Friday, September 11, 2009

The Full Fridge Myth

Over the last few months I have been revamping our family's eating, purchasing and overall interaction with food. My goals for this were to reduce waste, save money and most of all appreciate the food that we bring into the house. During this time I have learned many valuable lessons about how I see food and what my culture has taught me about it. I have reached back into my childhood habits and questioned the validity of many of the thoughts that tumble through my head when I open the fridge.

The first one and the most powerful one is gazing into the fridge and thinking:
"There's nothing to eat." How many times did I say that to my mother while staring at shelves filled with food? My husband says it to me, I think it myself. I've been trying to deconstruct that thought. Trace it back to its roots in my being. The result is a hard look at how many North Americans (probably more of my generation, the 30 somethings and younger) have been raised to view food.

Many things affect how you view food. How you were raised is a huge factor. Members of my grandmother's generation who went through The Depression for example, would not say there is nothing to eat when gazing at a full fridge. Even if there were only a couple of things in there they would see that differently than someone of my age. Why? They understand hunger and poverty in a way I do not. There are still people all over the world and in our own neighbourhoods who have little to no food. They would look into my fridge when I think there is nothing to eat and see many more options, they would view the food as plentiful. They may even be overwhelmed by too many options.

So where has this mindset come from in me? The culture of convenience, middle class, I want it now. If I can't take it out of a box, put it in the microwave and be eating before the next commercial is through on t.v. then there is nothing to eat. It's been a hard pill to swallow for me that I have this trait but I do. I will often make something fast rather than make something wholesome and nutritious. Our culture also eats out in enormous numbers for this same reason. No time to cook, no time to shop but I do have time to order something off a predetermined menu and wait for it to be made for me. In other words I'll pay you to do all the work and reap the rewards....or in some cases pay the price of unhealthy meals later.

I've been battling this attitude in myself for quite a while. And we are slowly taking measures to combat this often silent opponent. We rarely eat out. When we do it is a treat. Dave and I both really appreciate the luxury of not cooking for ourselves. Because it is a luxury.
We don't have a microwave. Egads!!! Can you be serious? Yes, I really am. We hardly ever miss not having one. And it removes a huge portion of prepackaged foods from our grocery bill. If we can't make it with a conventional stove, we don't buy it. Being at home has helped me to develop better cooking and baking skills. I mostly make our bread, granola bars, and baked sweets. Canning and preserving fresh food is something that I'm slowly learning and incorporating into our food chain. Time and storage space are a challenge in that regard but I hope to plan better next summer and make tomato sauce and can peaches.
The biggest change that I have made in myself is to really look at the food on the shelves of my fridge. Having less food in there has actually helped me in the long run. How often do you find a head of lettuce or package of something perishable at the back of your fridge behind three more recently purchased items? I used to do this all the time and I forgot that it was in there. So now its gone bad and I wasted that food (and money) by having too much other food in the way. There is a strange urge within me to fill that fridge up because that means we have enough to eat. Even on grocery day we have food that could still be made into a meal. It's all about the way you look at it.
When I am able to use leftovers to create a new meal I am very proud. I feel that not creating more waste is good. I also want to teach my son to appreciate food and understand its preciousness. I encourage everyone to notice their own habits toward food, especially the next time you open your fridge.


Anonymous said...

Love this post. I have started making granola bars but haven't found a good recipe where they don't fall apart yet. I wanted to make them without pb but I might have to try using it to get it to stick? And the amount of sodium and high fructose corn syrup freaks me out so I try not to look sometimes. I also try to freeze things in the fridge that I know we won't get to. I have a freezer vacuum bag machine thingy that's good for this.

Witchy Mom's Homeschool said...

This has been a focus for me this year, because I am also tired of throwing things away that don't get eaten. Now that I've returned to being home again, I definately am making more of our meals. I send the leftovers with my hubby for work for his lunch many times. I do have a microwave, but find I use it less and less. I have a toaster oven that I absolutely LOVE that I bake a great many things in so that if I don't have enough stuff to fill the big oven, I use my toaster oven. Thanks for the post, it helps keep me going to be reminded of the things that are truly important to me :)