost-effective and quaint to me. I'm proud of my mother for doing these things. She does them for reasons to do with deprivation and cost-effectiveness. But these days she's considered green.
However, I have developed one habit out of this isn't so laudable, a bit weird and maybe even slightly pathological.
I can't throw away food.
Nope, can't do it.
Just can't bear to.
I can't even write why.
Because I don't know.
I tell myself it has bacteria in it or on it. I tell myself I could make myself sick. Then I tell myself these people who make up the guidelines for throwing out food err on the side of caution, are in cahoots with the food manufacturers, or just plain ridiculous.
I can't throw away food.
Instead, I cook the food to death (for the second or third time.)
I refreeze it.
I smell it.
I move it around the fridge or ignore it sitting there.
But mostly I serve it up and cross my fingers.
I'm sure many of you are aghast, disgusted even. But the thing I do that I consider worse than crossing my fingers is eating up food so I don’t have to throw it away. Even when I’m not hungry.
I see it in my fridge, know it's time will soon be up, tell myself it's perfectly good food and in it goes.
Instead of going to waste, it goes on my waist.
My weight creeps up and then I have to work at that. Could I make life even more difficult for myself? Enough already!
I can't even begin to analyze why I do this, take these risks.
I don't want to.
Who cares why, lets work on what.
So I set myself a goal of throwing something away everyday. Yesterday it was chicken with spaghetti. Today, it was cream cheese. I have the suckers identified for at least tomorrow and the next day.
And then, an idea struck me. I could avoid all this angst by, wait for it, drum roll please... composting! Yes, composting! Someone suggested it in the comments section of my blog. What a brilliant idea! Not only do I get rid of the aftermath of science experiments conducted in my kitchen, I get to recycle! I avoid illness, guilt and bacteria all in one fell swoop of the chicken coop!
And so lovingly, every day, I source at least one thing for the compost bin knowing that I’m saving myself a whole heap of trouble.
And producing a whole heap of glorious compost in its’ place. I’ve engaged my kids in the ritual. Teaching them to get rid of old food. Teaching them to compost and fertilize and nourish. By doing that, I get to delegate and most of all, I get to satisfy that little voice that tells me to ‘waste not, want not.’
Turning that vicious circle into a virtuous one.