The Drips and Dabs Problem

by Daisy on 09/25/2014

Thank you for visiting Little House in the Suburbs. If you like what you see, please SUBSCRIBE.

There they sat, six or eight of them in a small bowl, wrinkled, bruised and sad. Unusable.

“Chickens?” my husband asked, pointing at them. A cloud of fruit flies arose at the disturbance.

I sighed heavily, a sense of failure coming over me.

“Yes,” I said. “Go ahead. Give ’em to the chickens.”

They were figs. Once plump, delicious figs. Now pitiful lumps of discards. According to the people who know these things, about 40 percent of the food in America is wasted. That’s a terrible statistic. And here I am, contributing to those sad numbers letting my own homegrown produce go past its prime. It’s not the first time, either. I routinely let stuff go bad. Those fresh tomatoes I crave all winter? Some of them, I am embarrassed to admit, turned to foul-smelling slime on my countertop this summer. I let a cup of muscadines go bad as well; precious muscadines rescued from the clutches of garden critters gone to waste. The list goes on.

I tell you, it makes it a lot harder for me to justify wanting more and more fruit trees and vines and garden space. If I can’t efficiently use all I grow now, why do I want to grow more?

What follows is a justification. Only you can tell me whether or not any of it holds water or if it is completely full of holes.

I think most of the waste around here is the drips and dabs problem.

What I mean is, when I get a large crop of something, I find a way to put it up all at once with minimal waste.

Four grocery sacks of apples? Apple butter, pie filling, frozen apples. No problem.

Two large boxes of plums? Done and done.

A bushel of tomatoes? Presto salsa.

But when I try to accumulate enough figs to make a fig tart at the rate of 1 1/2 figs per day, I fail.

What do I do with a teacup of muscadines? Nothing.

So, the answer isn’t less, it’s more.

Am I an American or what?

Seriously, though, does this make sense, or am I full of beans?  Tell me the truth.


{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Cat Lady September 25, 2014 at 12:42 pm

It is sad to say, but I think most people let some food go to waste.

That being said:
On the other hand, if the food is being eaten, even if only by pets and/or livestock, then the food has not truly gone to waste. These animals need to eat also. Plus they add to our table too. So you are not as horrible as you think.

Erik V September 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

This completely makes sense. When I harvest only a handful of beans or a couple of tomatoes, it’s either use them fresh, or they’ll go bad. There’s no real practical way to preserve in small batches.

Sarah September 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I’ve been thinking about this a lot too through this harvest season – 2 cucumber plants produced too many for us to eat fresh (the chickens benefited), but not enough to make pickles for all the people who wanted some. Sometimes we swam in squash and tomatoes, but other times I had to buy more to finish a recipe.

I’ve decided the answer is knowledge, practice, and naming. (isn’t it always?!) How about a new set of units? Three figs is just the right amount to halve and eat fresh on my morning granola and yogurt. Ditto fifteen blueberries = a “cereal” measure of blueberries or figs. Double that would be “pancakes” or “muffins” measure of fruit. The next size up is “pie”, and after that is “jam” or “pickles”, and after that is “wine”. Obviously, you might have a pie and two cereal’s worth of blueberries when they first come ripe, and then drag on with several cereal’s worth as the bushes finish up. (Blueberries are awesome frozen in tiny batches if you got sick of them on cereal. Or if you’re a toast person.)

Ok, so great. But accumulating the experience to judge on the spot and the recipes that can be depended on…that may take the next decade, though I’ve found applying oneself to the cause does make progress. (Two cucumber plants will produce several “pickle” measures, if one is careful to pick everyday so they stay small, and count on making small batches several times a week. It’s a time commitment for sure.) I consider the inevitable waste along the way “tuition”, and like Cat Lady says, it’s another reason to keep chickens.

silverilex September 26, 2014 at 3:39 am

What helps me is to immediately pop any small amount (labelled) in the freezer and just keep adding to it (if I can) until I have enough for a batch of whatever. For instance, with blackberries, raspberries, peaches, figs, etc. I can them make a batch of jam or a pie with them when I have enough. You can make small batches of jam, or add a little sugar to some fruit to make compote to have with ice cream or custard or shortbread. You can use some of the frozen fruit in jello or a trifle. Any ‘dribs and drabs’ (my grandmother’s version of your saying) fruit that I only have a small amount of can be made into a fruit cobbler or summer fruits jam or a smoothie. Any small amounts of veg gets put in casseroles, soups, stir-fries, shepherd’s pie or a pan of mixed veg for a side dish. Zucchini gets grated and frozen to make bread or add to soups or casseroles. Pumpkin gets roasted and frozen for yummy pumpkin risotto. Peeled bananas go into the freezer for banana bread or other baking, or smoothies. Same thing with the small amounts of stale bread. I put it into the freezer until I have a batch to grind to crumbs. I can use the crumbs for coating meat or veg, as a filler for burgers, meatloaf or meat balls, mixed with cheese and/or herbs for casserole topping, or use plain in desserts like Queen’s Pudding, or as a part of my suet balls for wild birds. Or I can use the frozen sliced bread for French toast or bread and butter pudding. I don’t catch everything, but it certainly lowers the wastage, and thereby the resultant guilt! lol

peggy September 26, 2014 at 6:36 am

Use up the left over fruits — we all have it — and make great fruit salads –always different the juices make the dressing next we have to deal with the pumpkins after the zuchinni squash

Of course the animals get the peelings and any spoiled fruit & veg

Gardenpat September 26, 2014 at 7:10 am

Silverilex is right! I do the same thing with small amounts of broccoli, peas, green beans and berries to name a few! I will blanch the veggies first that need it but I keep ziploc freezer bags in fridge freezer to add to. Each bag is labeled and when one quart bag is filled, down it goes to the big freezer in the basement!

Also, I keep my dehydrator busy all year long! I slice extra tomatoes thin and dry to crispy, then use a little coffee grinder to grind into tomato powder. I keep it in a Mason jar that I vacuum seal. Tomato powder + water = tomato paste or sauce! Easy-peasy!!! Great for small amounts!

Third- we actually eat fresh or bake (over ripe) fruits and veggies into muffins, main dishes, etc.

Doing these three things has really cut our produce waste down! Hope this helps.

Linda Thomson September 26, 2014 at 9:20 am

There are so many great ideas in the comments! I’m bad at dibs and dabs, too. I’m really going to work on it.

Amber Pixie (@PixiesPocket) September 26, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I have waste, too…but a few things of late have helped reduce that! Firstly, as suggested by a few above, dehydrator and freezer are always humming through summer and into fall. But the real game changer is our Nutribullet we just got…fresh drinks made from pureed fruit and veg help us to keep the food going into us and not just into the compost. 🙂

Don’t get too hard on yourself, though…just do what you can!

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Amber Pixie–How does the NB compare to the MB? –in case my MB doesn’t last forever and I know it won’t.

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Linda Thomson–I second that!

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Gardenpat–Tomato powder! I want to do that!

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

peggy–Love fruity dressing.

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm

silverilex–You had me at pumpkin risotto.

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Sarah–Tuition! Perfect.

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Erik V–Glad I’m not alone in thinking that way.

Daisy September 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Cat Lady–Thank you, makes me feel better.

Sharon September 27, 2014 at 4:54 am

I think that we all tend to suffer from ‘dribs and drabs’ (also the way my Grandmother said it). I to try to use them up in cereal, ice cream topping, etc. And since there are only two of us, it is a little easier to use up ‘little bits’. But saving stuff up until you have enough to do something with can be a challenge sometimes. I tried dehydrating tomatoes this year for the first time. I discovered I have a learning curve to master! LOL One of the ladies I work with does that with most of hers, says that she then crumbles them up over salads, soups, stews, etc. all winter long. I will have to tell her about the tomato powder! And try it myself. I don’t consider “going to the chickens” as a total waste, in this house we call it turning into eggs! It is only a total waste if it goes in the trash can.

Jen September 27, 2014 at 6:35 am

Loved this! I thought I was the only one who wasted little bits and suffered alone in my wasteful guilt! Giving your hard grown produce to chickens is like creating gourmet compost, so I wouldn’t feel too badly about that. My chickens are snobs and will only eat veggies right off the plants that I don’t want them to, so at least you can be grateful they will eat cast offs. I have tried many of the above posted ways to preserve the bits, until my freezer looks like a chaotic mass of mystery packages (which, while a fun adventure sometimes, is mostly annoying because inevitably all the little packages end up piled on top of something I need to get!). One thing I do like to do is make tiny preserves. I’ll just use a little skillet and make some jam, or ketchup, or chutney, put it in a little jar and then throw it in the fridge. It usually takes 10 mins total and I’ll do it while I’m making dinner. I’ve found some great recipes that way–because the amount of ingredients I use is so small, it’s a great way to test an idea without the commitment!

Cathy S September 27, 2014 at 6:42 am

My solution to that situation would be to eat the drips and dabs, but obviously I would never get to taste a fig tart….

Holly September 27, 2014 at 6:45 am

Nature is all about excess! That’s what’s so great about it….hence the invention of composting, and the fact that rotten food makes great soils, chicken food, and feeds the next generation. I say keep planting, and just make sure the “waste” goes somewhere useful!

Barbara September 27, 2014 at 6:58 am

I like to think that putting those bits in the compost, they are being wasted. Even feeding other animals is a good use.

Sallie September 27, 2014 at 7:14 am

The dream of fig tart dies hard. Been there many times. Be at peace.

Tess September 28, 2014 at 6:45 am

It’s the drips and dabs. I do think that if you are feeding them to the chickens, you’re not wasting them. That’s better nutrition for them and less you have to buy. Also, the nutrient they eat is passed on in the eggs and (if you do this) the meat you are consuming from them.

reuben September 29, 2014 at 7:35 am

You should figure out a way to preserve those small ammounts untill they accumulate to a useable ammount. Maybe try drying them then when you have enough simply rehydrate and use.

Kim Lambdin September 29, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I don’t know that what you’re doing is considered “wasting”…if you’re feeding another living thing with what you’ve grown – how is that a waste? If you compost it, is that really waste? Wouldn’t that make a happy, healthy animal, or richer compost? I think you are being entirely too hard on yourself. Now, with the little bits I’ve been scraping in I’ve been making baby food for my little ones. We have been fighting deer this year and learning our soil for the second year and have puny, pathetic-sized harvests – both volume and actual size of the fruit/veggie…but everything tastes great…sooo, I’ve resorted to making the smallest batches of baby food and freezing it all. Yes, I’ve got a bunch of freezer bags in my freezers with dates and scratched on labels but IT’S FOOD! I’ve mixed and matched various foods too… I blended together raw zucchini, squash and carrots and then filled ice cube trays with the puree… Okay, 1 ice cube tray for that one. Then I had green beans and pears that I managed to fill 3 ice cube trays… and so on… Maybe freeze til you can use???

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:21 am

Kim Lambdin–I like your viewpoint, and your frozen blends. I need to do more of this. I will try.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:22 am

reuben–I love drying. I use my oven when I have enough to fill a tray or two, am saving for a dehydrator.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:24 am

Tess–Thank you! The chickens definitely seem to appreciate it. They chase each other around for the most prize morsels.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:24 am


Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:24 am

Barbara–I sure hope so. They love it.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:25 am

Holly–I’m trying to think of it that way. I like your take about excess in nature.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:27 am

Cathy S–I have to agree with you. In fact, I am having the figs (or fig) every day for breakfast, right at the tree. The fig tart will have to wait another year.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:28 am

Jen–A to the men about chaotic mystery freezer contents. You’ve just described my freezer exactly. Apparently I don’t know what labeling is. I need to try the skillet jam.

Daisy September 30, 2014 at 10:30 am

Sharon–Turning it into eggs! I like that very much.

Kelly - Simple Life Mom October 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I miss your linky! It always had the coolest stuff 🙂

Daisy October 10, 2014 at 6:20 am

Kelly–It’s back!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: