I spent the first week of November canning and processing pumpkins. Yes, pumpkins, for about three full days. All my free time was spent with pumpkins.
You see, these pumpkins were used as part of the decorations for my brother’s wedding, and there were lots of them. They were left over, unwanted and unneeded. And if I had not “processed” them, they would have been used as decorations only. Instead, they will be feeding my family in the way of pumpkin bread, pumpkin puree for smoothies (and our own yummy lattes) for the next year.
To some, spending my time turning pumpkins into canned pumpkin goodness seems like a complete waste of time. In fact, someone pointed out to me that “even Martha Stewart recommends you just go to the store and buy some.” But you know what? I had fun working with the pumpkins -- and I felt good about not simply tossing them out. It also occurred to me that there’s a saying that goes something like “waste not, want not.”
Now I can tell you that when I saw a do-it-yourself pumpkin flavored coffee drink recipe earlier this year, I thought, “Oh! If only we hadn’t already used up that tiny bit of pumpkin I put away last year.” Last year, I only had two or three pumpkins and I was mostly focused on saving the seeds. But this year I had plenty of pumpkins at my disposal thanks to my brother’s wedding!
I still took time to save the seeds. That is actually one of my kids’ favorite parts. We roasted six large baking sheets full of seeds. Some were cinnamon-sugar flavored, some were lemon pepper flavored, and some got dusted in spicy Creole seasoning. These pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack that my kids look forward to each year. Now, had I tossed the pumpkins or just left them where they were sitting after that wedding, there would be a lot less pumpkin-flavored goodness at my house this winter (and beyond).
I know that some of my methods for “saving” are a bit different -- but it’s the type of difference that can have an impact in my budget (and yours). During the first weekend of November I picked up all my Zaycon Foods chicken. You have read about Zaycon before because I have mentioned them several times in my column over the years.
Typically, when I get my 40-pound case of chicken, I process it quickly and get those chicken breasts trimmed, separated from each other, and sealed up. Most of the time I am so worn out when I finish that process that I simply toss out the trimmings.
This year, I took the time to do something different. First, after putting away the chicken itself, I combed carefully through the trimmings. I separated off the chunks of chicken that would otherwise have been tossed out. These pieces of chicken really added up. In fact, I saved off enough chicken to make chicken quesadillas for six people and still had enough remaining to freeze and drop into a chicken soup. With the pieces that we really wouldn’t eat because of the fat or the cartilage, I made chicken stock. So now, when I want to make a soup this winter (and we eat a lot of those) with a chicken base, I will pull out my zippered freezer bags and thaw the chicken stock. Some onions, carrots and the chicken pieces I would not eat, added to water and with some salt thrown in makes a delicious chicken stock.
Again, I know that chicken stock itself does not cost that much. But added up over the course of just a winter -- I could spend a good $10-$20. Yes, we eat a lot of soup. If I can become more conscious about how I treat the chicken trimmings I would not normally eat, that is an expense I could largely eliminate.
You see, saving on a large scale does not mean doing all your savings on a large scale. It means taking small steps, eliminating waste, and figuring out what works for your family so that your savings are maximized and your expenses are decreased.
It all adds up. Waste not, want not.