Lessons from the past


I love history as a topic. My favourite part about gazing into the past is examining how people went about their everyday lives, just what they got up to day to day. Second World War Britain is my favourite historical era for this reason. It’s all about the people.

I enjoyed studying Nazi Germany at A level, even though I flunked History as a subject. I came out with an overall D due to my abysmal mark on my Arab-Israeli conflict module. Tell me, how does one conclude an essay concerning a feud that is, unfortunately, still going on? I didn’t know the answer to that, but at least I still got to attend University. And I gathered knowledge on Hitler, Goebbels and the rest of the nasty Nazis.


Poster in Imperial War Museum

            The chap and I have visited the Imperial War Museum and Churchill’s Wartime experience, both in London. I desired to visit both sites to possess more information on my chosen subject. I borrowed books from the library about the Home Front, even when I supposed to be studying for other things! Maybe that’s why I failed History A Level.


Checking out the Andersen shelter in Churchill’s Wartime Experience

            Anyway, I have decided to use what I have learnt about the past to assist my current situation. During the war (and even more so post-war) thrifty values and a keen eye for a bargain were important for survival. This was the era of “make do and mend” and “waste not, want not.” I know I’m not the only one to see the correlation with our modern age. There is no money left to burn.

In order to stick to a budget with my groceries, eat healthily and become more creative as a cook, I have been researching rationing. I do not wish to trivialise what is clearly a struggling time for those who lived through it. I am merely taking inspiration from the past to help me with budgeting today. These ration books actually belonged to my great aunt and uncle and I consider them a great treasure.


According to Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall in her book, The Ministry of Food (a brilliant charity shop find), a typical week’s rations for one adult reads as follows:

Bacon & ham 4oz

Butter 2oz

Cheese 2oz

Margarine 4oz

Cooking fat 4oz

Milk 3 pints

Sugar 8oz

Preserves 1lb every two months

Tea 2oz

Eggs 1 shell egg per week

Sweets 12oz a month

I then set about converting this into a measurement I could understand and combining/omitting certain products. My personal rations consist of:

115g bacon/ham

60g cheese

230g butter (encompassing all cooking fats and margarine, and allowing myself to use the olive oil in my cupboard)

230g sugar

60g tea

1 egg

350g sweets

Meat is a different matter as it was rationed by price, rather than by weight. But Jane F-W estimates the weight at approximately 1lb, which is 450g. So I shall also have 450g meat a week.

I shop at Sainsbury’s purely because it’s the closest superstore I can walk to. A month’s supply of my region would cost something like this:

Bacon/Ham – 450g Basics back bacon £1.80

Cheese – 250g block Red Leicester £1.78

Butter – 750g tub Countrylife Butter £3.90

Sugar – 1kg bag Silver Spoon Caster £1.49

Tea – Sainsbury’s Basics 27p

Eggs – Sainsbury’s Free Range medium eggs, 6 – because I won’t be having dried eggs and where can you buy just four eggs?

Sweets – Basics toffees (250g) and block of Basics dark chocolate (100g) 80p

= £11.44

On top of this would be my month’s supply of meat, taking advantage of Sainsbury’s 3 for £10 deal. Then there would be “the points system” – as many storecupboard items as I can get for £10. Plus £5 a week for fresh fruit and vegetables, as these were un-rationed. I will also continue to use up everything I have already got in stock, but I will not be purchasing extra because of this.

So my total grocery bill, according to this plan, would be £50 a month. That would be a big saving for me. At the moment, I’m constantly nipping in and out of shops looking for bargains (read: reduced labels). I think this would help get a few more pennies in the saving pot.

Do you think this is a good idea? Could you do it yourself? I know I’m not the only one to have this idea, as these three wonderful blogs show.

1940s Experiment

Rationing Revisited

Nellie B’s Wartime Rationing

I will be purchasing my rations on June 1st, otherwise known as payday. I think I will be creating a few interesting dishes towards the end of the month, but I’ll let you know how I get on. Wish me luck on this historical dietary experiment!


3 thoughts on “Lessons from the past

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