Cambrian: Opinion

Gleaning ideas from extreme savers

Old produce net bags rolled together make a great dish/pot scrubber.
Old produce net bags rolled together make a great dish/pot scrubber.

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell sang many years ago. We all know it’s true. And I’m not going to lecture you today about gratitude or forgiveness or those other critical-for-your-healthy-state-of-mind characteristics.

We found a program on television called “Extreme Cheapskates.” Now, I believe in being frugal. I believe in “prepping” and making the most of what you have. Some of these people took it to almost an illegal level to save a nickel or two. I do like some comforts like new undies and real toilet paper.

But a few of the folks had some good ideas and, along the “prepping” lines, one could have to employ some of their conservative techniques. Like food sources: There have been movements of people feeding others with gleanings from high-end restaurants and grocery stores. Because the general populace shuns bruised or otherwise blemished produce and items past their expiration date, into the garbage they often go.

The program had these “cheapskates” serving family and friends meals of such items. Or road kill. From which they also made gifts from the rabbit’s hide. However, something that bothered me is that their company turned their noses up at foraged greens. Washed, picked away from the highways — with different textures and flavors, but as nutritious (if not more nutritious) than a store-bought head of iceberg lettuce.

And then there was the fellow who rides his bike everywhere. Good idea. That and the rest of his creative lifestyle enabled he and his wife (yes, many of the people on the show were married) to retire or at least work how and when they wanted, in their 40s. One may just have to acquire a taste for goats’ heads or salmon carcasses.

I believe the point is, in most parts of the world, and in long-bygone days, people did reuse everything and make everything or barter for everything (which some on the show tried). The cyclist did a “garbage autopsy” on someone’s wastebasket and pointed out all the reusable plastic bags, “oh, these peach pits make great callus scrubbers!” and suggested ways they could cut down on the refuse to begin with by having better purchasing habits.

I think this is the only “reality show” I’ve ever actually found amusing, as some of their tactics are not that farfetched and most are very sincere about their efforts. While some of these people went a little overboard by going around to restaurants asking for condiment packets and the like, there are many in the world who would love the opportunity to eat this well.

OK, OK, some of them are just odd in that they have lots of money, and it’s not that they’re being philanthropic with it or worried about having enough — they’re just holding onto it (and some of the extreme behaviors may be made more so for the cameras, I realize) and they’re getting a thrill out of the “hunt, so to speak.

But why not remember to be a little thriftier, settle for hand-me-downs and thrift shops, roadside finds (I found a great armchair that way!) and educate ourselves and broaden our sights on what we can eat, what we really need to live comfortably and how to make less of an impact on the planet? Just a thought.