Waste not, want not

There’s an old saying: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And – ‘waste not want not’.

I remember when I lived in SF, in the Inner Richmond ( 12th & Balboa) – not far from the ocean, just north of Golden Gate Park – between 1993 and 2002  the noisiest nights were when every six months in any neighborhood the city did a unique trash pick up. You could bring anything that didn’t fit in the cans out to the street by nightfall for pickup thru the night. Well, this attracted all kinds of scavengers who went from block to block, checking out everything, and it got noisy when two people saw the same item simultaneously and went for it, and disagreed who had seen it first, or got to it first. I just chuckled at it all, and tried to get back to sleep.

I am a perfectly respectable guy who had no idea I would get in to this, it just kinda came about. I live in a rather nice apt complex just north of San Francisco CA and that’s why this ‘diving’ began. And I don’t really ‘dive’, no way – actually all I do is take a look at what is on top in the dumpster when I take out my trash. But times change, i have only worked part time for the last 8 years due to medical issues, the downturn in the business I work for, and the downturn in my inheritance income (small! really!!) since the recession of 2008. At first I did this sporadically, when people move out, they usually empty their fridge, and they also consider every item they are packing to move with this question – “do i really wanna take this along, is it worth the effort?”. (I do the same thing whenever i move, too.) Sooo…. plenty of good stuff gets tossed out. Initially, I found numerous T-shirts, several pairs of shoes (that actually fit me), & some interesting small furniture items. I am picky about ‘furniture’, I don’t want anything ‘wood’ or heavy, at age 62, I like lawn furniture that’s really light.

When ever I glance at the dumpsters on my way into the complex, if i see any furniture in the trash, I look deeper, When people move, they ‘toss’. Then when I started noticing even more good stuff, I looked a bit deeper. I also read several things online about how much perfectly good food ends up in landfills, like 20%… perhaps more. I didn’t save the URL’s of these articles, but even w/ 62 YO memory, i am SURE. This is ridiculous when so many people around the world are starving.

I grew up in a small town in Maine, and there was always a vegetable garden out back, a big one. Not just because there was the space for it, but because my parents grew up thru the depression and WW2, and any opportunity left undone was a waste, in their eyes. My bro, sis an me all worked the garden – you want to eat? you have to work, it was that simple. It was a great lesson I still remember, ..and I still remember being bitten incessantly by mosquitoes!Also remember a ‘root cellar’ in this house – a dirt floor, many shelves of rough wood. And this is where ‘waste not, want not’ comes from.

Sooo… the Xmas holidays are great time for ‘excess’..which gets tossed out? Here’s what my superficial search has found in the last few weeks, and is in my fridge:

A bunch of Pork Chops, still cold, still pink when I found them, a bit less than a Lb. Give ’em a rinse in cold water, and a soak in salt water.

Brown rice, almost a full Lb Bag. Wild Rice, a half pound bag.

A big container of frozen mix of ‘trader joe’s basmati & brown rice w/ barley’. And condiments? Wow. Hot sauce, several kinds, some so hot, i can’t stand them, but i will water them down to suit my taste.

Salad dressings, unopened, and some opened, still within the ‘sell by’ date.

(A word about ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates – producers put these on packaging to cover their own ass, what they say is ‘after this date quality may decline’, “may” being the operative word. It doesn’t mean it’s no good. And I always give everything the ‘sniff’ test – if it doesn’t smell? it probably isn’t bad. So far I have never gotten sick.)

Back to the list:

A dozen eggs, a yummy package of cheese ravioli in pesto sauce. Frozen French fries, still cold, a little freezer burned but nothing that a rinse in warm water didn’t fix. A few TGIF frozen sliders, they needed a bit of ‘encouragement’, as in some tomato sauce, mayo, & mustard.

And one day (Feb 2), three bottles of perfectly good unopened wine, good stuff, too. Who the hell tosses out good wine? OK, maybe someone is trying to sober up, their loss is my gain.

Feb 4?……..Two big containers of salad mix – one ‘tossed’, one spinach. Sell by date? Jan 30th. I froze a lot of the spinach. Even if freezing some veggies turns them into mush when they thaw? That’s OK by me, my post appendicitis gastrointestinal tract is fine w/ that. Guess I’ll be eating alot of salad the next week.

One 16 once tub of cottage cheese, sell by date? Feb 3. And someone tosses it on Feb 4? They are brain dead.

One carry-out container of asian style noodles, passes the smell test, I froze it, good for two lunches. Add some hot and soy sauce too. 4 really nice Roma tomatoes, and a whole roast chicken, minus only some of the breast meat. I see chicken soup and a number of meals w/ chicken in my future. And a 1lb container of hummus, 1/3 full.

Feb 5: A loaf of wheat bread, a week past ‘best by’. 2 tubes of toothpaste, barely used. A perfectly good squash. Squash keeps *forever*. It should never be thrown out until it gets moldy/mushy on the surface.

Feb 8: Walking down/out to have a smoke on the street ( I can no longer smoke in my apt, thanks to the city council acting as ‘nanny state’) i come upon a bunch of cherry tomatoes on the stairs, just sitting there, in the rain puddles. Now i wouldn’t touch them if they were crushed in any way… but these are like a banana – they come w/ a natural ‘wrapping’. I rinse ’em off, they will be fine. They will go quite well w/ the salad mix and the wheat bread I found last week. I did *actually pay*(!) for some mayonnaise, bacon & cheese to top it all off. All on sale/special.

Waste not, want not.


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