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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Family Nutrition

In the mid-19th century the staple diet was bread and potatoes; fresh fruit and vegetables would only be available in season, and the protein portion was meagre. A typical list of weekly expenditures was given by Grindrod.

Chart: Typical Weekly Budget for Mid-18th Century Family with Several Children

s d
4 x 4lb loaves of bread at 8d each 2 8
5lb cheap meat, bacon etc @ 5d per lb 2 1
1 gallon ale
Half cwt coal for cooking and heating 1 2
4 lbs potatoes 1 4
3oz tea and sugar 1 6
1lb butter
1lb cheese
Half lb soap
Half lb candles for lighting
Rent 2 to 5 shillings 5 0
Milk 1 0
School fees, if State provided
Clothing, furniture, funeral fund 1 0
TOTAL 18s 7d

Since there was no Old Age Pension until 1912, the elderly continued working as long as they could, and when incapable of working they went into the workhouse unless they had family or other support.

During the Second World War the population was probably better nourished than at any previous time because of public diet education and rationing of foods to the essentials. The latter continued for eight years after the end of the war, with more and more items coming off ration as the food supply got back to normal. My last ration book is shown below and indicates that the proteins (meats, eggs, cheese and bacon), fats and sugar were the last items to be rationed as they are on the only page used.

1953-54 British Ration Book

British Ration Book.jpg
(From the personal collection of Dr. Penelope Christensen)
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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

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