As cleaning products and baking goods flew off the shelves in the last few weeks, it’s fair to say we’ve seen the worst of people during COVID-19. From product hoarders to fights in supermarket aisles, to a younger generation who mostly felt social distancing rules need not apply, even the most sensible of us felt the desperation of going without creeping in. The world was in need of a reality check.
In light of current events, our very own Tony Eades (Chief Strategy Officer) and Maria Eades (Director of People & Culture) took a creative approach to the crisis, inspired by how people coped with food scarcity during World War II—by using rations. After doing some research online the decision was made; the family of four would live a week as if in the war-torn ‘40s without the abundance of food luxuries that we normally enjoy and admittedly, take for granted. The Eades’ prescribed to the Ministry of Food’s ration book of 1942, an unexpectedly relevant guide for the COVID-19 age, and sought recipe inspiration from The Country Women’s Association Cookbook of 1936 which is still a bestseller to this day.
In preparation for their ‘ration challenge,’ the Eades’ family stocked up for the week with a sensible allowance including three sausages, 100 grams of bacon, 50 grams of cheese, a few eggs and almost two litres of milk per person. For the most part, it was actually simpler and easier to find these supplies at the supermarket than it would have been doing a regular grocery shop. Only in-season fruit and vegetables weren’t rationed which meant potatoes were a feature on the menu, dripping replaced Extra Virgin Olive Oil for cooking and Irish brown bread was made from scratch on the daily. Thankfully, many of the recipes found in The Country Women’s Association Cookbook were hearty meals perfect for chilly autumn weather.
As it turns out the Eades family loved the simplicity of life with bare cupboards, zero food waste and just 50 grams of ordinary black tea per person—all the options of chai, peppermint, jasmine, green and rosehip had been removed. After a week of surprisingly tasty meals, like porridge with jam for breakfast, eggs on toast for lunch and vegetable broth with pork ‘dumplings’ (using just two sausages, dripping and parsley) for dinner, they had little leftover. We can imagine they even lost a little off the waistline too!
So, what did Tony and Maria learn from a week on a World War II diet?
Even if you’re not keen on adopting a ration-style diet, there are still important lessons you can take away from the Eades family’s experience.
First of all, when your life or business throws you a massive curveball and you’re struggling to keep on as normal (think COVID-19), don’t lay down and die. Sure, pasta and canned vegetables were hard to come by just as leads dried up for some SMEs, but this is where you start flexing your creative thinking muscles and adapt in the best way you can. As an example of this, testing out a virtual trade show in place of your regular in-person event attendance might be your equivalent of Tony’s experimental ‘dumpling’ soup - it’s simple, creative and effectively solves a problem.
Secondly, find ways to do more with less. Maybe your team has downsized or budgets have been cut, or both. We can understand how scary this might feel especially when coupled with the uncertainty of our current world, so remember to choose an abundance mindset: focus on what you have and how you can leverage it, not on what you think you lack. While you ride this wave you and your team may need to wear multiple hats, learn skills fast and jump in on to assist on new initiatives. And that’s okay, so long as you support one another and stick to your goals (or ration book). Just as Tony and Maria endured WWII minimalism and made the most of their weekly rations, you too can do a lot with a little.
Remember, all crises come to an end eventually. It’s up to you to take action and make the most of the circumstances thrown at you, so you come out on top (and maybe with some cooking know-how) beyond COVID-19.