Welcome to the 219th Festival of Frugality! We are on the right the other side of the pond this week so, as on previous occasions, I thought I’d go for a British theme. This time around we are looking at the good old ration book (above): if there is a physical object that represents the possibilities – and the limitations! – of a frugal lifestyle, then surely this is it.
Rationing was first introduced in the UK during the First World War (1914 – 1918). It was reintroduced in the Second World War (1939 – 1945), when we grew only a third of the food that needed – and U-boats were polishing off the boats that brought in supplies from overseas. The UK wasn’t the only country to ration food and other goods during wartime – the U.S. rationed petrol and certain food products, and other countries also adopted rationing systems – but in our case, rationing was relatively severe and prolonged. We didn’t bin our ration books until 1954.
Here is the amount of food allocated to each adult, weekly (below). Not surprisingly, housewives became extremely resourceful (and skinny). All sorts of recipes were concocted. Make Do And Mend became a way of life.
Being a 1940s Domestic Goddess sounds pretty wretched though:
With food so scarce many women acted on the principle ‘what the eye doesn’t see . . .’ or even, on occasion, ‘what the eye does see . . .’ One London woman, who dropped the family’s entire butter ration on the kitchen floor, simply scraped it back on the dish for an important guest, though her small son made pointed remarks on the subject at table. A Birmingham woman, whose husband’s dinner was knocked out of her hand, pushed it back on to the plate and ‘tidied it up’ with some more gravy so that ‘the poor man never knew until long after the war’. A King’s Lynn woman saw a neighbour who had dropped half a dozen eggs in the gutter when pushing her pram scraping them up; she scrambled them for supper. Even doctors relaxed their customary standards. A Westmorland doctor who found her weekly joint covered with maggots ‘scraped them off and roasted the joint again’. She also salted down butter in a large bedroom jug. ‘One morning I found a mouse drowned in the salty water,’ she remembers, ‘but I used the butter.’
This extract and others (below) are from a terrific book by Norman Longford called How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life During the Second World War.
I’d like to thank all the bloggers who submitted posts for this Festival of Frugality. It was difficult to make Editor’s Picks. But without further ado, here they are:
Editor’s Picks: The Onions
The taste of this humble vegetable, so long taken for granted, seemed suddenly the peak of gastronomic pleasure, partly because with meat rationed by value, not weight, stews, which used the cheapest cuts, were in favour. At least two Odes to anOnion were written in 1941… In February 1941 a one-and-a-half pound onion, raffled among the staff of The Times, raised £4 3s 4d and in March, when one woman remarked at a first aid lecture in Chelsea that she did not cry if she wore her gas mask when peeling onions, every woman present instantly shouted, ‘Where did you get them?’ Onions became popular prizes at socials and one wartime Girl Guide in Accrington can still recapture her pride at winning one in a treasure hunt, in honour of which her mother baked a special pie.
These posts are the Onions: worth baking a special pie for!
Dana presents 50 Chicken Crockpot Recipes – Get A Great Dinner On The Table With Little Effort posted at Not Made Of Money. What a terrific post: if you are as attached to your slow cooker as I am, you will find a delicious-sounding recipe or two here.
Some people purchased goods “under the counter” or on the black market. Apparently black market horsemeat – not eaten in the UK in peacetime – became a sneaky substitute for beef.
The following posts are the Horsemeat, not because they have anything in common with pet food (perish the thought!) but because of their dedication to the frugal cause. Obstacles, be gone! Where there’s a frugal will, there’s a frugal way.
Paul Williams presents Fresh-baked Yeast Bread with Only 10 Minutes of Work posted at Provident Planning.
Peak Personal Finance presents Before You Buy: Practice Home Mortgage Payment | Peak Personal Finance posted at Peak Personal Finance.
The Tea Leaves
In July rationing really began, to use an appropriate word, to bite, when it was extended to tea, for the two ounces a week allowed were not enough for most families. Women now began to tear open their empty tea packets in search of a few hidden grains, or followed the Minister of Food’s advice to use ‘one spoonful for each person and none for the pot’.
Rationing tea in the UK? Just imagine! These posts all have a financial theme. I’ve called them the Tea Leaves because in these parts tea, like money, makes the world go round…
The Financial Blogger presents What Can I Deduct to Pay Less Tax? File Your Income Tax with QuickTax Review posted at The Financial Blogger.
The Smarter Wallet presents SmartyPig Review: Best Savings Account For Your Goals posted at The Smarter Wallet.
DR presents » Insurance.com Review | How to Compare Auto Quotes Online posted at The Dough Roller.
Wise_Bread presents The First Time Home Buyer Credit and How Big of a Deal is It? posted at Wisebread
The Soap Flakes
All types of soap were rationed. Every adult was allotted four coupons per month; one coupon would get you a bar of soap, 3 oz soap flakes or 6 oz soap powder.
These posts are the Soap Flakes, not just because they are clean and shiny, but because they cover some of the essentials of a frugal lifestyle.
Kristia presents When Buying Meat and Poultry, Don’t Let The Yellow Stickers Scare You. posted at Family Balance Sheet.
Sun presents Creating a Home Directory posted at Earn More Invest Wisely at The Sun’s Financial Diary.
A more serious shortage than fresh fruit was that of eggs, which became scarce during 1940 following cuts in imports and the slaughter of millions of hens to save feeding stuffs. Before the war everyone in Great Britain had eaten on average three eggs a week; during the war the total dropped to roughly one a fortnight, though there were long periods with none at all. Most people now realised for the first time the important role eggs had played in their diet. Anyone whose work took him into the country would now enquire, as a matter of course, at any likely-looking farm or cottage if there were eggs for sale…A wasted egg was a major disaster. A London woman remembers frying her husband their only egg that week for his breakfast, until ‘it got more and more like lino as I kept it hot. In a fury I cast it into the kitchen boiler and gave him breakfast in bed after that.’
The following posts are Eggs: their subjects are special treats, or special occasions.
Scotch Addict presents Start with frugal spirits, then graduate to premium ones posted at Scotch Addict.
Rationing wasn’t restricted to food. Coupons were also issued for clothing: if you saved your coupons, you could get one new outfit every year. People were especially resourceful when it came to clothing: from unpicking old jumpers and knitting them into new garments to, famously, substituting gravy browning for hosiery. Frugal Grandma (above) still looked hot. Would you expect anything less?
Silicon Valley Blogger presents Guide To Sewing Buttons: How To Sew On A Button Correctly posted at The Digerati Life. I would like my husband to read this post…
The Blitz Spirits
The following posts were selected for their admirable attitude! Frugality is a lifestyle, so let’s keep calm and carry on – whatever is thrown at us.
Billeater presents In A Serious Personal Finance Crisis? Assistance Pointers posted at Billeater.