Mrs Thatcher says ‘I've been misunderstood’—and lists the contents of her food store
Margaret lifts the lid off her larder
‘I'm not a hoarder—just a prudent housewife’
Penny—Wise Mrs Margaret Thatcher flung wide the door of her larder yesterday.
Then the Tory spokesman on economic affairs, who has admitted squirrelling away groceries as a hedge against inflation, hit back at her critics.
‘I resent being called a hoarder,’ she said. And to prove that she isn't, she listed the contents of her stockpile, which sits on a shelf on top of a china cabinet:
Eight pounds of granulated sugar;
One pound of icing sugar (‘for Christmas’);
Six jars of jam;
Six jars of marmalade;
Six jars of honey;
Six tins of salmon ‘to make salmon mousse’;
Four 1lb. cans of corned beef;
Four 1lb. cans of ham;
Two 1lb. cans of tongue;
One tin of mackerel;
Four tins of sardines;
Two 1lb. jars of Bovril;
Twenty tins of various fruits;
‘One or two’ tins of vegetables ‘but we don't really like them from a tin.’
Mrs Thatcher, a contender for the Tory Party leadership, angered housewives and MPs in a magazine article in which she said she had been stockpiling tinned food for ‘some time’.
And Left-Wing Labour MP Mr Dennis Skinner gleefully seized on the subject in the Commons. He asked Mr Wilson to extend the wealth tax to include food hoarders.
Mrs Thatcher's reply to them all: ‘I have been misunderstood, badly misunderstood.’
As she swept between appointments and the House of Commons, the dynamic wife of a well-to-do oil company executive went on: ‘I resent being called a hoarder.
‘My advice was meant for people approaching retirement. These are people who cannot afford to ignore market trends, and in addition many of them are infirm and find that going out regularly to buy food is a great inconvenience.
‘I urged people to look to the future, and I think that this policy is a sound one. I am astonished at the criticism that greeted the article. Absolutely astonished!
‘I keep a good stock of food at home for several reasons. The main one is that with prices shooting up, it seems to me to be an eminently prudent piece of housekeeping.
‘Another is my way of life. Sometimes I cannot get to the shops but when I do I take notice of special offers. When I see an offer, I snap it up.
Mrs Thatcher, 49-year-old mother of two, went on: ‘People living in small towns and villages always used to have a store cupboard. They used to keep eggs in waterglass and produce in Kilner jars.
‘And when we use up a tin of salmon or a jar of marmalade I tend to buy two more. It is all a case of gradually, steadily building up a comfortable supply.’
‘Now this kind of thing has been taken over by the deep freezers, which are selling like hot cakes. Everyone stocking up a freezer is not being called a wicked hoarder.
‘I'm just doing the same thing on a smaller scale and I am being criticised for it. The only real difference is that I am not using electricity.’
Mrs Thatcher, who declared that spending money in this way was much better than on bingo or smoking, said that she estimated that her profit from long-term shopping was about 3p or 4p a tin. ‘And remember these are new pence. I must save a considerable amount over a period.’
Her advice to people who wish to follow her example: ‘Buy tins of fruit. They contain sugar and anything with sugar in it is going up in price. I bought quite a lot of special offer tins at 19p each and they are worth much more now.’
Mrs Thatcher's political wanderings, particularly in early summer, take her to a number of Conservative bazaars. That is the source of her honey supply.
‘I bought some this year at 30p a jar. Now I think it would cost at least 44 pence,’ she said.
But her best buy has been Bovril. ‘I paid 91p a 1lb. jar and now it would cost well over a pound.’ Not quite. According to the mark-up at her local supermarket—the Safeway in Kings Road, Chelsea, where a jar was going for 99p.
Manager Tom Chippett said: ‘Mrs Thatcher normally uses our delicatessen counter. I've never seen her checking out with a trolley loaded to the brim.’
Mrs Margaret Thatcher's stockpile angered the 20,000-strong National Housewives' Association. Chairman Mrs Sandra Brookes said: ‘We are horrified and we plan to visit Mrs Thatcher and tell her so.
‘She is setting a very bad example to the country's women. It creates a feeling of panic and unsettles people.’
A scientist warned that part of Mrs Thatcher's store could become dangerous.
Dr Robert Stephens, senior lecturer in chemistry at Birmingham University, said that acid in some tinned fruit reacts with the solder in the tin and raises the lead level of the contents to ‘well above permitted maxima.’
‘The gravity of this should be appreciated by Mrs Thatcher, who has a degree in chemistry from Oxford,’ said Dr Stephens. ‘She more than anyone else, should realise the very real dangers of storing tinned food for long periods.’
Price note: Mrs Thatcher would have shown a greater saving if she had bought butter and margarine in bulk. Mr Tony De Angeli, the editor of The Grocer magazine, worked out that on butter bought a year ago she would have saved 16 per cent. and on margarine a remarkable 63 per cent.