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Curbly Recession Busters: What your Grandparents knew.

by on Oct 27, 2008

Leafing through a copy of The Home Front  – The Best of Good Housekeeping 1939-1945 is something of a revelation. The British magazine’s wartime editions reminded
me that our grandparents, especially those who lived in Europe during
that time, knew a few things about privation, making do and surviving
an unimaginably difficult time.

Advice like ‘Don’t forget your gas mask’ and ‘Save your coupons’
inspire pride that our little island and the people on it survived
horrors with determination and spirit; but they’re
not terribly useful these days (thank goodness). But, ‘Grow
more vegetables’ and ‘Turn off the light when you leave a room’ stand the test of time.

Here are a few examples of the kind of advice your Grandma got, why it was useful then and why it applies today.

Make Do and Mend‘ was an idea that applied to
everything from bed linens to shoes and clothes. According to G.H. editor
Phyliss Garbut ‘To wear clothes that have been patched and darned –
perhaps many times – is to show oneself a true patriot’. It’s hard to
imagine mending clothes these days (I’m not even sure what darning is), but it’s good advice, both financially and
environmentally, when it comes to home stuff. The real trick
is to find something that you like enough to stick with; two sets of
good quality high count sheets rotated weekly will last for AGES.  Same
goes with towels. Finding ways to re-use stuff when it does get to be
‘past it’ is a good thing too, for example sheets can be turned into
pillowcases, comforters can be turned into padded headboards.

Learn to do it yourself‘ I was completely
charmed to see that in the opinion of the Good Housekeeping Institute
circa. 1942 that ‘every woman should know how to mend an electric fuse,
fasten the head on a broom and re-washer a dripping tap’. I might add
‘change a light fixture’ and maybe ‘put up or replace tiles’ to the

Plan A Weekly Menu In Advance‘ Because of rationing and
availability issues this was super important.  Fuel rationing meant
that firing up the oven for just one meal was pretty much a no-no.
Advice included  ‘fill the oven to capacity every time it is on’ and
‘Cook complete meals in your steamer’, both still good ideas. Having a
menu planned in advance also lets you plan your shopping time with
military precision and not wander aimlessly and impulse buy. A bit of
forethought also allows for creative leftover usage. Win Win.

Don’t forget your shopping basket‘ – for a generation of
women who had their groceries delivered having to tote them home
themselves -to save petrol (gas) from being used by delivery vehicles-
was a rotten surprise. Baskets were important because plastic bags
didn’t exist and paper was a ‘salvagable’ war material needed to make
munitions. Today, while there’s something intrinsically pleasing about
a good solid basket a fold-up fabric grocery bag does the job nicely
and is good for the planet.

‘Salvage! Salvage! Salvage!’ Finding, saving and recycling
paper, metal, rubber and bones was a major part of the home-front war
effort. Bones were used to make nitroglycerin, paper for shell casings,
tin for ammunition. Today, your old milk cartons are more likely to be
turned into things like these, but recycling is still an important, if slightly less direct, way to save the planet.

And above all,

created on: 10/27/08

After all, things could be a lot worse.

Keep Calm poster available from here.

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