For many in the '70s, life was a struggle in an era of ration coupons Yu Manxiang , 58, was earning 36 yuan a month as a nurse at Shanghai's Ruijin Hospital and had to watch her spending in 1977, the year her daughter was born. In any case, there were many things she could not buy because purchases were restricted by ration coupons. Thirty years have passed and now Ms Yu, a retired anaesthetist, spends most of her time caring for her two-year-old granddaughter, Feng Yuexin . The last thing she worries about is money. 'My granddaughter can have anything she needs or wants. It's beyond comparison with what I had trying to raise my daughter three decades ago,' she said. She recalled that the family was allowed to buy 1kg to 2kg of eggs a month - 'barely enough for one egg a day for the baby girl'. Her daughter was given a coupon for a bottle of milk a day and Ms Yu, who was also allocated a daily bottle of milk because she had hepatitis, supplemented the child's diet by giving her own milk ration. 'We had to save the milk for the night. In the day, my daughter was fed rice soup with cake crumbs. But the milk supply stopped after 12 months,' Ms Yu said. The family of three lived in a 237 sq ft room and shared a two-storey building with her husband's mother, his brother and his brother's family. The arrangements were considered spacious in Shanghai at that time. 'When we got married we had nothing but a bed, an old table from my brother-in-law, two chairs and some old quilts, which were my dowry. I also saved one year to buy a chest of drawers, which cost 96 yuan. We could not afford a real cupboard because it cost 196 yuan,' she said. Ms Yu said the chest of drawers was bought with a ration coupon provided by another couple who had married a year earlier. Back then, people had to show evidence that their marriages had been approved before they could apply for furniture coupons, and waiting a year meant it would be too late for the wedding. The couple borrowed 200 yuan to decorate their new home and invite relatives for lunch and dinner on their wedding day. 'I remember I was wearing a new black-and-white striped sweater - I had only one old sweater my sister gave me when I was assigned to work on a farm. We borrowed a car through connections to take me from my old home to the Huangpu River. Then we got out of the car and took the ferry,' Ms Yu said, recalling how her husband Zhou Zhuyi took her from her home to his home. The couple had no wedding photographs and the first picture of their married life was taken when they went on a trip to Wuxi following their wedding in 1976. The wedding gifts from family and friends included a washing basin, a water flask, a bed sheet and a sweater. For Zhou Zhuxin , Ms Yu's daughter and the brand manager of an American mass consumer products company, the biggest change in her life has been better hygiene. She recalled having to share tap water and electricity with neighbours, and the roof leaking when there was heavy rain. But the worst thing was having to clean the toilet pail every morning because the old-style Shanghai buildings did not have flush toilets. In the 1990s, Ms Yu became an anaesthetist and, even though her husband was laid off and given an 800 yuan monthly pension, the family had an income of thousands of yuan a month as well as tens of thousands in savings, and did not have to be frugal any more. The ration coupons were abolished and more goods were available on the market. The family finally moved to a high-rise building in 1996 under a plan to redevelop the Pudong area, where Ms Yu and her husband live in a three-bedroom flat. They have piped gas and running water and do not need to worry about changing the gas tank when it runs out. The family's financial burden eased further three years later when Ms Zhou graduated from university and started bringing home 3,000 yuan a month. When Ms Zhou married on her parents' 28th wedding anniversary, she could afford a banquet with 16 tables at a luxury Japanese hotel in Shanghai. She had three wedding dresses for the ceremony and hired a personal stylist to help with her makeup. The ceremony was videotaped by professionals and the couple spent more than 7,000 yuan on a wedding photo album. The young couple were both university graduates, worked in Shanghai branches of foreign companies and owned a 970 sq ft apartment in downtown Shanghai. They bought a Toyota Corolla sedan when Ms Zhou became pregnant one year later. 'We could not even imagine such a ceremony in my days. I'm so happy for her to be able to get what she wants,' Ms Yu said. Now, with a monthly pension of about 5,000 yuan, Ms Yu said she was satisfied with the changes in her life. Her daughter, a beneficiary of the 30 years of reform and opening up, said she was very satisfied that the changed social environment gave people an opportunity to work hard to realise their dreams. 'Or, call it hope,' Ms Zhou said.