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Category Archives: Preparedness

Holland’s Menaced Frontier, February 1940

My grandfather was Dutch. He emigrated to Australia in 1956 and when I was a teenager he told me stories of his time in the war. He was in the bicycle Corp of the Dutch Army, and told many tales (some exaggerated I’m sure) of being in work gangs for the Germans. My grandmother gave birth to two children during his ‘internment’. 

 This page made my think of today’s media, where sometimes we ignore or pass over what’s happening, thinking, “it won’t happen” or “it doesn’t affect me.” This is from 3 February 1940. Germany invaded Holland on 10 May 1940.



15 Lessons Learned from “The 1940s House”

I have just been rewarding the wonderful BBC Series “The 1940s House”, and each time I get something different out of it. Here are fifteen lessons I learnt this time –

  1. The utilities were often cut off after bombing raids – water, power, gas. Be prepared. Store bottles of water and some easy to prepare food ( a 3 week to 3 month supply is a good start). Have a back up way of heating water and food.  Learn how to make a fire without matches.
  2. Grow a vegetable, herb and fruit garden for food, barter and healing (like comfrey for sprained ankles).
  3. Keep chickens and ducks for eggs. Be prepared to breed and butcher your own if you want to eat meat. Think about other small animals for meat and fertiliser, like rabbits and cavies. (People did actually resort to “roof hare” in war torn Europe ie. Cat). Get into aquaculture – fish are often easier to farm than cute and furry animals!
  4. If you have room, get a milk goat or two and a couple of beehives. Dairy foods and sweetners were rationed and hard to get.
  5. Learn to cook from scratch – especially basics like bread, stews and basic yoghurt and cheeses. Practice with powdered agh and milk and have some on hand.
  6. Learn to sew and have a good sewing kit so you can “make do and mend.”
  7. Have ” no tech” days – turn off the TV and cook, cool and heat without power. 
  8. Have a stock of real books and games for entertainment when the power goes down. Get the kids to make their own board game. Learn an instrument. 
  9. Keep a diary, or blog, or write letters to keep your language alive and your brain active.
  10. Cut down or cut out the alcohol, unessessary drugs and cigarettes, otherwise you may need to quit cold turkey.
  11. Shop locally and eat fresh (to back up your own home grown), walk to the shops and leave the car at home. It saves waste, can be cheaper and healthier and is better for the planet.
  12. If you want a job and can’t get one, volunteer – it can give you a boost as well as helping others.
  13. Keep a couple of lipsticks and hair dye kits (if you use them) on hand. They can boost morale. 
  14. Also keep a stock of toilet paper – it is REALLY important! Moisturiser, toothpaste and soap are also important. 
  15. Be nice to your family members, and ensure your children know to to do basic chores!

Living with wartime rationing – the after thoughts

So if you have followed our one week rationing journey you will have seen that we did pretty well eating on rations.  We didn’t starve, we ate healthy, and I actually lost about 1/2kg. It has inspired me to continue eating the wartime way.

But it was only for one week. I had a store of food in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, chickens in the backyard and some fruit and veg growing In the garden. What I didn’t have, as wartime women would have experienced, was the following – 

  • Blackouts and restrictions that went with that;
  • War work, different work to my normal routine that could have involved travelling a long way;
  • Shortages, such as paper, toilet paper, food, fuel and queuing;
  • An outside toilet;
  • Carrying a gas mask;
  • Extra child evacuees, to look after and feed;
  • Fear – of bombings, air raids, gas attack, invasion or death of a loved one.


1940ss tips to conquer fear

1940ss tips to conquer fear

What I did have that makes modern life so much easier –

  • A washing machine
  • Hot running water
  • An inside bathroom  and toilet
  • A fridge and freezer
  • An electric stove and oven
  • A car and fuel to run it
  • A husband at home
  • Children at home, who are (reasonably) safe
  • Easy communication with phone and email
  • Instant access to recipes and books online
  • Television
  • A coffee machine

What we did before delonghi

Now I don’t want to give up all of my mod cons, but I am happy to go back to wartime food. It was cheap, filling and basic, and it was healthy. Sometimes I felt I used too much fat, but there were no hidden fats in war time cooking – any fat we ate was honest , as was the sugar. I knew what was in every morsel. There were no suspect food additives that I couldn’t pronounce – my bread, unlike supermarket bread, or McDonalds bread, contained flour, yeast, oil, orange juice, salt and water, my roast potatoes just potatoes and dripping and my eggs were from my own wheat and bug fed chickens! And although we did eat some nitrates ( the suddenly newest baddest carcinogen) in our bacon, the amount of bacon we ate was small compared to the modern standard diet.

I now want to make even more from scratch. Like making butter from cream, yoghurt and cheese from milk and growing more of our own (pesticide free) vegetables. I spent the morning putting up a new fence for the poultry and extending my vegetable growing area, and in the cool of the afternoon I planted seedlings that I had grown.

The ducks and chooks in their new enclosure, under the coffeebush and mango tree

The ducks and chooks in their new enclosure, under the coffeebush and mango tree. The black hose comes from the washing machine and waters the bananas

Back in my 20s, prekids but wanting to make the planet better before having any, I was an Eco- greenie- vegetarian warrior. Somewhere over the last twenty years I’ve become a middle aged-too busy-have money can buy guzzler. That’s about to change! I hope you’ll follow the journey, as well as stay around for more history and wartime bits and pieces.

Wartime Food Storage Tips

This wartime article from 1944 has great tips on how to store food in your fridge and pantry, and how to store things if you don’t have a fridge. Not everyone had a fridge in the 1940s – I know my grandparents didn’t have one until the 1960s, and used a Coolgardie safe instead, a very basic form of fridge which works on the simple principle of evaporative cooling, developed from the old meat safe.



I already have a cat, so I am off to a good start!  I think we may try and build a coolgardie safe next – some ideas here, and a plan for a meat safe here.

Packing an Emergency Kit


Now that I have my month’s of food and water stored, I am organizing our emergency kits.  Back in 1942, this grey wool coat and “matching knapsack that carries a supply of sandwiches and a first aid kit” was the height of fashion and practicability – but today I am looking for a little more.


The prepping blogs I have been reading suggest keeping a 72 Hour Kit in the boot of the car  – complete with water filters, a first aid kid, baby wipes, food, and a whole lot more.  You can read more about putting one of these kits together here, herehere and here.

After driving for five hours to take my daughter to university, getting lost in the town for nearly two hours (in the rain, at night), and driving back home another five hours in more rain, I almost wish I’d had a 72 hour kit with me so I could have camped out at a rest stop and avoided the trucks and speeding drivers trying to kill themselves in a storm.  Luckily I had a pillow, a block of chocolate and a thermos of tea to keep me going.  I did forget to pack a book though.  And a bucket may have been handy – trying to find a toilet in a storm is not fun.

My phone also stopped working – apparently the car charger overcharged it and it got too hot – so I couldn’t contact anyone to let them know where I was (or take photos of tail gating and speeding idiots).  Now I am thinking an emergency radio may be a good idea too.  And a real paper map.

So this month I will work on my emergency 72 hour kit for the car, designed for 6 of us, which I plan to store in a waterproof plastic crate.

My planned kit is fashioned after what the Survival Mom calls ‘The 5S kit’


  • A 6-pack of toilet paper, flattened, with cardboard tubes removed
  • A bucket
  • Sanitary supplies, sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Baby wipes, dienfectant wipes and flat bag of tissues
  • Tube of hand sanitizer and bar of soap
  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss
  • hairbrush, hair-ties, bobby pins
  • latex gloves


  •  First Aid handbook and kit
  • Extra essential medicines and repeat prescriptions
  • Blankets (I like to fold these into a pillow)
  • Two torches
  • Rain ponchos (large garbage bags) and umbrella
  • Sandshoes/socks for everyone
  • Rope and 4WD bands for getting out of trouble or getting towed
  • Knife
  • Battery/solar-powered emergency radio
  • Ground cover / Tarp
  • Work gloves
  • Waterproof matches
  • Whistle
  • Small water filter
  • Collapsible shovel
  • sewing kit and scissors
  • Change of clothes for everyone, stored in plastic bags


  • pepper spray
  • maps
  • list of emergency phone numbers
  • paper copies of identification
  • Scanned copies of important documents on a USB memory stick
  • cash money in smallish bills


  • pad of paper and textas
  • deck of cards
  • a few books/mags
  • mobile phone charger


  • water and water filter
  • small fuel stove
  • instant soup, oatmeal, tea, coffee, hot chocolate
  • non-perishable/freeze dried meals, chocolate, bars etc

I feel like I am back in Girl Guide days – ‘Be Prepared”!

My Menu Plan and Shopping List

After reading Wendy De Witt’s book, and other resources, I have got my food storage plan.  Wendy advocates having a one year food supply, but I am aiming for one month at present, and will build this up as I can.

The Steps

  1. Make a list of foods you eat on a regular basis (I used my two week menu plan), and determine how much you would go through in four weeks (8 weeks etc).
  2. Gradually purchase these foods in bulk as they go on sale.
  3. Store the bulk foods appropriately to preserve their life. Date them.
  4. Re-organise the pantry to fit everything in, or find other places to store things.
  5. Use and rotate these foods in all your daily cooking.
  6. Constantly replenish the stocks of these foods as they go on sale again.
  7. Also get a four week (8 week etc) supply of NECESSITIES such as medications, toilet paper, toiletries, nappies etc.
WWI Propaganda Poster

WWI Propaganda Poster

Here’s my two week menu – I like to bake my own bread, and cakes/biscuits for the kids for morning and afternoon tea(must look at different ways of baking). Drinks are water, tea and coffee, fruit juice occasionally, and wine now and then.  We have jelly for dessert some nights, but usually dessert is only with vegetarian meals. In Winter the bircher muesli is made into porridge (cooked oats with sugar or applesauce/tin fruit and cream)

Saturday – Bake rolls, bread and cake tonight

Breakfast – Bircher Muesli (soaked oats, fruit, yogurt)

Lunch – Eggs and Tomato on toast

Dinner – Homemade hamburgers and rolls

Sunday – 

Breakfast – Pancakes and honey/jam

Lunch – Soup – usually homemade ‘clean out the fridge’ soup

Dinner – Roast meat with veggies, baked rice pudding


Breakfast – Weetbix with fruit

Lunch – Sandwiches with left over roast meat

Dinner – Vegetable stir fry with rice/noodles, fruit and custard

Tuesday – Bake rolls, bread and cake tonight

Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Lunch – tin salmon and lettuce sandwiches

Dinner – Spinach triangles (spinach/cheese/eggs in pastry) with salad/veggies


Breakfast – Egg and toast or honey

Lunch – Cheese and tomato Sandwiches

Dinner – Spaghetti and meatballs/ Spag Bolagnaise.


Breakfast – Weetbix and fruit

Lunch – mini quiches/omelettes or fritata (egg and vegies)

Dinner – pumpkin/veg risotto or chilli made with left bolagnaise and beans

Friday – Bake bread and cake tonight

Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Lunch – cheese and pickle or lettuce sandwiches

Dinner – Fishcakes (tin fish) with salad/veggies

Week Two

Saturday – Bake rolls, bread and cake tonight

Breakfast – Bircher Muesli (soaked oats, fruit, yogurt)

Lunch – Eggs and Tomato on toast

Dinner – Homemade pizza


Breakfast – Pancakes and honey/jam

Lunch – Soup – usually homemade ‘clean out the fridge’ soup

Dinner – Roast meat with veggies, baked rice pudding

Monday -Bake rolls, bread and cake/cookies tonight

Breakfast – Weetbix with fruit

Lunch – Sandwiches with left over roast meat

Dinner – Vegetable/corn fritters with salad/veg, fruit and custard


Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Lunch – egg and lettuce sandwiches

Dinner – Stew with meat/veg

Wednesday –Bake rolls, bread and cake tonight

Breakfast – Egg and toast or honey

Lunch – Cheese and tomato Sandwiches

Dinner – Roast chicken/pieces with veg and baked dessert


Breakfast – Weetbix and fruit

Lunch – mini quiches/omelettes or fritata (egg and vegies)

Dinner – (leftover) chicken/veg risotto


Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Lunch – cheese and pickle or lettuce sandwiches

Dinner – Tuna/salmon (tin fish) broccoli/zucchini pasta

Serving sizes are according to needs, and in summer I do more salads and less cooked veggies, and meat is done on the charcoal bar-be-que rather than inside. I also want to investigate more ‘off-grid’ cooking like solar cookers.

Treats include crisps and dark chocolate.

Wartime Shopping

Wartime Shopping

So this is my Two Week Shop

 Eggs  2 doz
 Meat Cubed 1kg  Dairy Butter 1kg
Minced 2kg Tasty Cheese 1kg
Chicken 1.5kg Cottage cheese 500g
Roasting piece 1-2kg Parmesan 250g
Pets Dog biscuits 6kg Cream 1 bottle
Cat Biscuits 2kg (inc long life) Milk 7 litres
Chook food 4kg Yoghurt 1kg
Bones/meat 1-2kg Frozen Ice-cream 2 litres
Flea stuff 1 pkt Filo pastry 1 pkt
Berries 1 box
Tin Baked Beans 4 Peas 1pkt
Other Beans 4 Dry pasta 4 x 500g
Coconut milk 2 Rice -arborio 500g
Corn/veg 4 Rice -long 500g
tomatoes 4 Lentils -red 500g
Fish tuna/sal 4 Lentils brown 500g
Meat 2 Rolled Oats 1kg
Fruit 4 Sugar 1kg
Jars Pickles 250gm Flour -plain 4kg
Tomato paste 250g Flour w/m 2kg
Honey/Jam 250g Wheat-bix 1 box
Vegemite 250gm Gelatine 1 Box
Peanut butter 250g Flav jelly 4 box
Minced garlic 250g yeast 1 box
Sun-dried tom 250g Bread improve 1 box
Chut/Must 250gm coffee 500g
Sauce soy/tom I bottle Tea earl grey 1  250g box
Other Nuts 500g Tea plain 1 250g box
Oil 1 litre spices 1 pkt
Chocolate 4 blocks Bi-carb/bak 1 box
Crisps 2 pkts Special baking 1 thing
Vegetables Broccoli 1kg Fruit citrus 2kg
Carrots 4kg apples 4kg
potatoes 4kg bananas 4kg
mushroom 1kg soft 2-4kg
greens 4 bunch tropical 2-4kg
onions 2kg Toiletries Toilet paper 14 rolls
pumpkin 1kg Shampoo/con 1 each
Sweet pot 1kg toothpaste 1 tube
zucchini 1kg Deodorant 1
other 1kg tissues 1 box
Cleaning DW liquid 500ml
Laundry liquid 1litre
Toilet cleaner 500ml

So my aim is to get two x two weeks worth, even the fresh fruit and veg,which I would like to dehydrate.  I don’t have a canner/bottling unit and present, but may try and get one.  I usually get a dozen eggs a fortnight, even if the chickens are laying, as we use a lot of eggs for baking and meals. I will try and find dry/powdered egg – that wonderful wartime staple!

So now to organizing the pantry, so I can fit in this food when I get it…..

Be Prepared – My New Journey Begins – Day 1

Wartime women (and men) were resourceful – that’s a given. But how prepared were they all for the deprivations of war? Largely they grew a lot of their own food, knew how to store it and had the basic ability to fix and repair items when they broke, or could reuse or re-purpose them – flour bags into dress for example.  In addition, they did not spend their money foolishly (or use credit).  Of course I doubt that they all had stockpiles of food, blankets or clothing, and we know that many people had to learn from scratch how to raise rabbit sand chickens, and even how to grow and store vegetables. But many did.  My grandparents did.  And I know that after the war, when they moved to Australia, my grandparents always had a veggie garden, chickens until they were older, and a full pantry. (They also kept their cash under the mattress and in a tin in the garden, just in case the Germans came again).

Canning for Victory, WWI Poster

Canning for Victory, WWI Poster

Now, I hope that we are never faced with times like those again, but even in this day and age it does not hurt to be prepared. You may not believe in global warming or peak oil (or even zombies), but anyone can be hit by illness (or a local epidemic) , job loss, a transport (and thus supplies) strike  or an extreme weather event.

Here in North Queensland we have just had a near miss from Cyclone Dylan – and even then our power was out for two days. (It turned out the power connection on the street had issues, and we had no neutral coming into the house, and 120 volts going through our taps, so it could have been a lot worse.) Anyway, despite having tins of beans, candles and bottles of water, I felt unprepared.  With four children at home to feed and clothe (and  buy new school books for), I haven’t worried too much about getting the recommend ‘Cyclone Kit’ ready.  I always figure I’ll just jump in the 4WD and go.  Wrong!  The wind and rain here were so strong, I didn’t want to go outside.  I need to be prepared to stay home without power and water, and prepared to evacuate  if necessary.

So the slant of my blog is going to change. I will still look at history and try and learn from it, and the women during WWII, but I also want to record and share my attempt at becoming more self-reliant, and prepared for an emergency. I also want to learn some survival skills, and instill some of these skills into my children – what if the cyclone hit while they were at school, for example, what would they do and how would they cope?

If you have ever watched some of the BBC reality history shows where families go back in time (Turn Back Time, the Family, or Coal House etc) you will have seen how modern people cope, or don’t cope, with the harshness of conditions in the past.  I don’t want to be the mother who sits in the chair and cries, or the one with the whingy children nobody can stand.

So I need to start prepping.  Slowly.  Cheaply.  I’ll just do one small preparation a day.  If I don’t have any extra money to purchase something, then I’ll work on a new skill like tying knots, or sorting out the pantry, or even read a blog or book for inspiration.  My first goal is to store up four weeks supply of food and water.  Sounds easy, but just how much do we, a family of six, two dogs, a cat and three chickens, need for four weeks?

what's in the larder WWII

To start with I am turning to Wendy DeWitt.  She is a well-known and respected lecturer on preparedness, and specifically food storage.  She has created a food storage method around planned meals to suit each family size.  You can find her on youtube, and you can also download a copy of her “Everything Under the Sun” book on food storage. Wendy generously shares her wisdom and experience by offering this book at no cost, but you can also get a copy of her DVD here.

Day One – read Wendy De Witt’s book and others, and make a food storage plan

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