Make Do and Mend

Updated: Feb 14

We sympathize with women of today multitasking their way through each day trying to save time and money while running a household and a full-time job.

During World War II British women (and European housewives) had to come up with some pretty creative ways to feed and clothe their families. There was strict rationing and sometimes no rations. Women like “Mrs. Miniver” did not exist.

Shortages were not caused by a bottleneck of ships and trucks at borders loaded with goods ordered through Amazon. What real women faced was much more serious and the shortages were more serious – did they protest? No they did not. They showed the world what they were made of with “Make Do and Mend”.

There was never enough ‘coupons’ for anything and rations - eggs, meat, butter, milk, flour and especially tea, were pretty meagre. Coupons were needed for everything: soap, vegetables, yarn, fabric – even hair ribbons.

Hand-me-downs were treasures which could be transformed into ‘new’ fashions.

Were worn out clothes tossed in the trash? No – socks were darned, sleeve elbows were darned or patched, hems were let down, tucks were let out and sheets turned side to middle. Nothing was wasted. Mothers would rip the seams out of a skirt or an overcoat so the garment could be turned inside out and resewn. Think of Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colours”.

There would be a ‘last’ in the fireplace where shoes could be mended or at least sole-shaped pieces of cardboard inserted in the shoes and toes cut out to allow for growing feet. There was never enough coupons for children’s fast growing feet.

The government would issue recipes, which were terrible, but mums came up with better tasting menus on their own – just ask your grandmother. Casseroles were pretty mysterious, usually filling, but everything was eaten – no picky eaters. Potato Peel Pie anyone?

Can women of today meet the challenge? Can we go back to using dusters, dish cloths, washcloths, facecloths and dishtowels instead of disposable paper towels tissues and wipes. Hankies instead of tissues, cloth napkins instead of paper ones. Soap - not chemicals in a bottle.

Because of the pandemic people have found out they can do without some things and were cooking at home making hearty soups and stews.

With high inflation looming over our shoulders and food prices rising every week this might be a good time to remind everyone how to trim excesses with processed food and plastic and paper disposables.

All of this is a drop in the bucket in terms of world climate change, but small beginnings snowball into colossal blessings.


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