Ging gang goolie goolie

I’ve been having a busy time lately. I’ve been rising from bed in the dark and going to sleep in the light. My body clock is just starting to realign itself again and I thought it was high time for a post. Last week, when my working hours were not corresponding to my natural rhythm, I didn’t feel like doing much. Gaming didn’t appeal, I didn’t have the patience for craft and aside from Bake Off and Doctor Who, there was little to grasp my attention on the television. So I picked up a book.

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(Apologies for the glare in the photo)

This was a glorious find from the library. How The Girl Guides Won the War by Janie Hampton was a twee and sometimes shockingly truthful account regarding Brownies and Guides during World War Two. I must admit, I didn’t realise the extensive work that was performed by these young girls. I feel it should have more acknowledgement than just one book, even though this book is a delightful read. I thought Hampton wove the accounts of former Guides with her own research seamlessly. I was a Brownie during my younger years and certain recollections made me smile, as I too remember singing songs and playing Tag at Brownie Camp. But I also learnt a lot from this text, including the state of various occupied territories. I knew there was stark poverty and starvation in post-war Europe, but I didn’t quite realise the extent until Hampton describes the Dutch roasting tulip bulbs to eat. It certainly added a whole new dimension to my WW2 knowledge.

I would recommend this book to any history buff, any girl guide and anyone else who likes a good non-fiction book.

 

PS I hope to return with more regular posts now that my work schedule had calmed down.

Ready, steady, cook!

My work load has increased for this week, a fact that I am grateful for. More working hours means more money earned and that, my friends, can only be a good thing.

But I needed to be prepared for the chaotic nature of this week, so it was to the kitchen for most of the day yesterday. I needed to stock the goody tin and fill the freezer and spend some time preparing food. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels cooking is good for the soul. Let me share the things I made that are good for the stomach!

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Firstly, I had to decide what to do with all of the odds and ends I had left in the fridge; the last of a pack of chicken thighs, half a butternut squash and someone else’s mushrooms that needed eating up. Add an onion, an apple and a fair amount of seasoning, and I had this delicious concoction bubbling in the slow cooker.

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I can’t actually share if the recipe was successful or not, as I’m eating the first portion tonight with piles of mashed potato. It certainly smelt appetizing last night.

Onto the baking section of today’s programme. From recent reading and research into rationing, I discovered oatmeal wasn’t rationed and the prices were controlled to make it a readily available product. So I spent 95p on a bag and got baking. I used 100g of oatmeal to 150g of porridge oats to make this batch of honey flapjacks, and they were very successful. They seemed to hold together much better than my first attempt. A winning recipe.

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I also had my first attempt at Scotch Shortbread, an “economical” recipe from a Marguerite Pattern book. Success! My previous exploration into g-f shortbread had been a miserable affair, but this was a delight. It only made a small quantity, but there would be no harm in doubling up if the fats ration allowed.

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During my shopping expedition yesterday morning, I of course spent a long time in the greengrocers. My best buy was three aubergine for 50p, all because of a couple of bruised bits. I soon chopped those off and set to work on a curry.

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Veggie curry doesn’t really create images of 1940s Britain, but I still had curry paste leftover from pre-rations so I made a big batch yesterday. In the mix is aubergine, onion, tomatoes, red pepper and red lentils. Even thought the jar of paste is gone, I still have plenty of spices in stock, so there will certainly be more curries in my kitchen.

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For dinner, I had the final chicken thigh with roasted butternut squash and sweet potato. I have no picture to share, because after an afternoon surrounded by food, I was ravenous! 

 

 

Cleverly cunning?

This weekend just gone, the wanderer returned. My chap had been trawling Europe with two of his closest friends, and after twenty four days of adventure, returned to his sanctuary in Southampton. My oh my I was delighted to see him. I was even more delighted that he brought food with him. Bacon bought by others doesn’t count towards my ration does it? Is it deceptive and underhand, or simply making the best of a kind gift? Ultimately, this is not a deprivation exercise and I can allow myself to be cunning to acquire certain foodstuffs. I know from my research that food as gifts was quite common during wartime.

Today is Monday which means time to purchase supplies.

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Milk – ration, £1

Ham – ration, £1

Cooking fat – ration (to last three weeks) 75p

Coleslaw – off ration (I count it as vegetables) 70p

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Apples – off ration, £1,75

Carrots – off ration 18p

Cucumber – off ration 69p

Sultanas – 8 points, £1.69

Ciabatta bread – off ration, reduced to 99p

 

In my first week of eating in this manner, I still had a fairly robust stock of food behind me. The pasta has since dwindled, I have no tins remaining and I’ve used my entire points allowance for this month already. Don’t get me started on the sweet ration, although you will be pleased to know I still have some left! That’s a big deal for me!

I do however have the luxury of a freezer, which is going to come into its own this week. It was disappointing that there were no reduced g-f loaves or rolls this shopping trip, and the greengrocers was closed by the time I arrived after work. But this experiment is all about making the most of what you’ve got and eking out the pennies. I’m determined to at least last the month on the wartime diet.

 

A balancing act

My sincere thanks go to Declutterbug for nominating my humble blog for an award. I’ve been so erratic with posts lately, I’m sure I don’t deserve such praise, but thank you so much for the nomination.

I’ve been living in Southampton for a month and I thought things would get easier after payday. But I have been scuppered with unforeseen expense that have forced me to constantly adjust my budget.

I now have a spread sheet detailing my food shopping lists for the next four weeks. They are all based on the system of rationing that I am so enchanted with. This scheme was organised by the best nutritional scientists of the age and their recommendations still correlate with healthy eating advice today. I bought my first allocation of weekly rations on Monday, but I’m already running into difficulties.

The main reason I return to wartime rationing is that it helps me to eat health food on a budget. I went to the beach yesterday and had a glorious time. Ice cream wasn’t rationed during the war, but was rarely available. Not healthy, not cost-efficient, but I still ate it.

Dried fruit and nuts was rationed as part of the points system, but how do you calculate the points value of a 30g snack pack?

My housemate bought 9 eggs as they were the cheapest to buy, but says she won’t use all of them within the “use by” date. They have become “house eggs” and I’m free to use however many I want. Surely no member of 1940s society would have turned down free eggs?

I am facing certain challenges whilst trying to stick with my rationing guidelines, but I think if I ensure I don’t eat more sweets than my ration, and stay within my money budget, I think this scheme will be beneficial overall.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!