ByJoanna Lacey

May 22, 2019
family and friends having meal together

The spring holidays and my sister’s birthday in May always put me in mind of the family feasts that Mom used to make. They never failed to feed the entire family.

The key to the meal was the gigantic pot of gravy that was always filled with meatballs and pork ribs and cooked for hours to perfection. Mom would start the sauce before 6:00 in the morning and by the time company came at noon, the house was warm and filled with the wonderful smells of all the dishes she made.

One of those dishes was almost always a lasagna — sometimes, homemade raviolis — that required ricotta cheese. My my mom bought that in large, 32-ounce containers.

My contribution to the meal — besides eating a big portion of it — was to help with the prep, to run out to the store for anything she forgot, and to help with the washing up. Another big part of my job was to put the leftovers in containers for family members to take home.

Mom always cooked for an army, and she would always send us all home with enough food for another meal or two. She would have me package the food in plastic containers like the one that the ricotta came in, and smaller containers like margarine tubs. Mom saved those containers. They were too useful to just throw out and they were free, the perfect reusable to replace expensive plasticware! And they were perfect for leftovers.

These days, I always find myself using “mom Tupperware” — that is, plastic yogurt containers and Chinese takeout containers — to store soup and leftovers. I even use them for my DYI scrubs and lotions. I bring lunch and snacks to work in them, too.

Another cool part of this practice is that in NYC where I live, these food containers are all recyclable. But the cute reusables you purchase are not. So, when my “mom Tupperware” container gets badly stained or warped but is otherwise clean, it can go right into the recycling bin.

Although those heavenly meals are now a memory, this lesson in frugality and making use of what I already have has stayed with me always.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.