the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!

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Is happiness on your bucket list?

Bucket lists, for those familiar with term but not sure of it’s origin, were things to do before you ‘kick the bucket’, i.e. die. That phrase in itself is linguistic derivation from, amongst possible choices, stepping off a bucket on a hangman’s noose, the bucket or beam a pig is hung from once slaughtered, or even from the French trebuchet for balance. All meaning that this post is starting off on a much more morbid theme that I intended when I wrote the title. Bear with me folks!
So if our bucket lists are things to do to make us happy, why should we wait before we do them? Do they have to be grand schemes- only swimming with the dolphins or base jumping off the Matterhorn actually count? My happiness quota today got filled as simply as by spotting the first baby courgettes forming on a plant in our yard (after I had planted the seeds much later in the year than advised on the packet).
In order to help us consider what to add into that scribbled down bullet-pointed bucket-kicking list, be it on a calendar, a back of an envelope, or just in your head, please make sure you include ‘Be happy’ on there too. So to help you out with your philosophical thinking for today, the article here and the audio that goes with it might throw a few sage insights your way.



What is the opposite of Room 101?

The answer must be of course, the things we most want or desire. See these two articles for a great way of enabling us to reduce spending on items we only use infrequently or once, and also therefore prevent our homes getting cluttered up with more stuff. We should all be pushing to get these set up in our own neighbourhoods. Verdict? I like.

The share shop
Library of Things




Eat well for less; think straight for starters.

Having just been away for three weeks, the proverbial (can I say that if I actually mean nursery rhyme rather than proverb?) Mother Hubbard in our household truly did find the cupboard bare, and had to hot-foot it down to the local store to replenish food supplies. This hit the purse strings this week in our supermarket of choice (i.e. out of a choice of two- not many options in this little piece of the back of beyond) to a total of £128, which filled up the fridge and freezer, and a few bits to add into the store cupboard. This doesn’t compare too badly, given that the fridge was indeed empty, with the weekly national average spending on food according to BBC’s ‘Eat Well for Less ( ringing in at £81.40 for a family of four. This doesn’t include eating out, take-away coffees etc, as is just the weekly spend on food for the home, so the vast majority of us will actually be spending far more than that on food and drink per week by the time we factor in those emergency chocolate bars at the petrol station and the quintessential beer quaffing in your local pub of choice on a Friday night.

So the question for Thrifter has to be how long will our £128 worth last us? I’m not likely to do another large shop for another couple of weeks, though we will buy perishables as we need them, and of course other ‘unidentified items’ sneak their way into the baskets while you are a captive audience in the church of gluttony. Our £128 was reduced by £7.50 in loyalty vouchers, and a further £10 was on nappies, so if we consider £110.50 as our starting point, and lets see what happens over the next few weeks – I’ll follow it up in a later post.

The programme itself, Eat well for Less, now into series 3 so is clearly hitting home with the viewing public, who love to do the following things: 1. Save money, and 2. Gawp in amazement at the apparent lack of common sense in our fellow shoppers. The skinflint philosopher falls into both categories, ‘nuf said. This series includes for our viewing pleasure, a family who only buy pre-cut fruit and vegetables and a family who throw away fruit once it’s past it’s best before date, and to paraphrase Greg Wallace, the show’s bespectacled ‘man on the street’, “I don’t know why anyone would need a date on a bag of fruit to tell us whether it’s ok to eat. Has it gone soft? Is it mouldy? It’s very, very obvious”. The Haynes family (episode 4) were throwing away a whopping £60 worth of food each week. When we factor in the consequences on the environment of mass food production, transportation and packaging, all for it to end up going in the bin, the financial cost to the family is a final cherry on the top of the Skinflinter’s take on criminality.

It would be unfair to dismiss other’s actions without highlighting what works for us, so here are Thrifter’s key pieces of advice regarding food thrift.
1. We never throw food away, by actually going against the advice given on the programme, by never having meal plans. Instead we eat what needs to be eaten, and design and create meals and dishes to facilitate that. It may mean that they are a little unusual on the odd occasion, but variety is the spice of life of course.
2. Leftovers become lunches for the following day, or make friends with your freezer and put back in for another time.
3. Avoid branded products where the quality doesn’t always justify the cost.
4. Cook from scratch whenever possible, and therefore minimise your paying to a middleman for their handling of what you are about to receive.
5. We are also now almost completely meat-free. Thrifter has not partaken for around twenty-five years but Digger has recently been watching ‘Things on the Internet’ (note the doom-laden capital letters, in the voice of he-who-shall-be-obeyed) which has put him off processed meat for the time being, though he still manages to sneak Italian salami into his repertoire. It will be interesting to see how our spending changes as a result.

Finally as always, we all have different tastes and priorities, so go spend on food in a way that suits you. If every morsel you put into your mouth fills you with guilt, then something is wrong. But as Paul Prudhomme said, with a great sense of skinflintery, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food”.







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When is enough enough?

Tiddler and I spent the afternoon in the garden (now cleansed of the evidence of the visits from our four-legged neighbours) and I found myself telling Tiddler ‘enough is enough!’. Tiddler as always was very keen to feed the birds, but rather than just filling up the bird feeder and sprinkle a few seeds on the lawn as normal, she went back again and again to the shed, filled her jug, and dumped it over the garden, multiple times. There are going to be a few portly sparrows in our locality I can tell you that much for sure, and not sure I want to be responsible for seed overdose affecting our songbirds ability to fly.

Of course explaining to Tiddler that too much seed is not good for the birds, and that it will go to waste, all fell on her toddler ears of incomprehension- she desires to feed the birds some more, she likes the sensation of the tiny seeds running through her fingers and so that is what she will do.
It made me consider that we all think we hear good advice, and have common sense to act upon it, only to fail in practical terms as we lose our direction, or get overwhelmed with choices or decisions from external influences. This picture quote came back to me, from ‘Theartofobersavation’, and I think encapsulates the futility of me telling Tiddler to stop with her one toddler mission to change the lawn into a giant granola bar.
We need to discover when enough is enough for ourselves.


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Testing the water

Things have been pretty quiet on this web space for the last few weeks, and it is not because the Skinflint philosopher got so thrifty she switched the wifi off, but rather that we have been dabbling our toes in our future lives. Huh? All sounding a bit time traveller-esque so far, but never fear, I shall not be talking paradoxes and alternative dimensions (but feel free to get a bellyful of the whole ‘what would happen if you met yourself?’ at this site here time travel philosophy ).

The truth is that Digger, Tiddler and I took a visit to where we plan to be if we get this whole simple life project of the ground. The reason for this challenge of skinflintery at the moment is to save as much capital as we can now, while Digger and I are still both earning a wage, and also perhaps to prepare us for what may be a time of belt-tightening and doing without. Now as often happens in the wonderful world of serendipity, this clip popped up in my newsfeed a few days ago, and may be worth a look if you want to see a not-very-off-grid version of our plans.

The major gain of the visit has had to be seeing Digger and Tiddler spend more time together. So much more to tell about what we hope to achieve, and sorry to keep you on tenterhooks still, but this will all have to wait for later posts as Digger is calling me to go and assist him combat the knee-high grass (ok) and various neighbourhood cat deposits (really not ok) that have sprung up in the backyard during our absence.  Now if someone can come up with a causal loop to solve that one for me, I’ll be very much obliged.

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The tortoise or the hare?

Take the Tortoise and the Hare scenario. If like Digger and I you are thinking about making big changes in your lives, it is maybe better to take small steps at a time. Or if you are feeling the Gods are with you, then take the plunge! Whatever route, whatever method, whatever goal, there has to be you and your sense of purpose driving you forwards.