“Waste Not, Want Not”


“Waste not, want not,” Grandma Mae said, as she wrapped our supper leftovers in reused wrinkle-worn tin foil. We stood side-by-side, at her kitchen counter, me, her loyal sidekick. Happy. I was lucky to have lived in her care and that of great-grandma Mammie for a time in my girlhood. Grandma Mae placed the leftovers in the fridge and then opened the freezer door above, revealing a surprise, ice-cream! I picked out bowls and spoons. Much of the time, the flavor was butter pecan, Mammie’s favorite, not mine. I was eight. Why would anyone desire any flavor other than chocolate? It was just one more mystery about Mammie. Seeing my disappointment, Grandma poked my scoop with Charles Chips pretzel sticks, turning the tan icy lump into a porcupine in a bowl. These two women had a great deal of wisdom for making the best of a situation. Today, in this time of uncertainty, our Deeply Troubled Now, I find my thoughts turning to my childhood, days of simple living, a wistful nostalgia for a time when I felt carefree, sheltered in my grandmothers’ home. I long for Grandma Mae’s homespun wisdom and commonsense practices to help me adapt to the major priorities shift in my interior life, the saving, and striving to maintain the comforts of home. 

‘Waste not, want not’ are words I thought were exclusive to Grandma Mae’s and Mammie’s generations. Their uncertainties. These steadfast souls survived two world wars, the 1918 flu pandemic, all of which was topped off with the Great Depression. Such terrible times couldn’t possibly happen to us, right? 

‘Waste not, want not’ guides my decisions these days. The pandemic’s food shortages and fear of scarcity put grocery shopping at the top of my list of priorities. Our most important question every day? “What are we having for dinner?” Groceries have become supplies for survival. 

Hubster and I eat every meal at home. We have not been to a restaurant or drive-through since March 16th, which is, by the way, a new record in The History of Us. Here’s the thing: our food tastes better. Everything we eat tastes like it grew up in the Garden of Eden and Eden’s farm. Trust me, this is not the result of my cooking forte. Hubster is a more creative cook than me. I can follow directions. Still, over the last few months, we have created quite the supper repertoire! Our chicken tacos with cilantro and lime and home-crafted-life-outlook-changing Margaritas (thank you, Don Julio) are worthy of five-stars. We make homemade coleslaw, barbeque beef in a crockpot, drool-worthy Indian butter chicken—we are killing it in the kitchen! All this home cooking is a wonderful reinvention of our daily life, but I believe the highly developed taste buds are related to a deep internal fear of scarcity. 

‘Waste not want not’ is exactly what I’d like to tell Marie Kondo, the decluttering guru. I gave away a perfectly lovely floral-patterned-cotton fit-and-flare dress because it didn’t “spark joy”. Bewitched by her KonMari spell, (I want to say bullshit, but that’s not very nice), I donated my clothes like there was zero chance of economic devastation waiting just around the corner. That dress could have sparked firecrackers of joy had it still be in my closet for the 2020 “We’re Not Taking Mom Out to Eat for Mother’s Day” holiday. We’ll all remember that one. With Hubster’s layoff, my favorite form of therapy—shopping—is under review by the Wants and Needs Committee. It’s okay, I’m on the committee. Grandma Mae would have said, “It’s a crying shame.” And it is. 

Making do is another saying that describes how I am living now. Hubster and I bought new bicycles in the January after-Christmas sales, the kind that can ride streets and trails. We ride every day. This is what saves our sanity. We found dirt trails near our home that circle through woods around a pond, home to beavers and egrets, and a humongous Great Blue Heron. Some might call it a swamp, but to us, it’s a secret garden walled away from the troubles of the world, a path to another grandmother, Nature. Our rides give our souls a good airing out, like hanging an old favorite sweater out in the fresh air and the sun. On yesterday’s ride, we stopped for a drink of water, gazing across the marshy green, reflections of white clouds on the glassy water. 

I said, “Yes, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” 

Hubster said, “Where’d you hear that?” 

“Oh, it’s something Grandma Mae used to say to me, and now I think I understand what it all means.” 

Thank you for reading my column. I wish all of WOMAN’s readers health, prosperity, and peace.