As a kid there were 5 of us

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running around our house.  Grocery days seemed like a circus at the house with never-ending shopping bags emerging from the station wagon like clowns from a car.

I can remember the back seats folded, and bags lining up the floor of the wagon from the tailgate to the driver's seat.  My job was to put the 'downstairs' food away.   Milk, ice cream and anything else condemned to the dungeon was my territory.

It was always like being reborn once all the food was put away.  New 2-liter bottles of pop, packages of cookies and cereal lined the shelves.  Potatoes and onions filled the bins below.  Now with the new food arrival, the old food "Had to Go".  Most everything leftover got whipped up into a casserole by Mom, but the thing that really stuck in my dad's head was the unfinished packages of cereal, cookies, and lunchmeat that only had a smidgen (as mom would say) of food in them.  My dad was so annoyed by this arrangement of near-empty but full-sized packaging, he began a rewards system for finishing these food item misfits.  Because waste was a bigger financial sin than bribery, anyone who finished a box of cereal got a nickel.  I think it must have started out as a joke years before I could comprehend, but by the time I was of age to want as many nickels as possible, it became a great way to make extra money.  If you liked eating the shredded wheat and granola of the world.  Never seemed like Lucky Charms needed to be finished…ever.

Cookies bugged him too, because the Salerno Butter Cookies and others like it were difficult to fold over, and still remained large for the storage of only 3 cookies.  But they stayed there just the same, until finally someone would be hard up for a nickel.  But again, nobody had to kill a bag of Chips Ahoy.  Only the Stella Doro and those wafer cookies ever had a few AWOLs laying around the bottom of the package.

The worst way to earn a nickel in our house was the last-leg lunchmeat.  A few days beyond the manufacturer's recommendation didn't mean much to my dad, but to us kids, if we were skirting the date 3 days before, we thought it better to not risk it.  Generally speaking, the nickels for finishing old lunchmeat stayed in the mint, as it were.  Dad would then make some kind of sandwich with that meat that came in a tube, a stray slice of bologna (and yes, I DID just sing it to spell it correctly), and a gelatinous sardine put on the 2 heels of the loaf of bread that were still in the bag.  Chased with a Miller High Life it was 'down the hatch'---those nickels lost to the sea like sunken treasure.

Now, years later when my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer we would joke about his eating habits, and he would laugh it off, asking us to just wait until we had kids…  Well, here is my formal offer to my kids to start cleaning out the pantry…I hope a nickel is still good motivation.