When I was younger I would go to my friends' houses and be amazed by their walk-in pantries.
I guess you would say I was "poor" as a child - my mom was a teenager when I was born and I remember her paying for groceries with food stamps pulled out of little booklets - no debit card in those days, you had to pull that booklet out in front of everyone and select the correct page to tear out while everyone waited.
My mom made yogurt and bread at home.
My step-dad saved our glass and cans and took them to the recycling center each month for cash.
Growing up, I assumed they did those things because they were "hippies". We had a VW van and each summer we camped - instead of going to hotels, like my friends did on their vacations.
Looking back now, as an adult, I realize their choices had a lot to do with us being cash poor.
By the time my junior high and high school friends were coming back from winter break tanned from their trips to Hawaii (to homes their parents owned, not rented) and their first cars arrived on their 16th birthdays, I had a deep understanding of how different our economic stations in life were.
One of the things that I always equated with wealth (or what I perceived as "wealth") was a full pantry. If you had a walk-in pantry and an extra freezer, well, you were one of the 1% for sure!
Since then I’ve always equated a full pantry with the kind wealth and security that I didn’t experience as a child. But the truth of the matter is the more food I have squirreled away and stored, the more I end up throwing away.
You may know how it goes (especially if you are a parent) - the bananas I bought on Wednesday that everyone ate in one day are replenished only to languish until they are brown.
The bagels I was asked to buy turn rock hard or grow green patches of mold.
The creamer I bring home isn't the "right" one and sits on the shelf until months past it's "best buy" date.
I hate food waste, but it seems unavoidable much of the time.
Last night, when I was tired from the week and planning dinner, I had every intention of going to the store to get a couple of nice pieces of salmon. And then I thought - "Wait, I bet there's something in the freezer I can cook instead."
Are you like me? Do you have a freezer full of half-full boxes and open bags of freezer-burned green beans?
Sure enough, there was a bag of tilapia filets in there, under the naan and mochi.
I broiled those up and sautéed some zucchini ribbons I had in the fridge that were a day past their "use by" date and dinner was served - without a trip to the grocery store to buy expensive salmon!
Plus, I got to use something out of the freezer and saved something from the garbage.
By the way, I found at least two more meals as I dug through the freezer, so don't be surprised to find chicken thighs on the menu soon!