With 13.4% of the UK’s population living below 60% of median incomes during Margaret Thatcher‘s govern in 1979, housewives had to make the most of their leftovers. So, what unique strategies did housewives bring to the table in order to combat this?

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In regards to Britain and Ireland’s 80s credit crunch, ESRC suggested that it was a ‘middle-class’ or ‘white-collar’ recession, unlike anything seen in the past. Due to the recession starting in the financial sector, it was argued that third level educated workers would suffer more than their semi-skilled and manufacturing counterparts. This was a stark contrast to previous recessions, whereby low-skilled, low-educated workers were the hardest hit. 

[1950s educational video on budgeting correctly for the grocery shop.]

With that in mind, here’s five less common strategies that 80s housewives employed to save money on food: 

1. Butter Wrappers.

When housewives unwrapped the foil from their butter, instead of throwing it away they would keep it in a sandwich bag. The next time they needed to grease a baking tray, they would just whip out the sandwich bag, and then “Bob’s ‘yer Uncle“. 

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2. Spice Mills.

When spice mills were empty, mother’s would buy bulk spices and refill. Good for the independent spice markets of the 80s, and good for the families.


3. FIFO.

Families used the “first in, first out” system for their perishables so that they didn’t have leftovers lurking in the fridges and cupboards. This is perhaps more commonly known today, as food labeling has become huge in both the hospitality and retail industries.

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4. Pickling.

Both fruits and vegetables were preserved through an easy pickling process. They would also have made use of the vinegar the brine produced through fermentation.


5. Sachets.

In the 80s, people used to bring back sachets of ketchup and mustard from restaurants, and then stored them in a big bowl by the fridge.

The times were hard, and while these things may sound comical now – for some, it was the harsh reality of keeping up appearances in the first world.

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To end this post on a bittersweet note, chef and campaigner, Jack Monroe, sums it up best with her own anecdotal tearjerkers.


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