Stay Connected

Monday, May 8, 2017


I'm sharing this because I think it's an awesome show for putting perspective on modern, challenging economic circumstances. When we think we have it tough, sometimes it helps to be reminded of how fortunate we truly are. If you have a roof over your head, a comfortable bed that you only share with someone else because you want to, and enough food to keep you satisfied, you are blessed. Anyway, the show is Victorian Slum House, currently available on, through this link.  PBS allows free viewing for only a limited time per episode, so if you're interested, check it out soon. (I believe the free viewing expires May 30, 2017.)

A peculiar after-effect for me, I was really hungry for homemade white bread after watching this episode!

If you've watched this already, what did you think? Were there any lessons learned for you? Could you see ways that people could have helped themselves better? How do you think you would fare under similar circumstances?


  1. Hi Lili--

    My family and I watched this last week. I was a little skeptical as to whether I would like it, as we have watched the previous versions (Pioneer House, etc.) and were disappointed with the focus on the personal problems of the persons participating rather than the historical/cultural lessons. We were pleasantly surprised with Victorian Slum House. This series is much better than its predecessors.

    My son says he would have "starved" living in these conditions. I think it was eye opening to all of us to see the stark conditions people lived under. Having to buy rather than cook your food (and the very limited quantities) was surprising to me. The sleeping accommodations in the doss house, especially sitting and leaning over a rope, was horrifying. I took a special interest in the man with a prosthesis--seeing what was available in prosthetics back then and how hard it was to survive with one was fascinating.

    It's hard to see how people could have done better for themselves--I think the survival techniques were pretty scripted for each family so I'm not sure they had much opportunity to pick and choose what they could do.

    Glad someone else is enjoying this series!

    1. Hi Kris,
      I would definitely not have issues with weight, that's for sure, if I were in that circumstance. The tailor and his wife gave their food for the day to the kids. They may not have needed to make such a huge sacrifice, as it turned out. But they didn't know if what they made could be sold. It was interesting about the man with a prosthetic leg. And apparently, accidents in Victorian times in the working class population, happened somewhat often.

      The show really highlights that your fortune was based on where you were born, something that none of us can control. Today, while it's not always easy for youth to rise out of a poor financial circumstance, there are opportunities.

      Wishing you a great day, Kris!

  2. I have not yet watched this, but I did watch the Victorian life several years ago. That was the PBS reality show about people trying to live in a different time period. Even though they weren't in the slums, life was still hard. They also had one about pioneers.

    I play a little game with myself sometimes as I imagine myself a pioneer woman. It helps me appreciate my conveniences and helps motivate me to work harder. It may sound silly, but it works for me.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I watched the other Victorian show, too. The family in that show were considered in the middle class of Victorian England, so they did have some luxuries. (They had a servant, a full house to themselves, and didn't worry about whether or not there would be food or shelter the next week.) This newer show is about the working class. You might enjoy it.

      I sometimes think about conveniences that we have but take for granted. Indoor water is one of them. And all of the conveniences for washing, like washing machines and dishwashers. I have sensitive skin, so when my hands have to go in and out of water too often, they get chapped and sore. Oh also, good soap falls into that area for me, too. Thinking about people who have had it harder helps motivate me, too. I get that. When I find myself mentally complaining about having to clean up the house, I think what a luxury it is that I have things that need cleaning, or so much stuff that I have to work at keeping the house tidy.

      Anyway, if you have time, you might want to check out this show. It may interest you. Have a great day, live and learn!

  3. Loved the show. Having a trade was really the only way to survive. The older gentlemen probably would have been working since he was young and might not have been unable to work after just one day. The tailor and his family were hard working people and really worked together. It must have been unbelievably hard for a single parent but I don't think she gave it her all. Those boxes she made looked like something a child would do. Liked how the little girls didn't complain but went right to work helping their family. A good lesson for all of us. Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Definitely, on having a trade. The tailor and his family at least had a specialized skill they could offer. And it was a skill which was needed in that area and time. You're right the older gentleman probably would not have hurt his back so quickly. And perhaps, in actual Victorian times, he might have made himself get back to work within a day, even although in excruciating pain. I think, in comparison, we tend to baby ourselves when sick or hurt, today. Not that that is a bad thing, but that in past times, pain might have just been part of the life experience, with limited painkillers, and little access to medical attention, except under extreme conditions.

      Yeah, I kid of thought those fabric covered boxes looked a bit sloppy, too. And when we saw the other family sent the girls out to sell watercress, it made the single mom's family look like they could have done more. But I don't know if that was a scripted thing, to show that there weren't a lot of opportunities for single women. I once studied Victorian women's culture, and opportunities for a single woman in the working class were extremely limited, as the narrator pointed out, with prostitution a common way for w.c. women to survive.

      I also thought that having an extended family living together was a bonus. If an elderly person was injured and couldn't work, he had his younger family to care for him. And then when he was the primary breadwinner, he was able to take care of his daughter and her children.

      It's a good show. I'm glad you're enjoying it, too. Have a great day, Cheryl.

    2. I also thought the boxes were sloppy, but I wonder what the adhesives were like back then? When I was in middle school, my grade level took a mandatory shop class. We had to create a product, box it, and sell it. I ended up having to glue the boxes together and seal them for sale, and it was harder than it looked, largely due to the strength (or lack thereof) of the glue.

      One of my thoughts was ... what if two families moved in (temporarily) together? It would have been very crowded, but perhaps a method of survival if your bread-winner was injured, or a means of getting ahead for both families if you could pool resources. You would have to agree on what/what not to spend money on, and I suppose that could be tricky.

    3. Hi Kris,
      I was thinking the same, too, about families co-sharing housing. At the very least, the single mom could take in a lodger or cook/do laundry for someone. It wouldn't be pleasant, but it would have been a way to make ends meet, and maybe put some money aside to better oneself, in some way. She also might have been able to learn to sew for the tailor, and help with piece work, if he had extra supplies. Hmm, good point on adhesives.

  4. Sadly, it isn't available in Canada. At least not yet. It sounds very interesting though, so I will continue to look for the series over time. Thank you for mentioning it!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      I don't know what work this takes, or if there is a cost, but have you ever looked into unblocking restricted websites, using a VPN (virtual private network)?

      Gee, I'm sorry you can't see this right away. It is a good show. Hopefully it will be accessible soon in your area.
      Have a great day, Jayne!

  5. We watched the program too and I was struck with the unpredictability of it all. Will I earn enough to feed my family? Will I be able to pay the rent? etc, Talk about stress!

    I realized too how much more fortunate families were who lived on farms, could grow food, raise some chickens for eggs, etc.

    And while this program is about Victorian England it brought to mind the Depression. My mother always talked about the Depression being so much worse for city folks. She grew up on a farm in northern Michigan and there was always enough food to eat but not a whole lot more!

    1. Hi Linda,
      It is also interesting how a person would need to prioritize, food vs. housing, and compassion for someone struggling vs your own security.

      The other thing that was interesting is the individuals were dependent on someone else cooking food for them, instead of buying the ingredients and cooking themselves. Without enough money to buy the basic ingredients, they were forced to rely on buying just a slice of bread at a time. Much like starting out on your own, without a kitchen fully-stocked, and little income to buy basics, so one is forced to buy more convenience foods -- in modern times. This just perpetuates the cycle of poverty and dependence.

      Both my parents grew up in cities in the Depression (small cities, albeit, so not dense urban areas, but still -- no farmland). In my father's early childhood, he, his siblings and mother lived with their grandmother, until he was about 5, and then they moved to a house on a double lot. They used the second lot for a large garden. My father equated keeping a garden with being poor, and never wanted again to have a garden for food. My grandfather on my mother's side of the family was a stockbroker when the Depression began. We all know how that turned out for stockbrokers. My grandmother's father was a physician, and was often paid with eggs, chickens, dairy products, so he turned a lot of this over to my grandmother's family. My grandmother said that they ate a lot of eggs and milk in those years, as often there was little money to actually buy any food. Any income always had to go towards rent.

      Although urban areas seem to be where there is greater access to lucrative careers, rural settings provide the opportunity to grow a lot of food, as well as more affordable housing. It's not an easy life, but there is some semblance of security if you live on a large piece of land.

      We're very fortunate today. I hope your week is off to a great start, Linda!

    2. Many of my relatives lived through the depression as well. My great aunt, who lived on a farm, once remarked.."We didn't know about the depression. We were always poor, so things were no different for us." But, they had eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit trees, so fared much better than others in the cities. Same for my grandparents. They had butter, eggs, foraged fruit(wild blueberries-huckleberries. I used to go picking with her-NOT during the depression:), nuts, veggies and they hunted meat and fished. They had extras with which to barter so fared well thanks to their small farm. Farms certainly provided security and self reliance which the cities did not.I'll look forward to checking out the series.

    3. Hi Lynn,
      Yes, I also think having land/farm gave insulation from the worst of the Depression. As you point out, too, in some situations a family might have been able to sell off surplus.

      What wonderful memories you must have of the times you went foraging/berry picking with your grandmother!

      I hope you enjoy the series. Have a wonderful evening, Lynn!

  6. Yes, I had the exact same reaction regarding the bread in the show, Lili, even in spite of the fact I make homemade loaves all the time (though admittedly, mine never turn out looking quite as lovely and delectable as theirs ;-)) -- isn't that hilarious...?

    In any case, I so agree with you in terms of perspective after viewing the program -- we should all be counting our many blessings :-)

    1. Hi Patience,
      Oh, that is funny about the bread! And I, too, make all of our bread at home. Maybe it's because we know how wonderful bread fresh out of the oven can taste.

      It's a really good show for putting our modern lives into perspective. Things like indoor bathrooms that we take completely for granted. I grumble to myself when cleaning bathrooms, but really I should be thankful to have a bathroom to clean.

      I'm glad that you're enjoying this show, too, Patience. I hope your week is off to a great start!

  7. I watched and enjoyed this latest, historical drama. I think how far one is from the immigrant experience is a factor. Both of my parents are first generation here, both sides having immigrated to the US from Canada. Multi generation family units (I often had visiting Canadian relatives bunking in my room as a child), survival skills and sense of community were big assets. Both of my parents were raised in single parent families, whose fathers left and didn't provide any financial support. Dad grew up in a tenement with 4 other siblings, Mom in a small, Sears catelog home BUT they had a garden, chickens, a cow (and they were technically in a city, but it was on the outskirts of a zoned area, so allowed domesticated animals. They were born in 1937, 1938, tough times followed. I learned how to manage and make do from Dad, and my extended family. If I was thrust in Victorian times, I do have the skillset to survive. I wondered about foraging. I think they bought the watercress and later sold it. What about dandelions? wild onion? ramps? etc. My great grandmother taught me to make soup out of nothing. Those with a stove should have minimally been making that vs getting into debt, something Dad steered away from.

    1. Hi Carol,
      It will be interesting to see how these families and individuals evolve in their ability to manage. I thought about the cooking for themselves, too. I wonder if this first week was just a culture shock for them, and they couldn't think outside the box, to buy oats, and make oatmeal for their meals, instead of buying pre-made bread. It looked pretty muddy and rainy, there. There might not have been much to forage within walking distance, at the time of year this was filmed. But definitely, I think families who could forage, did. Maybe spending a Sunday afternoon doing so. I also think the single mother could find some way to make ends meet, by cooking/laundry for the bachelor, selling watercress herself (that seemed surprisingly lucrative given their circumstances), hiring herself out as a domestic servant. Perhaps that is all to come in the show. I think that I have the skill set, now; but if I'd been thrust into this situation when I was younger, it would have been a steep learning curve.

      That's interesting to hear about your own parents' circumstances. While both of my parents' families were hard-hit by the Depression (b.1932 and 1937), both grandmothers had some parents to rely on for financial support.

      I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying this show, too. Have a great day, Carol!

  8. I think I could be interested in this. I looked online and it seems like we might be able to get this on Tuesday night at 8 pm. Lili, the link you gave--is that to view the first episode from May 2? Is this how you watch the series? From what I understand this is only on for the month of May something like 5 episodes. I'm trying to figure this out.


    1. Hi Alice,
      yes, I watched online for the first episode, at Tomorrow night is episode 2, and there are 5 episodes, I believe, too. The episode tomorrow will also re-air on Friday at 4 AM PDT, on our local PBS station.

      I don't watch much actual TV. I watch PBS online and that's about it, these days. We just have rabbit ear antenna, no cable, no satellite, no roof-top antenna, no netflix. So we're limited in what we can watch over the air. And that's fine with me. I don't have a lot of time for television, anyway.

      Anyway, I hope you get a chance to watch this. I think it's a good show. Have a great day, Alice!

    2. Alice, I changed the link in the post, to take you directly to the show. This link didn't work for me yesterday, but did, today; so I updated. Hope this works for you.

    3. I'm getting confused. Are these people of today being planted into the 1860's and trying to live like that era? I get the understanding that they don't know how to make bread or put together a meal from very little. I guess I need an introduction to what the story line is. Most people who lived in a depression era would have learned how to be creative so I'm guessing these are people of today trying to live without the conveniences of today.


    4. Hi Alice,
      yes, these are regular people who volunteered to be on this show and live like they were in Victorian times, and were working class. Definitely people from contemporary culture. The one aspect that I think is somewhat skewed is as contemporary folk, they haven't ever baked bread, likely. The producers should have provided a cookbook of sorts that would show them how to prepare simple meals from basic supplies, like oats. If they had been in actual Victorian times, they would know these things from their upbringings. So, in that sense it's a bit unfair to judge them too harshly.

    5. Alice--here's the link for our local programming--I assume you would be able to get WGVU.

      Yes, it's on Tuesdays on WGVU at 8:00 p.m. I think you'll like it. It's a taste of modern-day people living in the historical time and culture of the late 1800s. I've looked at the website and it seems they will highlight different decades. The first episode focuses on the 1860s. Tomorrow's episode will be the 1870s--apparently there were a large number of Irish immigrants during that decade, so jobs and housing were even more scarce. Hope you are able to enjoy it!

  9. Hi, Lili--

    Thanks so much for posting the link to this for those of us who don't have TV. The actual video for the first episode was on a different page, but if anyone's having a problem, click on the "view trailer", and that takes you to a page with the trailer and the full first episode.

    We'd watched part of the other Victorian one and the pioneer one when we had TV, and agree with the ladies who have said this one was better than the other Victorian one. Them having to work for a living seems to keep the show more focused and less frivolous.

    What always strikes me about these shows, though, is how surprised some of the people seem to be about how hard life was (and still is, in some parts of the world). Clearly many of us DO take for granted our current lifestyles and how much we have to be grateful for.

    Very interesting! Thanks! Sara :D

    1. Hi Sara,
      ha ha. I just changed the link, as you were typing. The link I gave yesterday was a roundabout way to get to the show. Today's link should direct you to the show itself.

      Yes, I do think many of us take for granted how easy life is now. Things like indoor plumbing, washing machines, even having a stove. But, yeah, these folks signed up for this show, yet they seem surprised by the hard living conditions. It just shows you how far removed our lives are from actual difficulties.

      I hope you enjoy this show, Sara. Have a great week!

  10. Hi,
    I was trying to watch the show last Tuesday and then a daughter announced her engagement.
    In reading books of that period and earlier , Dicken's time.Rent was to be paid in slums on a daily/weekly basis. People knew they needed to gather resources constantly to make rent. They could not even store items like cooking utensils. There was always the possibility that if you acquired something and left your abode with no one in it you could have it stolen by others, even the person who rented to you. People bought food in the slums. In modern poverty writings this same phenomena is seen in families subsisting in motel rooms with no conventional cooking means. They may have a kettle, frequently these units do not have microwaves. Poor diets arise because it is shown that with low income earners the exhaustion after a day's work and multiple jobs yo survive that time is a luxury and the dollar menu provides most quick, protein sources.

    1. Hi Teresa,
      First of all -- congratulations to your daughter!! How exciting! Any idea when they will get married? Or is this too soon to have thought this out?

      I hadn't thought about not having possessions because they could be stolen. I was thinking about the comparison to modern poverty, and living in motels, plus the lack of fresh produce available for purchase in some urban areas. It can really be a vicious cycle. Those are really good points, Teresa.

      Have a lovely evening!

  11. Thank-you Lili on your good wishes.
    It is happening next July, 2018
    When is your son getting married.
    Wow it can be expensive. Love to see future posts on planning for a wedding economically and gifts for it and showers:)
    It is lovely to plan. Good wishes to you and your family for your son's nuptials.

    1. Hi Teresa,
      They haven't set a date (at least haven't told me, ha, ha). It can be very expensive. But it doesn't have to be. I have a friend who with her groom had a very affordable wedding, about 2 summers ago. It was a second marriage for both of them, and I think being more mature, and having already had the "big" wedding, they were quite satisfied with something simpler. They used the grocery store florist and cakes from Costco. The bride wore a street-length off-white dress, and the women who were in her wedding, sang, etc, wore street-length, off the rack navy blue dresses. The men all wore navy suits. The wedding and reception were in our church, mid-afternoon. It was nice and simple. The wedding party all went out to a restaurant afterward, for a nice dinner together. I'll have to ask her what their budget was.

      We have friends whose daughter is getting married this summer, and they are going all out. My thoughts are if the cost of a wedding will create any sort of hardship for anyone involved, then it's too much.

      I think that I am definitely in the simple and tasteful camp, when it comes to weddings.

      Have fun planning!


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post