Bastante y Basura- Two Words with Big Meaning

Bastante y Basura- Two Words with Big Meaning


Bastante is “enough” and basura is “trash”. I am obsessed with these two words.  They have had a profound affect on my life in Spain. In fact, these words have taken on some serious roles in all our lives over here. Their definitions are the same but their significance is much greater to our everyday lives.  We see and here these words often and it has become our mission to take them in and truly understand how we can use them to shift the way in which we live.


El Machi

One of our favorite restaurants, so far.


There were times when I felt like we lived in excess at home in Park City.  Yes, we have lots of “stuff” and at times I was overwhelmed with the chaos of clutter but to be fair, when it came to food I was pretty good about eating what we bought and not over preparing. I have a love hate relationship with Costco. I only go to Costco about 5 times a year because it is about 40 mins from my house but to be honest, the place is like Disneyland to me. I feel like I turn into someone who is NEVER, ever going to see a grocery store, or any store, again for years. It is impossible for me to leave Costco under $350. Every single time, I go to the check-out and let out an “Are you kidding me?” under my breath when the final bill is tallied.


My real flaw was with my daily and/or every other day grocery shopping.  That is when I would make the mistake of not looking in the refrigerator or pantry before going to the grocery store and buying the same thing we already had, over and over again. I mean, how many bottles of ketchup does one need? And every time I did this, I would say to myself, “Not again. I have to remember to take a few seconds to look and see what I have before I shop.” However, the one positive habit that I have with my own food and with the food that I order at a restaurant is a true disdain of over-ordering and throwing away food. The waste of leftovers that I had forgotten about in the refrigerator or the strawberries that I should have eaten a couple days before really eats at me.  And, to be honest, this kind of stuff would happen often, even when I had made a conscious effort not to let that happen.


When we first arrived in Spain, I was a little unsure about what to buy and what to cook. We are living right on the sea and the fish look amazing, but cooking fish is daunting…especially when you buy them with eyes and teeth! Yikes! Many of our first meals were eaten out and our excuse was that we wanted to explore the area.


Fresh Fish.

I see you.


At almost every dinner out during those first few weeks in Spain we would hear the word “bastante”. We would go out to dinner (cena) and during the process of ordering our food, the waiter would say, “Bastante” when we paused while considering whether to order more or not. In general, they would say bastante with a look of both, “wow, these people eat a lot” and “oh these poor folks, let me help them with their ordering skills.” And this moment would also usually include a gesture of the hand to reinforce the “that’s enough”. The true translation was that he/she was telling us that we were missing the point of this whole meal experience thing. Over here, it seems to be more about enjoying the experience of eating as opposed to fitting in a meal.


After the first couple of times this happened, I would look for it. I almost waited for the waiter’s look to change so that I could stop before I was given the “bastante”. In the beginning, it would make me laugh a bit and I would kind of shake my head with the thought of, “we have a long way to go”. But now, it makes me feel bad. There have been a couple of times where I have had to explain that we didn’t have a big lunch (which is their biggest meal, so much so that many people call it “la comida”) but, at the same time, I get it. Leftovers don’t last as long here for some reason, they seem to go bad quite quickly. And I have noticed that people shop for their food and cook it right away. My dad did this growing up. He never understood why you wouldn’t just stop at the store every day to pick up the fixing’s for dinner to ensure that everything was fresh. And that is exactly what happens here.


Frankly, it is my dream situation for me because I cannot stand over-ordering or leaving with too many leftovers (unless it’s pizza). If you were to ask either of my kids what my BIGGEST pet peeve is they would say, in unison and without pause, Wasting Food.  Who else grew up with parents who said, “Eat everything on your plate? There are starving kids in China.” Well, every time they said that to me, I imagined that poor little kid without food. I, like probably 99% of every other person in their 40’s now, wanted to figure out a way to send these kids in China, all our food.


The wasting of food leads me to my love and new close relationship with our basura. If you follow me on Instagram and have checked out my stories, then you know how obsessed I am with their public trash system here in Northern Spain. I have no proof that it is everywhere in Spain but I have seen it in Santander and Gijon so I know it is in Cantabria and Asturias. If I could take one thing home, so far, besides the ocean, it would be their trash system. Everything is divided up into these wonderful categories, cardboard and paper, glass, plastic and aluminum and then basura. This job of separating and disposing of said items is “the real deal” for each person. And keep in mind that their trash bags are so incredibly small. They are about the size of your average plastic bag that the grocery store gives you when you forget your own. 


We have three compartments below our sink. The smallest compartment is for our basura which includes all our food scraps and non recyclable material, the middle is for our plastic and aluminum and the last is for the paper and cardboard. These tiny square compartments are a close part of our lives. We have now cooked most of our meals at home and have become very, very aware of all our basura because we are literally living with it. And I LOVE this. I love the fact that our basura situation is holding all of us accountable. We can’t just put it down a disposal because we don’t have one. We have to scrap it into our tiny little trash area or scoop it out with our hand from the sink. I know, disgusting! And believe me I can’t stand it.


To better bring this point home I need to tell you this story. After the first few weeks here, I had a conversation with Skye about her morning cereal. She has a tendency to poor in too much milk. I have asked her numerous times to be thoughtful with her milk pouring at home and try her hardest not to waste it but she is a kid and this kind of stuff would happen. So, I would let it slide. But over here, when she leaves behind some milk with cereal and washes it out in the sink, that leftover food has to go somewhere. And that somewhere is in the basura. How does it get there? You guessed it! I have to scoop it out with my hand. I showed her all of this and again, asked her not to waste even little bits of milk and cereal and you know what she does now, she eats all her cereal! And that makes me so damn happy!


Taking out

the trash…


We seem to empty our recycle and trash compartments about every 5th day.  It’s our least favorite chore. I am fairly certain our apartment kitchen is from IKEA and that their brilliant design team created this trash area with such thought and care to the basura situation and that is why it doesn’t stink. Also, I am truly amazed at how much less trash we have over here. We are eating the same amount and cooking at home a ton so I don’t know why that is the case. When I figure it out I will let you know. But what I do know is that I am grateful that when we walk our bags out of our apartment, down the stairs and across the street to my favorite trash receptacles; we are not overwhelmed or embarrassed by the amount. I am going to even go out on a limb and say that our trash is “bastante” in a good way!