Saturday, 15 August 2015

Saving Food

From the Abergavenny Chronicle, 13th August, 1915.



Hints on the subject of economy in food are given in an article supplied by the Parliamentary War Savings Committee.  It is based on a booklet, compiled with the assistance of experts, to be issued shortly by the Committee.  Stating that the great bulk of our food supplies comes from abroad, and that vast sums of money have to be sent out of this country to pay for it, and vast numbers of ships and men have to be constantly employed in carrying it, the article continues:

Every scrap of food that is wasted, therefore, means a dead loss to the country in money, ships, and men.  If spread over a year it would be found that millions of pounds had been absolutely lost in this way, and that many ships and men had been making useless voyages when they were so badly needed by the country for other work.

If all the food that is now being wasted could henceforth be saved and properly used, the country would have more spare money; more spare ships, and more spare men to devote to the war; each family would have more money to save and invest, and the prices of food materials would be kept down.

There is another side of the food question in which every one of us can help to strengthen the position of our country in the face of the enemy.

We can consume less of certain foods which are more difficult to obtain in full quantities in war time, and which, therefore, rise in price.  In the case of some of these—meat, for example—we can replace them, in part at any rate, by other food materials which are cheaper and more plentiful.

In ordinary times we get about half the meat which is consumed in this country from abroad.  This is carried frozen in ships which have to be specially built for the purpose, and are, therefore, limited in number.  Since the war began these ships have had to carry meat not only for our civil population and our Army, but also for the French Army.  It has, therefore, been a difficult task to keep up the foreign meat supply, and some shortage of this must be expected to continue.  It is this shortage which has raised the price of meat, and may lead to our cows, which should be kept for milk, being killed for meat.  This shortage of meat would disappear, the price of meat would fall, and our milk supply would no longer be threatened, if everyone were to eat less meat than they have been accustomed to, especially during the summer and autumn months.  Most people would not suffer in the least in health or strength by so doing, especially if they were to include in their diet a fair proportion of food which can supply the same kind of nourishment as meat.

Cheese is one of the best and most useful substitutes for meat. Weight for weight it contains more of this particular kind of nourishment than meat itself.  Milk and skim milk also contain this form of nourishment in a high degree.

Peas, beans, and lentils also contain these properties, and after thorough cooking should be freely used where the amount of meat in the diet is reduced.

It is on bread that most of us rely for our main nourishment.  Four-fifths of the wheat from which bread is made comes from abroad.  Bread is the article which is most commonly wasted of all our food materials, and it is the one which the circumstances of this war require to be most carefully husbanded.
There are two ways in which bread can be economised without any real stint: —
1. By using every crust and crumb of it for food and throwing none of it away.
2. By only using bread which is at least twenty-four hours old.

Fresh bread is not so easily digested as bread which is a day old. The latter is more satisfying and less of it needs to be eaten.


Immense quantities of food materials, such as barley, wheat, and maize, are used in this country for the manufacture of beer and spirits.  As beer and spirits are almost valueless as food, and can only be classed as luxuries pure and simple, all this grain is lost for food purposes.  If this grain were available for food, both for man and beast, the prices of bread and meat would be lowered.  It has been estimated that the average expenditure on alcoholic drinks in this country amounts to something over 6s. 6d. per family per week.  If every family in the land were to cut their drink bill down by, say, one-half and invest the saving on this one item in the War Loan, the amount would come to £80,000,000 per annum.  The waste in lowered ability to work now resulting from the consumption of alcohol would be largely removed, and the gain in national working capacity would be even greater than is represented by this monetary gain.


In ordinary years we buy from abroad goods (imports) to a considerably greater value than we sell abroad (exports).  This normal difference is met by the earnings of our shipping and by the interest we receive from our investments abroad and banking and other services that we render to foreigners.  But the present abnormal excess leaves a balance against us which has to be paid for in hard cash—that is, by sending gold out of the country, or by selling securities abroad, or by borrowing abroad.  As it happens, many of the goods we buy from abroad are "luxuries," i.e., things we could do without altogether, or, at any rate, use much more sparingly.  Some are things we cannot grow at home, like tea and tobacco, wine and pineapples; others, like silk manufactures, are things of which we import the greater part of what we use.  Hence, when we are told to save on imported things, it means more especially saving on "luxuries."

[Feeding everyone - the civilian population and the armed forces - was already becoming difficult, and would become much more difficult as the war went on.  

It's interesting that the article warns against eating fresh bread - I remember that when I was a child, fresh bread was thought to be very indigestible.  Fortunately my mother didn't apparently believe that - one of my earliest memories is eating the end off a fresh loaf while coming home from the shops with her. And then at home she would tear off the top crust  (it was a tin loaf, so the top crust was the brownest bit) and spreading it liberally with butter for me and my sister.]  

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