Making Do On Rations – February 1917

Surely “The Raider” (nom de plume of the editor of The Scottish Farmer) speaks unthinkingly when he says that a weekly ration of 4 lbs bread, 2 1/2 lb meat, 3/4lb sugar would be gluttony for most of us and not economy. I thought I had put down in my last week’s notes — but apparently not — that the amount of flour used in our farm household is almost double the above ration per head.

Outdoor workers on a farm eat more than 4lb of bread in a week; many of them double that amount, and some treble; for 4lb weekly is very little over 1/2lb daily. Weigh 1/2 lb of bread and divide it over three or four meals, and let “The Raider” count if it is a gluttonous portion. “Bread,” moreover, includes every kind of biscuit or cake eaten.

The other day I was speaking to a working woman, mother of a family of 10 (father a miner) eldest 16. The two elder were out at service, and that made a family of ten for which to provide, eight of these young children, the youngest 2 1/2; the father is a delicate man and not a large eater. She told me they consumed three stones of flour per week. Now the ration for that number is 30 lb — two stones 2lbs — weekly, and it ought to be very much less because of the ages of the children. When I expressed surprise, she added — “I cannot afford potatoes at 1s 9d, so we have bread to every meal.”

Let us consider the meat ration next. Half a pound daily to the principal meal comes to 1 3/4 lb weekly. And we must remember that there is not 1/4 lb eatable, for bones, skin, gristle, fat are all included; and moreover, meat shrinks and loses weight in the cooking.
Well I do not consider it gluttonous for even a sedentary city worker to eat 1/4lb of steak or chop to his dinner. There is then left only 3/4lb of meat to be spread over the entire seven days for his breakfast and supper, or late high tea. Of course, where there is a family comprising some women or a woman and children in addition to a man, 2 1/2 lb per head is too liberal. But the point I am arguing is that 2 1/2lb per week is not extravagant for the average man.

Take the sugar ration — 3/4lb weekly — four lumps or four small level teaspoons to four cups of tea, or two of tea and two of coffee, weigh about half of the 3/4lb in seven days. But four small teaspoons for hot beverages are a very poor allowance for the average person. Many take double and treble that amount. That leaves less for puddings and fruit. The latter is a serious difficulty. The simplest way to economise in sugar is to cultivate the taste for sugarless tea and coffee, thus leaving more for other uses. I hear of some sweetening their tea with syrup.

Nowhere do I find anyone making any attempt to regulate or limit their consumption if it should be above the regulation quantity. People just go on as usual buying as much as they can get, and can afford to pay for. One deplorable result of the Food Controller’s appeal was that on the following Monday, well-to-do people besieged the shops and bought up all they had store room for.

I know one lady who boasted that her pantry was like a grocer’s shop and every cupboard is packed with tinned meats, fruits, etc. This is to defeat Lord Devonport’s intention of distributing food equitably among the population so that everyone should have a modest share and prices not be forced up for the poor.

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