Economic Multipliers (186)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Spatulas are an economic multiplier.


I grew up in a world where not too many things got frivolously thrown away.

Kitchen spatulas were part of that world.

Today, you can get rubber spatulas with wooden handles (the old kind), silicone spatulas which resist heat (but not too much heat so don’t think you can leave them in a pan that has something cooking on the stove) and plastic spatulas which tend to have plastic handles. It’s even possible to find rectangular scrapers which, if you’re teaching kids how to clean out bowls, are probably easier to ‘master’ on the initial go around.

In my youth, the value (and I must admit joy) of the spatula was found in cleaning out bowls that originally had cookie or cake batter or frosting or bread dough. The spatulas made it easy to get the ‘remainder’ out and of course the ‘mixings’ tasted quite good.

I’ve pondered whether I would encourage this particular use today as I ended up as what I would call a ‘carbohydrate addict’ and so not only do I try to refrain from making most baked goods (except for exceptionally special occasions), I try not to encourage anyone else to eat too many sweets.

When a person eats alone (and most people do at some point in time), there’s a bit of a ‘luxury’ in using spatulas at the end of meals. I tend to use spatulas on just about anything that is ‘bowl worthy.’ I’ve tried to imagine sitting at a meal where spatulas were on the napkin with the rest of the silverware and it really doesn’t fit with group dining.

Of course, if you’re clearing plates for a family, they are quite handy for getting any remains off before washing dishes. If you’re emptying a can or jar, they are quite handy for getting the last bit of food out. If you’re cooking and use them right away on pots and pans (and even dishes), it’s usually easier to clean everything afterward.

I have no idea what percentage of food gets thrown away if a person doesn’t usually use something like a spatula. A rough guess would be less than 1%.

If I was guessing on the water use for cleaning dishes (as it does seem less water gets used overall), a person probably would only save less than 5% if they were doing the dishes by hand (I’m not sure how dishwashers evaluate how dirty dishes are today so I don’t know whether there is any savings there).

One percent and 5 percent seem like really small numbers overall unless you think about other things like the fact that in some countries today (2017), interest rates are very low: in many, less than 5 percent.

Most people wouldn’t wander around thinking about the fact that if they used a spatula on a can or jar they might have to buy one less of something out of every 100 or 200 they buy. Those things are way too far out on the economic scale to factor into everyday life.

I myself go for the: It’s just easier to do dishes part of it. The dishwater stays cleaner which means you need less soap (another savings) and there is less to clean out of the sink drain strainer (see P.S.) when you’re done with the dishes.

Economic multipliers are cumulative things – a little here – a little there – a lot of people doing a lot of little things that are cumulative – and all of sudden it can seem like you start to have more (because you do – See P.S (2)).


P.S. If you don’t like cleaning out a sink strainer on a regular basis and want a sink overall to stay cleaner, a microstrainer (a flat stainless steel strainer about 4” across that many people probably use for skimming things off hot broth) is rather handy. If you have any dishes with ‘remains’ and rinse things through the microstrainer, it’s easy at the end of the process to tap the microstrainer upside down on the edge of a garbage can and the things you might want to keep out of your drain system end up in the garbage can instead.

P.S. (2) When there is an erosion of the ability to create and save wealth in the middle class and down, doing a lot of little things many times is a way to keep from getting further behind (Some families would say that doing things like using a spatula or discount shopping are the only ways they can get ahead). When people feel like they are starting to tread water (the actions they take individually or in the communities that they live in don’t seem to help them get ahead), I think it’s harder to encourage some of the more simple saving and wealth creating behaviors. Initially it takes time to get used to doing things a bit differently and the time value isn’t usually felt until individuals are proficient at a task (and/or it is part of their autopilot behavior – the things they do without thinking). It’s just something to be aware of when you think about how people function in communities.

If nothing else, it does seem like every child should get the opportunity once or twice to learn how to use a spatula while they’re cleaning out a bowl of something they like. Somehow I can’t imagine that a lesson in economics should be a part of that experience – but it’s always worthwhile to explain why you do things – especially if it’s easier to do the dishes.