Sunday, April 1, 2012

Small acts of thrift

(From Johanna Knox)

My Canadian great-grandmother used to say, ‘Look after the cents, and the dollars take care of themselves.' It was an expression of her thrifty approach to life which is still repeated in my family today ... the saying that is, not necessarily, I'm sorry to say, the approach itself!

Even the smallest acts of thrift were important to my great-grandmother. I imagine they were to many women of her time. Some of these small acts were passed down, and became family habits. 

Like the butter wrappers that my great-grandmother, then my grandmother and my mother saved, so that no part of that gold was wasted. Neatly folded in the top compartment of the fridge door, a wrapper could always be brought out when a pie dish or baking tray needed greasing. Did most of us have mothers or grandmothers who did this? 

In my grandmother’s old Mennonite Community Cookbook (by Mary Emma Showalter), there is a ‘Household Hints’ section containing this tip:

‘Before discarding the empty catsup bottle, pour some vinegar into the bottle and use in making French dressing.’

What a neat trick for any sauce bottle when it gets to that frustrating stage where you can see all that perfectly good stuff at the bottom but no matter how much you tip or shake or bang - it WON’T. COME. OUT.

Another family thrift tradition: When my mother made schnitzel or crumbed fish, after all the pieces were egged and crumbed she tipped the few leftover breadcrumbs into the blob of leftover egg, and fried the mix as a ‘crumb pancake’. There was only ever enough for one tiny pancake, but in spite of its meagre size – or more likely because of it – it was my favourite part of the meal.

(Years later, I seized on the way my own son loved crumb pancakes and began to make them deliberately for him, by the bowlful. We got bored of them and went off them, and I learned that some traditions should not be tampered with!)

What small acts of thrift have been passed down and become habits in your family?