Using What We Have
By Sheila Wray Gregoire
For Christmas last year I bought myself an ice cream maker. It’s loads of fun, but I only use it once every two weeks. The rest of the time it sits on my counter, because it has no room of its own. My bread machine is in the same sad state. It lies there, neglected, its constant presence a sign of how crowded my kitchen has become.
Put simply, my house is too full of stuff. I have nowhere to put my new stuff because my old stuff is clogging up the cupboards, and the freezer, and the space under the bathroom sinks that you never dare to look at. We’ve lived in our house for eight years now, and it shows it.
So I made a decision recently. We are going to use our stuff. I know this may sound revolutionary, but I decided that I would actually eat what we have before I bought a lot of groceries. I would even use all those moisturizers and gels that were clogging up my bathroom before I purchased more beauty products. And to show how much I have changed, I even made a new rule. Before I buy another bottle of hydrocortisone cream, I would see if we already had one. We do. In fact, we have four. Now I’m desperately trying to find any patch of skin that could remotely be aided by some .5% solution, because I am going to use this stuff up if it kills me.
When I think of how much money I have just sitting forgotten in cupboards I feel very silly. Judging from the tone of many “mom blogs” that I read on the internet, I am not alone. “No buy month” is becoming increasingly popular, when families endeavour to buy nothing except perishables, like milk or vegetables, and then use what they’ve already got. It’s a great way to save money! Most of us have at least $450 in uneaten food in our cupboards at any one time, and if you add up all those half-used bottles of conditioner and shampoo and hair spray, we have an awful lot in our bathrooms as well. But more than that, it makes us think differently about how we use our money. When we throw it away carelessly, buying stuff we don’t really need, then we’re not being responsible or grateful for what we have.
I have tried to interest the rest of the family in this game of Using What We Have, and to a certain extent they have embraced it. My girls now put stuff in their hair (I never really liked some of that hair gel anyway, but it’s good enough for a 9-year-old), and they feel very grown up. It’s the eating through the cupboards that they’re quite not so enthusiastic about.
It seems I have a lot of lentils. What do you do with lentils, anyway? And I have beans galore. One night I made chili with various miscellaneous dried beans and all kinds of hamburger and turkey patties left over from the summer. When you mash them all up, they’re pretty indistinguishable from ground beef. And my freezer looks a lot better without all those boxes.
It was the liver, though, that just about killed the kids. When we purchased half a cow from a farmer last year, he threw in three packages of it. I ate liver as a child, and it wasn’t that bad. And I’m always bordering on anemic, so I figured this would be a good thing to do. I warned the girls. They complained. Keith gave them the father look, and they calmed down. They were prepared. They were psyched. And then it came time to actually cook the stuff.
The recipe I had called for the liver to be cut into smaller pieces, so I picked up a knife and stared down that slimy mess. Then I made the first incision. And I promptly threw the liver in the garbage. Liver makes a really squeaky noise when you cut it. It’s just not right. So out came the chicken, and there was much rejoicing.