Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Selective Squemishness

Selective Squeamishness. I've been thinking about this a lot the last two weeks as I've dug through and processed and eaten through some fruit that many others would turn away from. I love this term and believe I originally found it in The Tightwad Gazette. (Seriously a great resource that anyone trying to live below their means should own!)

I grew up on a horse farm and there we grew a large percentage of our family food. We canned and froze almost all the vegetables and most of the fruit our family would eat throughout the year. We even raised our own beef. I think that as a child I wasn't squeamish about food because I knew the cycle of food. I helped my mom plant the gardens, weed, water, fight off potato bugs and other critters and then harvest and store. If a cauliflower had some bad areas we just cut them off, we didn't toss the whole thing. If some tomatoes had a few bad spots they got cut out and the rest still was used for canning tomato juice. We saw the bugs on the plants and knew the work it took to grow them. You didn't just throw it away, you did what you could to save what you could. There was very, very little waste.

Then I was a waitress and learned about tossing food because it was 'old' at the end of the day. I went to college and didn't have to work for the food I ate. I lived on my own and could pick what I wanted at the grocery store. Why would you buy less than 'perfect' food when you are paying hard earned money for it?

Now I am the grateful beneficiary of produce that is past its prime. Some is down right yucky. Some is almost perfect. Most is somewhere in between. I am learning to be selectively squeamish all over again! I am choosing to not let bad spots cause me to toss out something, but to think about what the good parts could still be used for. I'm getting creative and helping our family's grocery budget at the same time.

I do think we are all on a scale of squeamishness. I heard a story this week about someone who wouldn't eat apples off their tree because they had spots and holes and weren't big enough. They would go to the grocery store and get apples that had been shipped in and sprayed like crazy to kill everything that thought about treating it as food. Obviously this person was very high on the squeamish scale. They there are people who will eat anything...very low on the scale. I'm on the low side, but am somewhere in the middle.

I wish this produce was from my own garden so that I knew how it was grown. For now I take whatever steps I can to make it better for us and assume that none of it is organic (although some might be). I will balance this produce with organic choices in order to minimize our exposure to harmful chemicals through our food. I am doing what I can with the resources I have and am pretty proud of my accomplishments so far.

If I had been squeamish we would not have 7 pints of strawberry jam, 5 quarts of homemade garlic, red pepper and vidalia onion spaghetti sauce, 2 quarts of peaches, pears yet to be canned, and many, many other things we've eaten already. It is a great thing to cultivate selective squeamishness! This entry is posted at Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

*Edited 6/28*

A big Thank You to Gayle over at The Grocery Cart Challenge for featuring this post at her Weekend Link Luv. If you are visitng from there, please look around and leave me a comment so I can come visit you! I've been reading blogs for about 4 years and finally have joined the conversation. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again!



  1. What a great post! And you are so right. When we butchered and ate our first chicken, I had to chant over and over in my head "free of hormones, no pesticides, free-range" and repeat.

    Thankfully I am less squeamish when it comes to vegetables and fruit. I love those odd shaped strawberries and whenever I see evidence of bugs, I am reminded that is a sign of more antioxidants.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I just posted my last Disney post...Hope it will bring you a smile.

    I was a Packer fan for many years.....but more of a Brett Farve fan...so last year we became Jets...and I bought all our bunch Jets gear...and I am sure willing to buy Viking gear. Ha
    Also graduated from high school with Ted Thompson in Texas...and think he made some really bad decisions that he wishes he could take back.
    I wish Brett could have ended his career at GB....

  3. that's great! we always canned food too.

  4. Mama--when I was very young our neighbors would butcher chickens and my mom tells me that we LOVED to help. I don't remember it and don't think I'm quite ready to take the step that you did. Mike wouldn't be as brave and I'd have to do it myself...not so sure about that. I'm very proud of you two!

    Teresa--Lots of drama for sure. Who knows what this year will bring for him? Many of us wish he could have ended his career here too. He said he would never play anywhere else, so many fans now feel let down.

    chickadee--Hope the rest of your trip goes well! What an adventure for you all!

    Thanks for stopping by my corner of the world.

  5. Hey!
    Found you thru Gayle at Grocery Cart Challenge, and I must say, I am totally in agreement.
    We grow some of our own food, but what we don't grow or get from our local CSA, I get as cheap as possible. Farmers markets are great for getting "seconds" on fruit and veggies. Cut off the bad and working with what is left. Or doing the "you-pick" is an option, tho as I am getting older, it is less and less appealing!

  6. I found you through Gayle's too, I loved this article and it really made me think!

  7. Loved the aritcle! Congratulations on getting posted on Gayle's site! Look forward to visiting "with you" more!

  8. I linked up through the grocery cart challenge, too. I guess I am a bit more on the less squeamish side than my husband, but there are somethings that I don't know about, so I do the better safe than sorry. I don't mind spots, or bruises, or bug bites, but is mold bad on everything but cheese? I just don't know.

  9. I came by way of the grocery cart challenge and am glad that I did...I appreciate your eye opening article! I am curious where you get the food from...no name is needed just what type of place.


  10. What a wonderfully written post. We are squeamish about some things but are working towards getting over that. Wanting to reduce our food waste is helping as is wanting to be more self sufficient and grow or raise our own food. Thank you for the thought provoking article.

  11. Thanks for all the great comments everyone!

    Ana, the folks I get the produce from have developed a relationship with an owner of a produce stand at a huge flea market in the area. From what they've told me this all started when they lived in another state. They hated seeing the big garbage pails of corn husks at the grocery store being thrown out and asked the manager if they could take them home to compost. That turned into them getting lots of past prime stuff to compost, but some of it was still edible.

    Then they moved to WI and live just down the road from a huge fair. They talked to the produce stand guy there to see if they could take things home to compost if he was just throwing them away. He gives them a ton of stuff Sat and Sun pretty much every week during the summer. He knows that they use some of it and compost the rest. If they didn't pick it up it would all be thrown out. They are generous and share with many of us!

    I am grateful and try to creatively use what I can and compost the rest. Lots of canning going on as you can see in many of my posts!


  12. At the moment, one of the only ways for us to survive on my husband's pay cheque is to buy reduced - that's the stuff that's best before today that's been marked down to sometimes crazyily low prices.

    I also had a great time with a ball of 'fallers' from my grandma's apple tree lately. My husband is very screamish, so i did it when he was out, but once I cut out the bruises and bugs etc, we had a lot of apples which we all enjoyed :)