Remembering shopping experience back in 1945


As we prepare to mark 75th anniversary of VE Day on May 8, we glance back to 1945 cost of living.Here we compare the cost of living when Victory in Europe had been declared but rationing was still in place.

The day was observed on May 8, 1945, in Great Britain, Western Europe, the United States and Australia, and on May 9 in the Soviet Union and New Zealand.

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It commemorates the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied forces in 1945, ending World War II in Europe, but it was not the end of austerity for those back home.

Figures are taken from the Office for National Statistics, the AA, the Nationwide Building Society and the National Archives. Some of the results might seem a bit surprising.

Price comparison

Prices included the cost of the average house, which was £620 in 1945. That would be the equivalent of £24,800 today. The average salary was £214. Today that would be worth £8,551 - 69 per cent lower than today’s price.

The price of the average car was £310. In today’s money that would be £12,400 - 41 per cent lower than today’s prices.

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Price of a litre of fuel would have been 2p. That is 88p in today’s money. Price of a grocery shop would have been 45p. In today’s money that would be £18.03.

Ladies clothing was also rationed, but this appears to have affected the middle class buyer more than the working class customer.

Rationing introduced

When rationing was first introduced in January 1940, 66 coupons a year were issued, but this soon dropped to 48 coupons a year and, by 1945, 36 coupons a year were given to each adult.

A dress could cost 11 coupons, compared to a pair of stockings which may only cost two. Another item, men’s shoes, might cost seven coupons, with women’s shoes costing five coupons.

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In 1945 an overcoat (wool and fully lined) was a grand total of 18 coupons, man’s suit 26–29 coupons (according to the lining), with children aged 14–16 getting 20 more coupons.

Meat was of course rationed and the meagre meat allowance was confined to the delights of corned beef, and Brits were introduced to the delights of whale and horse meat.

Soap was another rationed item. Coupons were allotted by weight or (if liquid) by quantity. In 1945, the ration gave four coupons each month; babies and some workers and invalids were allowed more.

By 1945 newspapers were limited to 25 per cent of pre-war consumption. Wrapping paper for most goods was prohibited.

Different shopping experience

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Of course the shopping experience of 1945 was vastly different from what it is today.Back then there was no such thing as the regular weekly supermarket shop.

Shopping back in 1945 involved visiting individual outlets, whether that be butcher, greengrocer, baker and most other shops.

Items which included tinned goods, dried fruit, cereals and biscuits, were rationed using a points system.

The number of points allocated for each item according to the availability of that item and consumer demand. There were priority allowances of milk and eggs given to those most in need, which included

children and expectant mothers.

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Some aspects of rationing became stricter for some years after the war.

Bread, which was never rationed during wartime, was put on the ration in July 1946.

Rationing went on for many years with restrictions eventually lifted on June 30 1954, when meat stopped being rationed. That December, shop windows were piled high with sweets.