With many around the world already struggling to find enough to eat, global food shortages in the very near future seem almost inevitable.

What’s even more remarkable is that in spite of this, the UK throws away millions of tonnes of food each year.

The environmental cost of food production and the sheer lunacy of chucking away edible food is currently being made clear to the public through high profile campaigns such as Love Food Hate Waste and Channel 4’s Fish Fight.

All of which got me thinking of someone a little less high profile and a lot less current.

My Gran.

Never, to my knowledge, has Gran thrown away anything that could be reused, composted or force-fed to unwilling grandchildren. You see, like most people of her generation, the impact of food shortages and rationing throughout her childhood has given Gran a respect for food and an understanding of its true value.

But what was rationing really like? I decided to find out, by spending a week living off the amount of food that was available during the last year of the war.

Having recovered from the shock that espresso and pinot grigio weren’t considered essential food items in 1945, I set about making my shopping list:

  • 1 pint of milk
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 16 tea bags
  • 1 tin of baked beans
  • 113g ham
  • 227g sugar
  • 540g meat
  • 1 egg
  • 57g butter
  • 113g margarine
  • 57g cheese
  • 1 jar of marmalade
  • 1 small bag of dried raisins

Fruit and vegetables weren’t rationed, but were often in short supply, and many people grew their own. So, for the purposes of this experiment, I stuck with seasonal UK produce. Late winter fruit and veg includes apples, pears, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, Savoy cabbage and the delightful swede.

The first couple of days were a dream. I morphed in a ‘50s housewife, making wholemeal bread and butter pudding (delicious), brewing tea in a pot to save on teabags, and convincing myself I liked the taste of marmalade.

By day 3 I was seriously hungry, and consumed the entire remains of my meat and cheese allowance.

The cheating started around day 4, when I ran out of tea and switched back to coffee. The “but crisps are made from potatoes and potatoes were available during the war” type arguments with myself also kicked in at this point. My most serious cheat was milk though- I ended up drinking 2 pints of the white stuff over the course of the week, twice as much as I was allowed.

Days 5, 6 and 7 were spent eating carrot and swede soup, and a miserable recipe of my own creation consisting of ham, cabbage and potatoes fried in margarine.

The results? Well, I lost 5 lbs, acceptable for a post-Christmas detox, but potentially dangerous in the long term. My weekly food shop cost a respectable £15, the equivalent of five large cappuccinos or two takeaways or one bottle of wine at a restaurant.

Would we cope with a restricted diet in the event of a global food crisis? Probably. Could we all make more effort to use up our leftovers and spend a bit more time thinking about our food consumption? Definitely. Would we be prepared to sacrifice our own luxuries and comfort so that others have enough food to survive? That remains to be seen.

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