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rationing and running a house without help

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So, there is a post on WWII rationing from broke ass student in the carnival of personal finance. It reminded me of this absolutely awesome book that I purchased a couple of months ago called How to Run Your Home Without Help. It was written in the late 1940s by the editor of Good Housekeeping, and it’s all about how to run your [respectable middle-class] house without a maid.

Whilst in the United States of America, this period might have been the beginning of the golden age, the same can’t really be said of the UK. Rationing didn’t end until the early and things like bread were rationed, even though they hadn’t been during the war. And, whilst we were manufacturing things like fridges and washing machines, they were predominantly for overseas export in an attempt to pay off our war debt and rebuild all the houses etc that had been bombed out.

So, it was a little more of a struggle for the average housewife / domestic goddess than things are today. Lots of things are still applicable to the modern homemaker (which is everyone who runs a household, not just those who do it rather than paid work).

For example, to get the best bargains when grocery shopping, you should plan your meals in advance, but allow flexibility to see what looks good when you get to the shop. Well, this is still true. You might be able to get anything and everything regardless of season in the supermarket, but you never know what might be reduced or particularly good value when you get there.

It’s also suggested that you get to know your local shops and consider the number that you want to visit and the effort that will take compared to the potential bargains you might find. This works now. After all, there’s no point in saving money by shopping at Lidl, Aldi and Netto if you then spend a fortune in fuel getting there, is there.

My personal favourite, is when Kay advises that if you’re having guests over you shouldn’t use too many points (used for luxury goods) and so avoid making your guests uncomfortable. Which basically means, don’t show off and don’t spend more than you can afford trying to impress people. Very, very sensible advice.

If you have any interest in what domestic life was like in Britain in the post war years you should take a look at this book. It would make a truly splendid gift for a woman with a sense of humour. It’s not quite as funny as the legendaryinstructions to WWII GIs on deployment in Britain, but it’s a little more practical.

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6 comments for “rationing and running a house without help”

  1. What a lovely review. This sounds like just the kind of book I would like to read right now. Where do you think I might be able to find it?

    Posted by Maggie | July 23, 2008, 1:05 pm
  2. Agree with Maggie, good review! Do you shop at Lidl? I read a funny article in the Irish Times last week about people having to hold their nose and go there, armed with excuses about why for the neighbours. Apparently it’s decidedly NOT the done thing in Dublin.

    Posted by guinness416 | July 23, 2008, 2:41 pm
  3. Love your review. It is really interesting to hear about after the war. I did not have the opportunity to see such hard and strenuous times for women. Very powerful.

    Posted by Jane | July 23, 2008, 6:27 pm
  4. Hey I love your site. I look forward to frequenting it more often.

    Posted by beingMoneySmart | July 23, 2008, 9:29 pm
  5. I bet it’s not the done thing in Dublin. My mum used to come home with terrible tales about all *that sort* of shop.

    But now, where I live is so cheap that my nearest supermarket is Lidl and I shop there often, and do you know, what it’s ok. The beer and chocolate (two important food groups) are so good it’s not true, and mostly everything else is ace. The main reason I frequent other places is that there’s a lack of choice in Lidl, not that the food is bad.

    Posted by plonkee | July 24, 2008, 12:02 am
  6. Yeah, here’s the article … it says that Lidl stocks 2,000 products versus 25,000 for other supermarkets. That’s a pretty big difference.

    Posted by guinness416 | July 24, 2008, 1:24 am

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