Frugality has left our shores.


My mum was so frugal it has left its inedible mark on me forever. Ask my wife of fifty years (next October, or perhaps was it November)? One of the most memorable frugal scenes I still vividly remember is mum scraping the butter paper. The butter would be unwrapped and put into the Delft-blue ceramic butter container. The real work started afterwards. She would carefully straighten the butter paper on the work bench and start scraping. Her whole body would move in unison with the knife taken to the paper. I often wondered about the passion so obvious, so dedicated. Who or what was she thinking? Not my father, surely not? They too lived a long and good life. Still, one never knows all those intimate hidden marital little secrets, harbouring phantasies of frustration and guilty revenges.

Anyway, I admire anyone who saves, scrapes and scrimps. I am afraid this art is dying out now. My children still sometimes show remnants of frugality but butter scraping is not one of them. They now leave lights on in rooms they don’t occupy, have a TV on while not watching. Jeez, this TV on without watching really drives me close to manslaughter. Fortunately, my partner (it sounds so much more sophisticated ‘partner,’ not wife) are in total agreement on that one, as on having a radio on just to hear noise. If you see a manic man hurling rocks over a fence from which loud music blares out, don’t call the police, encourage and give him larger rocks.

With Father Christmas lurking around on Shopping Malls car-parks already, we will soon again experience the dreadful running of the shoppers. Faces twisted and contorted in an unimaginable ugly spending spree. Trolleys laden with turkeys and pig’s trotters ramming into heels of elderly gents outside seeking reprieve from wives who are scanning the latest in dairy products isles. Mile after mile of cheeses so large, security guards with guns keep watch. Billions will be wasted and thrown out within days. Large bins laden with sour hams and slippery lobsters green with decay and odoriferous for miles around our sobbing suburbs, are waiting lifeless and forlorn for a final journey to council’s tip to be recycled into next years trinkets and symphony toilet paper.

My dear mum never ever threw out food. “During the war, we did not have food, so…”,and then she shrugged her shoulders, implying it would be criminal. She, as last resort would feed the ducks any scraps that, even according to her most stringent butter scraping standards were beyond consumption. Another day out and the scraps were almost ready to assume a life of their own.

The ducks somehow knew she was coming and darted out from the rushes to greet her. I think the throwing of chicken remnants was a bit insensitive though. I don’t know what the ducks would make out of that? Their own feathered friends now to be eaten? I never pointed it out to mum, that perhaps the chicken remnants were best given to the neighbours’ cats. But then again, ducks don’t know nor understand the background or philosophy of the butter paper scraping. I remember seeing a duck once who, during a very severe frost, had its legs frozen into the sheet of ice. The duck had to wait fro the ice to melt before able to fly or swim away. It was a relief to see the duck gone after a couple of days of thaw.

Even ducks go through difficult periods.


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38 Responses to “Frugality has left our shores.”

  1. Silver in the Barn Says:

    My mother, a child of World War II, and a very hungry one at that, has left her mark on me as well. My memory of childhood is her balancing the almost empty ketchup bottle upside down on top of a new one to drain the very last bits of the old bottle into the new. Paper towels? Never. Plastic bags washed out and dried? Always. Hungry people don’t forget, ever, I’m convinced.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      My mum used to rinse the tomato ketchup out with water and then spread it on the boiled spaghetti. A bit over-done. Still, it made us appreciate our good fortune later on.
      I am horrified sometimes with the grand kids just chucking out food. We fogeys just watch but remain quiet, it is their turn next.
      All generations have habits. Waste now reigns supreme.
      Why are there so many mattresses being chucked out? Don’t they last or are relationships not enduring and people don’t want to be reminded by the matrass of having been so foolish of having slept with some no-hoper, hopeless partner?


  2. M-R Says:

    I hope the duck of which you write was not in The Don’s suburb, Gerard …? [grin]


  3. gerard oosterman Says:

    No, they were the Dutch ducks in Holland where my parents retired after they returned in 1975. No Don’s suburbs there. Just tulips and herrings. πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  4. berlioz1935 Says:

    We are the same. When we had a dog she was the one to give the butter wrap the last lick. She was holding the wrapper with one paw while she was licking. She loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Master of Something Yet Says:

    As a child of two people descended from Scots, frugality was a given in my house. I still stand the tomato sauce bottle on its lid to get the last bit and for what I can’t get out, I put in a little water, swish it about and add it to a casserole or pasta sauce. My mother was a kindergarten teacher so I couldn’t throw away an icecream container or Easter egg wrapper. Thankful for the day plastic recycling expanded.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I used to bang on peoples doors asking for scrap paper which I would sell to the scrap merchant. Are there still scrap merchants?
      One of my lessor worthy habits was stripping lead flashing from underneath peoples’ sash windows. I don’t do that now anymore.


  6. Andrew Says:

    My parents were born in the 20s. SImilar approach to waste. It just didn’t do. On a small point of detail, was “Large bins laden” related to Osama?


  7. Red Hen Says:

    History is cyclical. I wonder what price will be paid – and quite soon I should think- for the wastefulness of this modern age.


  8. Lottie Nevin Says:

    My mother scraped the butter papers then folded them neatly and kept them in the fridge to use for greasing and lining cake tins when she baked. The other trick that she had, was adding porridge oats to beef mince to make it go further.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Hi Lottie,
      Good mothers use butter papers and perhaps so do good daughters. It is time for sons to pick up the butter paper and run with it. What’s a happened. All good?
      Ah, the porridge oat trick. My mum did the same.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lottie Nevin Says:

        I’ve been very, very busy and haven’t been able to keep up with everyone’s blogs, sorry. Over 40 posts arriving in my in-box every day with some peeps posting twice or even thrice a day almost tipped me over the edge! I’ve been getting on with work here and teaching so really precious little time. I’ll be back to posting soon as needless to say there are lots of stories! I still do the porridge oats trick, I fobbed my kids off with it for years! Hope all well with you πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, I know about the inbox flood. I am instantly in guilt mode. I do remember getting knitted socks hanging from the chimney for Christmas. They looked somewhat familiar. A few weeks before I had to sit in a chair hands and arms spread out onto which my mum would wind the wool she had unpicked from worn old jumpers.
        I would risk my life today asking my daughter if she would do the same.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Big M Says:

    Inedible, or indelible?


  10. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I think our grandkids get more presents at one Christmas than we did our whole time growing up, including birthdays. (Still, they are good, well mannered kids. Their parents are doing a great job of raising them.)

    Our parents, who lived through the Great Depression, had frugality bred into them.

    Feeding the ducks chicken reminds me of a freeway coming down off the Rocky Mountains in Utah that I have come down several times. Ground squirrels run out on the freeway and get squished. Then their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, neighbors and friends run out and eat them. You can see where it is a self-perpetuating source of food. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  11. auntyuta Says:

    Congratulations on your Golden Wedding Anniversary, whenever that is! πŸ™‚
    Cheers, Uta


  12. stuartbramhall Says:

    The public relations industry deliberately programmed of us to think of modern civilization as the throw away society – people who scrimp and save the way your mother did don’t make very good consumers:


  13. gerard oosterman Says:

    Well, In Holland at least, manufacturers are responsible for their products, from first manufacture till their end, and must by law take back their used goods at the end of their cycle. Rubbish tips have closed down and no plastic bags allowed at shopping centres. You cannot dump rubbish.
    Deposits on all bottles and plastic containers. At shopping centres you feed them in a depository machine not unlike a large ATM which reads their value and out comes a ticket of credit which you can use inside the same shop.
    Amazing the system works well here in South Australia but nowhere else. Talk about disadvantage of federation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • auntyuta Says:

      “At shopping centres you feed them in a depository machine not unlike a large ATM which reads their value and out comes a ticket of credit which you can use inside the same shop.”

      We were in Berlin two years ago. There was a similar system in operation and people made good use of it. πŸ™‚


  14. Adrian Oosterman Says:

    I too remember Oma scraping the butter wrap paper and guess what ? I too carry out the same procedure and proud of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. tulipels Says:

    Yes I remember my mother scraping the butter. I also have a very old cookbook (1930’s) still used by me to make “croquetten” for Christmas (someone in the family has to do it!) The cookbook shows how to use and clean one of the earliest electric ovens and hotplates.
    Energy saver “Turn the hotplate of 5 minutes prior to finish as it will still be hot enough, this will save on electricity.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Oh the croquetten. Don’t get me going on that. I’ll ask for your hand in marriage next. πŸ™‚
      I can sense a hunkering after frugality and butter paper scraping. I wonder if we could have a national day of butter paper scraping with a croquette cooking competion.
      We have lost our way and need to regain our dignity, self worth and walk tall again.
      Thank you Tulipels. I am a bit teary now. Your croquetten for Christmas has brought on rivers of them..
      It’s been so long ago!


  16. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    Such a familiar sight, the scraping of the butter paper. Neither of my parents liked to see wasted food (my father an ex Far East POW). Mostly though they ate anything that was left over or going rotten themselves. Some of the next generation are very conscious of waste and I think the generation to come will be fanatic on this front as we start to run out of resources.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I am not sure if the upcoming generations are so conscious of not wasting. I see many households with three garbage cans. One for rubbish to be tipped, one for recycling and one for green stuff.
      When I was young there was never any collection of anything. Only food waste or scraps was collected by a horse and cart, (sometimes even a large dog and cart) There wasn’t much packaging.
      I noticed the Dutch are now trying to help the UK with the problems of waste disposal.
      As was pointed out. In theory it is possible to recycle everything 100% and have no waste. It does cost money to set up initially but finally it pays off. No landfill.


  17. elizabeth2560 Says:

    My Mum recycles EVERYTHING and it drives me crazy…. yet I learn quite a bit from that from her and appreciate things more after every visit to her place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      My mum isn’t here anymore but as time marches on I realise that she was one of the first of the ‘Greenies’. It wasn’t arrived at through political leanings. She was just following natural instincts. Waste not want not.
      We have been corrupted by corporate materialism that opposes all efforts to stop us from endless and mindless consuming.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. chris hunter Says:

    Little Rodney and his mum are out shopping, it is very early Xmas, in fact they haven’t finished the nuts and dates from the year before. It has been a busy day and they have so far visited three different shopping centres.

    Little Rodney: Mum, how many Santa’s are there?

    Mum: Well they are Santa’s helpers really (gabs a trolley).

    Little Rodney: (climbing in the trolley). Yes. but all they look like Santa, and I’ve counted hundreds. (takes the extra-large Cornflakes box from Mum)

    Mum: Oh you have not, nothing like that number – more like twenty today (hands Rodney a large packet of chips to stack in the trolley)

    Meanwhile, one of The Big Store”s six fake Santa’s spots Little Rodney and his mum down the aisle and strides strides them, he’s out soliciting photo ops for The Big Store, as part of next years Xmas advertising push. Little Rodney and his mum are scrutinising the toothpaste, little Rodney wants peppermint flavoured.

    Fake Santa: (with photographer) Ho, Ho, Ho, (booming voice).

    Mum (after an initial scream) OMG Santa! (clutches racing heart).

    Santa: And what about the young fellah (gaze directed down at little Rodney who is now hiding behind the Cornflakes with the large chips being surreptitiously eased over his head).

    Mum: (now recovered) Rodney dear, it’s Santa, would you like to have a photo with Santa? (meanwhile another fake Santa has seen the kerfuffle and strides up,also with a camera crew)

    2nd Fake Santa: (seeing Rodney’s shoes sticking out from under the Cornflakes} I’ll give him a Ho, Ho. Ho,(which he does).

    Little Rodney does not move. Just A slight crinkle of the chip bag.

    Mum: (tad embarrassed) He’s just being shy Santa(s), when he gets home he’ll wonder why he didn’t have a photo with you, especially two at once (laughs nervously). The fake Santa’s then wander off in different directions.

    When they go through the checkout little Rodney lies very low, demanding to be entirely covered over again with the products, after the sales process. His mother obliges rather than argue.

    From under the large Soy chips little Rodney spies another fake Santa working in the car park. They have not far to go to get to the safety of their parked car.

    Little Rodney: (from behind the chips) Hurry mum, hurry, there’s another one over there. (Mum begins to jog behind the trolley and makes the car in record time, they pile in with the products and head off, almost running over yet another fake Santa, lunging out from behind a parked SUV.

    Mum: Wow, (mutters) I nearly cleaned Santa up.

    Little Rodney: (hiding) That makes twenty-four Santa’s today mum.

    Mum: (slowing for the lights) Twenty-five, look, over by the Council Chambers. (Little Rodney ducks)

    Little Rodney: Mum, I’ll just stay down till we’re home, when its safe to come out.

    Mum: (swerving to avoid another Santa, cleaning car windows at the lights) Yes dear, good idea, won’t be long now.

    Little Rodney: They all go away after Christmas, don’t they Mum?

    Mum: Yes dear, (waves to a row of marching fake Santa’s – the late shift)….. then the Bilbies start up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Hilarious Chris:
      A lot of santas are now female. Nothing wrong I suppose but the mums feel safer with a female after all those scandals involving men of the cloths. I remember during the Australian olympics every shopping center had its own ‘genuine’ Olympic torch.
      Anything for a buck.
      Soon we will be able to 3D print our very own Santa.


  19. petspeopleandlife Says:

    A good one here. Everyone should grow up poor and see what it’s like to live a hard scrabble life. My mother made bed sheets out of chicken feed sacks and flower sacks. I also wore dresses to school made out of the feed sacks, but they were cute because my aunt could look at me and make some of the cutest clothes that I always got compliments on. And yes, my parents grew almost all of our food.

    Well those were the good ole days so to speak for those days taught me some valuable lessons.

    Oh yes, and the butter was made from our own cow’s cream. I had to churn every Friday evening after school. That was one full chore.

    Liked by 1 person

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