Horatio: My Lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.
Hamlet: I prithee do not mock me, fellow student, I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.
Horatio: Indeed, my Lord, it followed hard upon.
Hamlet: Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 2
When Hamlet sardonically remarks that “thrift” is the reason for his mother’s hasty marriage, he uses it in the modern sense — meaning to be frugal, or thrifty. But 300 years before Shakespeare used it, thrift meant a fact or condition of thriving; to thrive. It also meant prosperity; to have something set aside for lean times. Thence it came to mean economy. Hence the turn, from one thing to its opposite.
This is just what has happened to the royal house of Denmark. With King Hamlet on the throne, the nation thrived — but slain, replaced by his brother, the country ceases to be healthy. The word with which many of Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar was thriven.
What they would not have served at the funeral or wedding was burnt flour soup, which is basically glue with cheese, buoyed up with stale bread. It is truly a desperate meal, that goes beyond simply being thrifty, but hobbling together whatever you can to survive.
The Thrift Cook Book, Marion Harris Neil, 1919