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‘Memories Of The 1940s’
‘1940s Shopping Basket’
By Gibsons Puzzles

Clicking on the jigsaw box will link you directly to its Amazon ‘buy’ page

Actual Puzzle size: 490 x 685 mm

The outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 led to a deepening community spirit, a feeling that each should do his or her bit towards the war effort. As the scarcity of raw materials increased, so the packaging of everyday goods had to adapt. The labels around cans were reduced, the quality of cardboard was lowered, less printing ink was used and with fewer colours. Even products that had previously sold in tin containers were replaced by card boxes or bottles.

During the early years of the 1940s, rationing of many commodities was introduced – bacon, butter, meat, eggs, sugar, jam, canned foods, tea, sweets and other groceries were added to the list of restricted foods. Everything from soap to saucepans were in short supply. Families were encouraged to economise on fuel, ‘Dig for Victory, return empty jam jars and save waste paper for the salvage collector.

To simulate stockings women painted ‘liquid silk’ (see inside the wicker shopping basket). Another novelty product was Teafusa which allegedly increased your tea ration. Mazawattea tea ensured the contents were ‘gas proof’ with its hermetically sealed tin.

Even after the end of hostilities in May 1945, shortages and queues continued throughout the ’40s; dried egg and dried milk powder still came from the USA, and the slogan for growing your own vegetables now changed to ‘Dig for Plenty’.


Image Of Robert Opie

The items that make up this series of jigsaws come from the Robert Opie Collection, which is housed at the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London’s Notting Hill, although it was formerly housed in Gloucester, which is where I visited to view it.

Having saved the packaging and promotional materials around him since he was at school, Robert Opie gathered together the earlier story of mass manufacture from many sources.

In 1975 he held an exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum, and then in 1984 founded Britain’s first museum devoted to the story of our consumer society.

The displays give a sense of the evolving culture and life-style since Victorian times, represented through the everyday items that we all take for granted – from motor cars, telephones, holidays and entertainment, to all manner of branded groceries, sweets and household goods.

The Collection traces the changes in social taste and tempo, the whims of style and fashion, the advent of aviation, the jazz age and the gradual emancipation of women. It’s through the fabric of daily living – the song sheets, toys, souvenirs, postcards, magazines and posters – that the rich tapestry of the British way of life is woven together.

“I was struck by the idea that I should save the packaging which would otherwise surely disappear forever. The collection offers evidence of a dynamic commercial system that delivers thousands of desirable items from all corners of the world, a feat arguably more complex than sending man to the Moon, but one still taken for granted.”

Check out The Museum of Brands


“Piece together the products to picture the past once more

and taste the texture of this evocative time.”

Even though the 1940s was very much the time era of my parents and grandparents, I recognised many of the products depicted in this jigsaw, which are very much still with us today, here in the UK ! However, without having spent so long working on the puzzle, I probably wouldn’t have realised it from their appearance.

In today’s consumer marketplace, packaging and presentation are most definitely king with the average shopper and the colourful boxes, jars and tins, with their enticing advertising slogans, bear little or no resemblance to the no nonsense, basic look of the war time weekly basket.

Talking of baskets, did you spot the wicker shopping basket in the picture? no plastic carrier bags in sight here! Even as late as the 1960s, I can remember my mum sending me off to the local grocery, with a shopping list, just the right amount of money with which to pay for the goods and the ever trustworthy wicker over arm basket.

Even then, only a small amount of the overall weekly shop was pre-wrapped and stories my mother-in-law in particular can tell, of the early post war years working in her local branch of the Co-operative Store, are so interesting. She weighed out sugar and salt by the ounce and wrapped it in twists of paper; sliced cheese to the required weight by sight, with the aid of a very lethal looking cheese wire; and portioned butter into permissable weights with the aid of butter pats. All skills we have long abandoned and forgotten, in this pre-packaged age of glass and plastic.

I realise that through necessity and rationing, as much food as possible needed to be packaged suitably for storing in air raid shelters, however I’m not sure that I could stomach the thought of eating mashed potato, or dried eggs from a tin and the bottle of ‘Camp’ coffee brings back horrid childhood memories, especially when it came served with a generous amount of canned condensed milk! Is it any wonder that I hate milk of any description, so much now!

I visited the Robert Opie Collection, when it was housed in its original location at Gloucester Docks and it was an amazing experience. The displays were well thought out and presented and there were simply so many products and services represented, that a manufacturer such as Gibson’s would have no difficulty for some time to come, in obtaining material in abundance for their jigsaw puzzle design ideas.

The changing face of familiar brands can be seen, along with the products that have come and gone, but whatever my age, many of them have played a part in my life and my memories.

A quality product, a great idea concept for a ‘series’ jigsaw and definitely fun to do !

This jigsaw puzzle was a charity shop purchase. Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a purchase, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from person to person. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a 5 out of 5.

Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • We bought Mr T’s father a 1950’s jigsaw. As he has dementia he spent ages reminiscing about the various products. Sad to say he is now no longer able to do the jigsaw himself but the family are planning to do so and have it framed for him.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I just find the vintage products, packaging and advertising material so interesting.

      The museum had some of the old television adverts running on a loop and watching how women were portrayed as domestic godesses, who drank martini, babycham or snowballs, and loved to be around men who lounged about blowing cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke in their faces, was sickening!

      I’m not a huge fan of feminism, but I am so pleased that certain aspects of the way in which women in society are treated, have changed dramatically.

      My father-in-law has mid stage dimensia and whilst he can’t often even remember who we are, he can recall random pieces of information from donkeys years ago, which are often quite interesting. It really is such a soul destroying, difficult condition to deal with, isn’t it?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope that you enjoy your New Year’s Eve 🙂

  • I think puzzles along this line are quite fun to do. While quite British in most respects, I do recognize a few brands we have here and I still buy Quaker Oats. I know all the detail helps in working these puzzles, but I imagine it was fairly difficult with all the like colors, particularly the yellows.

    I still use a wicker basket, much like the one in the puzzle, when gathering tomatoes from our garden!

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Yvonne!

    • Hi Kelly,

      I’m surprised at just how many of the brands featured are still around today, although I’ll lay money that most of the companies are no longer British owned!

      Quaker Oats are still an everyday breakfast cereal, although the flavoured, individual sachet, microwaveable kind is much more used than the traditional pan boil and stir packets.

      I can always remember my dad making us oats in the mornings, although I was never very keen on the traditional way he served it with added salt rather than sugar. I guess you couldn’t get away with either method in these days of health conscious food labelling!

      I must admit that prefer my porridge flavoured rather than left plain, possibly with cinnamon or honey, although I tend to have meusli for breakfast most mornings.

      Now that here in the UK, we have to pay fo any plastic carrier bags we have, most people have reverted to ‘bags for life’, although rather than a wicker basket, most of us will fold a hessian bag as small as possible and shove it into a pocket or handbag. I must admit that although wicker baskets look the part, they are rather cumbersome, if good from a nostalgia perspective.

      A good, fun jigsaw to put together for sure.

      Have a good New Year’s Eve and Best Wishes for 2017 to you and all your family 🙂

      • I cook oats for our breakfast most every weekday morning and I prefer the “old fashioned” variety, which only take 5 minutes to cook. I’m not sure how much faster the quick cook or microwave really are, but I know they don’t have as good a texture. I prepare them in soy or almond milk with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of cardamom. My husband then likes to add honey (especially now that he has his own hives) and I either add banana slices or dried dates. The latter are quite sweet and a very tasty addition!

        When shopping, I do use the reusable bags which can be purchased for a small price from the stores. My grocery store even gives a credit (5 cents per bag) for using them. They truly are easier to tote in once I get home and I just make a point of putting them back in my car as soon as I unload them.

        Hope you’re having a nice day. I’ve already started a book and need to finish up online so I can get back to it!

        • Ha! And therein lies the problem. My reusable bags always go straight back into the boot of my car when I have unpacked the shopping.

          The only problem is, that is where they tend to stay when I go shopping the next time, as I get out of the car, rush into the store and only then do I remember my bags!!

          It is then all too easy to shrug off the cost of a few 5 pence carrier bags, when taken in context with the total cost of a big shop 🙂

Written by Yvonne