Can you guess why I took this picture?
No, I didn’t go on a butter binge. Nor am I experimenting with French cooking. These are wrappers saved over the last year.
Every time I look at a butter wrapper, I smile, remembering a statement one of Stuart’s Old Order Mennonite aunts made years ago when we were drying dishes in her kitchen. She had whipped up an amazing meal on the spur of the moment. And now she was whisking away all the dishes with the help of her daughters and me. I was a newlywed, so perhaps she was using the occasion to pass along some of her motherly wisdom.
Aunt M looked at me with dead seriousness in her voice, a twinkle in her eye, and a butter wrapper in her hand. “Now, my sister and I debate which is the best way to take the butter off the wrapper. She’s a knife scraper. I just use these to grease my cookie sheets and cake pans.” I was happy to describe myself as a Greaser rather than a Scraper also.
Neither of us would think of throwing away all the good butter left on the wrapper.
Another story from about the same time period, the early 1970’s. One of my neighbors, a woman whose husband owned a successful business and could have been sipping cocktails at the Country Club, invited me to an afternoon project in her back yard.
What were we doing? Taking soap collected from local hotels, scraping it down so that it gleamed in the sunshine like the new piece of soap it was. Then we packed up the clean bars to send to disaster areas. We discussed various ways to create and preserve soap. Some of the women remembered rendering lard and adding lye to make their own soap. Most of us didn’t do that, although all of us knew people who had.
Instead, we discussed how to do soap grafting. When a piece gets small, we add it to a larger piece while it’s wet. That way we can use it to the end.
Saving, preserving, fixing, recycling. These are things I learned how to do at home and still value.
They save money, yes. But the impulse behind them goes beyond penny pinching.
There’s the planet, of course. Back in the 1960’s we were only beginning to recognize how wasteful American society is and how much harm we were inflicting on oceans and land.
I also enjoy the challenge. Stretching a dollar can be as much fun as spending it. For years, frugality was a necessity. Now I enjoy selected frugality as a way of staying sharp. I haven’t scraped a soap bar since that day long ago, but I keep saving wrappers, reusing plastic and paper, and grafting soap.
There’s a spiritual dimension to all of this that supersedes the other reasons but is harder to describe. The native American concept of walking gently on the earth, trying to leave no trace, lifts our eyes from the earth itself to the heavens and to respect for all the generations to follow us.
Aunt M understood all of this, as she stood there in her kitchen, more than forty years ago, butter wrapper in hand. She was treading lightly, enjoying the joy of being alive, wanting to share that joy.
My New Beginning today? I’m returning all these pennies to the tip jar in this restaurant. The perfect act of frugality not only saves money, it gives it away also.
I can’t wait to hear what your New Beginning is today! Click here to share it and to enter the 100 Days Challenge. And I’d love for you to share frugal tips below.
P.S. In case you don’t know about the 100 Day Challenge.