Frugal. Thrifty. Parsimonious. Careful.
All these words are nuances of the same attitude; but either set sees things differently.
Most of us would agree that some people take “waste not, want not” to the pathetic levels of “losing a ship for a ha’p’orth of tar”.
But I was highly amused to read the recently headlines about how Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II is living a “patch and mend existence as her palaces crumble around
Apparently, it is the “rising cost of living” that renders her unable to fork out the readies for outstanding repairs, redecorating, and rewiring at Buckingham
Palace and Windsor Castle. Other problems include leaking roofs, damaged guttering and asbestos contamination.
However, this appears to be a cumulative problem, caused by running repairs not being done when the need arose – state rooms have not been painted since she
ascended the throne years ago, and the electrical system is not too hot, either. Never was it more appropriate to quote the proverb “a stitch in time saves nine”.
This reminds me of how, all too often, some group or other descends (in a manner of speaking!) on the bastions to clean them up, or how a group of divers gathers tonnes of rubbish from the sea bed.
When I wrote the Family Talk pages for this newspaper, I liked to include a “box” with tried-and-tested hints that would, I hoped, help my readers to do things
better, faster, and cheaper.
This topic is still popular today – however, with the advent of IT, sometimes the glue oozes out of what is patently a cut-and-paste job.
In one of the sundry magazines given out with the sister paper to this, for instance, there was a list that included a hint on how to neutralise skunk odour. Now, when was the last time you saw a non-human skunk in Malta? And, just for the record, just when did you need something to remove a Kool-Aid stain from your clothing?
Some people, for that matter, make a fortune out of collecting these hints and selling them in book form.
Some of them work – and have done so ages before Mrs Beaton said they did. But some of them may end up being more expensive to do than replacing the article itself. Many of the hints are impractical, others are downright silly – and others may prove dangerous. Some have obviously been passed on without being tried by the authors of the list.
However, some people actually think it is worthwhile buying a reel of cotton that costs more than three pairs of socks, when only a single sock of which has a tiny hole in it.
One of these “Household Hints” books is Penny Pincher’s Book by John and Irma Mustoe.
I quote some of the tips here – with my own comments, so you can decide whether to resort to them or not the next time you have a problem.
1. Egg white makes excellent glue for paper. So are tinned milk and used chewing gum for that matter – but in time they go mouldy and spoil the project.
2. Extend the useful life of empty scent bottles or talcum boxes by putting them into drawers to perfume the contents. Scent cannot permeate glass; and clutter takes up precious space.
3. For a cheap mouthwash, use one tablespoon of vinegar in a glass of water. But don’t complain if the acid eats your tooth enamel.
4. Leftover salad can be boiled and whizzed into a soup. I am sure the amalgamated taste of olives, capers, pickled onions, garlic, lettuce and tomatoes will kill anyone’s appetite.
5. Patent leather can be cleaned with Vaseline or the inside of a banana skin. Then, of course, you need something to get the glop off your shoes before you wear
6. Plant lettuce seeds. A packet of seeds produces about 10,000 lettuces and costs about the same as a single lettuce in shops. Unless you own a rabbit farm, you do not need that many lettuces in a lifetime.
7. Steam iron (or freeze) woollen clothes during winter to kill moth eggs. It’s the larvae, not the flying moths, which do the damage. And then buy another freezer for your foodstuffs.
8. The bags inside cereal boxes are excellent for storing bread and for using in the freezer. And of course, this assumes you think cereals are nutritious.
9. The best bird-scarer is free, biodegradable and very, very, quiet. First, obtain a dead bird. Attach one leg to a branch with a piece of string, letting the wings and head hang down to flap gently in the breeze. Welcome to The Edge. Do you scare of the hordes of flies that arrive for the feat by hanging a fly from one leg and letting that sway gently in the breeze, too?
10. When altering a hemline, dab vinegar on the crease and then iron dry. No telltale line left! But you will have to explain away the smell that lingers as you pass by. Inevitably perhaps, I have to confess that my friends sometimes do ask me what to do if something untoward crops up. I do have my own favourite shortcuts, ten of which are listed here:
Clean curtain hooks easily by placing them in a screw top jar filled with soapy water; shake, rinse in a colander, and allow to dry before re-using.
After home haircuts, use talcum powder to remove hair from the nape of the neck. Always put two garbage bags in the bin with newspapers in between, so that if the
first one leaks, the other will catch the drips. If it does not, leave the paper and outer bag in place for next time.
Clean marble by putting a few drops of baby oil on a cotton ball.
Clean the outside of windows in vertical strokes and the insides horizontally; that way, you will know where the smears are.
Clothes in charity shops are sometimes worth buying solely for the buttons, or for unpicking and using as a pattern.
Condensed milk, reduced over slow heat until it resembles toffee, makes a wonderful caramel sauce for ice-cream or fruit salad.
Cut a circle of cloth from leftover curtain material with pinking shears; encase a pot plant and secure near the edge with an elastic hair band; instant co-ordination.
Can’t find a pretty camisole? Buy a lacy petticoat and cut off what you will not be using…
Invest in a pair of sharp scissors; you can cut up bread, vegetables, meat, fish and chicken for croutons, kebabs, pies or soups more efficiently than with knives or