Someone has emptied their spice cupboard!

Someone has emptied their spice cupboard!

A variety of spices, some are just more of what I already have (black pepper, seasoned salt, ground ginger) but some are a bit different. How about a peppercorn medley grinder!? There’s something fun about the grinding part, the crunching sound it makes. In restaurants, the waiter comes over and does a bit of ‘theatre’, right? The mix is a bit different:
Black peppercorns, coriander pink peppercorns, white peppercorns, green peppercorns (i never knew there were so many kinds/colors of peppercorns!) …and allspice.
• Onion powder – usually i have an onion in the frig, but when i don’t, this’ll come in handy.
• Chinese ‘five spice’ mix – star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, pepper.

• 24 oz. / clover honey – dated Jan 2016 – the stuff keeps forever, i usually add brown sugar to coffee, but honey is even nicer.
• Morton’s Salt, about 1/4 full.
• A packet for making chicken gravy. I won’t make gravy, however this is a good thing for making chicken soup, as a base/seasoning, add some flour. And i have LOTS of frozen chicken, winter is coming on, and saturday becomes ‘soup making day’ for a week’s worth of lunches.

• There’s always a few single serving basics in many trash bags – mustard, ketchup & (usually ‘Tapatio’) hot sauce. I always scarf those up.
• A half dozen single serving packs of apple sauce, strawberry flavored.

• a Honeydew melon! perfectly good! very tasty! Why would anyone toss this out??
* A ziploc tub/container of red salsa, a bit different than others i have had.
• What’s left of a bag of pepper jack shredded cheese and one of cheddar cheese, a bit moldy, i pick out the mold – how hard is that? I’ve quoted this old saying before, i’ll do it again – “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!” – Got it?
• A small take-out burrito, it is rather hard/old to the touch, but improvisation to the rescue! I’ll use (=microwave) what’s inside, use one of the soft burrito wraps i found last week, add some salsa (above), some of the cheese (above) some beans ( i always have beans at the ready – chili flavored, black, refried) and …voila! – there’s a good lunch.
• a single strawberry greek yogurt, 5 oz.

10/29 AM
• Some pizza, a couple of slices worth – into the freezer.
• small zip-loc of baby carrots, peeled and prepped.

10/29 PM

• red rice carry-out – untouched.
• carry out – 2 kinds of asian style noodles, one white, one w/ soy sauce & a bit of chicken.
• 2 red bell peppers, not a blemish on them.
• celery – the outside of the stalk is blemished, but toss that out and you got a ‘heart of celery’ my favorite part 🙂 What’s not to like?
• more pizza! about 3 slices worth! with plenty of toppings – looks like spinach, ( tomatoes, cheese, of course)….etc etc.

Here’s an example of just how lazy and stupid your fellow americans are. Here’s a roll of perfectly good TP i found in the trash.

The spindle in the apt’s bathroom is way too wide for this. So how hard is it to stick your finger, or a pencil, into the roll, and unroll what you need? I think a second grader could figure this out in a heart beat.

• 2 cartons of eggs, both dated Nov 2 – 3 in one, 6 in the other. The all pass the sink or swim test.
• Partially finished 1 lb package of Land O’Lakes sliced ham – dated Oct 21.
• One big fat cigar, made in Honduras.

• a take out container w/ a decent bit of curry sauce (yum!)
• small container of Romano cheese, a few tablespoons left, quite enough to liven up a slice of pizza, or bowl of pasta.

Added another index card to the ‘dumpster diver cookbook’ – my mom kept index cards w/ recipes handed down to her in a small metal box, they were referred to often.

• white chinese style flat noodles, a little bit of green onion, not fully cooked.
• carrots, micro-waved until soft
• a handful of orange glazed chicken chunks
• curry sauce! I found a few days ago, a carry out/toss out see 10/31 above.
• Simmer ’til noodles are soft, add all the rest.

• 2 hefty containers of salad – one is spring mix, the other i forget the name of – iceberg lettuce, sliced apple, pine nuts, and some really big slices of chicken. Also 3 small carryout containers of salad dressing, brown kinda vinegary, haven’t had this one before – not bad, not too much vinegar.
• Salsa! 1/2 a16 oz bottle, HOT! which is usually too hot for me, but since i have some really mild taco sauce, i’ll add some of that, to tone it down.
• ‘Can’t believe it’s not butter’ – 15 oz tub, less than 1/4 full
• six pack of brown eggs, 4 left – dated 11/10 – why is it in the trash?

I have written a few times that ‘my cup runneth over’. Definitely it has on many occasions – carrots, celery are most likely to be tossed out, and they are quite nutritious! My solution when i have veggies that are starting to decline, and i can’t eat ’em in time, is to cook and freeze. 🙂
This was the solution for a glut of potatoes a while back – microwave until soft, wrap in plastic, & freeze – how elegantly simple!

Too many americans are just plain stupid.

Here’s half a green apple, some cream cheese with some mold on the top
Why anyone would toss out half an apple is beyond me, i just don’t get it.
Cream cheese w/ some mold (dated 11/10) – scrape off the mold, dummy!
Next Safeway shop? a couple of bagels!
Oh, also a 12 pack of eggs – 6 are still still good, pass the float test, within the sell by date. Why toss them out???
Egg salad sandwich, here we come.


• A bag of perfectly good apples, half a dozen.
• A half full 16 oz package of sliced turkey – dated – 12/6!
• Half a container of pasta, rigatoni, perfectly good.
• Half a loaf of winter wheat bread, which i have come to really like, thank you, neighbors!
• A copy of the New Yorker magazine from 2010 – i think from the cover art (always good!) it is about movies. I subscribe, maybe have read it before, but since it’s been a few years, it’ll probably be a good read nonetheless.
• And one interesting book – ‘The Orbital Perspective – Lessons in seeing the big picture from a journey of 71 million miles’ by astronaut Ron Garan.

Definitely there is treasure in trash!
And, yes, we need a better perspective, maybe it doesn’t have to be orbital, but it had better be better than what most of us do now, what i see in the ‘trash’.
What if we were to look at it all as not ‘trash’ – but opportunity! = recycling – paper and plastic, & compost anything organic?! Donate to a homeless shelter?
What’s the old saying? ‘when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade’
That’s not just food advice, it’s ‘life advice’.
Another thing about what i find – sometimes people buy something, then in a couple of spoonfuls decide they hate it. I found one chinese carry-out box w/ what looked to be good stuff, it was virtually full. One small taste and my mouth was on fire – ridiculously hot, down right searing!
Also found a container of mashed cauliflower, well seasoned, olive oil, etc etc. One quick taste? this is soooo bland, it just barely tastes like cauliflower.

For some reason, i’ve gotten lucky on cream cheese and mashed potatoes the last few days.
• a 24 oz tub of spuds, ‘Hormel home-style’ mashed potatoes, barely touched.
• a smaller container of mashed from Sprouts, seasoned w/ garlic butter, dated Nov 1 – freezer-ready.
• cream cheese – the last of a small container, w/ onions and chives – that’s 2 containers of cream cheese in less than a week. 🙂
• about 1/4 lb. of “primo taglio ‘off the bone’ ” Deli ham, from Safeway – at $9.99/lb. Smells pretty damn good, dated Nov 1.
• several small chinese carry-out containers – one w/ noodles & veggies in a nice thick sweet soy sauce, another w/ pot stickers (half a dozen), the last w/ batter coated chicken chunks (about 1/2 a dozen). This will make a nice dinner 🙂

The last few days some small but tasty treats.
• half a sourdough baguette, still soft, right to the freezer.
• several small loafs of sweet bread – perfect for P’nut butter, morning snack at work.
• yet another half loaf of wheat bread.
• a couple of days ago, someone left most of a *most hearty sandwich* by the bus stop – rye bread, various cold cuts, cheese, pickles, yellow pepper slices, tomato slices, alfafa sprouts, plenty of mayo and mustard. I’ll guess they made this at the deli a quick walk away that has a ‘do it yourself sandwich bar’, started to eat, but weren’t very hip to the bus schedule – you can’t eat on the bus, so they left it on a paper plate atop the trash can. That was thoughtful. I carry a few plastic bags in my briefcase for just such an occasion. So i scooped it up, dissected it at home. Plenty left even after tossing out the soggy rye bread and way too tough corned beef slices.

There’s only a few things i have to buy at Safeway:
• Eggs – but not all the time, alotta people look at the date, and toss them out while they are still good – lucky me!
• chili beans, refried beans
• milk
• cheese
• Liquor (vodka) and Orange juice
• Bacon – but only once in a while – most bacon is pretty bland and tasteless, there’s just no ‘there’ there. And ‘apple smoked’ and ‘peppered’ bacon? totally overdone!
I have to go for the most expensive kind, to get anything that tastes like REAL bacon.
I mean just bacon, nothing else.

…that’s about it – my-oh-so-nice neighbors gift me with all the rest.

I was just getting to end of the last bag of found baby carrots, lo and behold another is waiting for, 1 lb. bag, at least half full.

• yet another small bag of baby carrots!
• A big chunk of chicken breast
• 2 english muffins
• small bottle of Odwalla OJ
• a ‘bistro bowl’ – “santa fe style” – lunch in a bowl = Lettuce, Chicken chunks, fire roasted Corn, Monterey jack colby cheese, and some chips and salsa ranch dressing.

• 2 tamales, wrapped in parchment paper. I’ve tried the store bought versions, they suck, alot of corn meal wrapping, very little filling. These look a whole better, i can see the filling coming out the ends.
At first i didn’t know the name of them, it was on the tip of my tongue but didn’t come out. Duh!

wikipedia to the rescue – search ‘mexican food’.

Whenever i encounter something new or not so new that i don’t know much about i do some research, it always opens my eyes.

“In the pre-Columbian era, the Aztecs ate tamales with these ingredients: turkey, flamingo, frog, axolotl, pocket gopher, rabbit, fish, turkey eggs, honey, fruits, squash and beans, as well as with no filling.

Tamale-making is a ritual that has been part of Mexican life since pre-Hispanic times, when special fillings and forms were designated for each specific festival or life event. Today, tamales are typically filled with meats, cheese or vegetables, especially chilies. Preparation is complex, time-consuming and an excellent example of Mexican communal cooking, where this task usually falls to the women. Tamales are a favorite comfort food in Mexico, eaten as both breakfast and dinner, and often accompanied by hot atole or champurrado and arroz con leche (rice pudding) or maize-based beverages of indigenous origin. Street vendors can be seen serving them from huge, steaming, covered pots (tamaleras) or ollas.

The most common fillings are pork and chicken, in either red or green salsa or mole. Another traditional variation is to add pink-colored sugar to the corn mix and fill it with raisins or other dried fruit and make a sweet tamal de dulce. Commonly, a few “deaf”, or fillingless, tamales (tamales sordos), might be served with refried beans and coffee. Most recently the roasted pepper and Monterey Jack cheese (chile con queso) tamales have become a favorite recipe.”

• Last but not least? a few really nice pastries. It was a rainy day, everything in the dumpsters was soaked, but somehow a box of pastries survived, a cupcake ( looks like nuts and peanut butter perhaps?), a croissant, and a flat-bread/scone type thing, looks like blueberries on the inside. *SOLD*! to moi!


• A few days ago, i found several big zip-loc bags of what appeared to be marinated chicken parts in a green herbal(?) marinade/sauce. I couldn’t place the sauce/marinade, but the chicken was still good. If chicken is NOT good, you can smell it in a heart beat, no two ways about it. So i slow baked it today, 250º …. for several hours. Nice!

11/26 Sat

• Unfinished packages of blueberries, strawberries
• A full unopened pack of tortilla/burrito wraps
• half a small pizza – just cheese, not very interesting, but pizza is a blank slate, you can top it w/ whatever you want. Tomato sauce, more cheese, maybe a few of the dried shitake mushrooms i have been chipping away at for months – soak in water, chop ’em up, add to whatever.
And as always, some onion!

Since last Thursday, the dumpsters have disappeared from their usual place, in a corner of the bottom level of the parking garage, behind 2 heavy steel doors. Now they are in two parking places at the front entrance to the complex, right beside the mgt. office door. What an attractive sight! I can’t believe it. Next time i see one of the maintenance guys i am going to ask about this.

Management got it’s act together, the dumpsters are back where they belong.
And for a friday, filling up fast 🙂

• Most of a loaf of ‘country sweet Hawaiian’ bread.

• ‘Dosa chips’, small bag, 5 oz. They are small chips, full of little holes, a golden brown color. The dough is fermented naturally, they are touted to be good w/ many things – cheese, hummus, tapenade, whatever you want. I tried a few w/ cream cheese, but they are so thin, they don’t scoop, they crumble. I think hummus is the ticket here. What are the ingredients you ask? white rice flour, urad dahl (sounds indian, that’s probably why the name is ‘dosa…’), water, salt, rice bran oil.

Yes, i was right about this being indian:

The photo on this page shows pretty much what the chips look like.

The two links above have loads of good info.

• partial loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, goes great w/ P’nut butter.

• carry out container – salad, mostly greens, still pretty crisp. Kinda boring? you could say that …. but i have some red onion, red cabbage, carrots, red bell pepper, and many salad dressings. Not so boring anymore, is it?

• a large storage container (6x9x4″ deep) with two very lonely dinner rolls. Why toss these out? A perfect mid-nite snack, split one open, add P’nut butter and jelly, and that’s all there is to it.

• Finally, carry out container w/ thick large french fries. French fries always taste best directly from the deep fat fryer, but you can revive that taste w/ a bit of oil ( veg., corn or olive, makes no difference) and zap it in the microwave. Of course, plenty of salt (Just what the doctor ordered!) and black pepper.

Several large bags, most still really good:
• what’s probably 2 lbs of green beans, they look a bit past their prime, i don’t feel like separating wheat from chaff, i leave them be.
• Carrots – a 2 lb bag, unopened
• Broccoli crowns – probably 1 lb +. A few have some small spots of brown on top – so what! – Got a sharp knife? know how to use it w/ out killing yourself? I sure hope so.

• small container of cole slaw – i still have some red cabbage and plenty of carrots left – i’ll give this a boost 🙂
• single serving salad, asian style w/ some pot stickers, some lettuce and shredded carrot. Some nice soy sauce dressing too.
• 10 oz container of ‘Rana’ alfredo sauce, 1/3rd full – tasty stuff!
• a 2lb container of cherry tomatoes grown in Mexico – they are starting to look a bit wrinkled, but still perfectly good. Actually most fruits and veggies are best at this point, they have finally ripened. Let’s remember that most fruits and veggies are picked before they are ripe, in hopes of ripening in transit … which really doesn’t happen.

12/10 Sat.

It’s the ‘all in one bag phenomenon’ again:


• ‘Busseto’ peppered dry salami – 1 lb package, half full.
• ‘Fage’ greek yogurt (plain), 17 oz, half full
• Brie cheese – expensive artisinal stuff, i can tell from the wrapper, about 1/3 a lb. This melts really nicely, makes for a great sandwich.
• cottage cheese, 16 oz, 1/2 full – ‘BB’ dated? Jan 19 2017.
• 16 oz of salsa! 1/2 full! Mild, but i got the stuff to kick it up a notch – a great collection of ‘hot’ !



Why do we waste food?

“Food waste is not intentional, and some is inevitable, but we can all do more to waste less. Following are some reasons why we don’t use all the food we buy.

* No pre-planning. If you don’t have a shopping list when you go to the store, you are much more likely to buy items you don’t need, or won’t use.
* Busy lifestyle. Sometimes we buy an item to use in a specific recipe, and then end up eating something else or going out for a meal, so the ingredient sits unused in the refrigerator or on the shelf.
* Forgetfulness. We forget we bought the item in the first place and it goes bad before we realize we have it.
* Too much food. Sometimes we simply have too much food in the fridge or on the shelves and we don’t see the item in question.
* Overshopping. Be wary of those two for one deals or large items that are on sale. It’s not a bargain if the food goes bad before you eat it.
* Impulse buying. When we go to the store, we are sometimes tempted to buy something that’s not on our shopping list, thinking we’ll use it in a future dish. And then we don’t. Food samples in stores also promote impulse food buying – just because you try it doesn’t mean you have to buy it.
* Cooking too much. Cooking too much food can lead to waste, even if your intention is to eat leftovers.
* Unfamiliar food. Buying new types of food can be adventurous, but if you don’t have a recipe already picked out, you might end up throwing the food away.
* Amount of ingredient needed. Oftentimes, only part of an item is needed for a recipe, for example, a teaspoon of fresh oregano or tablespoon of tomato paste. The rest will most likely go in the fridge and be forgotten about.
(( Blog authors note: Celery and Carrots are two veggies i really like but can only buy two ways:
1 – Celery as a large quantity = the whole bunch/plant
2 – Carrots as a big bag, a lb or two.
Both are way too much for a 1 person household. Yes, i can buy a prepared container with both… for 5 times the price, but i can’t bring myself to pay that much for some prep/packaging time, which is a rip-off. BTW – Got any idea how much we pay for ‘convenience’??))
* Not knowing when food has gone bad. If food has mold on it or has a bad smell, you can be confident the item is no longer fresh. But what about food nearing or at its “sell by” date? Many consumers don’t realize that the “sell by” date is not an indication of food safety and that many foods at their “sell by” or “best before” dates are still fresh and edible. (Read our Use By Dates page for more information.) To see if your food is still good to eat, visit where you can type in the food and find out how long it stays fresh.
* Frequency of shopping. People who shop weekly or every other week run a higher risk of food going bad vs. those who shop two or more times a week.
* Wrong choices at the store. Many people buy what they think they will eat and shop for healthy foods, buying a lot of fruits and vegetables, only to get home and find they’re too tired to cook until the weekend. By then, the food might be bad.”

The bigger/larger lesson here? Be aware – THINK about what you are doing and why.
Yes, that means sloooow-TF down.

The End of Reflection

Future Tense


“Finding moments to engage in contemplative thinking has always been a challenge, since we’re distractible,” said Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows.” “But now that we’re carrying these powerful media devices around with us all day long, those opportunities become even less frequent, for the simple reason that we have this ability to distract ourselves constantly.”

What You Can Do

There are many things you can do to waste less food and save yourself money. Check out our “What You Can Do” section (below) for tips and ideas.

Most long term useful item i found recently? A briefcase/laptop style carry bag – the one i have been using is getting a bit old. Upgrading to new? An interesting experience, I became aware of how much ‘design’ has to do with whether one likes or dislikes something. This new bag has much better (for me) compartments for my uses. MUCH better.

Learn to improvise/customize whatever you find. I found a carry-out container of asian style noodles, w/ peanut sauce and a bit of meat & some fried tofu cubes. Not terribly appetizing. BUT!… I added some fried burger, some peanut sauce dry mix, a bit of hot sauce and whaddaya know! i got dinner for at least a couple of days. I think i’ll microwave some carrots ’til soft for a side dish, lots of butter and pepper.

To distill all the above?
THINK ( ‘think-less-think-better’ see above link)
PLAN (see same link above)
IMPROVISE – Whenever i go to rustle up some dinner or lunch, i always look around my fridge, asking what’s here? what can compliment this??
There’s always something, always – you just have to THINK and IMPROVISE.

This is an article from Turning Points, a magazine that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.
“Turning Point: France becomes the first country to outlaw food waste.”

Read this – and then i think you will agree with me – the best tool we have? between our ears.



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