Lessons from My Childhood: Waste Not, Want Not


Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Yesterday, after all our guests had gone home, my husband and I were cleaning up after Sunday Supper. As I peered into the roasting pan, I saw the remnants of a delicious Easter meal, but I was also flooded with memories from my childhood. Growing up, it was an everyday occurrence to have folks over to our home. No invitation necessary, just drop by. (By the way, I miss that!) Our doors were always open and guests were always welcome. It was easy to set another place at the table. And no matter what, there would always be enough to eat.

My daddy was born right in the middle of The Great Depression. And I didn’t realize just how much his childhood impacted my own, until my husband and I began our quest to live a more simple life. You see, my folks were “recycling and reusing” long before it became a catch-phrase in our society. Growing up, we were taught never to waste, to think outside-of-the-box when it came to additional uses for ordinary items, and shown how to fix things, instead of tossing them aside because it needed a minor repair or to purchase the latest model.

While my momma was the cook, my daddy was the cleaner. After a big meal–be it turkey, ham or roast–he would meticulously package up the leftovers. Of course, our guests always had first dibs. And Daddy would package up bundles for them to take home. Then, with whatever was left, our family would use in sandwiches, soups and such throughout the week. But he always made sure to use EVERYTHING, even if that meant sticking a ham bone in the freezer.

Today, I don’t even consider throwing out a ham bone. Come on, now! Do you even realize how much flavor is in that appendage? Throw it into a pot with some dried beans, bay leaves, onions and seasonings. Then, fill it up with water and simmer for a good, long while, and you’ve got Soul Food at it’s finest. The only other thing needed is a piping, hot pan of freshly baked cornbread. Now, that’s some good eatin’!

But what about all that luscious goodness left in the very bottom of the roasting pan? You know, all those bits and pieces of ham and the rich, flavorful stock. Well, that makes the best cooking liquid for Jambalaya, risotto, gravy to smother over biscuits, even soup! Or freeze it in an ice cube tray to add extra bursts of flavor to most any dish. Oh. My. Yum.

This is but one simple lesson my folks taught me. There are many, many others. Some of which I haven’t always embraced. You see, there was a time early in our marriage, when my husband and I were sucked into the vortex of “keeping up with the Joneses”. About a decade ago, we realized we couldn’t keep up with them. But more importantly, we didn’t even want to keep trying. It wasn’t worth the time, effort and expense, not to mention debt.

Upon that revelation, our overall philosophy of living changed and we began to incorporate those changes into our daily lives. This didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s still taking place, slowly and day by day. Yet, it was then that I began to embrace what had been modeled to me by my folks: It’s okay to be different, to have less, and to live within one’s means.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more and more apparent that we live in a disposable society…be it resources or relationships. But my folks taught me there was another way to live: be generous, be frugal, be wise. These lessons will never go out of style. And I will carry them with me always. For this and so much more, I am very grateful.

But what about my ham leftovers? Well, I hear my kitchen calling my name. Something amazing is about to happen with those leftovers and that ham bone! And I can only imagine that it’s gonna be oh, so good!


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