Monday, October 5, 2009


The date is set: December 26, 2009.

What is so special about that date? The day after Christmas? Yes. The fifth day after the winter solstice? That, too. Our daughters' seventh day of winter break? Yup. All these are correct, but in our household that day will soon be known as R-Day. What's R-Day? Well, let me explain...

Back in my first blog post on Rational Living I eluded to my interest in WWII rationing and how I ponder what it would be like for our family to live within those parameters of discipline and sacrifice. Ponder, ponder, ponder. Pondering is good, it makes you think. A lot. And after years of thinking, our family will finally be making the commitment: for approximately one year we will live, to the best of our abilities, within the guidelines of WWII rationing. And it all begins Dec. 26, 2009.

Don't know much about WWII rationing? Here's your history lesson in a nutshell...Rations were imposed in America once we officially entered the war (after the bombing of Pearl Harbor). While other nations, most notably the UK, began rationing (and fighting) years earlier, the US's delay in entering the war postponed any serious changes in resource management. But once the American industrial complex became focused on supplying the needs of the armed forces and the soldiers fighting for freedom, it became clear that American civilians' gluttonous consumption of goods could not continue if the war effort was to be well-supplied. And thus, rationing was mandated.

At first, only "industrial" materials such as rubber and fuel oil were rationed, beginning in early 1942. But soon such staples as sugar and coffee were only available in restricted amounts. Eventually, a majority of food items (beef, pork, all canned foods, cheese, butter and fats) as well as everyday goods such as shoes, appliances and gasoline, were rationed. Different items were rationed in different ways; points per item or a set amount per person were the most common approaches. Shortages, even of rationed items, became common as the military devoured all kinds of supplies for the war. So even if you had enough ration points for cheeseburger supplies it didn't always mean that those commodities were available for purchase. And while Americans occasionally complained about missing that steak dinner or patching together a pair of worn shoes that would otherwise be replaced, they complied. The majority of Americans understood that the war, a greater good, needed those resources. In a 1944 poll of Americans, 90% responded that food rationing provided all the nutrition their families needed. Needed. And that was good enough.

In this movement to sacrifice wants for needs, Americans did something amazing: they completely reorganized their consumer habits to work towards a common goal. This was, after all, the Greatest Generation.

But my family and I are not part of the Greatest Generation. My husband and I are thirty-something, middle-class, college-educated parents living in the beautiful central plains. Why would we do such a thing? Well, sometimes you just need to stretch beyond your comfort zone; to twist and reach and strain to figure out just how flexible (or crazy) you are. Part of this is a bit of a history experiment: how many of us have read accounts of pioneers or Renaissance poets and wondered if we could have hacked it? Let's be honest - this will be a lifestyle change for sure. But mostly, this experiment is about learning how much you're willing to change to make a change. What if we could somehow cut our energy consumption or carbon footprint by half in a year. AND still have enough. Enough. That would be worth it, right? What if we were forced to learn more about our community and neighbors to find otherwise limited resources? I'm 100% certain that there will be moments of weakness and regret, but all the good adventures have those, right?

My family and I are not part of the Greatest Generation, but I'd like to think that we're part of the Next Greatest Generation.

And yes, some like-minded folks out there have already attempted similar feats - most have lasted less than 3 months. As far as I know, we're the only souls, to commit to a year.

Some of the details of the year's rationing are already solidified (food and gasoline rationing amounts), while other elements are still squishy and up for debate (exact rationing schedule and wonderful sport of a husband is bemoaning the idea of no air-conditioning), but we have a while to dream and plan. But soon we'll need to get the skeleton of this thing put together so that we can discuss it with our daughters. R-Day is less than 3 months away.

So, use your favorite blog management tool to subscribe to Rational Living for plan details as R-Day approaches, and spread the word. There will be plenty of insights, victories and catastrophes as the project progresses.

So...anyone want to join us?

--Rational Mama


  1. Let us know about the detailed planned! I am not a big fan of rationing food, especially when there are children in the house- I guess it is because of bad memories but I do believe that the types of food are important. We have decided to not purchase a new TV and not have white sugar in the house (we do have natural brown) and well we never have more than one bag of treats in the house either. :-)And no we do not have airconditioning- but we do not live in Kansas! :-)

  2. Wow! That is quite an admirable undertaking. It will be so interesting to see how this concept works now.

    It would be cool to join in your endeavors, but I think we have enough radical change going on at our house right now.

    We will of course be supportive and thoughtful of your efforts.

    Can't wait to hear more about this.

  3. i've thought about a form of rationing, but i haven't quite put it into action-- only going to the store once a week and letting things run out without rushing off to restock it. of course, that doesn't apply to household goods like toilet paper (yikes!), but for food and such. honestly, only that small feat scares me. i think you two are super brave and i look forward to learning how i can possibly have my family enage in a similar lifestyle. let's face it, my beliefs are the same-- we should create the change we want to see-- but i'm kind of a hypocrit at this stage in life!

  4. I will be very interested to follow your story... likely won't jump in and join you, but it will certainly be interesting to see what all you guys do/ration/etc. It's kind of like taking "giving something up for Lent" (which I also do not do) to a whole new level! :)

  5. So. Great. So great! First, let me say thanks so much for commenting over at my place so I could come check out yours! Next... this idea is so intriguing... my patient hubby will chalk this one up to one of the more crazy ideas I've presented, I know, but you can bet I'll be presenting it! We'll see what the verdict is, but I'm hoping for a go! :)
    Love the blog and all the vintage pics!

  6. Thanks, Anisa. You and your family already do so much, so I would understand if your hubby didn't want to go along with it. Thanks for the encouragement and for putting together the wonderful blog that you do!

  7. As soon as I get enough information on it, I and my husband will be joining you, but only for 30 days to start. If we get the hang of it and like it, we'll continue until we get sick of it.

    It'll be quite a change from the bulk buying and price-per-unit stuff we're doing now! In fact, as I look into my third bedroom walk-in pantry, I feel like an absolute pig with my year's worth of just about everything.

    This will prove to be a dilemma: stop buying in bulk, stick to the rationing plan, and pay higher prices for smaller quantities of food, or continue on hoarding and paying less for food in the long run?

    We will find out soon enough...

  8. If I have to buy something that's in a bigger package than we are allowed (say, a 4 lb package of sugar when we're only allowed 2 lbs per week), I use a permanent marker and mark on the container what portion is "paid" for with each week. Good luck!