I haven't posted in awhile. Things have gotten crazy as I try to wrap up my graduate degree! But it has sparked an idea for a post... My Masters thesis is on a topic I would bet most of us don’t consider on a day to day basis. Yet it’s something that we all have a relationship with. Food insecurity: the worry or inability to afford or access food. Maybe you’ve been in this boat, maybe you haven’t - I will write more on my thesis and on living in poverty at a later date. But for this post I want to hone in on the significance of food in our 20s. And the opportunity we have to reduce waste/save moola in how we use it.
This winter when the price of cauliflower soared it seemed everybody went up in arms. $8 for a cauliflower?! Outrageous! It bumped weather as the go-to conversation starter. And it amazed me that all of a sudden, one vegetable could be on so many people’s minds. The hike in cost of produce combined with the research I was immersed in really impacted my views on wasting food. And how downright ridiculous it is.
As 20somethings a lot of us are fresh outta that #studentlife, and equally as fresh outta cash. We have spent the last 4, 5, 6 years on a diet of chicken fingers and fries (no joke, I had a Costco bag of each, a bottle of ketchup, and a toaster oven in 2nd year). While our diets in these years of independence and finding ourselves were lacking nutrition and sustenance, what they did teach us was the power of “Waste not want not”, my grandfather’s main saying when Slate and I were being picky around the dinner table growing up. Poutine left over after the bar? Throw it in the fridge and warm it up for breakfast. Only ate half a can of chicken noodle soup? Fridge. Your hospital committee didn’t eat all of the goody tray at your monthly meeting? Wrap up a couple squares and a few cubes of cheese in a napkin and bring those babies home. Parents came to town and went out for supper? Get a to-go container and raid everyone’s plates for scraps you can lay claim to. This was me (and will probably always be me realistically). But I proudly ask the question why the heck not?!
That poutine, those squares, those leftovers will provide me joy at a later date, guaranteed. It will fill my tummy for a meal or a snack. And where would it go otherwise? Now that I’m at home my dad and I are in a constant battle… I scrape the pots and load up the Tupperwares after supper. Often by the time I wake up in the morning they are missing from the refrigerator and the evidence is atop the garbage bin. For a guy that grew up the youngest of 8 children in a hard working farming family it blows my mind how wasteful he is! Perhaps as a stand against how he was raised (everybody knows Bri’s rebel spirit).
Last week I had a hankering for something sweet (full disclosure: I get a hankering for something sweet atleast once an hour). My evening snack ended up being chocolate dipped strawberries. Sounds extravagant, right? Wrong. I unwrapped 10 leftover Easter eggs from their foil, put them in a bowl and microwaved them. I then stirred it around and bam, melted chocolate. Dipped my strawberries in half way, laid them on a plate and put them in the fridge. Call me Godiva. This is an example of the student mentality - of taking what you have and being resourceful. Granted, strawberries in the winter aren’t the cheapest of fruits. But I was still pretty proud!
A strategy that I also employed as a student was buying for the week and just buying what I needed. It’s super dangerous to go to the grocery store hungry, but it’s also dangerous to go to the grocery store unaware of what you have in your fridge or cupboard. That’s how you wind up with 5 loaves of crusty or mouldy bread, a drawer of out-of-date mystery meat, and 5 quarts of milk to use up before they go bad. As students (and 20-somethings) our budgets don’t typically allow us the freedom of blind grocery shopping. Similarly, and maybe this is just my Dutch self, we get a rush out of buying No Name and shopping for sales. 20 cents saved to put towards a night on the town? You betcha. I think these are really good practices to carry throughout our lives, even when we’re making the big bucks.
Everybody has a unique relationship to food… maybe you hate it because it goes right to your hips, maybe you love it and the joy it brings, maybe it’s all about the social connection, or the artistic flare in prepping. Whatever it may be there’s one thing for certain: we all need food to survive. It’s our fuel to propel us into the world and do all the things we set out to do. It’s a basic human right. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had in my Masters research project because it has forever changed the way I walk into a grocery store. It has forever changed the way I clean up from supper. 13% of Ontarians face food insecurity from day to day. Knowing that there are that many people unable to fill their tummies with food not only breaks my heart but makes me reconsider what gets laughed off as my student ways. It makes me reconsider every scrap, every leftover, and the potential that lays within a forgotten Easter egg.