Lean Times — Who We Are

Mission Statement: Lean Times exists to provide straightforward, no-bullshit advice and inspiration for people who want to be happy with what they have — when what they have is very little.

It’s a blog about people who want to own their income (whatever it may be!) and live within a budget that matches the lifestyle and career they actually want to have (and not what society says they should want) — or at the very least, the lifestyle that circumstance has thrust upon them as inevitable.

What you’ll likely find here:

  • Personal experiences from my own frugal journey
  • Practical recipes for DIY kitchen goodies
  • Meal plans for eating good food on a food stamp budget (or less)
  • Tips for making the most of what you already have
  • Real budgeting advice for stretching your limited dollars
  • Activism and rabble-rousing
  • And more!

Who does not weep does not see…

There’s a chapter in Les Miserables where Victor Hugo steps away from the fighting and politics for a moment to deliver a heartfelt plea for humanism. In it, he shows two young brothers, children living on the streets and facing starvation, who approach a fountain in the shadow of Luxembourg. Nearby, able to see the starving children but oblivious to their plight, is a bourgeois father and his spoiled son.

The son is eating a brioche, and begins to cry because he no longer wants to finish it. The father, well-meaning Everyman that he is, dispenses some wisdom to his child:

“The sage lives content with little. Look at me, my son. I do not love pomp. I am never seen in clothes decked with gold lace and stones; I leave that false splendor to badly organized souls.”

He then suggests that, if the child no longer wishes to eat his brioche, that he should feed it to the swans in the nearby fountain:

The child hesitated. A person may not want any more of his cake; but that is no reason for giving it away.

The father went on:

“Be humane. You must have compassion on animals.”

The brioche is flung into the fountain, and the man and his son walk away. Behind them, the two starving young boys scramble forward and fight the birds for the soggy brioche so that they can split it between themselves.

Something has deeply bothered me….

…About many of the frugal books and blogs out there. Though I’m sure they mean well, they so often seem myopic and self-absorbed. Like the father in Les Miserables, these people mean well and think they’re being wise — but they seem to be missing the bigger picture. For many of them, frugality is a game, an exercise in soul-gratifying self-restraint that can be abandoned in favor of more interesting pursuits if they get bored. They may have eschewed the pomp and gold lace of the upper class, but they’re still oblivious to the presence of real, starving children at their feet.

  • They’re the people who talk about how much money you can save by brewing your own coffee instead of going to Starbucks.
  • They’re the people who find it a revelation that they can clothe themselves and their families from thrift store finds.
  • They’re the people who undertake “food stamp challenges” and struggle to make do with that limited budget (when so many of the nation’s working poor have no access to SNAP and a much lower grocery budget)
  • They’re the people who may have little income, but have the endless amounts of time required to become experts of domesticity, and seem baffled that not everyone can do the same.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot from these people. And there’s something to be said about the upper middle class learning to do with less and turning voluntarily toward frugality and simplicity. It’s just that there’s an awful lot of those blogs, so much that they dominate the culture, and I decided that it was time for a different voice to be heard.

I’m not going to claim that I’m perfect. I won’t claim that I don’t have privileges that others don’t. But I’m going to try to do my honest best — and I think that’s all anyone can ask for.

If you’re ready for a new kind of blog — a different kind of discussion about frugality, poverty, and finding your own freedom — I hope you’ll stick around and lend your voice to this discussion. We all deserve to be heard.

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