The wartime diet
Next 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)
Cooking fat: 4oz
Milk: 3 pints but sometimes that was dropped to two pints
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