Saturday, October 3, 2009

3 October 1955 “Buy More Pay Less or Pay More Buy Less, a Proposed Project of Rationing”

We are so used to the phrase “Buy more Pay less” that we forget it has led to our “society of entitlement”. We feel we DESERVE to get a bargain on everything which then forces us to not shop locally and force out small business and ultimately ruin our communities.

rationing_line This image shows people waiting in a rationing line. What is odd, is I often see this in stores today, but people lined up to buy more and more of what they don’t need! I remember when the local IKEA opened, I fell into it as well. I remember standing in this long line just waiting to give up my money for things I honestly did not need. When I think of that now it almost sends a shiver down my spine. I really feel now brainwashed by the consumer culture.

ration_poster I wonder if these ideas of the wartime economy may someday be our solution to our planet and pocketbook woes?  It would seem the idea of people coming together to solve a problem as a nation is a good solution. It makes us all feel part of it. Unfortunately, those making the money from our overspending don’t want us to believe it is happening so they lie to us and use poor imagery of anti-American ways to fear us into ignoring it. And keep us from coming together by the lazy ways of staying home with tv and computers, who could ever come together as a community and try to change when we are so lulled. When, really, how un-American is it to be ruled by a dictator of consumerism and fall prey to the propaganda TV stations that perpetuate the lies? But, I don’t want to go off on that tangent right now. I think we need to really think about that basic concept of buying more paying less or buying less and paying more (which supports our local business and helps us to economize and be healthy)

I sometimes think about rural central America and feel bad that they were once thriving little communities that sent their children off to school to have them return and make their part of the world better. The young people had dances and listened to the radio and played games. There was community. Now I think of these places as sad dustbowls where the downtown is gone and empty, just outside of town is the Wal-Mart and various fast food places. The teens are ‘bored’ and doing drugs and overdrinking and can’t wait to leave or if they don’t leave, they stay in all the time on the computer or video games. How have we become this?

I am sure there are women today who were homemakers in the 1950s that are so glad to have so many things so cheap,  and to use kleenex and paper towels, but in a way, they really can’t understand where we have come and in some way, let them have it. But, for those of us who are young enough that we are making the country still and preparing new adults for the future, we have to somehow stop the idea that we need to buy more and more and it had better be cheap!

I am always amazed and appalled at the way people in lines at stores will treat the help and with their own feeling of entitlement. If  someone is trying to return something beyond the stores policy or they don’t have their receipt, they go crazy and DEMAND that they get what they want! It is not the help’s fault the person made the wrong choice, or didn’t keep or read the rules on the receipt. But, this feeling of “I want it now and I want it fast and you better treat me like a God” is such a horrible trait and path we seem to be treading down.

woman paris I remember my first day out in Paris when I was a young girl.  I was coming form the American stores that treat you, the consumer, as if you can do no wrong. Boy, that was a rude awakening! I actually felt anger and frustration, but the longer I was there I began to realize, “Why do I think I DESERVE to be treated like a queen and at the expense of the people who have to work there or the shop keepers who have to buy and stock the items?”  There should be no rudeness on either side and certainly the customer should not just walk in and expect everything to be just for them.

I see now that even back then we were being groomed to be the consumers that can only be happy at a store that can afford to stock and return without fear unlike a local store.

So, back to shopping locally.  We  go to the local chain and the meat and chips are are half of what they are at a local shop. So, we buy more, spend the same amount, overeat and have more to throw away. I think if we could look to ourselves, we new Homemakers, as those ladies did during war rationing, we could really wean ourselves of the current over consuming habit.

If we said to ourselves, “we MUST shop locally and consume less”, we could just approach it as if we were in wartime spending. So, we cannot buy as much food, well then we have to be more creative about how we use it. Learn how to stretch it. That meatloaf can become two meatloaves with some bread added as filler; those leftovers can go in the freezer or into a pot for stew. So, chips are expensive, STOP EATING THEM, they aren’t good for you anyway. I know it sounds harsh and hard, but you know what, anything worth doing often has some  struggle in it, but when you have succeeded you are happy and content and glad for the struggle. Or one bag of chips for the month, then you have to ration them out! It might sound extreme, but right now we have been taught the other extreme: that we must buy as much as we can and fill our shelves to the brim and then overeat and buy more! It is not healthy for our pocketbooks, our health, our waistlines, nor our sense of being. I don’t like to think that we are training groups of children to think they can just consume and consume for ever and ever, how will that make them understand the consequences of anything?

I was amazed the other day when I was out marketing. I saw, with the produce, these little packages of sliced apples with a little dipping sauce. I thought, “How on earth is ANYONE too busy to slice an apple and put it in Tupperware?” Here is more packaging, plus I know there was some chemical to make the apple not turn brown that we then would eat and the cost!

So, I don’t want to go on another rant without any result.  So, what say you to an experiment we can share in? Maybe we should try a week where in we ‘pretend’ it is WWII rationing and see how we fare. I think that is a safe amount of time. We would simply use only what is the very basics, no chips (crisps) nor very large helpings or seconds, maybe even scale back desserts and only what we can make with the basics, flour sugar butter (Which I know they even ran out of  during the war).

WWII canning poster What do you think, would it be a fun project? Maybe in the comments we could discuss it and set the parameters.

For instance we could say we could only use bread we made ourselves or bought at a local bakery (not a chain) and we could only buy one loaf instead of more.  So if we ran out of bread during that week we would have to use our minds to think, ‘what can we do?” I know that during this time many people turned to pancakes/flapjacks as alternatives as they were easier to make than bread and no yeast was required. SO instead of a sandwich you have a pancake with something rolled into it.  You know what I mean, be frugal and see what we could do.

We don’t have to be too extreme, but I would love to see the results, especially for those of you who have children. I think we are made to feel we are bad parents if we don’t have all of these things for our children, but the 1950s homemaker grew up in the Depression and she definitely did without during her childhood and of the childhoods I have heard recalled, so many children actually had fun growing up during those years, as they didn’t know they were poor. They only knew what they grew up with and had more imagination and patience because of it. In some way I feel like every generation we are just training ourselves to be lazier, less independent, more unhealthy etc.  But, I digress, we could make the rules however we want, but for one week, wouldn’t it be interesting? I wonder if we would learn any saving measures we could then adapt to our normal weeks and realize we don’t actually NEED the things we buy.

woman cans So, if anyone is up for the proposed week plan let me know. I think we could come up with a ‘required’ shopping list for the week. We could decide how much butter, flour, meat etc we are allowed and then we can stick to that and see how our weeks turn out. If you have children then certain things would be increased per child I would imagine. So, what do you say?rosie


  1. I think if we can come up with a 'list' of what to buy for our proposed week, I can them compile it and post it with my next post, which is going to be addressing old WWII posters and rationing anyway. Let's try it!

  2. I commend you for your ideas and your Wisdom. More common sense, but someone has to SAY it. And you have.

    I'd love to know if there are any more *Oldies* like me out there, in your blog audience... Who remember WWII and squeezing the fake butter bag, to break the yellow "pill" which when distributed [by squeezing/kneading] made the fake butter look more like real butter. ,-)

    Best of luck with your Challenge!!!

    Btw, my husband and I have never been On The Consumer Bandwagon, and our 3 children did just fine, thank you. :-) We still aren't on The Consumer Bandwagon. So we were ahead of the game, when this Recession came. :-)

    'Aunt Amelia'

  3. Brava! Aunt Ameila! Good for you. Do tell more, what on earth is the 'yellow pill'. You could help us with this challange, as you were there. Do you remember enough to recall or recommend a good list of food for our weekly challenge? We could also just try the challenge of simple and less food, it does not have to follow the wartime diet. I think it would just be a fun experiment to see how we are at the grocery store knowing we cannot buy any prepacked cereal except corn flakes and oat meal, no chips, one loaf of bread, ingredients for baking, basic meat and seasonal veg etc. Don't you think?

  4. Wonderful post! I whole-heartedly agree with you. I have been inspired to try and change my ways of shopping and cooking. I have been experimenting every week with different bread recipes and have been finding better and better ones! It is much cheaper to by a bag of flour and yeast to make bread for a month than a loaf every week in the plastic bag. =)

    Over this past year I have picked up vintage cookbooks from the 40s and housekeeping manuals. Reading through them gives such great inspiration on how to make little changes each week to cut back. I have to credit Destination 1940s for the ideas of reading and adapting from those.

    Even a little step further, my husband and I have dwindled down to one vehicle. I have found that I am more than capable of walking to school, work, the market, etc. I can sometimes walk 10 miles a day if it calls for it. People had to do it back then, so why can't I? I also invested in a rolling collapsible grocery cart to make groceries with.

    Please, keep the ideas coming. I love them!!


  5. I love the idea! What a wonderful post. I would be more then happy to follow along with this project. I already bake my own bread, tastes much better then that store bought junk.

  6. lpm-Good Job and Yes I too give a nod to Destination 1940-She is where I first learned of the 1940's homemakers manual I refer to sometimes. She is single and has a good perspective from that point of view.
    We, too, have recently gone down to one car. It was silly, our having two. I don't have to go to work outside of the home and when I need the car, I drive hubby to work. The extra cost of insurance, gas, and also the ability to spend frivolously is gone when I cannot just 'pop down to the shops' as it were. I am going to get some cute baskets for the back of my vintage bike, as it has a built in holder for such, so I can do more with my old bike. You are right, people once did it, why can't we now. We act as if the way the world is HAS to be that way and if things get too expensive, like gas, we have no power over it, but we are lulled into feeling powerless by ALL of it. If you can afford two cars and still have money for savings and childrens education, great, but many people spend more and live higher than they need and then when university comes their children have to start out learning from the get go about being in debt by student loans. AND don't even get me started about the entire university system and how it is just big business now!
    So, LPM, does that mean you would be up for our ONE WEEK project? If so comment back and we can get together a 'grocery list' for the week and see how we all fare or what we all learn. You want in?

  7. oh, and we just had breakfast, where I made homemade pancakes. My husband said, these are so good and are they harder than boxed? I said, NO, and what is silly is you buy separate cake mix, pancake mix, and bread but if you have more flour you can make all and spend less and it is SO much better. It is not harder to make homemade pancakes. I mean you have to add oil and eggs to mix, all you do for homemade is flour sugar baking powder milk egg and oil done and done, mix it up and cook it up and you're done! You could even make a bigger batch if you are working mum and put in in a sealed pourable container in the fridge for a few days and pour out fresh pancakes throughout the week for your family. Again, our best tool is our mind and imagination, right?!

  8. Count me in. It will be fun to see how I fare out and where I fail and need improvement!


  9. Great, We will get together a 'list' for all of us included and I will post it with my next post.

  10. You should totally check out this blog:

    It's a woman from Canada, I think, who's following a British WWII ration diet for one year in order, among other things, to lose weight. Very neat!

  11. Jitterbug, I will definitely check that out, thanks, maybe it will help us to make our "weeks challenge" menu. Any suggestions?

  12. I know this is super simple, but I always buy bags of potatoes. Something I do is making garlic mashed potatoes. Then, I can take something we have leftovers of like chicken, pork, whatever, mix it with some mixed vegetables, a little cheese, cover with leftover mashed potatoes and bake. It's a sort of shepards pie.
    I also buy a whole turkey or turkey breast on the bone when the grocer has it on sale. If I bake it Sunday, I can make sandwiches for the hubby's lunch or slice and freeze for use in something at a later date.
    I'm all about stretching out a dollar. =D
    I wish that I could find the videos. There was a lady who was making youtube videos showing how to make meals she remembered from the Depression era. I do remember there being many pasta dishes or rice casseroles because she said you could stretch meals from those. =)


  13. yeah I want to look up the normal amount of beef per dinner per ounce and that will help us make a list of the appropriate sized items to see how far we can stretch little food.

  14. I love this idea and am interested in participating. I went to town just a bit ago for a few items. One thing I planned to buy was a loaf of bread from the new organic bakery that just opened. They had already sold out so instead of heading back across town I decided I'd bake bread tomorrow. I have a wheat grinder and Bosch mixer so I can make 5 loaves at a time. My bread is even better than that at the new bakery but laziness sometimes rules. ;)

    I'll keep reading to see what sort of challenge parameters you come up with.

  15. My grandparents and great grand parents were not the "typical" depression era/war effort home keepers. Both sides of my family lived in the suburbs of cities, my father Newark, NJ, and my mother, Long Island. Motherless, my mother and her sister lived with her grandparents with the aunt and uncles. Their lifestyle was an eclectic mix of luxuries, such as a telephone and a car (that was used sparingly), to hardships of no washing machine. There was mostly soup on the menu to feed the large household. Yum! Oranges were for Christmas. They did not grow any food, or make their own bread. They walked two miles--how frequently I could not tell you--for day old bread. They had access to farm produce, yet no food was put up. They sewed minimally. They had store bought underwear, a luxury that those in AK did not have. My paternal widowed grandmother scraped by with her meager earnings, but she would not have been considered resourceful. To give her credit, she was too busy trying to make a dollar. For both families, they *endured* those years.

    Margarine was a "new" item and from what I understand, not very popular. Unfortunately, war rationing "encouraged" its use. The white mass was purchased in a bag, and a capsule with yellow food coloring to be mixed in to make it look more like butter. For me and my family, margarine is not a good thing; we use natural fats.

    For our family, we have been rationing the big corporate lifestyle for quite some time. We eat a lot of soup, smaller meat portions, and make as much as possible from scratch. The make-from-scratch list has grows a little every year. Our rationing is included in other areas, that, overall, are much more healthy and economical and would comply with a 1940's mindset.

    Unfortunately, we live in the 21st century. Fish mongers, produce men and the like do not come down my street to sell their wares. Walking to buy items is not a practical or safe option. Supplies to repair items are, most cases, non-existent. The last vestige of mom and pop stores are now on the internet. I still, however, like to think I am living in a 40's/50's style. :-)

    No Idle Hands

  16. Thanks 50sgal for a wonderful thought provoking blog entry as usual and excellent follow-up comments. Your observations are very accurate and ideas inspiring. Thank you! I apologise but I won't be 'joining' the rationing challenge (dietary requirements, going away on holidays soon and in the 'too hard' basket for me just yet)but I will be requiring myself to continue to improve in my general quest for supporting local, consuming less, simpler lifestyle, learning from the past, using up what I have and contemplating my purchasing habits and patterns. Looking forward to seeing how your week goes. I've much to learn. :) All the best. With much gratitude, Linda

  17. I am in for the week long experiment! I bake my own bread now, and make most of what we eat from scratch but I do use too much meat. With four children I tend to "over make" suppers and things but to my credit my Beloved H takes those leftovers to work for lunches.

    I am in and if there is something I can do to help let me know :-)

    ~Mrs. J.~

  18. Wonderful post. I posted something like this today. I think you would like my post.

  19. Dear 50s gal,

    Thank you again for such a wonderful blog!! I am gaining strenght from knowing that so many other women like to be homemakers like me!! I agree that there is so much waste nowadays. A lot of things have improved from the past, but I find that there's a lot of the good that's missing and people are quick to dismiss the 50s...I find nowadays that most homemakers I meet are part of ethnic groups. They cook from scratch, ofen using dried peas and lentils, and are not pressured into working outside the home. Those families have a real sense of family time, do not spoil their kids with stuff and are strict in raising them.

    I've been a homemaker all my married life, but unfortunately been also injured in the legs since I got married. Do you have any tips for what I could do? How do you manage your time when you get sick or not feel so good? It makes it hard to do any household chores sometimes many days in a time. I love my homemaking job and would love to do it full time like you!

  20. Hello again, thanks for the post. We must be on the same page this week as I was thinking of making rationing books for myself to see if I could stay on track. Some where I have an old news clip of my Grandmothers that shows a week of meals and the cost. If I find it I will email it to you to use. I thought I could not do this but why not. Others went to work durring the war and followed this ration routine. As of Monday I am back to one job pluss home so... Count me in.

  21. Housewife07 - Have you tried fit flops? I know they don't exactly fit with the theme of this post since they cost about $50-100 a pair but they are amazing for those of us with bad joints and such. I have a lot of pain in my knees (bending, climbing stairs, walking on steep inclines, and such gives me a lot of trouble) and some back pain when I lift stuff and they work wonders for me. They're not just flip flops anymore, they have clogs and boots and all sorts of styles. Nothing particularly styling but comfortable at least and you could always just wear them around the home if you don't want to wear them out.

    I'm a tad too young to remember WWII (my grandfather fought for the British) but I do know a fair amount about rationing and war time recipes from many school projects and my own personal research including talking to many relatives who lived through the war. My great aunt used to talk about her job in a flax mill during that time. One of her favorite stories was about the time they got sheep head for lunch. To cook a sheep head you stick it in a pan of boiling water (not much I don't think, more like steaming) and boil it till all the meat falls off and the eyeballs melt which helps makes it somewhat gelatinous so it can set then you can spread it on toast and such. They used to serve this hot with toast for lunch at the mill some days and one day my aunt pulled a jaw bone out of her serving that the cook had missed. Apparently every other girl at the table pushed her food away but my aunt kept on eating. She knew it was a sheep head anyway, why would finding a bone bother her?

    I'm already a very frugal cook. I consider yeast to be an extravagance even because I make sourdough bread from a starter I grew in my kitchen. I don't think I've ever purchased a pancake mix in my life! I eat local veggies in season. I don't can (I'd like to learn but I don't know anybody who could teach me) but I freeze stuff all summer, particularly things that will be expensive or hard to procure in winter like basil (I make pesto and put it in ice trays) and pasta sauce with local tomatoes. I also stock up on apples and winter squash towards the end of the season and keep those in my cool basement. Last year I used up the last of my apples and squash in late February at which point they were about 3-4 months old but still perfectly good for soup and apple sauce!

  22. Thank you for the tip, Rhonda! I had never heard of them! I see Macy's sells them, I'll check them out! I have been having a hard time finding comfortable shoes. I have flat feet as well and my orthodic sneakers have been giving me trouble. I just ordered shoes made for standing a long time (shoes for crews), but they don't fit me well...I don't have nice shoes to wear outside the apartment at the moment as I've been wearing sneakers for years...

    Sorry to hear your knees and your back are giving you trouble. I have knee and hip problems, and it's been a real battle trying to get relief. Best of luck to you!

  23. Count me in! I bake all our own bread but am happy to try out any other "fat trimming".


  24. Wow, again so many wonderful comments. I will get back and answer all tomorrow morning, as we had a late night get together today and I am pooped. Until tomorrow, then, keep up the comments and we shall see what we can come up with for our 'week challenge'.

  25. I can't wait to see this challenge list! What a wonderful idea. I have a lot of cookbooks from the 40's that talk about rationing and making ends meet with what you have. (Amazing how this is a "concept" to us. We're so spoiled!)

    I made hamburger buns tonight for tomorrow's dinner but not because I couldn't buy them. I just want to cook more from scratch for health reasons. Also there's something about kneading dough that is very relaxing. :)


  26. Thank you for such an interesting and thought provoking blog. I was born in the 40's and a child and then teenager in the 50's and those are still my favorite times. I love the clothes, hairstyles, furniture and receipes, etc. from those times. I feel akin to your thoughts and I really despair at times for the values that our current society seems to hold dear. I will try to follow along this week as a homemaker during the times of rationing. Blessings, Carolyn

  27. This is a little off topic, but a year or so ago I started shopping with a list and only going shopping once a week. If we ran out of something or I had forgotten something we had to make do. One day I was going to make soup and the onion I had been storing had gone off. I decided to ask a neighbor if I could borrow one. I remembered as a child going to borrow a cup of sugar or a half cup of flour from neighbors. It seems that that experience has gone by the wayside with the car always at the ready and the supermarket open 24/7.

  28. I still long for the day when I may be able to stay home again, but now I have been working 8-13 hours a day so not sure how much I can do this but may give it a try anyway. What a great experiment!

    I was always pretty frugal while raising my children. Your pancakes example hit home. I usually had left-over pancakes and would then turn those into peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. All of my crumbs from cornbread, or any other baked goods went into a container in the fridge for my homemade muffins, which I made several mornings a week. As I was fortunate to be able to stay home for a number of years, I made from scratch my meals and snacks such as lunchables (placed cheese cubes, meats, crackers, nuts, carrot slices, etc. in egg cartons for the kids). They thought them to be a fun treat. Thank the good Lord, I was taught by example by a very frugal gramma that grew up during the depression.

    Your picture made me think of Rosie the riveter—I actually met one of those gals in the hospital last week.

    No Idle Hands,

    Now, as the chilliness has returned, I have also returned to making my homemade soups, as you do (started some garden tomato soup tonight). These are very inexpensive and also more healthy than store-bought (no preservatives and much less sodium). It is also crockpot weather, so that should fit right in with the week’s challenge as to being frugal. :)

  29. Housewife 07-I am sorry you injured your legs, it sounds as if some of the comments have good advice for footwear. I don't know if there is a 1955 equivalent to such footwear. Time management when I am ill has become more about how I manage it when I am well. If you get a routine down and stick to it (monday-laundry, wed-clean bathrooms etc) then if you need a day or two to rest, you can feel you are done with things up to the point you need the rest and then you can just do a 'shortened version' of what you would normally do. Maybe just only wash what is really needed for the week to lesson laundry day during a sick week etc. I hope you can achieve your goal of full time homemaker. I know it is not for everyone, but I know there are many who would like to take it on as a career but cannot afford it. But, I am hoping, if many people really want this, that if we work together we can all learn to be frugal enough and make the sacrifices to see really a one income family can exist today. It just means letting go of our consumer ideals, doing more yourself such as sewing and mending, and there is more money available then you would think. It is all about priorities. Not sure if this helped.
    So, I am posting today my proposed list for VICTORY WEEK, as I am calling it, so check it out and let me know should add or subtract to it? Let's decide together. Community, afterall, right?!

  30. Thank you for your reply, 50s gal!! I'm so happy to be able to look back thanks to your blog and realize so many good things about the past I needed to learn!! It makes me wonder what 50s gals used to do when they couldn't find relief for illnesses and injuries. Did they hire anyone? Did their families help out?

    At the moment, we have to do laundry at the laundromat, so my dear hubby does it once a week as I can't drive. We have been living on one income for as long as we've been married, and I actually manage it and do it rather well! He didn't have any savings before he met me and now we have an 8-month emergency fund and are on our way to save for a house!! It's all about priorities! :) I guess I meant I would like to feel less of a full time patient and part time homemaker, and more of a full time homemaker like you! :) I like the 50s cleaning schedule. I have been doing the FlyLady system off and on when I can. When I feel better on most days, I do more, but I tend to pay for it later. And now that I recently injured my knee, I can't walk much at all. I might need to get a scooter or wheel chair, or something to help me get around and do my chores! :)

    I am dreaming about the day we'll own our first house! I really do want to own a Victory Garden and grow a few berries and perhaps some rhubarb. I am still moved by the way my Polish parents, who survived WWII (my grandfather was in the army and my grandmother was a prisoner in an orphan center). My grandmother would grow her own garden, it took almost all of their very small yard, but she was very proud of it and would teach me how to garden. She jarred her own pickles, and to this day, I haven't had any more delicious than hers!! They were so happy they had a house paid off, food over their heads and a church to go to that they didn't need more than that. After seeing the War, this was paradise to them and they never wasted anything and hardly consumed. In fact, I don't know how they did, but living on an 25K income while retired, they still would give us quite a bit of money for me and my siblings to save!

    Since reading your blog, I have since switched to microfiber cloths for the most part (my use of Clorox wipes and paper towels has dramatically decreased) and am using vinegar and baking soda, which are so cheap and good for the environment.

    Your list sounds great! As much as I plan our food for the week, there's always something I have to throw out and it's been driving me nuts!! We have a tiny freezer so there is so much we can store...I am learning to be better at this! I wish we had farmers markets near by because I'm rather annoyed at the big chain grocery stores. The produce is never that good and is overpriced in my opinion!

  31. Sorry my thoughts were a bit scattered! I meant to say I'm still moved by the way my grandparents were frugal and very happy in life! :)

  32. What a great story of your grandparents and it sounds like in spite of your setback of mobility, you still seem to have a high spirit and determination-VERY important traits in a homemaker! Keep up the good work and I am glad and happy to think I have influenced anyone in a good way. I love our community and I think we are all learning and growing from one another, so should I put you down as someone who wants a go at our VICTORY WEEK ?!

  33. Thanks, I admit it's not easy but I have hope and I want to better myself every day as a homemaker! :) I'm leaving on vacation this Thursday, I would love to participate to the challenge though!! Perhaps when I come back! :)


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