I’m looking at the introduction to ‘The A1 Cookery Book’, published in 1900 and the advice about housekeeping which is mostly about how to budget and plan, is an absolutely fascinating historical insight. A rough estimate of the equivalent value of money is 1900: £1 = 2017: £116.84. This is Helen N. Lawson’s introduction:
Hints about housekeeping
I am so often asked by young housekeepers what their weekly books ought to come to, that it may be of some help to many if I give what I have usually found to be the proportion of each book to the total sum allowed for the week’s housekeeping.
The butcher’s book comes to about 1/3 of the whole amount
The grocer’s book comes to about 1/5 of the whole amount
The dairy book comes to about 1/5 of the whole amount
The baker and confectioner’s book comes to about 1/9 of the whole amount
The greengrocer’s book comes to about 1/14 of the whole amount
The fishmonger’s book comes to about 1/14 of the whole amount
Imagine those young and new housewives trying to work out these fractions in the days before decimal coinage and calculators when there were 12pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound! Helen goes on to explain:
These figures are not absolutely correct because I wish to avoid smaller fractions, and also the amounts will vary a little from week to week; but, on the whole, the proportions are what they should be.
It so entirely depends on the kind of household that has to be provided for, as to the cost of catering for it, that it is difficult to give any hard and fast rule for the amount to be spent on food.
The usual thing is to allow 10s (10 shillings) a head per week where the expense has to be considered. In a large household this allowance is a liberal one for good plain living, and with a little skill a very good table can be kept; but for young married people, where the household is small, it is hardly sufficient unless economy dictates its necessity. It always costs much less in proportion to feed a number than a few. But taking as an example a household of six – husband and wife, three servants and usually one visitor – and a weekly allowance of £3, the books will average as follows:
£ s. d.
Butcher 1 0 0
Grocer 0 12 0
Dairy 0 12 0
Baker and confectioner 0 7 0
Greengrocer 0 4 6
Fishmonger 0 4 0
You can see that the estimated equivalent in money of 1900 to 2017 isn’t quite exact – because of course some things we have now are cheap in comparison because of the type of shops such as supermarkets that we have. However, how many of us would spend nearly £350 a week on food? How many of us have servants! Life in so many ways was so different it is really difficult to compare!