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?





The ABC of skinflintery

Inspired by an earlier post,  ‘Teaching the right lessons’ I thought I would sit down and see if such a thing as the ABC of skinflintery can be indeed created. Bearing in mind my apparent fluidity with the English language in that I am quite happy to mess about with suffixes so ‘SkinflintERY’ came into being as part of my vocabulary, I am not sure if this bodes well for the discerning linguists out there. Also rather randomly, I’m started on this task thinking along the lines of ‘Mr Condom’ Mechai himself and his rather unusual ABC of family planning, that did wonders as part of Thailand’s economic and social change. If you haven’t come across this chap before, this clip is definitely worth a gander, if only for the chuckles.
Meanwhile, back on a more prudish train of thought, here goes.

A for Abstinence
B for Budget
C for Carefulness and Common sense
D for Decluttering
E for Economising
F for Frugal
G for Goals
H for Hoarding (in a good way before the minimalists shout me down)
L for Leftovers
M for Miser
N for No, I don’t need it
P for Penny-Pincher Prudence (wowsers, alliteration there folks!)
R for Recycling
S for Skinflintery of course (not Scrooge)
T for Thrift
U for Upcycling
V  for Vouchers
W for Wild food

Hmm, a few gaps. Dear chaps and avid readers- suggestions welcome please to complete this? I’m pretty sure a number of you have a penchant for getting things in order!


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Beans, Death and Taxes

Seeing as Tiddler is temporarily snoring away in the Land of Nod, the Skinflint philosopher has just been (not quite but still feeling a bit smug) ultra-efficient and finally got my tax return sorted, a week before the due date. Living as we do on this little rock, I’m not too worried by cutting it so fine, as can confidently breeze by Government House to drop the paperwork off later in the week when popping into town. I’m really searching hard here to find a joy in taxes somewhere, but at least small scale countries and having the bean-counters sort of on your doorstep might be one of them? Anyway, I’m not expecting too big a hit this year thankfully, as earnings as still down as a result of maternity leave and then going back to work part time.

It has got me thinking again though, about the ebbing and flowing of our monies. I blogged at the end of August see blog post here that I was going to try and keep track of my food spending for a month, just to see if I was being a good Thrifter really or was I falsely blowing my own trumpet. The target was that given that the average family of four in the UK spends £81.40 on their groceries per week, we three (Thrifter, Digger and Tiddler) had to definitely hit lower than that. So I started keeping hold of receipts, and chose to forgo my lunchtime coffee at work (I’m not sure the princely sum of 60p per day for a vending machine latte is going to make me a millionaire one day but I felt inspired, and dutifully took in teabags from home instead). Then I started keeping track of all my spending for the month up till today, which worked out at…

Food spending for the month £187
Food spending out (coffee and cakes, a lunch out with Tiddler) £13.40
Entrance fees for Tiddler activities £11.50
Health club membership one month trial to take Tiddler swimming 3 times per week  £29.50
My new watch- see post here and so no cost to me!
Tiddler’s birthday party £56
Stamps and postage £13.30
Pharmacy supplies/ nappies £13.85
Diesel £76
Mobile phone credit £5
Birthday presents for friends £38
Rent £750 and childcare £296, both costs split between Digger and I
Wifi £12
Water, electric, gas- unknown for the months usage

and that’s it out of my wallet, though Digger will have had some of his own expenses too. I’m quite pleased with proving myself right. We supplemented our food with the following- tomatoes, rhubarb and courgettes from our garden, green beans and red cabbage from a neighbour, and Digger went scrumping and came home with two bowls of beautiful Victoria plums. Thrifter and Tiddler picked blackberries, although Tiddler fed herself more than actually ended up in the freezer. We are still eating the honey and drinking the rakia that were gifts from Digger’s parents. I don’t feel that we are in anyway denying ourselves sustenance- in actual fact Digger has been complaining recently that I serve him giant sized portions and that his belt is getting too tight.
We choose I suppose, to not buy (food or otherwise) that we don’t need. Tiddler and I both had birthdays this month so we were gifted new things, rather than going out to buy ourselves. Are Digger and I simply not very materialistic, that we don’t need things,  or is it all about the satisfaction in putting that spare, not-spent money away at the end of each month, knowing it is going to be part of the skinflint masterplan?

Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves said my mother. I say, count your beans, and eventually you’ll have enough to plant a whole beanfield.






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Contemptible, moi?

“Miser, one who makes use of contemptible economy to keep money,”1700, slang; literally “kind of person who would skin a flint to save or gain something,” from skin (v.) + flint. Flay-flint in same sense is from 1670s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Translating that into more ‘frugal’ language, a person is skinning that flint by wearing it down until it is a thin as skin through use, rather than replacing it before there is the need to do so. The definition above though, does make Thrifter a little sad today.
Feel free to see thrift, minimalism and zero waste as ‘contemptible’ in your throw-away society. Fiddle while Rome burns. But not on my watch.
Embrace your skinflintery!


“I’d still have the eggs”: Liebster Award

I remember playing something a bit like this on long train journeys, when everything about getting you from A to B is taken out of your hands- no need to operate a car or bike, no need to concentrate on your steering or technique, and not even any need to navigate. This gives you the wonderful opportunity that we have so little of normally, when you are a very captive audience,unable to distract yourself by doing that little job that just needs to be done, or instead doing the opposite by filling your mind with entertainment TV-style that enables you to have no thoughts what so ever. So something that really gets you to stop and think about your thinking, is worth doing, even when no train journeys are available. Metacognition is the buzzword of the day if you want to file that one away for a rainy day. Bearing that in mind I’d like to thank Pelin from this great blog, Minimalist gunluk/journal, for passing me the baton with the Liebster Award and getting my metacognition going today. As for the title for this post, no point asking Digger about his thoughts, as the answer would still be eggs (sorry, you’ll have to see a previous post to make sense of that one!).img_2881

In this blog-eat-blog world, here are the rules:

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you
  3. Nominate 5-11 bloggers that you think are deserving of the award.
  4. Let the bloggers know that you nominated them.
  5. Give them 11 questions of your own.

So here are Pelin’s questions for me and my answers:

  1. What inspires you?
    Sunshine and the thought of wasting it. Better to get out and do something now, in case it isn’t sunny tomorrow. Or in 5 mins. Four seasons in one day on this little rock.
  2. Do you like reading fiction or non-fiction? A recent favourite?
    Fiction: I can’t narrow it down, but three epics it has to include, A fine balance- Rohinton Mistry, The Poisonwood Bible- Babara Kingsolver, A prayer for Owen Meany-  John Irving.
  3. Who is your favourite family member?
    Couldn’t say. I’m not sure I can measure ‘favouriteness’.
  4. If you could wear the same thing everyday, what would you wear?
  5. What is one song you are listening to lately?
    Album playing at the moment, Bob Dylan, The times they are a changing. Quite apt I hope.
  6. How long have you been blogging?
    Less than a month.
  7. What is your favourite colour?
  8. What animal do you identify with yourself most?
    Now this means we have to put our anthropomorphic stereotypes into play, as how we characterise animals will influence readers perceptions of our answers. Is a fox sly? Is a sloth lazy? Is a bee busy? Break the mould, animal kingdom! But, if we are going down that route the Skinflint Philosopher would have to say a squirrel, hoarding away her nuts for the lean winter months.
  9. Are you currently working on any goals? If yes, what are they? See the answer above. The reason for the blog is to try and help that happen- if I write it down it isn’t just a pipe dream in my head is it?
    We are planning a change in circumstances, but for that to happen, we need a bit more financial security behind us. So we penny-pinch now, with the aim to make that change. Not saying too much at this stage in case things don’t go as planned, but watch this space!
  10. What are you most attracted to in humans?
    Uniqueness. But maybe squirrels look and act unique to all other squirrels. Who knows what goes on in Squirrel-topia. 
  11. What would you name yourself if you had the chance to choose your own name?
    And now for the philosophy; a name is just a label, but one we collectively agree on. Does changing a name change the person you are? Big thoughts on this when we were deciding what name to give Tiddler before she was born. How do our choices as parents influence that child’s life in future- what perceptions do names sum up for other people- colleagues, professionals, friends, lovers- who she will meet at different stages of her life? Will Tiddler like or hate her name (not ‘Tiddler’, I mean her actual name in the real world). Guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

Ok, now to my questions and nominations:

Nominating officially according to the rules, but anyone reading this please feel free to comment your answers too.
1.Maverick- not a blogger but I think would make a great one- maybe this will start you off?

Questions for you to answer if you would like to:

1. How does/did your mother describe you?
2. Do you agree?
3. Do you believe in fate?
4. Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?
5. Could you pass the Marshmallow experiment?
6. What could you do tomorrow that would help make you happier?
7. Best form of eggs? (results of this question will be passed on to Digger!)
8. What is the best gift you were ever given?
9. Why?
10. What one thing are you doing for somebody now, that you hope someone will do for you in the future?
11. Do you wear a watch? (subject matter for a forthcoming blog post)

I don’t know about you Pelin, but I found the questions much harder to write than the answers. Maybe that says something about me.