the skinflint philosopher

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


Shriven me timbers!

As it is now the first day of Lent, the skinflint philosopher is pondering the whole pancake debate. As we know, whether with religious intent or not, pretty much the whole of the British Isles (and quite a bit of the wider world) will have chowed down on a batter full of delight yesterday (unless you were the poor muggins stood at the hob waiting for the rest of the family to get through their fill before you can take the weight off and sit down and eat one yourself). Any experienced pancake chef will tell you however that the first pancake cooked in a frying pan never works properly (is there some weird oil related physics going on?), so it is always advisable to have a ravenous Digger to hand to polish off the tatty or stuck together version before the beautifully circular ones start appearing thick and fast from your pan.

Of course, the logic of eating up the eggs and fats before the forty days of fasting in the run up to Easter meant the seemingly humble pancake was a perfect choice. Should sugar have been widely available back in the day (physically, and in terms of price) I’m pretty sure the great British public would now be having a long established annual celebration of Cake-and-Muffin Tuesday instead.
A good and prudent homemaker would not want any food to go to waste, so ‘using up the bits’ in a pancake made financial, as well as spiritual sense. Nowadays of course, for most of us, it wouldn’t be right without lemon or sugar, or cinnamon, or nutella and bananas- we in our times of plenty will push even the eggy/fatty treat over the edge of a calorific precipice. For some of us, it may well signify fasting, or another food-related forty days of change (I’m trying gluten-free, again, this year). I’ve suggested to Digger he stops looking at power tools on the internet as a positive thing (from my point of view) to give up (just really, I can’t get my head round it- it surely cannot engage anyone for that length of time. Seriously. Its not like they are performing a sitcom or the collected works of Shakespeare. Its just tools. Pictures of them).

In reality through, yesterday got me thinking more along the lines of preventing waste by eating things up. Our food bill is probably not large in comparison to many other families (see earlier blog post here)- we eat between us very little meat, we try and eat seasonally, we cook from scratch as much as time allows. But still, I think we probably over eat. I also like to have plenty of food ‘in store’ in case of random emergencies thankfully never yet to be seen, although to be fair, plenty of people on our little rock panic buy as soon as the ferry gets cancelled for 24 hours and shelves in the supermarkets are emptied out in fear of mass-starvation. Fear not my friends, I think we might just be able to hold it together till the next boat.
What is extremely rare in our house though is for any food to be thrown away. I’ve read plenty of blogs where people suggest careful meal planning and food purchasing prevents waste (and good on you if that works for you), but I find just the opposite to be true. By never having a set meal planned, we cook and eat what needs to be eaten first. Our meals may be on occasion slightly eclectic, but certainly never dull. Digger is always happy with leftovers in a lunch box for the following day, and Tiddler has clearly picked up on the vibe and has even been known to deny herself pudding on occasions until she has emptied her plate. I’m not holding out hope that that is going to be true for ever, but long may it last in the meantime. I suppose this means that a food skinflinter is in a sort of semi-permanent state of lent, if such a thing is possible, which by default may mean we are having a jolly good shriven. As long as it is motivational, rather than flagellation, it has got to be good.

My final thoughts are with Tiddler, as too little to toss the pancake, or take part in a Shrove Tuesday race or football game as tradition demands, we set to with some of her pals in order to get a little bit creative with our food luxuries. Pancake pictures feature monkeys, a cat, and Digger. I’ll let you figure it out.


Any particular things you are giving up, or starting, or doing differently for the next 40 days?




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“Something old, something new?”

I salute the logic here.…

Estimate for a typical wedding cost comes in feet first and slapping you in the face with a round total bill of £30,000 according to some reports,…/01/average-cost-of-wedding
so if the thrifty stars of the yahoo article put their ‘special day’ on for 10% of that, we have to give them some credit. And long may the marriage last if money is not their main focus, as oft (mis)quoted, “the love of money of the root of all evil”.

Two points the skinflint philosopher wants to make about this theme for the time being (plenty more to come another time!).

I especially shake my head at the chosen headline ‘serves rubbish food’ (ho ho did you see what they did there folks, d’you get it?) as a way to pour scorn and disgust over food health and hygiene issues. How many times dear friends, must we hear before we understand that ‘Best before’ and ‘use by dates’ are not the same thing? The great British public being fearful of heebie jeebies and bacteria (while happily forking out for probiotic yoghurts and stilton mind you) are either scared or guilt-tripped into throwing food out before necessary, thus contributing among my list of food related deadly sins- money waste, packaging waste, food miles waste, irrigation water and agricultural production waste, land use waste, blah de blah the list goes on. Why do vegetables have a use by date anyway? Are we so far removed from the land and its bounty that we have to have someone in a white coat and with a plastic mesh over their head tell us whether we can eat an apple or not? Common sense should apply, but sadly for many, that is not an item you can checkout at your local supermarket.
Obviously there is a personal choice on what you feel happy feeding yourself with, and what you want to serve up to great Aunt Gladys and the in-laws on your nuptial day, but given that food bills are a major part of out monthly outgoings, we need to understand and think more about what and how we spend our money on.

Secondly, the whole concept that a wedding (or any other socio-cultural event) must have a certain conformity is a worry. This article celebrates the savings made, but doesn’t question why the costs were there in the first place. Why does celebrating something have to come as a hit to your wallet? Do people only accept a rite of passage if you flaunt your materialistic version of it in front of them? Should they not be there to be part of your memories and experiences, not to judge you on how many tiers the cake had or whether the sugar almond bag was properly tied in the colour of the moment ribbon?
And if you are going to apply skinflintery, why not go the whole shebang? Ask guests to do a faith supper (everyone brings a plate of food to contribute) instead of gifts? Prevents you have do some decluterring somewhere down the line too, so minimalism scores strongly too with that scenario.

As always, how you spend money is up to you. We all have our own preferences and priorities for our pennies, but given the phrase, “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue”, then I for one would argue that no brides would want the ‘borrowed’ bit to be referring to a thirty grand dent in their bank balance.

Go for the “something new” approach, and you might just surprise yourself instead.

Celebrating our customs and traditions now comes at a high price

Celebrating our customs and traditions now comes at a high price