Gransnet forums

Eating in the 1950s ...much less choice, but we were healthier

(120 Posts)
seacliff Wed 11-Jul-18 17:21:23

I just saw this on my FB. Food for thought indeed.

We were given toast and beef dripping sprinkled with salt, and also sugar sandwiches at times! Even so, we were healthier then. I suppose because we were playing outside for hours on end, and we walked everywhere, and didn't eat between meals. Sweets were a Friday night treater brought home by my Dad.

I remember us having a Vesta curry in the mid 50s. We thought it was so exotic!

Greyduster Wed 11-Jul-18 18:19:00

Food in our house was wholesome but very plain. It was fuel, and if you didn’t like it you went hungry. I remember with the demise of the fire oven on our Yorkshire range, my mother got a De La Rue gas cooker. With it came a cookery book which my mother never even opened, but I did and was mesmerised by the recipes for such things as coq au vin, hunters chicken, Hungarian goulash, curry and other foreign delights we had never heard of and were totally unable to source the ingredients for anyway. We never bought wine for drinking, let alone cooking, and spices like paprika, and herbs other than parsley and sage, were unheard of. We didn’t eat between meals, except for a treat we were sometimes allowed a bag of chips on the way home from the cinema at the weekend.

rockgran Wed 11-Jul-18 18:41:46

I didn't think Vesta curries appeared until mid 60s. I used to have one with my boyfriend and thought we were very stylish.

travelsafar Wed 11-Jul-18 18:46:23

Oh yes i remember the lovely treacle sponges and thick custard my mum would make, her apple pies and baked rice puds. Toad in the hole, liver and bacon, steak and kidney suet pud and many more old school foodstuff, wouldn't touch it with a barge pole now though. i have been too scared by all the health warnings. !!!

seacliff Wed 11-Jul-18 18:57:30

You are right Rockgran, 1961 the Vesta curries first appeared. I don't suppose we had them until a few years later.

For desert my Mum mad a lovely sultana sponge pudding, we had it either with sugar and a lump of butter, or custard. Another was tinned fruit salad or peaches with evaporated milk, never liked that.

Cabbie21 Wed 11-Jul-18 19:00:37

I have just eaten and enjoyed a plain old fashioned meal of cold roast beef, new potatoes, runner beans and cauliflower. No additives except a little pepper and butter.

LiltingLyrics Wed 11-Jul-18 19:09:04

Yes. Vesta curries were launched by Batchelors in 1961 and still made by Premier Foods of which Batchelors is part.

The thing I remember most about growing up in the late 50s and 60s is that the big meals of the day weren't as wheat based as they can be now with burgers, pizzas, pastas etc. Cereal or toast for breakfast but other meals were predominantly meat and vegetables.

I don't remember eating cake much at all apart from special occasions whereas nowadays it's impossible to order a coffee out without a barista asking if you'd like something with it meaning cake. Sweets were a Friday treat on payday.

Grannyben Wed 11-Jul-18 19:18:57

We are now constantly told, that the best way to eat well, is to consume everything in moderation. Clearly that is what was happening in the post war period.
Obviously sugar, dripping and salt weren't a particularly healthy choice but then no ones plate would be piled high, unlike today's gigantic portions

rockgran Wed 11-Jul-18 19:29:11

We had rhubarb and custard today - with home grown rhubarb.

sodapop Wed 11-Jul-18 19:43:48

Actually as I remember it we did eat more then. A cooked breakfast, main meal at lunch time, substantial tea and something before bed.
As others have said though we were much more active.

Fennel Wed 11-Jul-18 19:55:07

We ate a lot of fish as we lived on the coast. Very little meat or chicken and the little we had was spun out for 2 or 3 days.
My Mum made lovely pastry and made a batch of pies every week - fruit and savoury.
Can't remember about fruit and veg.
We had a gas oven, as well as an oven next to the range with a coal fire.
Mum taught me how to bake cakes and biscuits, and I remember baking ginger biscuits and selling them at school. And toffee apples.

watermeadow Wed 11-Jul-18 20:14:07

We weren’t healthier, life expectancy was way lower but that doesn’t just depend on diet.
The British diet was mostly carbohydrates, potatoes, pastry, puddings, cheap white bread. Vegetables were over-cooked, people drank gallons of sweetened tea and had rotten teeth.
Most babies were bottle fed on sweetened milk.
It was stodgy and bland, designed to fill you up as cheaply as possible, also very high in animal fats. Salt was added to almost everything.
We would be much healthier now if people weren’t eating unlimited junk food.

Deedaa Wed 11-Jul-18 20:29:09

I remember we had lots of things I didn't like! I was supposed to eat all the fat on roast beef and lamb, blaaaah! Cauliflower with white sauce like wallpaper paste because my mother didn't like cheese, stringy runner beanswhich were horrid and I wasn't supposed to spit out the stringy bits. Lots of "lovely" liver! Didn't like milk, cream or custard so I was a bit limited when it came to puddings.

Luckily I did like bread and dripping with lots of salt! At least not eating much meant I was always very thin.

janeainsworth Wed 11-Jul-18 20:36:17

watermeadow well said, completely agree with you.

stella1949 Thu 12-Jul-18 01:27:26

People were thinner because we ate less and exercised a lot more. But we were not necessarily healthier - the life expectancy was way lower than now. In the 50's you could expect to live to about 65, now it's about 80. We're obviously doing something right.

seacliff Thu 12-Jul-18 06:05:08

It's true our life expectancy has risen since the 50s. No doubt medical advances have helped.

The numbers of quite young obese people are apparently increasing alarmingly, so I wonder if the average life expectantcy will fall again over the next 10 or 30 years.

Gagagran Thu 12-Jul-18 06:19:59

I remember being always hungry in the 1950s but I was very active and played a lot of sport, walked or cycled everywhere and seldom had any money for sweets!

We had excellent school dinners, cooked on the premises but then "tea" at home might be stewed apple or a tomato sandwich - both from the garden. Not a lot of meat or cake, biscuits etc. A tin of pilchards was a treat! My Mum was expert at making a little go a long way, which she had to do as we were a family of 7 and not well-to-do financially.

I often think when we go to the supermarket that there is just too much of everything there - there is no incentive to cut back and actually the opposite with the huge stocks available!

kittylester Thu 12-Jul-18 06:37:36

The rise in life expectancy has dropped now, seacliff.

Teetime Thu 12-Jul-18 09:00:28

I agree with Watermeadow- our life expectancy is greater now thanks to better diet, better housing, better medicine. I have no good memories of the stodgy diet of the 50s and 60s.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 12-Jul-18 09:28:09


I didn't think Vesta curries appeared until mid 60s. I used to have one with my boyfriend and thought we were very stylish.

I remember my mum buying the Vesta chow mein with the crispy noodles. We thought we were outrageously exotic.

merlotgran Thu 12-Jul-18 09:43:01

I also agree with watermeadow. If the diet was so healthy why were children given supplements to prevent rickets, scurvy and various winter ailments?

Grandma70s Thu 12-Jul-18 09:44:31

Towards the end of the 50s my mother started making things like spag bol. She was always a very good, inventive cook, unlike me. The amount of time she spent cooking was ridiculous though - three cooked meals a day, plus lots of baking.

Patticake123 Thu 12-Jul-18 10:13:54

I have really enjoyed reading this trip down memory lane and can identify with so many of the comments. It brought to my mind the first Chinese meal I had, around 1961. I reckon I can still tastes that exotic fried rice, it has never tasted the same since!

inishowen Thu 12-Jul-18 10:16:44

Our food came mostly from what dad grew in the garden. Snacks were a chunk of cheese, fruit from the garden, or a stick of sour rhubarb. Around 1970 I introduced mum to curry powder. She started putting it in mince, stews, anything she could think of. Dad soon put a stop to that. He liked plain food and wouldn't even eat chips.

LouLou21 Thu 12-Jul-18 10:26:59

We used to have condensed milk sandwiches, as for Vesta curries I thought they were fabulous but they made your breathe smell absolutely awful for days.