I am not frugal but I hate waste, which you may see as akin to the classic "I'm not racist but ... .". Suddenly, as in as suddenly as my children became adults, frugality is a shameful thing.
Take Salada crackers. As you will know, they come as squares that you break along dotted lines into four crackers, and they are my wife's fave so we always have them. Note to self: check the price.
When my daughters arrive they hand out a Salada to their small children crying for a "bickit", or I should say they hand out a Salada if we've hidden the chocolate biscuits, and Saladas all round is not an intolerable burden on the finances. The problem is that they give each child a square of four crackers.
I object, and I'm the worst in the world. Give them, I say testily, one cracker. You're as good as throwing the crackers away! He (they're all boys) won't eat four crackers and we don't want him to eat four crackers!
They're just crackers, they say. They cost nothing! Don't be so mean!
It is not always just crackers, which, by the way, don't cost nothing. Sometimes it's a bowl of pasta, a bowl I know and they know and you would know the child will never finish. Take the rest home for his lunch tomorrow, I say, but they never do.
I know that we're not able to offer that wasted food to hungry children in the Third World, but it seems more than regrettable that even a minuscule portion of the food brought to us by the work of so many, from farmers to factory workers to supermarket shelf packers, is discarded so wantonly.
My objection is to the waste, the unnecessary and even deliberate waste, and not one little bit to cost. I know that we're not able to offer that wasted food to hungry children in the Third World, but it seems more than regrettable that even a minuscule portion of the food brought to us by the work of so many, from farmers to factory workers to supermarket shelf packers, is discarded so wantonly.
Most of the food waste in my home goes straight from the fridge to the bin, so much that, perversely, refrigeration must have increased household food waste. Perhaps we put too much store in cold storage, that we buy more than we should in the mistaken belief that it will be safe indefinitely in the fridge or the freezer.
When homes had just evaporative coolers and ice chests the cook knew exactly how long the meat and veg would remain edible, a matter of days. When it is weeks or months in the fridge and freezer the limits are soon forgotten.
I'm as bad as anyone, because when it's out of sight behind the front row on the fridge shelf it is out of my mind. For that reason I buy half tins of baked beans for sometimes a higher price than full tins.
Vegetables are the most common waste in my home. I've checked the crispers, which I call the rotters, just now and two Lebanese cucumbers in a bag of five are bad, which means the others will be soon, a lettuce is looking slimy, and while I would try to rescue the inner leaves my wife would not, half a plastic-wrapped capsicum has been hidden much too long under half a cauliflower, and the carrots are limp.
Bananas, which we keep on hand for grandchildren, are the fruit most often hoiked.
Next on the scale are leftovers, and coming up for eviction from the fridge right now is half a bowl of mapo, which is a Chinese dish of tofu and pork, and it seems always to me to be particularly regrettable that we waste the meat of an animal we kill. There is also the end of a piece of corned meat, which will go to the chooks.
Right up there are the freezers, because my wife has a freezer fetish and would fill 10 of them within days. The problem is by the time the carefully wrapped parcels of meat or cooked food are out of sight at the back of the drawer or the bottom of the chest their fate is sealed. We should, I suggest to my wife, specify in our will which children will get what from the bottom of the freezer. She always appreciates my suggestions.
Maybe waste is simply a product of affluence, and that the more affluent we are the more we waste. Which may explain why it seems that successive generations waste more.
My grandparents, for example, had newspaper torn into squares as toilet paper, and while my parents did not they did have in the fridge a lard bucket storing the fat of fried meat. Piles of newspapers were exchanged for a discount at the butcher shop, spent chooks were roasted, brown paper bags covered school books.
When my wife and I took our children camping we went in a tent, and when I offer to lend the tent to my children taking their children camping they are horrified.
They stay in cabins, fancy cabins. They're still horrified when I offer to erect the tent, and set up the tarp, with a floor and electric lights and a fridge. They have small children, they say. We had small children in the tent for 20 years, I say, and they were one of them.
They have restaurant meals delivered, sometimes for lunch, and we wouldn't dream of such decadence. They think nothing of spending more than $20 on a cocktail, at which price I'd rather my wife drank water.
Wasting a square of Salada crackers doesn't rank in this new affluence.
Jeff Corbett contributes regular opinion columns to the pages of the Newcastle Herald. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org