Make Do And Mend: Vogue for the credit crunch bunch

Miss Thrifty29 September 30, 2008


Doesn’t this book look marvellous?

make do and mend

Make Do And Mend was published in the UK in 1943, by the Ministry of Information, at a time when food and clothes were rationed. The Make Do And Mend slogan summed up British life perfectly: every citizen was permitted one egg a week, a modest cube of cheese and unlimited bread and vegetables. Coupons for clothes were cut from allowance books; enterprising women supplemented these rations with garments cut from curtains, and kohl pencil lines up the backs of their legs, to look like stockings. Their cookware was handed over to be turned into aeroplanes. (And if all this wasn’t bad enough, their towns and cities were being bombed at night.)

The frugal tradition promoted by Make Do and Mend continued beyond the Second World War and into the 1950s, when the Manchester Evening News published Take a Tip : a collection of readers’ money saving titbits.

It’s funny, isn’t it? These little booklets have been hanging around for decades, unwanted and unread, gathering dust in attics and mouldering on charity shop shelves while we’ve been out spending and splurging on overpriced frivolites and cheap tat.

Now that we’re headed for a recession – a Depression, even, if the doomiest of the doom-mongers are to be believed – all these pearls of wisdom are suddenly relevant again. With our financial indexes plummeting, our markets in turmoil and our elected representatives banging heads with one another, this seems as good a time as any to dust off Make Do And Mend and revisit some of our forebears’ handiest household hints.

Here are some of my favourites:

From Make Do And Mend


Don’t waste a whole lemon if you only need a drop. Stick a skewer into the lemon and squeeze out the juice you need. Wrap the lemon in foil and keep it in the fridge.

Mend clothes before washing them as the tear or hole may become unmanageable. Keep a look out for loose buttons and other fastenings and mend at once. Save all tapes, ribbons, buttons, hooks and eyes and keep a well-stocked work basket.


Freeze leftover pieces of cake until you have enough to make a trifle.

Unwrap new soap and store it among towels and bedding. The soap will scent the linen and it will also harden making it last longer.

From Take A Tip


Leave two small dishes or bottles of disinfectant on your kitchen table and the flies will disappear. I have not had one in even during the recent heat-wave.

If you have been to the seaside in brown shoes and had sea water over them the best way to remove the stains is to dissolve a small lump of washing soda in two tablespoonfuls of hot milk.
Apply the solution to the stains by means of a rag, let it dry (a minute or two) and add a second application.
After this has dried, use ordinary shoe polish to clean them. The stains will disappear like magic.



To remove grease stains on fabric, sprinkle good coating of talcum powder over each stain. Leave it on for about ten minutes and then cover it with brown paper.
Press this with a not-too-hot iron and brush off the surplus powder and all the stains have gone.

To clean strawberries, soak them in water to which a teaspoonful of vinegar has been added. It is surprising to see what insects there are hidden in the fruit. Wash in clear water and drain though a sieve.

If the hearthrug wanders, stick the rubber rings from old jam jar lids to the corners and, at intervals along the edges, it will then stay put.

I’d love to know what you make of these! If you would like a second helping of Make Do And Mend (strictly rationed, of course), just tip me the wink..

UPDATE: This post was selected for the 173rd Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted by Girls Just Wanna Have Funds.

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29 Responses to “Make Do And Mend: Vogue for the credit crunch bunch

Carolyn says:

If leave a comment is what you mean when you say “tip me the wink” then yes, I’d love a second helping of the old fashioned tips.

September 30, 2008 at 4:34 am

Andrew says:

I’m going to go home and unwrap all my soap!! We shall see if it still works.

These are great.

September 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

How funny! My mother used to do almost all these. Tho’ I hadn’t heard about the disinfectant on the table maneuver…wonder if it’ll chase off mosquitoes, too?

And I still have my mother’s button basket–with a few buttons from WW II. 😀

October 6, 2008 at 3:02 pm

karla (threadbndr) says:

Oh wow – I remember seeing these little 1950s house tip books at the used book store! My grandmother had a huge button/hook/snaps box – recycling before it was popular!

October 6, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Ishtar says:

“Tip me a wink”?

Yes, a second helping would be great.

January 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Emma Healey says:

could anyone help me with how best to get some very stuck dirt stains out of a cream dress? have washed it multiple times with stain remover but no luck. should i bleach and then dye cream instead?

very stuck but need to rescue this dress!
thank you!

April 27, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Jackie A says:

A late reply Emma but have you tried ‘ACE’ bleach? It is something I turn to when all else fails, you can use it on coloured fabrics too – don’t know how it works but the colour stays perfect and the stain disappears.

June 22, 2009 at 8:46 am

Mimi says:

My grandmother must have read this book – she did all that and more! Being thrifty makes me feel very virtuous, and comforted, too.

November 28, 2009 at 1:31 am

La BellaDonna says:

Emma, have you tried using a liquid stain remover designed for cleaning carpets? I don’t know what the British equivalent would be, but I have successfully used “Resolve” liquid stain remover on some awful stains. Do try it on an inside seam to make certain it won’t strip the original colour off! Remember, too, it’s hard to get stains out if the garment has been run through the dryer.

General Warning: overdying a stained garment is usually not successful, as the stained section will take the dye differently from the rest of the garment. I’ve been known to applique a suitable design OVER a stained section – I might use a black lace floral spray over cream, if it suited the rest of the design.

February 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Have others come across ‘ Orchids on Your Budget’ by Marjorie Hillis? It is a wonderful book, originally written in the 1930s but recently re-issued, about personal finance and living well on a budget. It is not so domestic, but covers the cost of husbands, fashion, and entertaining among other things. Despite the lapse of time, almost all of the advice still applies, and it is very entertaining and inspiring reading.

February 16, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Kerry Black says:

My granny went Make Do and Mend classes during the war. She said that the lady there showed them how to unpick a coat and turn it inside out so that it looked like new. My gran was an expert dressmaker and taught me how to use a machine (A Singer treadle!)and to crochet, but even she drew the line at this tip!

February 23, 2010 at 11:58 am

Anna Foxall says:

Hi Miss Thrifty I would sooo love another helping of Make do & mend please! Its fabulous x

July 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

This is an amazingggggg book.

I had no idea that frugality existed in the 1940’s. Im so big on saving myself so it really is refreshing to see that it is widely accepted and more and more becoming the norm.

The quotes you posted from this book are fantastic. I am definitely going to have to pick it up for my next read.

…and Miss Thrifty, I must say this site is fantastic. I don’t have the time to maintain a blog, but boy do I love to trawl through others looking for the best tips to live life financially free, whilst securing my future.

I have a feeling your’s is one I am going to be coming back to quite often.

Thanks again!

From a Cash Saving Mum! x

September 7, 2010 at 1:52 am

Tom Thomas says:

I have enjoyed reading your blog Miss Thrifty. I have been looking at ways of recycling old stuff and you have given me some great ideas.

December 17, 2010 at 12:32 am

Thanks for the great advice miss thrifty. I must get a copy of this book as a xmas present for my wife. Give her some good ideas and save me a fortune!

September 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Cathy says:

Like the tip about the soap among stored bedding and towels. I always store unwrapped soap in my wardrobe and among clothes stored in drawers. I have been told that this also deters moths.

November 17, 2016 at 6:20 pm

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