Non-Consumer Photo Essay — Food Edition

by Katy on October 25, 2023 · 33 comments

It’s been awhile since I’ve put together a Non-Consumer Advocate photo essay, so I thought I’d put a new one together for y’all. Specifically all about food.

Last night’s black bean chili, which featured a wealth of refrigerator tidbits such as leftover marinara sauce, the last of some BBQ sauce from my daughter’s birthday dinner and two teeny cups of taco cart hot sauce. It packed a wallop!

Oatmeal with brown sugar and a scoop of my “foraged blackberry” jam. Oatmeal is 70¢/pound at Winco, which makes it an easy choice.

Cheesy grits with eggs and scallions. The scallions grow in my kitchen window and I’ve been trimming away at them since the end of August.

It’s as simple as putting your grocery store scallions in a jar and then just setting them in a sunny spot. It’s not enough for a scallion-heavy recipe, but it’s always enough for a garnish. Worry not, as they grow quickly and don’t create an oniony smell. You can see that I’m also rooting rosemary and a couple random plants.

It’s no surprise that I like free food. So when I came across this soggy box of abandoned produce in the Winco parking lot, I had no choice but to investigate. Slightly bruised tomatoes, wan Italian parsley and a single red pepper. I suppose I should have brought the whole thing home to compost, but instead I just grabbed the red pepper. Mind you, this parking lot has a dangerous vibe and is always littered with cigarette butts and random garbage, so mystery food isn’t necessarily so appealing.

Here’s the perfectly good pepper.

I didn’t need a pepper, so I sliced it up to freeze. And yes, I scrubbed the hell out of it!

What would you have done? Would you have grabbed the box to go through at home? I kind of regret leaving it there, but I didn’t really process these thoughts until I got home.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy October 25, 2023 at 2:16 pm

I really want to learn how to grown windowsill veggies and herbs


mary in marylandm October 25, 2023 at 2:56 pm

I would have brought home the whole box. On Monday I picked up a five pound bottle of honey that a friend had found while weeding in the park. Half full. but very good.


Cindy in the South October 25, 2023 at 3:26 pm

I am proud of you for grabbing the pepper. To be real, I get threatened too much on a fairly regular basis so I am not taking any chances of stopping. I actually run like a bat out of h&@l in almost all parking lots and my head is on swivel, so I am impressed you stopped to investigate.


Katy October 25, 2023 at 4:47 pm

Thank you! The crime in this area is not to be taken lightly. A murder a couple years ago and a a stabbing last year in this lot.


texasilver October 25, 2023 at 6:19 pm

The WinCo in my hometown of Ft Worth, TX is also in a crime ridden neighborhood. A murder last year in the apartment complex next door. I’m too fearful to shop there. I hope WinCo stores in other cities are in a better neighborhood. It doesn’t matter if you save money if you wind up dead.


Katy October 25, 2023 at 6:26 pm

The ones in Portland are in low income neighborhoods, which is great. I just make sure to keep my wits about me and shop during the day.


Donna October 25, 2023 at 4:49 pm

You amaze me with all the recipes you come up with to not have waste and use up food! That is my dream goal. I stand in front of the things in my fridge and think what in the heck can go with this bottle of cocktail sauce, some carrots, and some on sale cheese??!
Ever thought about publishing a Katie Cooks cookbook? I’d buy it!


Donna October 25, 2023 at 4:51 pm

Katy! Not Katie!


Katy October 25, 2023 at 5:33 pm

I answer to both spellings!


Katy October 25, 2023 at 5:35 pm

Carrots? I love roasted carrots! Just drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chunky salt. Bake at 400 degrees until they’re charred and yummy.


Lindsey October 25, 2023 at 5:43 pm

1. This morning I was sort of cleaning out the fridge to make room for more groceries and I found three potatoes that apparently had run away from the potato bin. I shredded them and shredded an aging zucchini sitting on the kitchen counter and made potato/zuke latkes for our main meal at noon. Yum.
2. My friend whose family refuses to eat leftovers dropped off a huge pot of cheeseburger soup, which we will be eating for the next two days at least. When she travels out of town, her husband refuses to take care of the dog, so she has the dog stay with us. I think feeding us is her way of paying us back. I managed to have a short visit before she left where I did not make any disparaging remarks about the husband’s behavior.
3. Months ago I filled out a survey and today I got a gift card for $15. I did not realize that doing the survey automatically entered you in a drawing for a gift card. I was one of the 10 who won!
4. Last week I accidentally rammed my wheelchair into a doorway and broke the wood frame. Husband did some sort of woodworking magic and fixed it so you cannot tell it was damaged. He had wood and wood glue from previous projects so no out of pocket costs.
5. The milk was not sour but it was galloping in that direction, so I made up a bunch of waffles that I then froze for future meals. We both like breakfast for dinner, so they will not go to waste.
6. The neighbor who raises quails asked me if I had ever butchered quails. It has been years since we had quail, since I would rather have ducks and chickens, but I still had the basics in my head. This is her first time butchering anything so she brought over a dozen carcasses, and I showed her the fundamentals. She left us 2 of them behind as a thanks. Turns out butchering with a partner is a lot more fun than facing a dozen carcasses on your own.


Katy October 25, 2023 at 6:27 pm

I sure hope that your friend’s husband also shares in the cooking. Otherwise I’m here to make a few disparaging remarks.


A. Marie October 26, 2023 at 3:30 am

I admire Lindsey’s restraint in her #2. Me, I’m making a few disparaging remarks already (in the privacy of my own home).


Anne October 26, 2023 at 7:25 am

Thumbs down on the lazy a** husband and kudos to you for your self control.

All of my life I have struggled about my tendency to call out bad behaviour. I’m now a senior citizen and my firm rule is that I’m allowed to think whatever I want, just don’t say it out loud. (Unless it’s absolutely necessary and sometimes it is.)


MB in MN October 26, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Anne: Me, too. I tend to zip it because 1) I strive to be civil and kind, and 2) I value my own and others’ comfort and safety, BUT if someone is spewing stupidity or harming someone, I will speak up.

Katy: I think you did the right thing by rescuing the red pepper and leaving the rest, as hard as it is to not let food go to waste.


Katy October 26, 2023 at 6:31 pm

Thank you, it’s been added to the peppers I bought and froze from the Fred Meyer clearance shelf. Peppers can be stupidly expensive, but I love having them for cooking!


A. Marie October 26, 2023 at 3:35 am

Re: the produce box in the Winco lot, Katy, I think you did the right thing. Personal safety should always be the prime directive.

And your chili is particularly inspirational. I’ve got some bits and bobs of condiments and elderly cheese in the fridge that need to be used, so I think I’ll try a chili this weekend–especially as our weather forecast is for chilly rain.


Ashley Bananas October 26, 2023 at 8:33 am

‘Elderly cheese’ I will start using this!!


K D October 26, 2023 at 3:37 am


Safety first. As much as I don’t like to see food go to waste I think you made the right choice in leaving most of that box.

Your food looks delicious, especially the chili and the oatmeal.

I love using whatever I have for soups. Yesterday I made lentil soup and added the dredges of a jar of marinara sauce (using water to rinse it out).

The other day I added baby carrots, I’d previously frozen, to a pot of pasta water.

This morning I used the dredges of a bottle of maple syrup to flavor my oatmeal.


K D October 26, 2023 at 3:46 am

I bake a lot of boneless skinless chicken breasts (I am just too hungry if I don’t eat meat so I limit it to chicken). I coat/marinate it before baking and I save the leftover marinade and chicken juices (left in the bottom of the pan) and use it when I cook quinoa. If I won’t use it right away I freeze it in a Mason jar. It gives it great flavor.


Patch October 26, 2023 at 4:40 am

Am a freakazoid over here, so I’m pretty sure I’d a’grabbed the whole shebang (but that’s just me — I get a perverse thrill from extreme, nth degree Frugality lol).


Katy October 26, 2023 at 1:53 pm

The reason I chose the pepper and left the tomatoes was that a pepper can be scrubbed and a tomato really can’t.


Patch October 27, 2023 at 5:59 pm

Scrubbed no, but peeled yeah (boiling water bath)….


Bee October 26, 2023 at 5:29 am

I think this is a hard question. I have thought about it for a bit and I actually think that I would have brought it back into the store. Because the items have similar flavor profiles, I feel like they must have been left behind by mistake. If they were returned to the service desk, perhaps the customer who left them behind would return for the items and be given the food. I do realize in all likelihood these specific items would have been compost by the grocery store, so it would have resulted in some waste. However, it’s a good thing that the pepper was used,and you are safe. There are no wrong answers here!

It is an interesting question. It’s like ethics class at the University.


Katy October 26, 2023 at 1:53 pm

The box they were in was absolutely soaked through, which told me it had been sitting there for awhile.


Selena October 26, 2023 at 6:20 pm

I’d have taken the whole lot home. Agree pepper was safest but the rest could be composted.


Katy October 26, 2023 at 6:21 pm

Yes, I should have, but this didn’t occur to me until I got home.


Mary October 26, 2023 at 6:52 am

If this is an inappropriate comment, go ahead and delete it. But this is my reality.

I have just received my free “Narcon” nasal spray and tester strips for fentanyl. It is part of my training as a high school teacher.

I don’t pick up coins anymore nor abandoned food in suspicious places. No judgement on anyone else, the risk to me is too great. Inside store fronts, I shop bruised and damage produce all day. I also glean from my neighborhood trees and bushes.

Just me.


Ashley Bananas October 26, 2023 at 8:39 am

If I were deeply tempted by the box, I would probably go back with my car and shove it in my vehicle. I dont know how seedy the neighborhood/parking lot is, but if you feel it’s a safety issue, do what your gut tells you and move along.

The other day at Aldi I was leaving and noticed an employee with a cart of food go to the dumpster and throw food in including five cartons of eggs. My heart sank. I dont know if the food was damaged in some way, maybe left out of cooling units too long for food safety, broken plastic wrap, broken eggs, a return. But I really really wanted to jump into that dumpster and get the eggs. I attempted to look up dumpster diving legalities in Florida and didn’t find any concrete information. There’s a cashier I’m friendly with, I’m going to inquire with her about their policies on dumpster diving and see what info she can give me.

I absolutely abhor food waste.

I have been making my son bacon egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast to take on the way to school. One morning he didn’t finish and I saved it for later and ate it (minus the bread) as a lunch/snack later on in the day. Trying to avoid food waste is one of the most economically mindful things a person can do.


Katy October 26, 2023 at 1:56 pm

Such a waste of eggs, I understand why that was hard to witness.


Marilyn October 26, 2023 at 2:24 pm

Ah, Winco. Where I live in SW Washington, my grocery stores are Fred Meyer’s, Safeway and Winco. Winco’s prices are significantly lower than other stores so I do shop there, but I understand your concern about the food in the Winco parking lot. I’m pretty sure I would have left the box there.


Katy October 26, 2023 at 3:11 pm

Yeah, you get it.


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