As someone who loves cooking and experimenting with ingredients at hand, I have always been fascinated by the Wartime kitchens and rationing. I won't say that I wish I had gone through that, but sometimes I wonder if we are just too used to having everything at our fingertips, to having life be so easy that we have become lazy.
As with everything else that I go into, I like to research and read and watch as much as I can about certain periods in time, different eras, different ways of doing things. Why? Because I yearn for a simpler time, for a time where we may not have had everything readily available, but family came first, neighbors helped each other and really opened their homes to everyone around them.
Unfortunately nowadays, and I'm speaking from my own personal experience, I've noticed that it's every man for themselves and how can we make a quick buck with the least work possible. Honestly, it seems that if there was a robot that could do everything for us, many would jump on that bandwagon pretty quick.
But back to the topic at hand. The Wartime Kitchen, rationing and surviving through it.
Rationing was introduced in England on January 8, 1940. Here is a little info about it:
At the beginning of World War II, the UK imported 55 million tons of foodstuffs per year (70%), including more than 50% of its meat, 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 90% of cereals and fats.It was one of the principal strategies of the Axis to attack shipping bound for the UK, restricting British industry and potentially starving the nation into submission.
Each person would register with their local shops, and was provided with a ration book containing coupons. The shopkeeper was then provided with enough food for his or her registered customers.
When purchasing goods, the purchaser had to give the shopkeeper a coupon as well as money.
Rations were the fairest way to ensure people had enough to eat, and many poorer families had the healthiest diet they ever had. Children benefited greatly from this. For example, the number of children in Scotland who died before they reached 1 year of age fell by 27 per cent between 1939 and 1945. In Glasgow, the average height of 13 year olds increased by almost 2 inches (5 cm) by the end of the war.
Weekly ration for 1 adult
- Bacon & Ham 4 oz
- Meat to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around about 1/2 lb minced beef)
- Butter 2 oz
- Cheese 2 oz
- Margarine 4 oz
- Cooking fat 4 oz
- Milk 3 pints
- Sugar 8 oz
- Preserves 1 lb every 2 months
- Tea 2 oz
- Eggs 1 fresh egg per week
- Sweets/Candy 12 oz every 4 weeks
In addition to this a points system was put in place which limited your purchase of tinned or imported goods. 16 points were available in your ration book for every 4 weeks and that 16 points would enable you to purchase for instance, 1 can of tinned fish or 2lbs of dried fruit or 8 lbs of split peas.
Here is the Food Minister talking about the food rationing in 1939....
He explains what the Ration books are and how to use them.
Women really had to become inventive, they had to learn to make do with the little they got and food was stretched as far as it would go.
Aside from the ingredients, there were ways to save on fuel as well while cooking, things like "cooking two at a time", which meant covering a cooking pan with a biscuit tin lid then standing a second pan on top. I don't know how safe that would be or how well the food would turn out, but I think in those days and time, it was a matter of survival.
From 1942, there was no more white flour available, so that meant that everyone was consuming the National Wholemeal Bread.
There were no supermarkets, so shopping for groceries would mean going to different stores, such as the butcher, grocer etc.
Actually, growing up I remember that is the way we did food shopping too, we went to the butcher, we went to the market and the bakery etc.
Eggs were extremely hard to come by, so most people used powdered eggs. One packet would be equal to 12 eggs and those had to last you at least 8 weeks, as even the powdered eggs were rationed.
One of the items not rationed and available probably most of the time, were potatoes.
The Government even came up with a "Dig for Victory" campaign, encouraging everyone to grow vegetables in their gardens or on any spare piece of land they could find.
The Ministry of Food organized local cookery classes and demonstrations to teach people how to cook with what they had and how to use the vegetables they grew in meals.
It was hard to come by food. Once you registered with a certain shop, you couldn't really go anywhere else to get your rations, so it usually meant standing in long lines for a very long time just to get your food.
It was about this time that the Black Market came into play, and even though if you were caught you were punished with huge fines, people still risked it in order to get butter, sugar and even cigarettes and often times at exuberant prices.
Rationing officially ended July 4, 1954.
I've often thought about trying to cook just Wartime recipes for a pay period, and seeing how we do. I think the only thing that has held me back from trying, is the family, I'm not sure my husband and children would be interested in this sort of experiment.
I may just come up with a menu anyway and introduce a few meals here and there, might be easier to do it that way than shock them into it LOL
When it comes to wartime cooking and depression recipes, there are a few places online you can go to. I think one of my favorite YouTube Channels is the Great Depression Cooking with Clara. Love it :)
Great Depression Cooking with Clara Season 1
Another great one to watch is Granny Doris, though I've only found 3 episodes so far.
Here is a PDF booklet with some recipes for you....
Home Front Recipes
You can find many on Clara's videos and by googling for wartime recipes.
I think if anything, after all the reading and the video watching I've done, it's taught me that I need to be more flexible in the kitchen, to really push myself to use what I have on hand and not just ignore the ingredient because it doesn't fit into a specific dish or recipe.
I don't know about you all, but I will admit that I have stuff in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry that tends to just sit there and not get used, and yes, I've even had to throw something out because it's past it's due date.
In a day and time where everything is getting so expensive, I want to be able to use what I have available and not be wasteful. Will I succeed every step of the way? Probably not. But I am determined to give it a good try.
I'm going to continue researching, applying what I have learned and strive towards a more self sustainable way of life. Growing some of my own vegetables is definitely a step in the right direction.
I do hope you have found some of this information interesting, matter of fact I'm using it with my kids for homeschooling and they find it just as fascinating as I do. Though with them, we're not just concentrating on the cooking side of the wartime and depression eras, but on everything else too.....the war itself, air raids, etc.
I'm off to watch The Wartime Kitchen and Garden. It is quite an old series that unfortunately was never made into DVD or sold to the public (much to my chagrin). I managed to find a few episodes on YouTube so you can watch too if you would like :)
Hope you enjoy it :)
Images found online through BBC. Videos from YouTube