The wartime diet

ww2_butchers_couponNext week (14 May) sees the anniversary of the end of petrol rationing after the Suez Crisis – it was also introduced in 1939 as part of the war effort that saw the import of goods, particularly food, to the UK severely restricted as supply ships were torpedoed by the German warfleet. In 1940 the Government introduced rationing – an allocation of food, clothing and petrol for every individual that was controlled through a ration book and was not abolished until midnight on 4 July 1954. How would you fare if you had to survive on wartime rations?

For every adult –

Bacon or ham: 4oz (about 4 slices)

Meat: to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around about ½lb minced beef)

Butter: 2oz (¼ of a block)

Cheese: 2oz (a small block – probably enough for one sandwich)

Margarine: 4oz

Cooking fat: 4oz

Milk: 3 pints but sometimes that was dropped to two pints

Sugar: 8oz

Preserves: 1lb every 2 months, but bread and jam was a staple food for many families

Tea: 2oz (enough for about 25 cups, but remember tea would have been the staple drink for many)

Eggs: 1 fresh egg per week

Sweets: 12oz every 4 weeks

Dried eggs: 1 packet every 4 weeks

After buying these basic provisions shoppers would have 16 points to be used over the course of the month to buy other unrationed items including oats, pulses, tinned tomatoes and corned beef, although supplies of these was often limited and further items were added to the list of rationed items as the war continued – rice, dried fruit, biscuits. Non-food items were also rationed, including coal, electricity – even soap!

Due to a shortage of white flour bread was always brown and wholewheat, based on a Ministry of Food recipe and known as the National Loaf – this loaf was disliked by the majority of the population as it was heavy, grey and soggy and wasn’t abolished until 1956 even though flour rationing came to an end in 1948!

Households were also encouraged to grow their own fruit and vegetables as part of the Dig for Victory campaign, which called for everyone to keep an allotment and saw lawns and flower beds turned into vegetable gardens to supplement the meagre meat rations.

Do you have any wartime ration memories? Add your comments below

5 Responses to The wartime diet

  1. Julie White says:

    My mum has related many wartime childhood memories to me. There was just her and her mum as her dad was away in the army. She told me that when they got their week’s ration her mum would take the butter ration for the week and spread it on a crust of bread. She would say to my mum “eat it and really enjoy”!! Rather than eke it out over the week, they would spoil themselves with a treat!! Why not!!!!!


    The Christmas before petrol rationing ended was a very memorable one. My father was taking me and my brother to visit my uncle and his family (who lived a few miles away) on Boxing Day to take food and presents to them. Halfway to their home, there was a very steep hill. It had been snowing heavily and the road was very slippery. Our car reached halfway up the hill and slid into the side of the road where there was a slight ditch. One of the presents was a large tin of assorted sweets, so while my brother and I tucked into this unexpected delight, my father went to knock on doors to find someone to help. Having promised a man some petrol ration, he then pulled us back onto the road. We didn’t go any further that day, and turned around and went back home. I have never forgotten this event, even though I was only just under 5 years old and my brother was 3. This all took place in South Wales.

  3. Mrs E Dobbin says:

    I remember rationing very well, especially sweets and biscuits that were on the “points system”. It was either chocolate biscuits, weighed out into paper bags from a large tin, or a packet of sweets – “spangles” or a Mars Bar. My mother used to slice the Mars bar to make it go further, one slice per day. The spangles were 1 or 2 per day!! as the whole packet had to last a week. Sometimes broken biscuits were available.
    Sugar and dried fruit wasn’t so hard to come by and we sometimes had a screw of biscuit bag paper with cocoa and sugar mixed to dip into or a few bits of dried fruit to eat as a snack.

    Paper was also in short supply. The paper bags that the biscuits came in were flattened out and I used them as drawing paper.

  4. Joan Turnbull says:

    Yes I lived through the war but I served in the WAAF for 5 years which was really good and we ate in mess and our food was good no rationing people were so different everyone helped one another which was good.

  5. James Carpenter says:

    My Nan would add water to the butter and mix it in to make it go further. At one time the egg ration was half an egg a week! We collected it every other week.

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