War Diary Years I and II

Year I

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With the recession and our current economy drive, I find myself looking back to 1994 when circumstances left us in a very difficult financial situation.

DB = my husband DS = our son
 
My husband had taken early retirement from the RAF on a pension of £500 per month. We had sacrificed a large part of his pension in order to clear our mortgage. Doing so meant that this amount of money would be fixed for the next 5 years until he reached 60 when he would get a pension increase (a huge 2%). I was training to be a nurse so we assumed I would and could help out hugely on the financial side of things. How wrong can you be.

Within two months, I came close to having a nervous breakdown and had to give up my training. I was unable to drive past the hospital for the next 3 years without feeling physically sick! We had always been careful with our money but now had to learn to live on this fixed sum.

We cut down everything we could think off and when that wasn't enough had to look at food - our last desperate attempt to keep within our budget and steer clear of debt.

This is our story, very relevant to today and we hope you will find it useful. The first part will be condensed so I can keep it current month by month, posting at the end of October the entries for October 1994. I will run it under the label Wartime Diary (WD) As I don't yet know how long these static pages are, I may need to add new parts as I progress.


We all have to eat but people during the war ate surprisingly well and their only real complaint was lack of variety combined with difficulty in obtaining their normal food when required. The more I read about rationing, the more I realised it was the answer to our dilemma. I discussed it with my family and we jointly decided, out of curiosity, to see if we could reduce our weekly food bill and to see how we fared - excuse the pun. I am really looking forward to it. My husband DB is willing to have a go, our young son DS isn't sure but luckily for us, he is still at that tender age of 'compliance' - most of the time!

DB has already started to get into his 'war-time' attitude. When I mention to our friends what we intend to do, he remarks ruefully, it'll all be over by Christmas. If friends say they'll come and visit he retorts "not unless you bring your rations with you"

Having received a leaflet from the Imperial War Museum on monthly ration changes, we have decided to average these to give us our weekly/monthly rations.

DS, being over 6, is classed as an adult and that allows him the same rations as us. Rations for a child under 6 would be half that of an adult, although they did get extras, such as oranges and milk when available.

Cheese for example, varied from 1oz to 8oz per person per week, so to be fair, we are allowing ourselves, 2oz each. Butter was 8oz each per week at the outbreak of war, dropping to 2oz each, when available, so we have decided to have 2oz each per week. Knowing how tempting butter is, we have decided to freeze the spare. The same thing will happen with margarine. We hope as we progress, to become strong and able to resist and not have to freeze the other portions.

Eggs are going to be another problem. Fresh eggs in their shells, varied from 1 each per 2 months in winter - if at all- up to 4 each per week in spring and early summer when hens were at their most prolific. Each adult was entitled to one packet/tin of dried egg powder per 4 / 8 week period. Each tin held the equivalent of 12 eggs. We have tried our best, but the only dried egg we can purchase is in a health food shop, price £1.55 per 6 eggs!!! As one of our reasons for this exercise is to save money we have decided to abandon dried eggs until another source can be located and have arrived at 4 per week (for us all) by doing the following sum; 3 tins every 2 months; 12 eggs in a tin arrives at 12 x 3 = 36 divided by 2 (months) = 18 eggs per month = 4 per week between the three of us.

Each adult was entitled on 'personal points' to 3oz of sweets per week, when they were available. We have decided to amalgamate our ration, buy 2 packets of crisps each and what is left will be sweets for DS. As he only eats mini bars, weight wise this works out at 7, enough for one each day, which is his normal ration anyway. Children drank juice, milk or tea in the war. As DS doesn't drink tea (more for us!) his drinks will not change.

Another form of rationing was 'points'. These were used to buy items not on general ration such as, cereals 4 points per lb, rice & pasta 2 per lb, dried fruit 8 per lb, tins of meat/fish 8-16 per 1 lb tin, split peas and lentils 4 per lb etc. Each adult was entitled to between 16 & 24 points per month. We shall use 20 as an average. Again if we take 20 x 3 = 60 divide by 4 weeks = 15 points per week. We are not planning to implement the points system immediately as it was between 1-2 years before full 'points' rationing started.

I am aiming to use the luxury foods in our cupboard up so that when we start fully on our diet, there will be nothing excessive available. We are not great meat or pudding eaters so maybe the rations won't be too excessive for us, see for yourself on the rations tab at the top of my home page:

Sausages were not rationed but were not always available and when they were, were often not too nice hence our portion above to even things out.

One difficulty will be a decrease in our dairy products, which we eat on non-meat days. To help lessen the blow, we have decided over the next 4 weeks, to introduce rationed portions onto our weekly shopping so that at the beginning of October, we will be on full rations. Rationing during the war did not begin until January 1940 and was introduced gradually up until 1942. We feel that the only way to get a true feel of this experiment is to introduce things over the space of one month, as we don't know how long we'll be able to keep it up!

Another point in our favour is that we do live in a country village. In Autumn, the hedgerows are bulging with their burden of fruits such as, brambles, elderberries, hips, sloes, wild plums, wild apples and pears, crab apples, hazel and walnuts and sweet chestnuts- Christmas shouldn't be too much of a problem food wise!

Friends feel we will be cheating by using our fridge, freezer and microwave. I don't possess a steamer and to buy one would go against saving money. I do have a microwave and this will be my modern day equivalent to the steamer, yes I know it cooks a lot quicker! As to the freezer, people didn't have them and most people didn't have fridges. What they did have was lovely cool larders, which today most houses do not have. So for me, my fridge is the equivalent of a cool larder and my freezer will be the equivalent of dried and salted preserves. I am still saving the autumn produce by making jams, jellies, chutneys and sauces, (using our sugar ration) the rest is in the freezer. I don't feel we’re cheating, as if war were to break out, the freezer would be in use when electricity was available. If we had no electricity for an extended time, then things would be preserved in the old ways, such as salting, bottling etc.

We do possess a garden, which we will not be digging up for victory yet, but will do if the need arises. It is quite small and laid mainly to flowers and cordon fruit trees, but does have space to sow tomatoes and other salad crops, which we do each year, that will not change.

Finally, to bring the flavour of war into this diary, I hope to twin what we are doing, with what actually happened during the war. 

1939/1994 - Update to outbreak of war/start of rations

January 1939. Sir Arthur Geddes, advisor to Sir J Anderson (Chief of Defence Ministry), advises housewives to begin storing food.

February/March. Gas masks issued, as there was fear the Germans would use gas as in WWI. Hitler takes over Czechoslovakia.

April/July. Public informed that conscription to be introduced. 2nd Civil Defence leaflet issued on gas masks and blackout blinds.

August. Blackouts begin. Government states we shall defend Poland if Hitler invades. Sugar becomes scarce.

September 3rd. War declared. Identity cards issued. Car headlights are to be fitted with a cover to reveal only a slit of light. White lines painted on their front and rear bumpers, also on the kerbs to aid pedestrians. School children are to be evacuated into the country. Petrol rationed. A 2/- increase on Income Tax, will bring it to 7/6d in the £. (Today, that would mean for every £ you earn, the government would take 37p!) This was the start of the "Phoney War" when all the above took place yet not a lot was happening on the war side of things.

September 22nd. Petrol rationing. As well as paying for your petrol, the amount that you bought was governed by the amount of coupons that you had, each car was allowed between four and ten gallons of Pool (Standard) petrol per month at 1/6d per gallon.

GETTING READY FOR RATIONING

Week One

It is now 4th September and the start of gradual ration introduction. This week, we have cut our margarine ration down to 12oz and tea to 6oz.

We have a teas-maid by our bed and usually wake up to a nice hot cup of tea. So, to get our ration correct, we weighed 7 tea bags (our machine takes 1). They weighed 1 1/2 oz, which left 4 1/2 oz for the rest of the week. This was weighed onto the scales, using our tea caddy spoon to see how many pots of tea a week we could have. It worked out at 3 a day (we usually have 6 or 7 – gulp!)

We decided to give up our early morning tea treat except at the weekends. This will put our daily teapot allowance up to 4 - magic!!!

Camp coffee was the main coffee available and is still available today. Cooks often only use it as flavouring in baking. I remember from my childhood, we used to cream it with sugar and a tablespoon of evaporated milk for about 15 - 20 minutes - kept us very busy and quiet! The outcome was that when hot water was poured onto it, we ended up with a cup of cappuccino.

Camp coffee has chicory in it as well as a little sugar, so takes some getting used to but we like it. We find 2 teaspoons of camp to a mug makes a good cup of coffee. We have this mid morning, afternoon and evening.

Cutting our margarine down would be easy or so we thought. I decided to make a cake using a wartime recipe. It was an egg-less fruitcake - great; but whilst saving an egg, it took 2 1/2oz of margarine from our ration. Believe me, just over 1oz of margarine per day for 3 people does not go very far - but we did manage, just. The cake got 5/5.

Later in the week, we fancied another cake and found a ginger and walnut loaf recipe. It used 1 egg but 2 oz lard instead of margarine. This cake scored 4/5. DB preferred it with a scraping of margarine - believe me, a scraping was all he was getting!

The tea lasted the week with no problem. However there were only us two drinking it. Had DS been older and a tea drinker, things may have been different, but we did measure the amount in our teapot and it would have poured out 3 mugs worth.

During this first week of rationing, we began to appreciate the hardships endured during the war.

For instance, had DS been having a packed lunch for school, instead of school dinners would the margarine have lasted? We think it went further because we had home-made raspberry jam sandwiches without margarine and luckily, DS likes only a scraping of margarine on his bread.

Week Two

Our menu is still relatively normal. This week, we bring meat and cheese rationing in - 6oz cheese and 30 oz meat. By the time full rationing is here (including the points and personal system) we hope we will have adjusted.

Friends find it quite funny when they pop in for a coffee and a chat to be hopefully offered Camp coffee or would they prefer tea (said with a grimace)

Several of our friends are in their 70's and memories are being evoked. One, a neighbour, told how she had a sailor boyfriend, who when stationed in Africa, managed to send her a small box of oranges one Christmas - a real treat. She also recounted, much to the amazement of her husband, how another sailor boyfriend used to send her silk stockings!!! She quickly pointed out that it was before she married or knew him! (he was a sailor himself)

Today, we are baking a sticky gingerbread loaf - 1 egg, no margarine but either lard or peanut butter, we opted for the latter – a big mistake. 2/5.

Week Three

I myself work from home, running my own business - hand painted glassware.DB helps me by leading any glass I need and delivering, so our days are usually very busy and often hectic. The garden does not get done as often as it should and maintenance chores are falling behind. Somehow though, I have found the time to gather food from the hedge rows, leaving DB to tackle some of the more important jobs around the house.

This year, sloes have been hard to find. The only use they have is as a jam/jelly or in sloe gin/vodka/sherry etc. Oddly enough, we are not great drinkers, probably not even drinking a weeks allowance in a year. My neighbour - yes, the sailor one, introduced us to sloe liqueur 2 years ago. Although it takes some getting used to, we made some and drank it last Christmas and winter. It is lovely pre-bedtime if sleep is hard to come by and after a frosty winter walk gathering twigs for our fire.

Talking of twigs, we have been gathering twigs and cones to help start our fires in winter. This is a pleasant task we do whilst out walking around a local nature reserve. We try to take 3 carrier bags with us and try hard not to gather at the start of the walk to prevent aching shoulders, but we usually can't help ourselves and aching shoulders it is!

Elderberries have been very early this year. It is a job I usually reserve for when DS has returned to school after the summer holidays, but they have been hanging their heads for weeks now and we have had to start early.

A pair of secateurs is preferable to strong hands as after a while, the tough stalks take their toll. It is bad enough coming home with sticky purple fingers, which find their way onto everything, without having sore fingers into the bargain.

The elderberries have just about finished when normally they would only be starting to burst, but even so, we have managed to gather about 2lbs. Doesn't sound a lot but that is about 3 full carrier bags. It is one of the most disheartening of fruits to pick. You arrive home, sticky, purple and puce with the effort of it all, stand at the sink with aching fingers, knees and backs, not to mention feet, merrily combing the stalks with a fork to release the berries. Fun it isn’t but the effort is most worthwhile. Nothing beats sitting in front of a roaring log fire drinking a tot of elderberry cordial. It is even more welcoming in the form of a hot drink, cradled between your hands, with you yourself cradled in a quilt, in bed with a cold - yummy it definitely is!!!

Brambles/blackberries just don't seem to know what to do with them-selves this year. Some bunches hang like red grapes, itching to be picked - then bounce with glee when you try to stretch the required 10' to reach them, fail and get impaled on their vicious thorns. Others, usually a lot smaller, give you a disdainful glance; believing themselves not worth the bother, then fling earwigs, and all manner of wee beasts over you for having the sheer audacity to pick them.

Pick them we do, freeze them for later use to be turned into bramble jam, bramble chocolate brownies (if cocoa is available) and bramble brandy - oh the pleasure of it all.

The final thing picked this week, are wild golden bullace. These are only to be used cooked as like sloes, they are extremely sour, more so than lemons! They have a lovely golden green skin, are about the size of 1" marbles and have more stone than fruit. I decided to boil them in the microwave and put them overnight through a jelly bag. In the morning, a milky like substance was in the bowl. Sugar (from ration) was added and then boiled and the most beautiful translucent pink orange jelly formed.

On the baking front this week, we decided to try a tea loaf. I halved the recipe, as it would have taken 2 weeks ration of raisins to make it. Verdict 3/5 although DS didn't like it because he thought the dried apricots were mixed peel which he absolutely hates, no amount of coaxing would convince him to try any more, so we ate it!

One wartime recipe tried this week was pigs in clover. You take an apple corer and push it lengthways through potatoes (two medium ones each) then fill the cavity with sausage meat. Two stubs of the original core are used to prevent the sausage meat falling out of the holes. We did 5 medium potatoes this way and only used up 1 1/2 large sausages. These potatoes are then baked in the oven in the same way as jacket potatoes and served with vegetables and gravy - quite nice.

The next day, using an egg from our ration, we formed the other 1 1/2 sausages, from the same ration, into balls, and turned them into toad in the hole, filling a 12 case baking tin. It was tasty and filling which amazed us as when we usually make toad in the hole, we would use 6 - 8 large sausages!

One of the other things we have started this week is to try to only eat vegetables that are in season. Supermarkets, with their all year round availability of fruit and vegetables, have over the years, caused us to become blind to our natural seasonal foods. So, finding an old cooks calendar/gardening diary, we aim to only buy fruit and vegetables in season. This should also help save money.

Week Four

This is our final week of gradual rationing, bringing in lard, dried milk, one onion, and £1 worth of tins/jars (used only until we can find the correct points rationing).

We have decided on the meat side of rationing, that twice a month, we will have only a chicken as our full weeks meat ration. A large chicken weighs 4 - 5lb, disallowing for its bones would bring it into our 30oz limit, therefore, no other meat.

This week we decided to try it. One day we had roast chicken, another we boiled the bones, had soup with pasta as a main meal, chicken sandwiches as a snack, soup as another snack and finished it off with part of our bacon ration as a chicken and bacon pie.

Unfortunately, whilst making the pastry for the pie, I inadvertently forgot to halve fat to flour and used up our full weeks lard ration. This meant adding more flour, which resulted in double the pastry originally intended; but we did enjoy the 12 mince pies and 12 raspberry jam tarts that my mistake created!

Friends (black market?) have been generous to us this week. From our neighbour, we got 3 apples and a small chunk of Lancashire crumbly cheese - heaven! Off another, who was cooking a large beef joint for a grand party, saved us the congealed juices and fat. We melted the fat down to increase our weekly ration and will use it at a later date for roasting potatoes. The juices went into our stockpot for Sunday lunch of lamb stew with Herb dumplings. Found out afterwards that our last bit of suet was actually 5 months out of date but they tasted all right and so far, we have come to no harm. We also had enough gravy left over to use on another meal.

One of the things I am trying to do this week is to use up our supply of bought frozen vegetables. After all, we are going to try and eat by the seasons, so frozen vegetables are out, unless I have frozen them myself at the right time of year. DS only likes fresh carrots and tinned sweet corn, so that helps. Both DB and DS intensely dislike any form of greens so this winter, they will be heartily sick of carrots, although DB does like parsnips and swede.

Two nice recipes we cut out of last year’s magazines were for curried roasted parsnips and parsnip and blue cheese flan - both are yummy. Another winter favourite is curried parsnip soup. DS's favourite soup, would you believe it, is celery and Stilton. We have tried it with white Stilton instead of the blue and it is just as nice, so that week, we will buy our cheese ration as Stilton and that will help us to eat up the rest of the cheese without the obligatory peg on the nose!

This week also saw me looking through my array of Christmas books, for my mincemeat recipe. Seeing how many ingredients I needed for my usual six pounds, I decided to make half my usual amount in order not to deplete our rations. I have put to one side, 1/3rd of the dried fruit required, and shall continue to do so until the end of October when I shall have everything needed to make it. I must also get round to doing some pickled onions, at least they are not rationed - yet, but next year, who knows!


October 1939. RAF continues to drop leaflets over Germany. Shops are now selling all manner of ARP (Air Raid Precaution) goods such as blackout materials, gas mask cases, identity card cases, buckets and shovels for removing incendiary bombs, low powered bulbs, and black lampshades. Bus windows are blued over which made many passengers feel sick. 1st air raid when 4 German planes were shot down whilst attacking the Forth of Firth bridge. Sugar and butter supply becoming erratic. Dog meat is scarce. Meat limited to certain joints.

October 1st 1994, saw us light our fire for the first time since late spring. We used some of our hand picked twigs and pine cones to get it going, go it did, we had to have the door open because it got too hot.

Tea tonight is partially donated, cheese from the neighbour and curried rice salad from a friend - left over from a rave the night before. We'll add some salad greens and tomatoes and a right feast we'll have, washed down with a lovely pot of piping hot tea and a piece of tea loaf for pudding - lovely.

Well diary, tomorrow we begin full rationing, shopping will be more involved as we will be visiting our friendly local butcher as well as a local shop and the supermarket, but should be cheaper, will let you know.

FULL RATIONING - WEEK ONE

Well, what a difference. DB does the shopping to leave me free to paint. He arrived home just as quick as normal, but the total food bill - for everything - was just under £29.00. I commented on this saving to a close friend. She looked as me with something close to pity in her eyes and asked if we were going to have enough to eat for the week! A reply in the affirmative was received with a dubious glance, so I showed her our weekly menu. For those of you who also find it dubious, here it is: -

Our seven main meals are going to be, mince, stew and dumplings, spaghetti bolognaise, ham salad, corned beef and potato pie – (2 meals from one pie), fish, and toad in the hole. Our seven snacks are, jacket potato, salad sandwiches, beans on toast, tinned tomatoes on toast, cheese and ham toasted sandwiches, cheese on toast and ham and potato cakes and beans. Our breakfasts are a choice from porridge, toast and marmalade and cereals.

Last week, having used 2 of our 3 sausages to do pigs in clover, we had a large hole with minute toad for dinner - the minute toad was the other sausage rolled into balls to help fill the hole!!!

This week, we had all 3 sausages and when DS was served his portion, he said, "Blimey, what a big toad"

We somehow managed to make last weeks tea ration stretch an extra day, so for 2 whole days, we have been able to have an extra pot of tea - glorious. Also, we have gone back to our morning cup of tea in bed, via the teas maid, even though we had to have only 3 cups of tea for the rest of the day - we just missed it too much!

The same happened with the margarine ration. All I can say is that our scraping of margarine on bread and toast must have been par excellence as that also lasted an extra day.

This first week also sees our first taste of real butter, albeit 6oz. As a treat, I made shortbread using the butter and a little margarine. It was very nice, although DS thought it a bit dry, but he has only ever tasted bought packet shortbread!

This week also saw a small donation of cooking apples from under a friend’s apple tree. Having put the last of the week’s ration of dried fruits to one side for the Christmas mincemeat, we fancied baked apples and I was a bit nonplussed what to put in them, due to our dried fruit ration not stretching to fill baked apples.

A rummage deep into the back of the storage cupboard revealed a previously unopened jar of mincemeat. We opened it cautiously, smelt and tasted it and decided to try it. It was fine and when I checked the recipe it did state that it would keep indefinitely!!!

The corned beef pie was very large being more potato than meat. We ate just over half of it hot with vegetables and gravy. DB and I had the rest of it re-warmed with beans for one of our snacks, hence a saving on one of the above snacks, probably cheese on toast; then our toasted cheese and ham sandwiches will be extra thick and extra yummy.

Our first week on full rationing went well. We had some spare tea, which we will carry over to next week. The margarine only just lasted because I baked twice. It is reasonably easy to find cakes that require no eggs, but ones without margarine are more difficult to obtain.

Week Two

We have had to re-arrange our menu due to the arrival of visitors in week 3. The weekly shopping bill came to £37.00, a saving of £7.00. Not so much as last week but we had to purchase more non-food items, such as toilet roll, kitchen roll, deodorant and toothpaste.

On the Monday, we went to bank last week’s savings of £12.00. It was quite comical really as the customer at the next till was banking £30,000 this week, with another £25,000 to come next week and a further £50,000 in the new year. Our cashier was quite young and was doing her best to pay attention to our needs but it was quite clear her mind was boggling at all that money and here we were, banking £12. It did however give us great satisfaction, knowing that it was just one weeks saving on our food bill, and we had not gone hungry!

The menu for this week is: - Roast chicken, chicken and mushroom pie, chicken soup, fish cakes, toad in the hole, jacket potatoes and ham and potato cakes (main meals) and for snacks, chicken sandwiches, chicken soup, cheese salad, something on toast, jacket potato, curried parsnip soup and salad sandwiches.

We did quite well again from the 'black market'. A friend won 1/4lb loose tea in a raffle and as they don't drink it, donated it to us along with a packet of chocolate biscuits for DS. Bless her heart.

DS's school is saving sugar for the homeless for winter. He took in a 2lb bag of sugar, one weeks ration, but sugar is the one thing on our ration which we never use up each week, so he may yet be able to take another one.

With one day to go, we have just used up our last egg. It went into the topping for some maids of honour, baked alongside chicken pasties and mince pies. Two more were used up as a treat - soft boiled eggs, our first for 6 weeks!!! and the other one, in dried form (found some cheap ones at last), went into another sticky gingerbread. This time, instead of peanut butter for the fat content (which we all disliked) I used 1oz lard and 1oz margarine. The result was lovely and lasted all of two days as cake; as well as being served with custard for a supper treat.

As stated before, 12oz margarine for three does not go very far, so in future, I will try mixing margarine with lard to eke out the fat ration in cakes and probably make pastry based cakes each week. We occasionally fry food so most of the lard is available for cakes.
This week, our dry roasted chicken yielded a teacup of fat. Half of this was used up in two recipes - the curried parsnip soup to fry the onions and parsnip, and to grease the dish for toad in the hole and to fry the potatoes to go with it. The rest is in the fridge for a later date.

I have just weighed the tea left in our caddy - 3oz. That would take us well into next week but as we have visitors (only for two nights and days) we shall adjust our rations (if required) to accommodate them (for in a real war-time situation, they would bring their rations with them, one would hope).

Next week sees us at home only for four days, then we are away to the grandparents. Due to this vacation, our £7.00 savings from this week are to go towards next weeks four days eating. Our visitors are bringing tea with them (a quiche and a pudding). Any savings from our normal allowance will either be banked or used as pocket money for the few days away.

Week Three

Our visitors arrived for their two days stay and were moderately impressed by our menu, but couldn't quite believe how little we spent on food. Our visitor usually spends over £70 a week for her family of 3. She does not cook much however, usually choosing ready cooked meals, hence the £70! They also drink a bottle of wine with their evening meal, each evening, so that too raises their bill.

Last week, saw me freezing one of our sausages towards the Christmas sausage rolls, leaving us 2 for the rest of the week. I shall continue to do this, giving me by Christmas, a total of 8 sausages, plenty for sausage rolls. The dried fruit also continues to be put away towards the mince pies and our dried fruit ration is slowing growing for normal weekly use due to our baking reducing. When we first started our war diet, we found we were constantly hungry (as on most new ways of eating), our bread consumption went up from 3 to 5 per week and our baking doubled. Something had to give due to our fat ration not being able to cope with the demand, so instead of making fruit cakes, twice a week, we are making jam tarts or maids of honour etc., hence the saving on dried fruit and margarine.

Our weekly menu continues to change to adapt to the needs of the rations, but we are finding, we are still able to eat most of our normal meals, but adjusted to cope with rationing.

Friends are commenting on the fact that I am lucky to have such a compliant family. However, other than the fact that there is not so much meat on the plate but more vegetables and potatoes to compensate, our main meals have not changed that much. I don't think it’s a case of compliance. If your family is well fed and happy and feels well and the adjustments onto a wartime diet are gradual, I believe anyone can slowly change onto it, probably with their family not being aware. 

Week 4 
I suddenly realised that I had not made my Christmas food presents. In my circle of friends, we like to make each other something for Christmas. I usually cook something. I had frozen some orange peel (pre war diet) and using our sugar ration, managed to make 6lbs of wartime marmalade. This involves a base of apple juice, to which sugar and finely sliced peel are added. It is not tart like normal marmalade, but looks the same. I put this into lots of small jars, painted a Christmas picture on them, and topped with material, ribbon and gift tag. Hope they like it.

This week, we have noticed we do not need so much baking or bread, so maybe our bodies have adjusted to the way of eating.

My friend invited us to her house for a mid day meal. It was a normal meal (for them) of mince with suet topping, potatoes, and vegetables, apple crumble and yoghurt. The portions on the plate were of normal size but DB and I couldn't finish them. By the time we had to cycle home, we wished we had come in the car! The tummy pains were truly awful, cramps and wind and a bike seat to boot!!!

We made it home but both felt awful until we went to bed. We had nothing more to eat until breakfast the next morning.

Not wanting to upset our friend by her thinking it was her cooking, we treated ourselves to a nice snack, two days later in our favourite cafe. The same thing happened cramps, tummy upset, wind. At least we didn't have to bike home. Again, we couldn't eat until the next morning. A war diet as you may have gathered, is not rich in dairy produce, and we had to put the pains down to dairy products, which were in abundance on both these meals, yet before the diet, we would eat these meals with no ill effects - strange.


November/December l939. Bomb attempt on Hitler. On the 18th, 'summer time' ends, 6 weeks late due to start of war. Germans are busy laying mines. Russia invades Finland. Finns defending well. Weather here very cold, with many village ponds frozen over.

Time has flown by and Christmas is fast approaching. I managed to make 30 sausage rolls from the 8 frozen sausages, and 48 mince pies from my mincemeat.

My in-laws arrived for Christmas and produced a mountain of sweets, nuts etc. - simply because it was Christmas. Our faces fell. How would we cope, DB and I hadn't had sweets for ages. Well, we didn't cope, we found ourselves constantly stuffing them into our mouths along with 7 packets of biscuits, plus another tin, all because they were there. By the end of Christmas we felt truly awful, bloated, very spotty and just not right. It was very hard to get the in-laws to understand. They bring this amount of sticky sweet things every time they visit us, so what was different. It was hard to explain and generally went in one ear and out the other one, with a gentle tutting noise accompanying our explanation. It dawned on us at last that people either think we are mad or just don't understand, or want to understand, the motives behind our decision to be on a wartime diet.

This year was the first time we had really looked at all this excess, in the name of Christmas, and felt truly disgusted. I deeply felt it was obscene to be eating so much for the sake of it and I was not alone, DB felt the same. It’s not just at Christmas either; Easter is another example of excess, as is generally every shopping week in a supermarket without either a shopping list and/or buying only seasonal food.

We finally understood, that what had really gone from our table was excess. Plenty had replaced it. Have you heard that expression when someone is offered more food, they reply, "No thanks, I've had an elegant sufficiency to suit my capacity." How true. Our war diet has created in us an elegant sufficiency, not just in food, but also in all aspects of our household management and we are glad.

Oddly enough, despite having grumbled about excess, the one true highlight of Christmas was a very mysterious gift from a friend. She told us it could not be picked up until Christmas Eve evening and would have to be opened and stored straight away, as it was perishable.

She kept muttering about chickens and this is what we thought it was. When we got the said 'red cross' parcel home (yes, she had actually drawn on a red cross!), it consisted of the following: - 3 bananas, 3 oranges, a handful of assorted nuts, a very small bunch of grapes, a bar of chocolate, a bar of soap, and wait for it, a bottle of Castor Oil!!! It was the best present we have ever had and her choice was welcomed. Okay, so oranges and bananas and grapes may not have always been available, but some 'lucky' people did manage to obtain them. Most of all though, was the fact that she had listened to us, even back in early November when we jokily told her all we wanted for Christmas was a bunch of bananas (me) or some oranges (DB). A true friend indeed.



YEAR TWO - 1940/1995

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With the recession and our current economy drive, I find myself looking back to 1995 when circumstances left us in a very difficult financial situation. This is our second year. DB = my husband DS = our son.

January l940/1995. Food rationing begins. Very cold weather with many frozen pipes in houses. Worst January for over 50 years. Bacon ration doubled to 8oz, sugar 12oz and butter doubles to 4oz. Cost of living has gone up by 12½% since the start of war.

It is now early January, and people are still asking us how long we are going to stay on rationing. We have decided between us - indefinitely. Our in-laws disappeared home, spare sweets and all, our tummies have reverted to normal, wind levels have decreased from gale force to a gentle breeze and our spots reduced from mountains to molehills. Life is once again great. More to the point, our shopping bill for the first week in l995, came to just £22.50. I checked when DB got home, believing he had left a bag somewhere, but he hadn't. There were a few things missing such as wash powder and toilet rolls and toothpaste which we didn't need this week but on the whole, £22.50 is a record.

The food giants Aldi have opened a market near us and this has reduced our bill by about £5.00 per week and we are now in a position to be able to put into our savings account, each month, £50.00, - totally unthinkable pre-war!

Once a month, a friend of ours, holds a charity lunch - called Spud Lunch. Everyone who attends takes it in turn to bring something, and at the end, contributes what they can, usually at least £1. A few people know we are on a war diet and asked how it was going, how long had we been on it and how long do we intend to stay on it. Answering their questions brought forward many questions from those present - both young and old. The old were totally amazed that we should 'choose' to eat like this, the young thought it was the latest 'diet craze' and enquired how much weight we had lost! These lunches usually take 2 - 3 hours to conclude. Most of that time was spent discussing the diet! Questions flew thick and fast, much laughter regaled around the room and when we produced our contribution for the lunch - a war-time ginger cake - made with dried egg, astonishment knew no bounds. More to the point, it was thoroughly enjoyed!!!

We concluded the lunch by deciding, in May, to have a war-time spud lunch, dressing the part if possible and using only rations - should be good.

February 1940/1995. There is a shortage of firewood and fire lighters in the towns and cities due to the cold weather. The Finns are still fighting and resisting the Russians.

It is now mid February. Our latest inclusion into the rations is soap. Remember, each person is entitled to only 1lb of soap per month. This could be exchanged for 24oz wash powder, 24 oz shampoo or wash machine conditioner or finally 2 pints good quality or 4 pints cheap washing up liquid. (I have since found the actual ration portions of 3 coupons per month each to be spent on items listed on the ration.

We had thought this totally impossible, and being honest, had decided to ignore it. Tut tut. Did people smell during the war? Did they have fewer clothes to wear? Putting our minds to it, we have found that a bar of household soap lasts us two months for hand and face washing. A bottle of bubble bath, watered down, lasts two months, washing up liquid - a large bottle every two weeks, wash powder, a 1kg box per week! (Nearly 9lb per month!) It was the amount of wash powder that presented us with the problem. Modern washing machines simply use far more than when hand washing, as done during the war. We had a stroke of good and bad luck here. Our washing machine decided to pack in. DB tried to fix it but discovered a huge crack in the outer drum - some £200 repair.

We opted for a new machine; after all, our old one was 14 years old. We choose a Jet Stream one, whereby only half the usual amount of powder is needed. By using only half the normal powder and also changing over to a non-automatic wash powder and using only half their recommended amount, we have fallen within our ration.

We have utilised the old machine. The internal stainless steel drum is to be used as a wood burner in the garden, burning twigs etc to give us wood ash. The cracked outer drum is going to be lined and either used as a pond or a planter for our fig bush. All the wiring has gone into the attic to be used on the model railway and the motor has been tucked away for a rainy day!

March/April l940/1995. Finns sign 'peace-plan' with the Russians. Butter ration doubled. Meat comes on ration at 1/10d per person per week! Eggs are 1/8d for 12 (if only you could get more than 1 each). Bacon between 1/2d and 1/10d a lb. Ham 6d a ¼lb. Budget announces increase in tobacco, beer, spirits (nothing changes does it) postage and telephone calls! Postage will now cost 2½d and 2d respectively as from May 1st.

Our weekly food bill totals on average £30. Allowing for emergency use, we find we are able to still have about £5 left at the end of each week. This is also now being saved, bringing our monthly savings up to £70.

For the first time in a long while, I have seriously sown some seeds in an incubator. I usually dabble at it as work prohibits me somewhat, but this year I am determined to grow a few more things in the garden. Most of it is laid to flowers and shrubs, lined to help moisture retention and then mulched with chipped bark from our local foresters. However, in the middle of our front lawn, is a 12' octagonal, sparsely planted. It has a sweet cherry tree in the middle of it. This is being grown festoon style to keep it small and has to be netted against the birds. It gives us between 1lb and 4lb of cherries. I used to use it as a vegetable plot but when I was nursing, I was too tired to garden. Although it is planted with perennials, it is not lined or mulched so will revert back to a mixed flower/vegetable plot.

May/July 1940/1995. Sugar decreased to 8oz. Bacon, ham and sugar all reduced to 4oz. Tea comes on ration at 2oz, margarine and butter rationed to a total of 6oz per week. Lard 2oz. Holland and Belgium invaded. Chamberlain resigned on May 10th to be replaced with Winston Churchill. Car owners urged to lock garages and demobilize their cars when not in use in case of German invasion. Germans enter France. Evacuation in June of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force). Along with the French army, hundreds of thousands of men were rescued. Aluminium collection for aircraft. Income tax has now increased to 8/6d (42p) in the £.

DS occasionally asks when the war-diet will end, but he seems quite happy and well fed, which answers his own question. We had a treat this week on the cake line - a pumpkin cake. A friend of ours grows seriously big pumpkins, each year presenting us with one which usually weighs in at a hefty 40lbs or more! We love pumpkin soup, pie, cake and other items but lets face it, 40lbs is a mountain. We freeze it and use it throughout the year but still manage to have several bags left when the next one arrives - help.

The pumpkin cake is yummy. It does take however, two eggs and 4oz of margarine which requires some feat of saving on the fat side, but this week, we managed to find a spare 2oz and hence the cake. It would be so easy to cheat on the rationing sometimes and having heard me grumble about the fat ration being eked out, may well think I have cheated but to explain. Twice a month, we use our butter ration. Usually it goes into mouth-watering shortcake, but this time, we really treated ourselves and had it on our toast, which saved some of our margarine ration, hence the cake.

For some reason this week, we seemed to be a main meal short. I decided to make a corned beef pie which usually is eaten in one go. This week however, we divided it into 6, used 3 slices for each meal, thereby sorting out the problem.

Our chip pan has oil in it and desperately needs changing. Normally we would throw all the oil out but it would take about 3 months rations to fill it up again so we are going to clean the oil, then the pan, and top up with the equivalent weight of oil from the fat ration. This involves weighing 12oz of oil - a slip here creates a slippery year! We do however; love chips cooked in dripping so may change over to that for a few months, then back to oil for health reasons.

Well, must go. I've got tea to attend to, fish cakes, chips and beans - Yummy!

August/December 1940/1995. Meat increased to 2/2d per person per week. Sugar varying between 2oz and 12oz. Meat then down to 1/10d. London badly bombed. Silk stockings are no longer available. Lemons and onions are very rare. Summer time to remain in force throughout winter to try and reduce the number of deaths on the roads and pavements due to restricted lighting. Mr. Chamberlain died in November. Coventry was badly bombed. Eggs very scarce. Extra 2oz tea to be given for Christmas but there are few, if any, dates, nuts or white icing.

The more war diaries I read the more obvious it becomes that life in the countryside, as far as food and rationing went, compared to the towns and cities differed widely. I mention this in a little more detail in my next post.

Well, we have had our 2nd wartime Christmas. It didn't seem so exciting this year. Not because we are fed up of our rations, far from it, but due to various reasons, we went away for Christmas. Therefore, the usual scrimping from late September to save for Christmas was avoided and we all felt it keenly. It may seem daft but we actually enjoy the sacrifice! It somehow makes us feel closer to the true Christmas spirit of giving.

The people we stayed with, don't understand why we are on rations and their idea - like many others - is that extra things are eaten simply because it is Christmas and there was still the usual over-shopping and consequent throwing away of food simply because there was too much of it.

Come on folks, there are people starving to death in the world and we are throwing food away!
 


 

17 comments:

  1. Wow! I`m impressed. This seems an amazing goal to work to. I wish you success, and I shall pop by on occasions to see what progress you`ve made.

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  2. Thanks. Although this diary is from 1994, we still adhere to it most of the time. For the past 2 years it has become slightly more difficult as a health scare means we now combine it with 'The Hay Diet' i.e. food combining - not mixing protein and starches together at any meal. Thought people might find rations useful to try as it really does save money.

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  3. I've just discovered your blog so know this is from a while ago. Very interesting reading and well done. What a great friend you have too.

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  4. Thank you Rainbowchild. This way of eating lasted for the duration of the actual war as well. We didn't feel too hard done by it though.

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  5. I have just discovered your blog and read it because I am a Norfolk Dumpling always looking for frugal tips.It is quite wonderful and will be on my igoogle homepage from now on.Many of your ideas I am already doing,like saving all dripping,making stock etc,but I must confess to using butter a lot as I cannot like margarine spread on anything but use stork soft baking margarine for cakes.We are a family of five,grandmother(me)my daughter,son-in-law and grandsons aged 15 and 12.We bought an old farmhouse together seven years ago when, after ten years of widowhood living on my own and hating it,for economic and personal reasons it seemed sensible to join forces.I do most of the cooking as I am now retired,and my daughter can work more hours without worrying so much about housekeeping.We keep chickens and grow a lot of our own food,forage for wood and anything edible in season.We find that many friends and relatives share their gluts with us,and my son who is a builder and general handyman gives us a lot of scrap and felled wood for burning on our woodstove and open fire.

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  6. Hi Rosemary, sounds a wonderful life you lead. Although we adhered to War Rations for 6 years (and it didn't do us any harm), we eat only a little differently now. We used to do Food Combining but have since given that up due to OH having high blood pressure. We find war rations plus a little extra, and using pro point recipes (though we are not necessarily trying to lose weight), keep us well fed and healthy. Lucky you being able to get scraps of wood. 2 of our neighbours will share pallets etc with us when needed. The rest of the time, other than gluts from friends, we manage on our own. We have just applied to go on a water metre and are also waiting for another water butt from the council. Nearly took this page off the other day believing no one was reading it!

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  7. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. :) I've only recently discovered your blog and have been trying to do something similar myself - am really happy to see I'm not the only one trying this. :) I'm not too far from Norfolk - glorious Cambridgeshire - and do like reading about the region. Did you ever work a tin of Spam or Corned Beef as part of the points allocation? In my workings out it was the only way I could get the meat to stretch as Mr KB does like meat in every meal. I can't grow anything at home yet - working on that though!

    Thanks again :)

    KB xx

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  8. A tin of meat would be 16 points, almost the whole months ration for one person. We got around this by using half the tin to make a large meat and potato and vegetable pie. We had half one night, the next half later in the week (fed 3 of us). The other half of the tin would either be frozen or made into sandwiches or something else. Keep in touch if you need more help.

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  9. I have a couple of questions, did people pay for any of the rationed foods? I assume they paid for non-rationed food. And do you know how much an average person would have had to spend because I see that lots of people used to eat in cafes as that wasn't rationed.

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  10. Just answering one of my own questions...I think. I found one site that said an average family of 4 had £1 4s 0d. per week to spend on food. Using this site http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1633409/Historic-inflation-calculator-value-money-changed-1900.html
    that equates to £61.63 for a family of 4 or £15.41 each per week (or £66.78 per month) which is what I'm aiming for is £70...not always reaching :( So yes it looks like people had to pay for rationed food.

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  11. Nothing was free in the war, everything had to be paid for. It is very difficult to get figures for wages during the war but here are a few (mainly women except the last one). Women's Land Army £1.12d pw. Skilled factory workers £2.15d pw. WAAC £1.4s pw. Male under-gardener £1.14s pw.

    If you are trying to save money, try gradually introducing war rations in a similar time frame to us. Doing so will naturally cut down on your bills.

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  12. I've really enjoyed reading this (although I can never figure out the old style of British money). I suspect your family is very lucky that you are a good cook!

    I love Nella Last's War and have read it many times; how are the other diaries you have shown in your stack of books? Any you particularly recommend?

    Did you enjoy The 1940's House show? Watching that reminds me not to be wasteful.

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    1. Thanks. I would recommend in particular Mrs. Milburn's Diaries which is my all time favourite, Betty's Wartime Diary and Dispatches from the Home Front are also very good. The rest are not too bad either but I like the writing style of these three in particular. Yes, I did watch and enjoy the 1940's House but got a little annoyed as in the end, they were really only 'playing' the part for a short amount of time.

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  13. I can't tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading these pages. Mother talked about rationing here in the States, but I don't think it was very hard on them. I haven't compared the two rationing systems and of course your country was on rations for much longer. The main thing that was hard for her was the rubber ration. Only two tires and she needed all four. Her car was up on blocks and so she walked to town for shopping, visiting, church etc.
    Thank you for the book recommendations in your previous post. I love to read about this period of time in history.

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  14. I don't think we had rubber rationing but it was difficult to get hold of. Petrol was rationed so a lot of people had to stop driving.

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  15. Thank you for keeping this on your blog. It is very good reading. When my mum was alive and talked about this period of time she said any time she saw a queue she got in it with the hope that whatever was on offer would still be there by the time she got to the front as supplies were limited. We never ate a meal in a cafe during this time.

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    1. I suspect those who ate in cafes were either working or more well off.

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