It’s ridiculous, I know, but I just can’t stop myself. They say old habits die hard, and it’s true. I know you’re going to laugh –  feel free. One of my persistent habits is my inability to throw away kitchen foil.  After using it to  cover a cooked dish before putting it into the fridge, I carefully rinse it off, wash it in hot soapy water, rinse again, smooth it out and leave it in the sun to dry, before folding and storing it for re-use. By now you’re shaking your heads and saying: Huh? But WHY ??

I’ll tell you why. For a period of about six years, kitchen foil was unobtainable – it was a luxury, along with kitchen cling-wrap, chocolate, MacIntoshes’s toffees, South African wine, and a massive list of other products that we all used to take for granted. In a word: sanctions. In Rhodesia during the mid-1970’s we had a trade embargo slapped on us by the British Government, and apart from vital commodities like fuel and mechanical spares, the minor items of life were also removed from our grasp. We had to live with fuel rationing, which was calculated to virtually the last drop, and you learnt to plan your driving very carefully so as to accomplish the maximum tasks with the minimum driving around. But we managed. And kitchen foil was a happy memory from easier times. There just wasn’t any, and if you did succeed in obtaining a precious roll, you guarded it with your life and used it sparingly, again and again and again.
During my first years of living in South Africa I remember watching aghast as
South African women cheerfully ripped off generous sheets of foil to double-cover a small plate of food, or double-wrap leftovers.  It was all I could do to stop myself from leaping on them shouting, “Stop! That’s enough – you’re using too much!”  and then on other occasions watch people rip off the foil covering, crumple the foil into a ball and drop it in the trash can … oh, the horror!

Of course, I could label my quirk as THRIFT, which is a good word, we should all be thrifty, eco-conscious citizens, should we not?  I cannot tell you how it cheered me to read an article which revealed that HM Queen Elizabeth keeps string, in a certain desk drawer, thriftily saving it for future parcels. Apparently it was a habit she cultivated during World War II when Britain faced austerities on every level, and as I said at the beginning, old habits die hard.  On the other hand, I do wonder whether her Majesty still wraps her own parcels – somehow I feel there should be a white-gloved footman bearing away the gifts on a silver tray, to be wrapped and parcelled by some lesser minion in a Palace storeroom. Times have changed, even in royal palaces. These days I bung gifts into a padded, ready-to-seal white bag (all sizes available) no string required, and that’s that. But I do still own a monster ball of brand new string.

At one time I did have the instructions for crocheting dishcloths out of string – now that’s  super eco-thrifty – maybe I’ll churn out a few and use up the redundant string? Or maybe not; my To Be Read pile of books is beaming invitingly at me ….



6 responses to “OLD HABITS

  1. Its an age thing Alison! I can remember during the war, my Mom kept every bit of string and brown paper, and coloured wrapping paper didnt exist. So today I keep every bit of string, rolled up into little balls and smooth out any usable brown paper. And I pounce on Christmas wrapping as it comes off the gift, fold it carefully and use it next year. From the puzzled looks of my grandchildren I know this is definitely an age thing, but someone’s gotta do it!


    • I’m delighted to hear from another thrifty person. What a relief to learn I’m not the only strange lady in Cape Town. As my Dad used to say : A penny saved is a penny earned.


  2. Well, that goes some way to explaining the used, washed and lightly smoothed, piece of foil which it sitting on top of the boxes of assorted culinary wraps in my Scottish kitchen…..used it on Saturday morning to cover the loaf of soda bread, which I was baking to use up the last of the double cream. Which was “on the turn”……and if a tin of biscuits has a single foil-wrapped one, the joy of c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y removing the foil and smoothing out every wrinkle. Thereby achieving a lovley square of silver on one side and purple (or red) on the other. Not sure of the eventual purpose, but happy memories from a simpler time. Thank you Alison41 from the fairest Cape. Daisy.


    • You see? there’s more of us out there! lasydaisy appears to be in Dundee – I spent a week in Dundee in 1999, and very nearly emigrated to your city, but chickened out – the pull of family and the sun was too strong.


  3. You have opened my sanctions memory bank! I could write a book on the subject . As a teacher we had to follow strict instructions and make pupils fill the entire space of a page of paper; writing suffered in the process but we were saving paper. Also, I remember the deputy headmaster having a toilet roll on his desk…tissues were not to be had. And, as for aluminium foil, I too still save and re-use pieces.


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