The Full English Accompaniment – Zero-waste is still too eco-warrior

What’s piqued my interest this week?

Life has been pretty hectic over the last few weeks, preventing much blog reading or writing. At the same time we’ve been trying to make changes to our household usage to decrease the amount of plastic we buy, particularly in our general grocery shop. Our veg and meat already comes either unpackaged or wrapped in waxed paper. We’re switching from plastic packets to jars (for re-use) and tins. What do we do about plastic around our pasta, rice or shampoo?

Zero-waste and packaging-free appears to be 2019’s social trend. Small independent shops are being set-up all over the UK, although the trend towards affluent areas is fairly obvious (1, 2). These shops are targeting the on-trend early-adopters. There’s plenty of blogs with advice, and the mainstream media are cottoning on too (3, 4). There’s a concerted post-Blue Planet 2 movement that societal attitudes towards single-use items has to change. Single-use was the 2018 ‘Word of the Year’ according to Collins (5). The EU has ratified a ban on single-use plastics to come into force (provisionally) in two years time (6). Surfers against Sewage is running a Mass Unwrap event in March where people are encouraged to discard excess packaging at the tills (7).

In our efforts to go further we ventured into a few local packaging-free/ zero-waste type shops to try their wares. We weren’t there long. The organic fruit and veg, the storage jars dispensing dried goods and the shampoo bars were all there. The food was cheap, even if the cosmetics were a bit eye-watering. It was the added extras. The plastic tubs the food had been delivered in, which hadn’t been put away yet. The yak wool fleeces knitted by Mongolian orphans (think of the carbon offset for that mileage). The crocheted face cloths at £5 each. The artisan felting. The slight fug of unwashed vegan. It’s all very lovely but I don’t want to be guilt-tripped into buying an unnecessary item. I just want 500g of plain flour put in my jar. Aldi and Lidl hit my shopping requirements on the head. I can get in, pick up, purchase and get out at maximum speed without spending time trying to choose between brands. They’re convenient. I’ll probably go back to one of the zero-waste shops for dried foods, as I haven’t found a good alternative. Until plastic-free independents focus on the convenience, and not just the eco niche, they’ll never be more than a novelty.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (affiliate links):

Tombland – C.J. Sansom – I love the Shardlake series, detective novels set in the Tudor period with a crippled lead character. Beautifully written.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

References

  1. https://pebblemag.com/magazine/doing/plastic-free-shopping-13-of-the-uks-best-zero-waste-stores
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-46574402
  3. http://trashisfortossers.com/zero-waste-shopping-how-to-guide/
  4. https://www.countryliving.com/uk/news/a26402200/plastic-free-community-berkshire/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/nov/07/single-use-named-word-of-the-year-2018-environment-collins-dictionary
  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45965605
  7. https://www.countryliving.com/uk/news/a26439517/mass-unwrap-supermarket-plastic-waste/
  8. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/aliens-vertigo-and-a-glasgow-nightclub-included-in-this-years-expenses-and-excuses
  9. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-6712153/amp/I-fix-broken-banks-started-says-tech-geek-Starling-Bank.html
  10. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47287386
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/23/global-economy-slowing-down-what-can-governments-do
  12. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/23/full-warren-buffett-annual-hareholder-letter-read-it-here.html
  13. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-berkshire-buffett/buffett-appears-to-fault-trump-laments-deals-dearth-in-berkshire-letter-idUSKCN1QC0NH
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/22/just-how-ethical-is-ethical-investment
  15. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/21/uk-and-ireland-retailers-warn-of-40-tariffs-on-food-in-no-deal-brexit
  16. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00026hb
  17. https://moneyweek.com/502080/a-good-time-to-fix-it-and-forget-your-mortgage/
  18. https://moneyweek.com/502089/buying-stocks-is-easy-selling-them-is-the-difficult-bit/
  19. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2019/02/foresight-uk-infrastructure-new-addition.html
  20. https://3652daysblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/rental-diy-step-1-find-a-tenant/
  21. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/ready-aim-fire-bye-bye-mary-poppins/
  22. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/02/19/get-rich-without-self-sabotage/
  23. https://littlemissfire.com/january-2019-goals-update-baby-steps/
  24. https://littlemissfire.com/introducing-springmount-gin/
  25. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2019/02/22/port-and-other-january-2019-expenditures/
  26. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/02/hsbc-investment-financial-crisis.html/
  27. https://youngfiguy.com/international-bonds/
  28. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-my-financial-mistakes/
  29. https://ditchthecave.com/ethical-investing/
  30. https://pursuefire.com/when-markets-wobble-dont-look-down/
  31. https://thefemalemoneydoctor.com/how-to-stay-motivated/
  32. https://thesavingninja.com/how-should-you-distribute-your-wealth/
  33. https://monevator.com/weekend-reading-see-why-you-should-invest-a-lump-sum-now-and-a-scam-alert/
  34. https://indeedably.com/invert-and-win/
  35. https://www.jackwallington.com/my-allotment-plan-for-2019/
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The Financial Dashboard – January 2019

The goals for January were:

  • Sell five more childhood toys. Sell five more car parts – Failure
  • Develop a single spreadsheet for all my financial data/ graphs etc – Success
  • Finish my Investment Strategy Statement – Success
  • Check our household green credentials – Success
  • Check utilities for potential savings – Success

Checking the assets and liabilities:

Assets

Liabilities

These are taken from my Beast Budget spreadsheet. This month my net worth grew by £867 (~3%), so that I’m now sitting just under £30k. It was a pretty poor month on the savings front with no overtime or extra shifts, the added expense of a holiday and the GMC and Royal College both deciding to take their pound of flesh. I’ve saved another £200 on my 5% Santander saver, and started paying down our wedding loan to a family member, but the Royal College bill went on the credit card (slap on wrist) nudging my debt up. February will also be lean as I start a new job and wait for a new payday. Luckily my new pay should be a fair bit more thanks to the vagaries of the NHS. Got to love a nationalised monopoly!
Goals:
Goal failed: Sell five more childhood toys. Sell five more car parts

I continue to fail here, and I wonder if that’s because I’m trying to sell lots of unusual oddments and expecting everyone else to want my old shit. I have gradually increased the amount of stuff listed on eBay, and have sold ~£20 quid worth of kit. I’ve also braved Facebook and Gumtree, with some success. I’m going to change this for next month and make it a more achievable sell £50 worth of stuff.
Goal achieved: Develop a single spreadsheet for all my financial data/ graphs etc

I’ve streamlined our various household spreadsheets into a new, improved Beast Budget, adding some new functions and graphs at the same time.

Jan Net Worth

Jan Credit Card
Goal achieved: Finish my Investment Strategy Statement

Now complete and to be found here.
Goal achieved: Check our household green credentials

This was a really interesting exercise, and exposed where I’m lying to myself in my bourgeois way. I ran our household information through the WWF Carbon Footprint calculator (1).

Carbon Footprint

Oh dear. Where’s it all going?

Breakdown

Ah. Breaking it down:

Home – We’re doing pretty well. Our energy is supplied by Bulb (message me for a £50 referral bonus), which is 100% renewable electricity and 10% renewable (bio)gas. All our lightbulbs are LED, our boiler is old but regularly serviced, our white goods are low-energy and the whole house is well insulated with double glazing etc.

Stuff – We don’t buy much in the way of clothes or consumerist claptrap, and I think this is mainly raised by the fact we bought new appliances when moving into our house.

Food – We’re doing reasonably here too. We eat meat three or four times a week, but I want to get this down to two. We eat a varied seasonal diet from local organic sources, and I want to grow and preserve more at home.

Travel – Oh bugger. This’ll be the (count ’em) four short haul, four medium haul and two very-long haul flights we’ve made in the last year. Seriously bad for the environment and won’t be doing that in 2019! I also need to get my bike serviced and start using it for local journeys.

This has been useful enough as an audit exercise that I’m going to check my progress quarterly for 2019 to see how I get on improving matters.
Goal achieved: Check utilities for potential savings

I try to check for potential savings every 3-6 months. Uswitch and MoneySavingExpert reckon we can save £45 over the year if we switch to EDF, Lumo or Octopus (2). I’m really happy with the customer service with Bulb (fanboi), and I’m willing to suck up £45 to know my energy is coming from renewable sources. Our previous Plusnet connection went from £27 to £38 in December, so I called their retention department who couldn’t match Virgins 100mbp for £22/month offer. We’ll wait and see whether the reality matches the quoted service.
Budgets:

  • Groceries – Budget £300, spent £185.03, last month N/A. We had lots of Christmas food left over, but happy with this!
  • Entertainment – Budget £300, spent £97.30, last month N/A. Going to look into entertainment spending this month.
  • Transport – Budget £460, spent £103.12, last month £233.69. Remarkably little this month, but MOTs and tuning costs loom.
  • Holiday – £150, spent £133.09, last month £0. Went skiing, fully catered chalet kept £ costs low and moods high.
  • Personal – £50/ £0/ £0
  • Loans/ Credit – £350/ £400/ £556.67. Upped payments to credit cards now.
  • Misc – £50/ £30/ £20.

In the garden:

I’m mid-way through building the raised beds and I’ve prepared the greenhouse ready for seedtrays next month. The raised beds are 2 foot high (to ward off carrotfly) and constructed from old pallets I’ve scavenged with tanalised upright supports. I’m collecting a load of free topsoil found on Gumtree next week to fill them up and then they should be ready for planting.

Goals for next month:

  • Sell £50 worth of stuff
  • Calculate and set a budget for Entertainment
  • Reduce consumption of single use plastics
  • Finish the raised beds
  • Set up an account with an investment platform

What’s in the pipeline:

  • Stoicism, Ascetism and the modern world
  • Property Renovation Lessons Part III
  • Frugal Motoring – Should I buy a Hybrid?
  • Plus the usual Full English Accompaniments and other drivel…

Happy February everyone,

The Shrink

References

  1. https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
  2. https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/you-switch-gas-electricity/

The Full English Accompaniment – No-deal Brexit will cure obesity

What’s piqued my interest this week?

Bear with me.

Are you ready to starve?

Is basically the sensationalist headline that’s been flying around in various forms in response to our governments arse-covering. Pretty much all the major supermarkets have warned a no-deal Brexit will bring food security issues and provision to UK supermarkets will be… spotty (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Remember the #courgettecrisis of ’17 caused by crap Spanish weather (6).

The argument from the Brexiteers is that we should grow our own, in some sort of dig-for-victory rose-tinted halcyon view of post-war Britain. Has anyone explained that crops take time to bloody grow? And the reason the UK became so reliant during WW2 on home-grown produce was food scarcity and rationing? They’re not going to be able to magic up the tomatoes for your £1.99 own-brand high-salt high-sugar pepperoni pizza out of Morris the pensioners’ greenhouse in Didcot.

Knock-on effects of no deal Brexit are no more cheap fruit, veg, meat and processing from the continents fields and factories (7). The price of food will rise. We already have it bloody good compared to the rest of the world. The average UK household spends 8% of it’s earnings on food a year. Compare that to the rest of Europe where it’s more like 10-15% (8).

This is thanks in no small part to cheap imports and the competition between the big supermarkets. They’ve squeezed every inch out of overheads as they’ve grown to maximise profits, with vast supply chains that have taken years to develop. Even then their headline figures are minimal. Check out this chart I pinched from Reddit for Tesco, which has their net profit at a shade under 1.5%:

They can’t soak up wholesale food cost rises. It has to go the consumer. The range of food available will decrease to be more seasonal, and the price will go up to reflect the more expensive supply chain. There’s no need for a bloody sugar tax, Brexit will do that for us (9, 10).

So who are going to be affected as food prices go up?

Well the working class, or should I say those in lower socioeconomic classes, who disproportionately voted to leave (11). Because you have to buy cheaper food, and cheaper food is made with more sugar, more salt, more industrially produced refined products to cover up the lack of actual food (12). Poorer people eat less varied diets consisting of more commercially grown produce imported to the UK. Processing means factories means mileage and countries crossed (13). It doesn’t have to be that way; a healthy varied seasonal diet can be cheaper. It just takes thinking about, time and effort (14).

Outcome of post-Brexit scarcity: either people eat more varied seasonal food because they have to, because that’s all that’s available; or they eat less of the high-sugar, high-fat, low-fibre processed shite that is associated with obesity etc, because it’s expensive (15, 16). The sloven stacking microwave burgers into their slack jaw can now only afford two rather than three at once. Both improve public health (17).

So maybe Brexit will solve one of the greatest ongoing public health crises, starve the nation and (by cost reduction) save the NHS. £350 million is a lot of ready meals.

I’m aware of the irony of this rant given the Full English title.

Have a great week,

The Shrink

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading (now affiliate links):

Tombland – C.J. Sansom – I love the Shardlake series, detective novels set in the Tudor period with a crippled lead character. Beautifully written.

Food Of The Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: A Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution – Terence McKenna – An ethnobotanist explores humanitys’ fascination with hallucinogenics, and the role of altered states of consciousness on the development of human society.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/no-deal-brexit-uk-food-security-risk-sainsburys-asda-waitrose-supermarkets-a8750466.html
  2. https://www.fcrn.org.uk/research-library/food-security-uk-post-brexit-view
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47028748
  4. https://foodresearch.org.uk/publications/feeding-britain-food-security-after-brexit/
  5. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/557993/AUK-2015-05oct16.pdf
  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38666752
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39030755
  8. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45559594
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46736124
  10. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/jack-monroe-talks-sugar-addiction-child-poverty-and-gives-her-views-sugar-tax
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23846088
  12. http://glopan.org/sites/default/files/ForesightReport.pdf
  13. https://www.eta.co.uk/environmental-info/food-miles/
  14. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/healthy-eating-cheap-cost-unhealthy-food-obesity-diabetes-poverty-a8535701.html
  15. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/headlines/ultraprocessedfoods.html
  16. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/02/ultra-processed-products-now-half-of-all-uk-family-food-purchases
  17. https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l296
  18. https://www.theguardian.com/money/shortcuts/2019/jan/28/100-per-cent-mortgage-lloyds-is-it-worth-risk
  19. https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/105814/uk-firm-launches-public-ev-chargers-embedded-into-kerb
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/01/tsb-computer-meltdown-bill-rises-to-330m
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/01/decline-in-quality-auditors-face-scrutiny-over-string-of-scandals
  22. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47085479
  23. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47086920
  24. https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/02/new-best-savings-rate-launches-are-instant-access-accounts-looking-up/
  25. https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/administration-and-support-services/enterprise-office/public/Table-of-Disruptive-Technologies.pdf
  26. https://indeedably.com/i-own/
  27. https://indeedably.com/reentry/
  28. https://thesavingninja.com/minimalism-part-2-clothes-clothes-everywhere/
  29. https://ditchthecave.com/networking/
  30. https://www.msziyou.com/msziyou-turns-one/
  31. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/100-mortgage-backed-by-bomad-ive-seen-this-movie-before-it-didnt-end-well/
  32. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/will-the-last-uk-finance-blogger-please-switch-off-the-lights-on-their-way-to-twitter/
  33. http://thefirestarter.co.uk/should-i-stay-or-should-i-go-plus-introducing-tfs-merch/
  34. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/january-2019-a-month-in-review/
  35. https://littlemissfire.com/de-clutter-and-reselling-update-2019/
  36. https://littlemissfire.com/our-future-goals-2019-and-beyond/
  37. https://youngfiguy.com/my-investing-journey/
  38. https://monevator.com/who-are-you-kid-ing-understanding-the-ongoing-charge-figure-of-an-investment-trust/
  39. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/01/28/how-to-slow-down-time-and-live-longer/
  40. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/01/29/6-top-tips-for-millennials-to-solve-the-property-puzzle/
  41. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/tax-return-completed/
  42. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2019/02/01/month-end-accounts-january-2019/
  43. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/01/risk-of-corporate-debt.html/
  44. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2019/01/investing-in-turnarounds-recovery-stocks-and-corporate-transformations.html/
  45. https://firevlondon.com/2019/01/27/declaration-of-financial-independence/
  46. https://theescapeartist.me/2019/01/26/how-to-have-a-great-day/
  47. http://eaglesfeartoperch.blogspot.com/2019/01/new-high-yield-group-within-sipp.html
  48. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2019/02/02/january-2019-plus-other-updates-2/
  49. https://www.visualcapitalist.com
  50. https://agentsoffield.com/2019/01/20/new-year-new-challenges/
  51. https://sharpenyourspades.com/2019/01/19/11-must-grow-vegetables-in-2019-allotment-gardeners-reveal-their-favourite-crops/
  52. https://sharpenyourspades.com/2019/01/31/10-highlights-from-the-grow-your-own-blogs-january-2019/
  53. https://www.jackwallington.com/my-allotment-plan-for-2019/

The Full English Accompaniment – A time for reflection

What’s piqued my interest this week?

With most blogs falling silent at this time of year, it seems we all go into a state of contemplative reflection. Or maybe it’s a cumulative cheese, booze, chocolate and sprout hangover. Because of this I’ve expanded my net of blogs in the side orders section, so readers may find someone new of interest.

Many blogs, including this one, are publishing year end posts looking back on all they’ve achieved. For me that included jumping aboard the financial independence bandwagon, and starting this blog as a journal and lodestone. It’s important to reflect and remember how lucky we are. Financial independence, despite what some people say, is not for everyone (1). While some of the frugal lessons run both ways, having an emergency fund in the bank is a dream for many. A study this year by the Social Metrics Commission found 4.5 million children in the UK are living in poverty (2). The number of people relying on food banks has risen by 13% since this time last year (3). Figures only tell half of the story, which is why I’d recommend reading last week’s ‘How I spend it’ in the Guardian (4). It’s a human story, the experiences of a mother, an asylum seeker, trafficked to the UK and now forced to live on a £100/week allowance.

As we sit in our warm homes, eating our Christmas dinner and swigging our New Year’s plonk, let’s not forget the message of that classic, A Muppet Christmas Carol. Love and care to our fellow people, lest we all become FIRE Scrooges.

Have a great 2019,

The Shrink

N.B. I’ve had a bit of a restructure of the top menu this week, to make the site easier to navigate. Apologies for RSS spam!

Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

Nothing to report here, as all my usual blog suspects have shut up for the Christmas break.

What I’m reading (now affiliate links):

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch – Absorbing stuff

Starting with Chickens – Kate Thear – A hint to a goal for 2019

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://theescapeartist.me/2017/11/08/financial-independence-is-for-everyone/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/16/new-study-finds-45-million-uk-children-living-in-poverty
  3. https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/mid-year-stats/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/dec/22/im-an-asylum-seeker-ive-not-been-allowed-to-work-for-three-years
  5. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/29/240000-nhs-workers-abandon-gold-plated-pension-plan/
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/28/exoskeleton-suits-can-superhuman-frames-cross-into-the-mainstream
  7. https://www.trustedreviews.com/news/samsung-s10-hologram-3637674
  8. https://www.morningstar.com/articles/906343/the-price-of-popularity-a-new-stock-market-model.html
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/30/the-uks-house-price-boom-is-slowing-and-thats-welcome-news
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46708075
  11. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46690452
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/28/the-year-in-business-who-were-the-winners-and-losers
  13. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-12-27/federal-reserve-is-watching-world-not-just-its-domestic-mandate?srnd=opinion
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/dec/29/im-a-knight-and-i-live-by-the-chivalric-code
  15. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/12/26/the-fundamentalists-are-fundamentally-wrong/
  16. https://thefemalemoneydoctor.com/goals-for-2019/
  17. https://ofdollarsanddata.com/kind-or-hostile/
  18. https://theirrelevantinvestor.com/2018/12/27/a-history-of-bear-market-bottoms/
  19. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2018/12/28/tractor-chains-and-other-november-2018-expenditures/
  20. http://www.frugalwoods.com/2018/12/18/this-month-on-the-homestead-snow-power-and-celebrations/
  21. https://littlemissfireblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/why-pay-off-the-mortgage/
  22. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/december-2018-a-month-in-review/
  23. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2018/12/portfolio-review-end-2018.html
  24. https://theenglishinvestor.com/the-english-investor-end-of-year-review-2018-edition/
  25. https://www.foxymonkey.com/stock-market-crash-good/
  26. https://www.shoestringcottage.com/frugal-year-shoestring-cottage-review-2018/
  27. https://debtcamel.co.uk/debt-advice-2018-round-up/
  28. https://cashflowcop.com/property-moose-why-property-crowdfunding-is-not-for-me/
  29. http://thecannycontractor.com/my-dress-rehearsal-with-post-fi-life/
  30. https://indeedably.com/take-flight/

 

The Full English – Envirobubble

What’s piqued my interest this week?

I’m returning to a couple of last weeks news ‘events’, because they’re rant worthy. First, there was this piece from the Beeb, “Why you have (probably) already bought your last car(1). What a piece of London-centric horse tripe.

The author accepts our incredulity, but goes on to state (1):
“A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we’ll all have stopped owning cars, and, what’s more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.”
So a group of industry-focused early adopters, who likely live in major urban centres, are suggesting that we should all do away with our regular transport. There are some valid points in the article. Electric cars are being widely adopted, are more efficient, simpler mechanically and will change the way people travel. Autonomous self-driving cars are also a great move, they’re safer in theory (watch out insurance services) and the idea of being able to work (or sleep, read etc) while commuting is amazing. I look forward to writing blogpieces at 60/mph on the M5.
The article falls down because it demonstrates a spectacular lack of understanding of anyone who lives outside a place with regular public transport, or who doesn’t work in one place. If you drive for work are you going to use a taxi everywhere? What about couriers, farmers, electricians, plumbers, gas line workers, etc. All of whom are going to multiple sites every day and rely on a vehicle to get them to where they need to be.
The following line grates:
Don’t worry that rural areas will be left out. A vehicle could be parked in every village waiting for your order to come.
Oh, so in my village of 300 people we’re going to only be able to have three or four people travelling at a time? I grew up in a village that size. We had four bus services a day, a 20 minute ride to the nearest town of a few thousand people. How are autonomous taxi services going to be cost-effective in that scenario? If I need to get somewhere I don’t want to wait 20 minutes for the next available taxi to travel over from the nearest town before starting my journey. Uber and public transport may be ubiquitous in the urban centres, but for rural areas the community-minibus remains a lifeline where market forces run out.
The second article I’m returning to is also environmentally focused. Quite a few outlets picked up the story about meat’s huge climate impact (2). Undoubtedly climate change is the biggest global threat currently, outweighing even Trump’s ego. The effect of meat is something we’ve known about for a while, but is rarely brought to the surface or acknowledged by politicians (3). The scare numbers in this story are simple, western meat consumption needs to fall massively, 90% for beef, to prevent a ‘climate breakdown’ (2). The meat produced to fill western diets is resource intensive, wasteful, and with intensive farming is hugely damaging to the environment.
Most of the articles point people towards becoming vegetarian the majority of the time, with meat reserved for special occasions. This is much more the diet that has been eaten historically up to the C19th, when greater wealth and the growth of middle class along with cheap transported or imported meat meant that the treat could become everyday. Since then the ‘meat and two veg’ has become ingrained in western culture. A culture we are exporting worldwide. Just look at how John on GBBO struggled with vegan food to see how deep that culture runs. Practically therefore changing our culture so everyone only eats meat once a week is going to be bloody hard. Try being the politician selling that song to your community hall.
Thankfully, I think market forces will come into play. Meat is expensive to produce. We recently started getting monthly boxes from a butcher, where they track all of our meat from their farm to my fridge. They upload monthly video updates from the farms on the animals. I pay for this premium. I know I’m getting meat from well-cared for animals, produced in a sustainable(ish) manner. The meat going into your McNuggets is not going to be grown to that standard. As the demand for a western diet rich in meat spreads, and supply struggles to meet (groan) demand, prices will go up.
Companies working to exploit this rise in price are already positioning themselves. Lab-grown meat is coming. Many of the start-ups have big backers, and are positioning themselves for high end consumers (4). It is effective proof-of-concept to those who will set trends (5). Theoretically lab-grown meat should have lower overheads and be cheaper to produce. It will lack the subtlety of the 28-day hung Aberdeen Angus, but it’ll do for your 99p McNuggets. I look forward to my ChickieNobs and conversations with MaddAddam.
Have a great weekend,
The Shrink
N.B. I’m off grid and on holiday for the next three weeks, so no more updates until Mid-November. Happy Halloween all!
Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading:

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – Philip Pullman

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45786690
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45838997
  4. https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-lab-grown-meat-ready-for-dinner-1539701100
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lab-grown-meat/
  6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45859722
  7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45860769
  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45858107
  9. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/11/tech/facebook-stock-dip/index.html
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45875599
  11. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45886791
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/14/dont-believe-world-bank-robots-inequality-growth
  13. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/dividend-income-september-2018/
  14. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/living-a-simple-life-inspiration/
  15. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/things-we-cut-food-shopping-list/
  16. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/what-colour-is-your-parachute/
  17. https://drfire.co.uk/million-pound-question/
  18. https://inspiringlifedesign.com/posts/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-given-1-million.html
  19. https://earlyretirementplanning.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/what-would-you-do-if-you-got-given-1-million/
  20. https://mydebtdiary.info/2018/10/17/my-goals-update-for-october-2018/
  21. http://www.msziyou.com/my-anti-monetisation-manifesto/
  22. http://www.msziyou.com/quietly-saving/
  23. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/10/19/i-just-got-paid/
  24. https://indeedably.com/asset-allocation/
  25. https://indeedably.com/cashless-payments-disrupted-busking/
  26. https://indeedably.com/emergency/
  27. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/pay-less-into-your-pension-to-retire-early/
  28. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2018/oct/18/the-fed-is-ignoring-trump-it-knows-this-is-a-fight-he-cannot-win
  29. https://youngfiguy.com/mr-yfgs-backstory/
  30. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2018/10/inflation-and-state-pension-increase.html
  31. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2018/10/impax-environmental-markets-new-purchase.html
  32. http://monevator.com/an-ethical-quandary/
  33. http://monevator.com/what-did-low-us-treasury-yields-ever-do-for-us-anyway/
  34. https://ofdollarsanddata.com/what-is-your-financial-tipping-point/
  35. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/10/portfolio-review-2018-q3.html/
  36. https://agentsoffield.com/2018/10/14/jobs-to-do-this-month/
  37. https://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2018/10/how-to-make-beetroot-chutney/

 

 

 

 

 

The Full English – The Decline of the Middle-Class Brand

I referenced a Nil’s Pratley opinion piece in the Guardian on Tesco’s new budget store, Jack’s, last weekend. I’m returning to it as the comments are worth a look on their own. In amongst them is this pearl of wisdom.

What Aldi/Lidl are doing well is taping into the change in incomes and what “middle class” means now and that, basically, people aren’t really middle class.

We have a much smaller genuine middle class (2 holidays a year, 1 skiing, then 2 weeks in the sun over seas, new cars that they own, large house with minimal debts…) than we used to have and now there’s really just a much larger upper working/lower middle class who like to think that they can live the life but know that they really cant so actually need shops like Aldi and Lidl so that they can buy wine (as they can’t afford to from Majestic or whomever where it’s bought by the case, as a real middle class person would) and meat that they can claim is fancy still (not from a proper butcher, like real middle class would) to pretend that they are living well, but at a cheap price. (1)

Spelling errors aside, this observation is interesting. Is the middle class ‘brand’ sliding down as a consequence of aspirational executive types? I’ve noticed this amongst car manufacturers in my little hobby. The old executive companies; Mercedes, Audi, BMW etc, now produce small bland euro-boxes starting at very reasonable prices on solid finance deals. One argument is that this is a consequence of EU directives dictating all manufacturers reach a certain efficiency target. Others would say it’s good business sense, as the aspirational lower middle classes want ‘the brand’ and therefore will pay slightly more for a comparative bland euroboxcar with a three-pointed star than one from a Korean microwave manufacturer. That’ll be the (demise of) Daewoo (2, 3)?

Extend this line of logic out to supermarkets, and Aldi/ Lidl allows people to feel they lead a middle-class lifestyle; the food is more affordable so a bottle of wine, halloumi, olives and smashed avocado on toast dahling is less of a luxury item. The treats associated with middle class life can be every day. And to be fair, I’ve seen Bentleys being filled up with the weekly shop at Aldi, because you don’t stay rich buying Waitrose essential vermicelli nests (4, 5).

So if the lower middle-class have decided that Lidl and Aldi’s budget kale smoothies are a taste of the good life, where are the upper middle-class off to? The trendy local deli and the Riverford food box, or the organic inner-city farming co-operative (I regret nothing)? The hotly anticipated pop-up keralan-fusion van? Some other half-cooked, over-spiced ‘superfood’ containing slop cooked by an unwashed fake-prison-tattoo-sporting manbun-topped ‘entrepreneur’?

It seems they’re actually off to buy something of quality. Because that’s what they’ve always done. That’s what brands used to mean. There’s an excellent anecdote about the demise of Rover from when they were owned by BMW in the 90s. When BMW built seriously well-engineered cars (the same ones that can now be found drifting round empty retail car parks at night). The story goes that engineers were discussing a part at a meeting in Germany, and the question around the table was “How can we make this better?”. Those same engineers came back to Rover in Birmingham and were asked “How can we make this cheaper?”.

And now everyone is asking, “How can we make this cheaper?”, to squeeze every inch of profit from the ‘Brand’. But that’s not sustainable, because cheaper quite often means poorer quality, and engineered obsolescence and throwaway white-goods don’t fit with the fashionable sustainable movement. See the rise in repair cafe’s as an example (6). Miele may not be in every home on the rabbit-hutch new estates with financed-Mercs on the drive and 0%-interest Samsung american fridge-freezer in the kitchen, but it maintains it’s market share because it sells solid products. And you can buy spare parts and have them repaired. And they last 10 years.

How the hell does this relate to Jack’s? Lidl and Aldi buck the trend. They’re not focused on brand, they’re focused on reasonable quality for a value price. Tesco bosses also have to learn that lesson, and not sell Jack’s as a budget brand. Brands are dead. Long-live quality without a badge.

Have a great weekend,

The Shrink

Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading:

The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalipu – Fantastic world building in this dystopian Hugo & Nebula award winner.

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2018/sep/19/aldi-and-lidl-wont-be-scared-by-tescos-new-discount-jacks#comment-120594908
  2. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/daewoo-motors-demise
  3. https://www.economist.com/business/1999/08/19/the-death-of-daewoo
  4. https://www.buzzfeed.com/floperry/sesame-and-poppy-seed-thins
  5. https://thetab.com/uk/2017/08/10/a-definitive-list-of-the-most-un-essential-items-from-the-waitrose-essential-range-45294
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/15/can-we-fix-it-the-repair-cafes-waging-war-on-throwaway-culture
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45714224
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/04/elon-musk-sec-twitter
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45744552
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45757437
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/05/uk-house-prices-fell-sharply-in-september-amid-brexit-wariness
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/05/man-who-got-swagger-back-for-aston-martin-is-ready-for-long-game-stock-market
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/05/unilever-scraps-plan-move-london-rotterdam-uk-netherlands
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxLw_wHOMGY
  15. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/09/30/september-2018-plus-other-update/
  16. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/fire-in-the-news-liar-liar-pants-on-fire/
  17. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/10/02/wired-for-financial-independence-an-immigrants-story/
  18. http://monevator.com/weekend-reading-financial-independence-against-the-odds/
  19. http://monevator.com/the-slow-and-steady-passive-portfolio-update-q3-2018/
  20. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/09/are-investors-overpaying-for-diageo.html/
  21. https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/09/what-if-stocks-dont-crash/
  22. https://www.morningstar.com/articles/883860/so-much-for-the-bond-bubble.html
  23. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-anxiety-and-working-in-law/
  24. https://youngfiguy.com/unknowable/
  25. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-7-things-ive-stopped-caring-about/
  26. http://www.msziyou.com/budgeting-by-values/
  27. http://www.msziyou.com/why-i-give-a-fck-about-the-news/
  28. http://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-september-2018/
  29. http://www.realmensow.co.uk/?p=4707

The Full English Accompaniment – Diversification is sustainability stupid

Dear Readers,A bit of a late Full English Accompaniment this week, as I’m working so typing away at posts in between seeing patients. MrsShrink and I have been for a holiday, a break from IT and a pause for reflection. I’ve finally been reading Tim Hale’s Smarter Investing (1), and this has prompted me to make some changes to my blogging process. One of the key points in the early chapters of the book is to turn down the volume; that most media reports, opinions and news about the market are confusing senseless noise and to make smarter investments you need to tune out the static. In a conscious effort to decrease my own contribution to that noise I’m going to reduce the quantity of my posts, and aim to  maintain a high quality. This means that the Full English will become an as-and-when type affair, for thoughts that aren’t significant enough to warrant a full Musing on… post. I’ll still aggregate other posts I’m reading each time, and other categories will continue at their current frequency. For now…

What’s piqued my interest this week?

Part of our recent holiday was spent in an AirBnB on a rural farm. Coming from a country background I was to be found discussing the owners business strategy and farming approach. Their (relatively) small acreage struggled under intensive farming methods to produce a profitable crop; the soil would need continuous improvement for arable, the setting meant high winds were common with minimal cover and they lacked the scale required to make cattle or similar sustainable. To make ends meet they had diversified. The farm now had a small sheep herd, a deer herd and a small number of hardy cattle. The owners had also converted farm buildings to cottages and flats for AirBnB, and worked a part time job for the local government. For many small farmers this is the only way to survive. Big farms in areas of poor fertility also struggle to find profits, as this fantastic comment piece in the Guardian outlines (2). As consumers, diversification of our food intake is healthier too. In agriculture, just as in finance, diversification brings sustainable profits.
Have a great week,

 

The Shrink

 

Side OrdersOther News

Opinion/ blogs:

What I’m reading:

Smarter Investing 3rd edn – Tim Hale – essential reading

Religio Medici and Urne-Buriall by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor. This is turning out to be real heavy-going.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

 

References:

  1. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Smarter-Investing-Simpler-Decisions-Financial/dp/0273785370/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/veganism-intensively-farmed-meat-dairy-soya-maize
  3. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/08/18/interest-rise-leaves-first-time-buyers-facing-extra-mortgage/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/aug/20/no-deal-brexit-personal-finance-what-does-it-mean
  5. https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-says-windmills-are-bird-killers-he-tries-revive-coal-industry-1079910
  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45244761
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/23/europe-to-ban-halogen-lightbulbs
  8. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/scotland-floating-turbine-tidal-power-record-sr2000-scotrenewables-ofgem-a8503221.html
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/19/governments-care-isa-plan-dismissed-by-sarah-wollaston-tory-health-committee-chair
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45354846
  11. https://www.fool.co.uk/investing/2018/08/20/a-ftse-100-dividend-stock-that-should-pay-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life/
  12. https://www.physicianonfire.com/early-retirement-doesnt-suck/
  13. http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/08/a-short-history-of-emerging-market-corrections-bear-markets/
  14. http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/08/buying-emerging-markets-after-a-disaster/
  15. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/investing/article-6078749/Top-income-investments-trusts-revealed-British-American-tops-table.html
  16. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article-6092439/Half-Britains-bank-branches-closed-five-years.html
  17. https://theescapeartist.me/2015/03/02/the-aggregation-of-marginal-gains/
  18. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/08/28/to-defeat-your-enemy-you-must-first-know-your-enemy-part-2/
  19. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/08/ted-baker-dividend-growth-stock.html/
  20. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/08/sage-dividend-growth-stock.html/
  21. https://deliberatelivinguk.wordpress.com/2018/08/29/why-you-should-calculate-imputed-rent/
  22. https://youngfiguy.com/when-cash-was-king/
  23. https://youngfiguy.com/insolvency-and-carillion/
  24. https://youngfiguy.com/was-carillion-like-a-ponzi-scheme/
  25. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/09/02/august-2018-plus-other-updates/
  26. http://monevator.com/weekend-reading-automatic-for-the-people/
  27. https://firevlondon.com/2018/08/20/overdiversity/
  28. https://firevlondon.com/2018/08/13/recalibrating-my-portfolio/