Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
I left off my last post talking about my research into the WW2 generation. The so called healthiest generation in all of history. Not only in the USA but all over the whole world. I had to know what made the 1940s such a healthy generation and why their children became the most unhealthy generation. What was their secret to staying healthy despite the food shortages and hard work? Could that be it? The secret to preventing diabetes. I thought I might be onto something. The questions you see in these posts are the questions I asked myself while researching.
What was so different between that time in history and today? Hmm… People in that generation were, for the most part, skinny. They worked much harder with less available food. People worked from sun up to sun down fighting a war. Men were fighting at the firing lines and women were fighting the war at home providing food for everyone.
People, mostly women, would hold a full time job for the war effort. Often those jobs were 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. There were no federal regulations regarding numbers of work hours or days off. Besides, it was wartime and everyone, even women and children, did their part.
Women were expected to continue the “women’s duties” at home. It was the women who did the cleaning, washing, repairing, gardening, preserving, sewing, cooking, and standing in food lines for the rations. It didn’t matter if the women worked a full shift, they were still responsible for home. They still had to budget and plan and make sure the kids were fed. There wasn’t any fast trips into a grocery to pick up frozen pizza for dinner and snacks for later. How could the women back then do all that work and still be so healthy with food rationing?
Children were expected to do their part for the war effort too. Even toddlers were taught to do chores of some type. Surviving the war was a family activity meant to benefit everyone in that family. There were no couch potatoes watching endless tv or playing video games back then. There were no malls or mega stores to hang around in looking for more crap to buy and bring home. The whole world was living frugally because it was necessary. Being frugal wasn’t a fad or a novelty. It was life. It was patriotic. It was survival. That’s the opposite of today in which shopping is the most used activity and its now considered patriotic to spend, spend, spend. Haven’t you heard the saying, spend money to help the economy? You ever wonder who came up with that phrase and who would benefit most?
So how does the struggles of WW2 help me with my diabetes? I looked at what that generation did not have. There were no fast food restraunts every few blocks. In those days fast food was how quickly Grandma or Mama could rush home, catch, pluck, and cook a chicken. Heck, even I could kill and pluck a chicken by the time I was six. I wasn’t really good at it but I thought I was. Grandma Mama would have to finish it for me. As a six year old I thought I was big stuff. Grandma Mama would just smile at me for my efforts and tell me what a big girl I was becoming.
Back then there were no over processed quick meals in giant store freezers. No microwave ovens. No kitchens with giant stoves and double ovens. I often wonder why people have those big appliances but are usually eating fast food and nuked meals. The WW2 generation would be horrified to see the large open coolers and freezers in stores today. In those days wasteful energy use just wasn’t done. There were no highly sugared drinks in giant sippy cups. People drank milk, coffee, tea, water, and if lucky lemonade or orange juice. Women knew how to juice the fruit from a tree or any wild berries. Where do you think fruit flavored tea originated? Sure, there were soda drinks back then but sodas were a treat reserved for very special occasions and came in 6 oz size returnable glass bottles.
Victory gardens were planted everywhere as a part of the war effort. Rationing meant shortages on things like milk, eggs, butter, meat, canned goods, and of course sugar. Labor and transportation of food was difficult as well because of fuel shortages. In order to eliminate the need for food transport from place to place everyone was encouraged to grow their own fruits and vegetables at or close to home. Does that sound familiar? Have you heard people today saying “buy local” to save the earth’s resources? Its an updated version of what was said during WW2. Except back then it would have been “grow” local not “buy” local. We can’t seem to get away from the buy, buy, buy, mindset can we?
Having a victory garden meant food on the table to feed a hungry family when you had no rations left. Food rations were very tiny. Vegetables from the garden kept people from starving. Vegetables were the main part of a meal with meat and dairy being only a small portion. People living in the country did well with the gardens because they’d had them all along. Folks in the city started having chickens, rabbits, ducks, and pigs living in the backyards. Some neighbors formed pig groups and shared in the raising of a pig. Pigs were fed with garden scraps. When the pig was slaughtered everyone in the group got equal shares. Victory gardens were planted in every available space including roof tops. Did the neighbors call city officials to complain about lawn grass too tall or animal smells coming from a backyard? Think about it.
Dishes that food was served on were smaller back then too. The plates were about half the size of plates today. The glasses only 6 or 8 oz instead of big half gallon guzzlers. Have a walk through a vintage store and look at the vintage dishes on display. Specifically depression era dishes which would still have been in use during WW2. You’ll see the difference. The plates of yesteryear look rather small when placed next to today’s super sized ones and compared. Oh, and there weren’t any plastic throw away dishes back then either.
Back then children were encouraged to eat everything on the plate which they obediently did. That was an idea cooked up to get kids to eat more to stay healthy. Heck, I remember getting frozen carrots on a stick instead of ice cream long after WW2 was over. Trust me, frozen carrots are not the same as iced cream.
It wasn’t hard back then to get kids to eat their vegetables because the plates were smaller, they held less, and kids were hungry. Any child who left food on a plate was admonished with phrases like “there are starving children in other countries who would love to have it” and this usually was enough to get them to eat everything on the plate. Does anybody remember being told that as a child? Did you obediently eat all the food on your plate because of the starving children in other countries? Do you still clean your plate today?
Little did anyone realize the size of the plates would start to grow and grow. As the food industry slyly got all of us to eat larger and larger meals we still have those thoughts of starving children in the sub-conscious of our minds. Those children who obediently cleaned their plates back then are still consuming everything on the super sized plates of today and so are the grand children.
TO BE CONTINUED:
P.S. I’m sorry. 🙂