Taking One For The Team

by Katy on July 23, 2015 · 54 comments

Gross yogurt

My older sister and I are dedicated non-wasters. We mend and repair, barely ever buy new and we watch our families’ food waste like a hawk. This means that our refrigerators are ripe rife with many small containers of leftovers just waiting to be consumed. Sometimes those leftovers are in high demand, but often they aren’t.

Need an example?

Leftover salad that’s been marinating in salad dressing and is starting to lose its crispness.

Yeah . . . not so desirable.

However, the two of us joke about “taking one for the team,” which boils down to eating something no other family member will in the name of food waste avoidance. And when we do, we call each other on the phone and announce that “I’ve taken one for the team.”

Just today my sister announced that she’d eaten the last of some salad, while I countered that I’d eaten a watermelon flavored yogurt that had been sitting in my fridge since before I visited her in New York. (I bought it not noticing that it was “light yogurt” and artificially sweetened.)

Was that yogurt my favorite thing ever? Hardly. But it was okay, and it certainly did me no harm and functioned to sate my appetite.

I took one for the team.

Food waste is not only a huge waste of money, but is also an ethical issue when so many around the world and within our own communities do without.

If you’re interested in learning about the farm-to-table-to-garbage-bin issues related to food waste, I highly recommend Jonathan Bloom’s WastedFood.com blog. A fascinating subject we should all be familiar with.

C’mon, fellow non-consumers. Take one for the team.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan July 23, 2015 at 10:13 am

Thanks for taking one for the team, Katy, as you always do. I’ve been known to do the same. Do you think this team needs a name?!?


Katy July 23, 2015 at 11:07 am

Well . . . any team I’m part of needs to include the work “dork.” So maybe the “The No Waste Dorks?”


Ruby July 23, 2015 at 3:45 pm

How about “The No Waste Wonders”? Since I frequently wonder who is going to eat the last of whatever leftover or if I have to take one for the team yet again. 🙂

I do think it’s mostly mothers that do this, although my bachelor brother is glad to help out if I box the stuff up for him.


K D July 23, 2015 at 10:14 am

I’ll have to remember that phrase “take one for the team”. My husband and daughter think I am crazy to eat some of the things I eat. I will not eat something that could make me sick but when a food is just suffering from “not being the most delicious food on the planet” I will eat it. Not only are people starving all over the world (including in this country) but there is also such a great cost (resources wise) for each morsel of food produced. It sickens me the amount of food thrown away by Americans.

I will admit to occasionally giving food away on freecycle. Even if it is past the best by date (which does not scare me) there are always several people that request the food items. Since I do porch pick-up giving away perishable food would be trickier.


Lynn D. July 23, 2015 at 10:32 am

John Oliver did a wonderful segment on food waste. There’s a link to it on Jonathan (first commenter)’s website. I did not realize how much food is wasted before it even makes it into our kitchens. More is wasted than just the food when you think of the resources (think California water) that went into making that food.


Katy July 23, 2015 at 11:06 am

That is sitting in my DVR, and I need to watch it!


Kayleigh July 23, 2015 at 10:34 am

My nephew came to visit last week and bought 2 large jars of marshmallow fluff and Nutella. What am I supposed to with his leftovers since he ate only one spoonful of each? I can’t imagine eating a zillion sandwiches. Any ideas that can use it up a little quicker?


Katy July 23, 2015 at 11:05 am



Linda M July 23, 2015 at 11:57 am

Kayleigh….you can stir the marshamallow fluff into Rice Krispies and make Rice Krispie Bars if anyone in your family eats those. There are also some fudge recipes that use it. You can bake a cake, let it cool then spread with marshmallow fluff and then melt frosting and add chopped nuts and pour over the cake….makes a rocky road type frosting.
You can use the Nutella on toast or in crepes. I don’t buy that, so I am not much help.
If you are looking for low calorie and really healthy ideas….these two are not at the top of my list…..but do use them for special occasion foods.


Joanne July 23, 2015 at 1:23 pm

I second the idea about making Rice Krispie treats. I will make those from time to time (OK so every few years) and that’s the only kind I make. Regular marshmallows have gelatin in them but marshmallow fluff doesn’t, so since I’m a vegetarian I always do the fluff version. The only difference I’ve noticed is that the fluff kind are a little stickier, but that’s mostly because I love them so much it’s really hard for me to wait for them to harden.


Lynda Bowen July 24, 2015 at 12:53 am

So, maybe Nutella on crepes isn’t wuite the same outside Paris… but Nutella on multi grain or seeded bread is heavenly.
But YMMV 😀


Lynda Bowen July 24, 2015 at 12:54 am

Of course, I meant to say quite…


Laure July 23, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I love Nutella! I first discovered it in Europe on a long ago exchange program and way before you could buy it in the U.S. Fortunately for me, just a few years later, it became available.

For the fluff: A fancy looking but easy summer desert:
De-stem strawberries and cut in half width-wise, about 1/3 of the way up from the stem. Place a small dollop of fluff, add the top back up — so now they are point-side up — and stick a toothpick through. These are particularly welcome at BBQs and other events where there might not be utensils, or people are eating while not sitting at a table.
Alternatively, layer strawberries, blueberries and fluff (and repeat) in a glass serving bowl. Looks pretty, and is easy.

Nutella — Use as you would peanut butter OR as you would any sweet item (like honey or maple syrup — not as an ingredient, but topically). Great on pancakes or waffles. Spectacular if also layered on one of the above with fresh sliced strawberries or sliced bananas. Can also be used in sundaes in place of both hot fudge and nuts.

There are plenty of recipes available on the internet that do use Nutellas as an ingredient…I just don’t like to mask that delicious flavor 🙂


Joy July 27, 2015 at 7:16 am

One of my FAVORITE sammies is a “Fluffer-Nutter” which is PB & Fluff….yum! YOu could just sub the Nutella and add fluff. Good stuff, I tell ya! lol


Joy July 27, 2015 at 7:18 am

Oh…a fruit dip that people drool over when I bring it to get-togethers: 1 container fluff mixed with 8oz softened cream cheese…sometimes a tiny splash of vanilla….amazing!


Jeana July 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

wasting food makes me crazy! We are currently dealing with a glut of yellow pear tomatoes. We grew these little heirloom jewels and there’s no chance they’re going to waste. So…we’re eating yellow pear tomatoes with EVERY meal. Does anyone have a good recipe for tomato ice cream??


Kathleen July 23, 2015 at 11:06 am

If you really have more than you can stand to eat, you can cook them and puree them. The resulting sauce has a bit of texture from the skins, but it is very tasty and it freezes well.


Stacy July 23, 2015 at 11:55 am

We just freeze them whole. When my husband is making soup or sauce he runs the frozen tomatoes under water, easily peels the skins off and throws them in the crockpot with everything else…


Another Trish July 23, 2015 at 8:04 pm

I keep a Tupperware in the freezer and dice and toss in any excess tomatoes and bell peppers from the garden. Then I use it when making soups in the winter


gloria July 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

I’d give it to the dog. Watermelon-flavored light yogurt? Gah-ross.


Carole R July 23, 2015 at 11:38 am

our dog wouldn’t have eaten it either.


Kim July 23, 2015 at 8:32 pm

(Almost sure you should not give artificial sweetener to animals.)

Hubby and I both “batted cleanup” as we call it. Left overs for both of us tonight.


Lucy July 24, 2015 at 4:24 am

You are correct! All artificial sweeteners are bad to deadly for animals , which makes one wonder why they are “safe” for humans.


Joy July 27, 2015 at 7:19 am

Absolutely! No to fake sweeteners for pups!

Claudia July 24, 2015 at 7:04 am

“Batting cleanup” is at least as good an expression for eating the leftovers as “Taking one for the team.” Dare I suggest–there is a garbage disposal brand called WasteKing…would the team one bats clean-up for be the Waste Queens?


Kathleen July 23, 2015 at 11:09 am

I often eat bits of leftovers that no one else will eat. Just about any vegetable makes a good fried rice dish for lunch.

I did draw the line at some dietary supplements that I was given in a gift bag. It was fruit flavored fiber in little packets. I thought about eating them in my oatmeal purely for the sake of not wasting them, but I couldn’t do it. So in the trash they went.


Joy July 27, 2015 at 7:20 am

Kathleen, the supplement comment made me LOL!


Nan July 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

I won’t do that any more- the calories for something icky are not worth it!!! I just try to use up things and if I have to dispose, I just do it. I am frugal in many other ways and have no plans to retire so there!


Katy July 23, 2015 at 11:43 am

It’s not always icky. It’s more often just a meal that others are tired of eating. I’ll bring them as a work lunch.


stephanie July 23, 2015 at 11:20 am

it’s just a hunch but are the main people taking one for the team in the fridge departments mothers? can’t just be me, right?


Alison July 23, 2015 at 11:34 am

DH took one for the team last night when he cooked frozen chicken from two years ago. (I no longer eat chicken). After he ate it, I asked how the 2 year old chicken was? He said fine, and thought I was joking about the age. That’ll teach him for not reading the packaging. (BTW, he is alive and well this morning). My goal this summer is to use up what’s in the freezer, and then do a better job of rotating the food from it.
I try to not waste food, but it is difficult, with no teenagers in the house anymore to eat them up!


Lucy July 24, 2015 at 4:28 am

Yes, that is a difficult time when you are accustomed to buying for the hollow legs and they are gone. You have to adjust you buying habits and at the same time use up stuff you bought for them. Then you have another adjustment to make after you have exhuasted the supply of excess.

And then they pop in for the holidays, and suddenly you have no food in the house…..


Ellie July 24, 2015 at 8:41 am



Amanda S @ Passionately Simple Life July 23, 2015 at 11:54 am

A couple of months ago I was amazed by how much food we threw out. It made me so disgusted in myself that I vowed to make a change for the better. With eating a lot more salads and making enough for leftovers the next day, there is almost no food waste. We are not perfect, but our trash bin is not filled with rotten stuff that would have been eaten by someone else.


Joy July 27, 2015 at 8:02 am

Same here. One Sunday evening as I was cleaning out the fridge, I got absolutely ticked at myself! That really opened our eyes. Now, while we are far from perfect, we have cut our food waste by about 75% of what it was. Baby steps!


Linda M July 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

My husband is as good or better than me about using up leftovers….we call them planned overs. We do try very hard to not waste….but from time to time it does occur. We try to share extra produce from our garden with friends and neighbors and preserve what we can use. Our two dogs are helpers with any little table scraps.
I have to admit that I have came up with some concoctions that were pretty bad using up this and that…..but by the same token, we have now had some that turned out so well that we plan to make them to start with.


auntiali July 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Dh is always the one who takes one for the team. The man will eat anything I put in front of him.


Michele July 23, 2015 at 3:03 pm

I also think it helps to package leftovers in clear containers. I love your name for “taking one for the team”. I remember an old Erma Bombeck article where she talked about eating all the burnt cookies, test pancakes, etc……


Anne July 23, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Michele, I was just going to make this same remark about Erma Bombeck. I believe she said that mothers never had cottage cheese that didn’t have some green on it, and a few other pithy remarks that are exactly what we’re all talking about.


Marcia July 23, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I would like to recommend a cookbook I have. No relationship exists between myself and the cookbook except that I use it often, and recommend it to others equally often.

A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes
by Lois M. Landau and Laura G. Myers

I don’t even remember where I got it, but it has lots of recipes for different things (more than just tomatoes, squash, and beans) and I use it very frequently when I have done everything I can think of and still have more of something to use up. Even potatoes–there is a recipe in there I use for a different potato, too.

My husband and I eat a lot of leftovers because one just never knows how hungry we will be when supper is ready, and I often mis-judge for just two. We try to use everything up and sometimes it feels like we have leftovers more often than “new” food. Most of the time we don’t mind, but taking one for the team is something we perfectly understand too. I’ve been known to use the line “Use all of what you buy.” when trying to teach budget strategy to family and friends. Stir fries and soups are great ways to incorporate little bits into a new meal.


Lilypad July 23, 2015 at 4:25 pm

I do this all the time but now, thanks to you, I have a name for it! I just ate some cottage cheese the other day that had been opened for 12 days and lived to tell. I don’t even like cottage cheese that much and I try to eat vegan (always vegetarian) so I usually don’t eat cheese or dairy or eggs unless it’s really something special but I will break that rule if there’s something dairy in the fridge that needs to be eaten—if I know the more delicate palates of my son and husband would be offended by the item. 😉


Betty Winslow July 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm

I’ve done this, but I now also will give leftovers we’re tired of to my daughter and her BF. She loves not having to cook, he’ll eat about anything, and nothing goes to waste!


Karen July 23, 2015 at 5:52 pm

I was raised Catholic and was always told by my Mother that is was a sin to waste food. To the best of my ability I cannot remember my parents ever throwing out one piece of food.

Many years later I was watching an Oprah show and there was a woman who did her shopping every Wednesday. They showed her before going to the store taking out a large garage can and throwing A LOT of food away so she would have space to fit the new food in the refrig. She said she did this every week. I was horrified.


Katy July 23, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Horrified is a normal reaction!


Lee July 23, 2015 at 7:55 pm

That is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard of. SERIOUSLY?


Mary July 23, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I am a mom and the most likely to take one for the team in our home, so long as it is meatless. I have eaten some pretty weird lunch combos in my day! I feel it is a real frugal victory to do this, and it makes me happy!


Mindy Moots July 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm

My work friend and I always brought our lunches to work. She would periodically bring some less then fresh vegetables….maybe some celery that had seen better days. We would sit and cut the bad parts out of the veggies and then eat them. She called it “fluffing” them. The we would go into the kitchen and rinse the ziplock bags, turn them inside out, and re-use them.


Lee July 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm

I love this post and all the comments. You truly are my people! I eat the wrinkly grape tomatoes, the odds and ends of leftovers, the scraps of veggies. I also confess to taking food that went untouched on children’s plates and putting it into containers to be consumed at a later date (and it always is).


Another Trish July 23, 2015 at 8:11 pm

When our old neighbors were moving out they gave us 4 fish from their freezer. We cooked one and it tasted so fishy! The other three sat in the freezer until yesterday when we finally cooked them up ( on the grill outside as not to stink the house up) and we have been giving it in small amounts to our dog who loves fishy tasting things. Veggie scraps go to the neighborhood goats and horses, and fuit and eggshells go to the chickens. Leftovers are automatically the next days lunch. Not much of anything goes to waste around here.


Diane C July 23, 2015 at 9:58 pm

OMG! There is one of those containers on the top shelf in my refrigerator! It’s way in the back, so I keep forgetting about it. It may have actually come in a four pack from the 99 Only Store, which means I only have 25 cents into it. Ahem.
The “take one for the team” person in our house is my MIL. She is skinny as a rail, eats with the vigor of a teenaged boy and pretty much consumes anything we give her. She has Alzheimer’s, which may explain something.


Diane July 24, 2015 at 4:48 am

After bouts of food poisoning over the years, I have to let bad food go. I had some uncooked chicken in the fridge that had a slight odor when I took it out to cook. Off it went into the trash. Better safe than sorry even though it was food waste.


AFS July 24, 2015 at 9:55 am

I doubt anyone is advocating using spoiled food. The point is to consume it before it spoils.


Monica July 24, 2015 at 6:20 am

My husband will eat food that I worry over. I will mentally calculate if it is cheaper to waste $3 of uneaten chicken versus a $3000 trip to the emergency room to treat food poisoning and dehydration. I will always vote to avoid the $3000 trip to the emergency room. That being said, we make a point of eating our leftovers from dinner the night before all the time, for lunch or a second meal. Also, I have found when having large family gatherings, people do NOT eat as much as you would think, and we scale back the amount of food we make so we don’t end up with leftovers. Most people won’t take the leftover party food we offer them. But heck, when we visit others, we do!


Madeline July 25, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Like Monica’s husband, mine will eat ANYTHING that is in the refrig.Fuzz? No problem ,he scrapes it off. He DID get food poisoning once by insisting on eating Taylor pork roll slices we had brought on a camping trip–they were old and NOT chilled on the 12 hour drive home.I could not stop him.

He is SLIGHTLY better than that now, but not much.

I have a weird personal fear of food poisoning and I gag on some leftovers.Sooo- I just try to cook carefully so we do not waste!!!! And I CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE quickly so Ken will not get food poisoning again!!!!!!!


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