One of my biggest surprises about wartime rationing in Britain was finding out how vociferously the press fought against it. The people of Britain saw the need for rationing, but the newspapers went wild (hmm, something here sounds familiar):
Picture Post magazine described it as “the most unpopular Government decision since the war began”, while the Daily Mail thundered:
“Your butter is going to be rationed next month. It would be scarcely possible-even if Dr Goebbels were asked to help-to devise a more harmful piece of propaganda for Great Britain. Our enemy’s butter ration has just been increased from 3ozs to just under 4ozs. Perhaps because of Goering’s phrase ‘guns or butter’ has given butter a symbolical significance. But mighty Britain, Mistress of the Seas, heart of a great Empire, proud of her wealth and resources? Her citizens are shortly to get just 4ozs of butter a week. There is no good reason to excuse Mr Morrison, the Minister of Food, for this stupid decision.”
In more sober and restrained language, “The Economist” agreed:
“The methods adopted by the Ministry of Food, first to oppose rationing, and secondly to find reasons for postponement, have run the whole gamut of plausibility and ingenuity and are now verging on the fantastic.” The Ministry of Food/Culture24At the beginning of WW2, Britain imported about 70% (20 million tons) of their food. (By contrast, America in 2016 imports in the vicinity of 20% of our food.) Something needed to change.
Basic foods were rationed to prevent hoarding and ensure that everyone had access to a fair share. During the war, Britain assigned garden allotments (average size 90'x30'), so that people could grow their own veggies. They encouraged people to raise chickens and rabbits. Pig clubs were organized to utilize food and garden scraps. Goats were recommended to eke out the milk supply.
[In the USA, by the early 1940s, the USDA no longer saw small family farms as a national asset. Instead, the USA concentrated on mass production and mono-culture farms to supply the war effort. Partly as a result of these policies, today fewer than 3% of US farms make over 63% of farm income, including government subsidies.]
Not everything was rationed. Bread was never rationed. Neither were salt, seasonal fruits, veggies, mushrooms, or restaurant meals (...to a point. Only three courses were allowed and only one of those could contain meat.) Tea was rationed in Britain but not in the USA. Fish was rationed in the USA but not in Britain. Eggs were rationed , but not condiments, which led to the creation of "Mayonnaise Cakes", taking advantage of the egg and oil emulsion without the worry of rationing. Oranges and lemons weren't rationed. Because they were so scarce, there was no need.
So what food was rationed? In the USA; sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs, and cheese. In Britain; sugar, tea, meat, cheese, preserves, butter, margarine/cooking oil, lard, sweets/candy, eggs, and milk. Amounts allowed on ration varied throughout the war. Other items were limited through a point/coupon system.
For purposes of our experiment, I'm going to blend the two lists of rationed items and use the upper amounts Britain allowed. Don't judge me.
For the record, we will be allowed, per person, per week unless otherwise noted:
Bacon or Ham 8 oz
Sugar 16 oz
Tea /Coffee 4 oz
Meat, including Fish 1# 3 oz
Cheese 8 oz
Butter 8 oz
Cooking oil 12 oz
Lard 3 oz
Sweets/Candy 16 oz/month
Milk 1/2 gallon for children under 18 per week; 1/2 gallon for Adults per month
Eggs 1 (If you chose to keep chickens, you gave up your egg ration, but were given a mash ration in exchange, as well as being able to keep all your eggs. We have chickens. No egg ration for us.)
Since the USA restricted the use of tin/aluminum cans during the war, to save the metals for military use, I'll only buy food in glass jars, not cans, during our experiment...except for one can: The infamous Spam. I'll allow us one can of Spam per week, if we want it. Blech.
To replicate the shortages of other foods during wartime, I'm going to restrict the rest of our food by cost. After buying our ration food, I'm going to allow another $25 per person, per week, for fresh fruits and veggies. Since restaurants were not rationed, Danny will be able to eat at the cafeteria while he's at work.
I have to say, I'm curious/looking forward to seeing how much weight we lose and how hard meal planning is on the ration system. I plan to post recipes once a week or so. Once we start, I'll also post my register receipts, to keep me honest. (Everyone just ignore any extra chocolate bars...a G.I. gave them to me, I swear!)