Sunday, January 31, 2010

Use it Up!

I love this poster on the right - it really epitomizes the whole rationing experiment.

Right now our current manifestation of this creed is in regards to lotions and soaps. I swear those things multiple under our noses when we're distracted with life. One of my goals this year is to not purchase any new soap (hand or body) or lotion until it is a need and not a want.

Lotion-wise we're pretty good - just one bottle and a few small sample tubes left.

Soap, on the other hand...

For a while it seemed that I received a Burt's Bees collection for every birthday and holiday (not necessarily a bad thing). And Grandma has a tradition of bringing the girls those little hotel soaps after she's been away on a vacation. A few years of both conditions combined with shopping amnesia and you end up with this in the back of your cabinet:

To be honest, we may not use all of this up in the next year. It's over 15 cakes of soap! I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, what do you have multiplying in the back of your cabinets? Is it shampoos? Vitamins? International condiments? What do you have too much of that you can vow to use up before you buy more?

--Rational Mama

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Little Green Experiment

Not much time to post - I'm busy finishing up my text for a public presentation I have about the rationing project tomorrow. But, I was happy to squeeze in this project today while the sun was still out to warm our backs!

Rational Living reader Kari suggested the wonderful idea of a window-shelf planting of lettuce to help with my salad cravings. Four different rooms in our house have south-facing windows - it's a 100 year old American Foursquare and yes, I'm a big enough history dork that I'm seriously considering throwing it a birthday party this summer for it's big centennial.

Anyhoo...the south-facing window in the dinning room wouldn't work because it is shaded by the attached enclosed porch off of the back of the house. The kitchen nook has great light, but it is one of the favorite lounge spots for our two cats (who would love to nosh on the selection of fresh greens). The girls' room (they share a room by choice) would be challenging for plants because of the current furniture arrangement. That leaves the bathroom, which has really amazing amounts of sunlight and has available many hooks for hanging plants.

So, an indoor lettuce garden we will have, but it will be a hanging garden.

Sissy and I headed outdoors and planted two hanging pots with lettuce and mesclun seeds. It was nice to have such a cute and willing helper.

The pots are now covered with plastic and resting atop our refrigerator - our traditional resting spot for plantings until they germinate. After sprouts appear I'll remove the plastic and let them grow and acclimate a bit before moving them up to the sunny bathroom.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

--Rational Mama

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brilliant! Oczywiscie!

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier...

If my undergraduate alma mater allowed non-education majors to have minors like other universities (really, KU, why not?), then I would have more than enough credits for a minor in Slavic Studies, with an emphasis in Polish language and literature. This may be news to some of you, and just genuinely weird to others. What can I say? I'm a Slav at heart.

Anyhoo, here I've been fretting over finding good recipes for our seasonal (and therefore non-rationed) produce, which right now consists mostly of cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and mushrooms.

And then I had an epiphany the other day, while calling my little cabbage kapusta, which is the Polish word for cabbage.

If you've ever flipped through a Polish cookbook then you will know that like 90% of the recipes consist mainly of combinations of cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and mushrooms, with modest amounts of cheese, butter or meats for flavor. Okay...maybe 90% is a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously - it's crazy high.

So I went to the library the other day and checked out a few Polish cookbooks.


The cabbage dry spell may be over!

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1 Month Check-In

Today we mark one calendar month into our year of living on WWII U.S. civilian rations.

How are we doing?

We used 248 of our 251 red ration points. Assigning these every week is quite a math game - there are definitely never too many red ration points!

We used 538 of what should have been only 192 allotted blue/green points (refer to the "And Then Things Became REALLY Interesting" post from a few weeks ago). The good news is that while I was doing some research I learned that all families were allowed to claim, without penalty, five cans per person at the start of rationing. Assuming that an average can was worth 14 points, that would be an additional 280 points worth of canned goods that I could have credited the family for at the beginning of ration. If we subtract those points from our total, that brings us down to 258 points. That's still about 18 can's worth of points, or 18 cans too many. But there's not much I can do about that now. I have a modest amount of canned goods in the cabinet right now (beets, spinach, corn and carrots), so I was not hoarding during those few weeks of excess point usage. I'm not happy with the situation, but I'm at peace with it.

We've purchased all our sugar and coffee allowances.

I didn't track gasoline/mile usage for that first partial week, but for the following three weeks we used 300 of our 576 miles. I'm really happy about that number. Even if we didn't get the extra gasoline/miles for The Man of the House's job equating to a wartime industry, we would be well within the reduced allotment for families without the added gallons/miles. Of course, TMOTH (as he likes to be called) would like to hoard all those extra miles. There will be a post on that compulsion soon!

And how are we doing mentally?

Eowyn and Sissy miss fresh fruit (Eowyn = bananas, Sissy = apples) and both are no longer amused by the increased appearance of soups on the menu.

TMOTH is frustrated with the fact that few people he talks to "gets it" and understand why we undertook this project.

As you are all aware, I greatly miss fresh vegetables - and lettuce most of all. Rational Living reader Kari had a great idea about this which I will be posting about soon. Otherwise, I'm also feeling the time drain of the project: time looking up points, extra time spent making menus and grocery lists, extra time spent cooking more meals from scratch, time spent tracking usage and time spent posting on the blog. But all of these except that last point help make the experiment that much more authentic, so I can't complain too loudly.

And I have to admit that I look forward to Mr. Bowles' Marketplace Scenario Randomizer with giddy expectancy.

And let me add a note of thanks for all those who read the blog and use the comments section to ask questions, suggest recipes (I'm still loving the baked cabbage!) and give us emotional support. This project wouldn't be nearly as interesting if it wasn't for the ongoing dialogue. Thank you!

And what do we think the next month will hold for us? I imagine the reduced blue/green points will become painfully real in the next month, and we will plan our garden. And I'm sure we'll try at lease five other ways to cook cabbage.

In fact, sometimes I think the official title for the project should be: "Rational Living...or...50 Ways to Cook a Cabbage."

--Rational Mama

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's One of THOSE Days...

I accidentally left my lunch sitting on the kitchen counter top when I went to work today.

Luckily, I live close enough (and drove today) that I could run home during lunch to get it/eat it.

At lunch time I ran down a flight of stairs, across the alley, up a flight of stairs in the parking garage and over to my car...and then realized I left my purse in the office. Ugh.

Back down a flight of stairs, across the alley, up a flight of stairs to grab the purse.

A co-worker who doesn't know about our rationing program (really, I'm sure they all think I'm weird enough already) suggested I just run next door to the sandwich shop and grab lunch instead.

If only it were that easy. I am not allowed to eat lunch out during rationing year, but she doesn't know that so her comment is well-meaning.

Back down a flight of stairs, across the alley, up a flight of stairs in the parking garage and over to my car, then home to eat my left-overs which were luckily still chilled by their little freezer pack insert.

The dog was happy to see me. Good dog.

After lunch it's drive back to work, run down a flight of stairs in the parking garage, run across the alley then up a flight of stairs in the office and sit.

Sigh. Two and a half miles added to the weekly total because I forgot my lunch.

At least I got a decent mini stair workout.

--Rational Mama

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu

Another week...and I'm starting to dream about salads. Nice, green, crispy salads...

Last week we used 103 of our 193 allotted miles. I think The Man of the House is working on a blog entry about gasoline usage and hoarding...or how I won't let him hoard as much as he wants to. Look for that to appear within the next week or so.

Last week we used all 59 of our reduced 59 red points and 88 of our (incorrectly calculated) 178 blue/green points (we went out on Tuesday, hence the reduce points).

For those of you who missed the post a few days ago, we have since learned that we are allowed only 48 blue/green points per week!

The good news is is that this week we have only one scenario:

Canned soups and sauces are scarce and only available at half the normal purchase/recipe quantity.

With that in mind, here's this week's menu:

Saturday: Homemade pizza (pepperoni, mushroom and onion)
Sunday: BBQ pork country-style ribs, cheesy potatoes and (canned) green beans
Monday: Carrot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Tuesday: Thai chicken thighs, rice and baked cabbage
Wednesday: Buttermilk pancakes and bacon
Thursday: Chicken broth soup (made with the thigh bones from making Tuesday's chicken boneless) and corn dumplings
Friday: Dinner out

Yes, I realize that said "Dinner out" for Friday night, even though we had our official "one dinner out per month as a family" last week. We've been gifted two dinner theater tickets to see some of our two best buddies in a play on Friday. Since dinner is included, and since the girls will be having a sleepover with their aunt that night we've reduced our allotted ration points for the week to 59 red (rather than 64) and 45 blue/green (rather than 48) accordingly.

I also purchased our allotted 2 pounds of sugar and finally purchased our second one pound coffee allowance for the month.

On Tuesday of this week we'll officially mark one calendar month of the project, so I'll work on a little recap for you. I'm also scheduled to give a presentation at out church next weekend, so when the text for that is finalized I'll post it as well.

Thanks for all your support!

--Rational Mama

Friday, January 22, 2010

Historic Recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

It's Friday night and the house is currently overrun with an extra helping of 3rd grade ladies in honor of Sissy's recent birthday. It's sleepover night at the Rational Living household and the amazing energy of these three extra girls plus our two puts caffeine to shame (and lucky for us, they haven't had any caffeine!).

While the girls are giggling and wrestling and being wild and (eventually, please God) settling down to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (Sissy's sweet on Orlando Bloom), The Man of the House is busy in the kitchen cooking up a batch of what has become a staple in the Rational Living household: oatmeal raisin cookies.

The recipe, which is posted at, says it's a 1940s recipe. From the recipe research I've done I'd said it's authentic and true to the period. Basic ingredients, simple methods and delicious results have made it very popular in our house. In fact, we've had them so often that The Man of the House just about has the recipe memorized. Here it is!


2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
2 eggs, beaten
5 TB light molasses
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional - we don't use them because Sissy is distrustful of all nuts)
1/2 cup raisins

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • In another large bowl, beat the sugar with the shortening until smooth and cream.
  • Mix in the beaten eggs, molasses, and vanilla. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients.
  • Stir in walnuts and raisins (the goo is usually so thick by now that we mix the raisins in literally by hand).
  • Drop by teaspoonfuls (we actually shape them into larger cookies) onto ungreased baking sheets.

  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes approximately 3 dozen tablespoon-sized cookies.

Warm, soft and pleasantly (but not overly) sweet. Absolutely delicious and the only rationed items used are sugar (a modest amount thanks to the molasses), shortening (easier to purchase with points compared to butter) and raisins (not too expensive in blue/green points). I suppose if "shortages" arise then we could lighten up on the shortening, decrease the amount of sugar while increasing the amount of molasses and reduce or omit the raisins.

Until then, we're happy to have this new tradition in the house.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And Then Things Became REALLY Interesting...

Tonight I was working on menu planning for next week, deciding which meals sounded yummy and their corresponding point values. And something kept nagging me...we have too many blue/green points - you know, the points used for canned and frozen foods (I know that you knew what blue/green points were used for because you are all rationing experts now). 192 points is too many - I have a hard time using that many per week and that doesn't seem right.

So I went back to my research I did during the initial phase of the project and looked at my notes.

And I compared it with my research I did last weekend at the Kansas Historical Society.

My suspicions were correct. Apparently, there was an error in my original notes...we do not have 192 blue/green points per week.

We have...are you ready?

We have 48 blue/green points per week. That's it.

Take a look at the handy-dandy point chart again, my friends.

Things just got substantially more interesting.

Oh. Boy.

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


We went out to eat tonight (a rarity for rationing year).

I had a salad.

A nice, crispy, juicy, green, leafy salad.

With cucumbers.

And a small, decent-tasting tomato.

Compared to this, that "heaven" label for last night's SPAM is just crazy talk.

Goodness, how I miss lettuce!

--Rational Mama

Monday, January 18, 2010

"It Tastes Like Heaven": A Historic SPAM Recipe

Well, here we are, about 1 month in to our rationing year and we're finally getting around to our first SPAM recipe.

SPAM was around before WWII, but didn't become really popular until the War - and subsequent rationing - began. At 5 red points a can SPAM is definitely a "bargain" meat. Plus, it's precooked and quite versatile - contributing it's salty meatiness well to many recipes.

Now, I have only had SPAM on a few occassions, and all before I turned 6 years old. As a child I liked the idea of tinned meat. There was a sort of beautiful precision in the geometric shapes that appealed to me. As far as taste, I vaguely remember a certain squishy, salty flavor similar to lower quality ham products. The Man of the House remembers eatings SPAM a few times as a child as well.

But our girls had never had anything of the sort.

It seemed a good idea to initiate them with the most simplist of SPAM recipes: Fried SPAM Burgers. It doesn't get any easier than this, folks.

1 can SPAM (I used the "lower sodium" variety)
4 hamburger buns
Assorted hamburger toppings (cheese, mayo, pickless, ketchup, etc.)
  • Slice SPAM loaf into 4 slices.
  • Fry SPAM slices in a non-stick skillet on medium/medium-high until lightly browned and crispy, approximately 5 minutes per side.
  • Place in buns and garnish as desired.
And the girls? Prior to the cooking they marveled at the way it schlopped out of the can and landed on the plate with a splat. They spent a good two minutes poking and prodding the meat cube before I sliced it. And for a while Sissy did a song and dance around the kitchen implying that SPAM was, in fact, octopus meat.

But after the cooking? They finished their SPAM burgers in record time! Really - it was gone in a flash! When I asked them to give a review of their SPAM burgers they both agreed on the same four words, "It tasted like Heaven."
So, it seems likely that SPAM will be a regular visitor in the Rational Living household.

On note: we served our SPAM burgers with the oven-crisped cabbage recommended by Rational Living reader Carla. It's very simple: thinly-sliced cabbage tossed with olive oil and salt/seasonings, roasted on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until slightly crisped (about 20 minutes or so). My review? "It tasted like Heaven." The roasting imparted a lovely, sweet taste to the cabbage, reminiscent of roasted Brussels sprouts. It also will most definitely be repeated during the year.

All in all, a successful rationing dinner this evening!

--Rational Mama

Historic Recipe: Banana Cake


Well, we all survived Sissy's birthday party and the food seemed to go over well. The two big hits for the day were both Fannie Farmer recipes - one for homemade macaroni and cheese (using cream, milk, butter and cheese - really, how could it not be good?) and the other for banana cake (also using cream and butter). There is no way we could have pulled off such good eats for all 15 attendees if we had not been saving up butter, sugar and cheese over the past few weeks!

The banana cake has been a family favorite for years and years. The Man of the House's mother received a Fannie Farmer cookbook on her wedding day and the banana cake recipe has been a regular staple in their family ever since. Here's the recipe:

Banana Cake
  • Set oven at 350 degrees and butter your pan (recipe calls for a 9" square pan but we always use our Bundt pan)

  • Cream 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy

  • Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar in gradually

  • Add 2 eggs, slightly beaten

  • Beat thoroughly and add 1 cup mashed banana (it's okay if it's a little more than 1 cup) and 1 tsp vanilla or lemon extract (we always use vanilla)

  • Sift together 2 cups pastry or cake flour (often times we use all-purpose flour and it turns out just fine), 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt

  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with 1/2 cup milk or cream

  • Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until surface is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
In keeping with the rationing tradition we have not been buying bananas regularly, but when we have I always set a few aside in preparation for Sissy's birthday. Also, I did not ice the banana cakes but instead sprinkled them with confectioner's sugar, since frosting (loaded with sugar and fat) was a rarity during WWII.

Yum! Tasty and a worthy platform for a nine year old's wishes!

--Rational Mama

Friday, January 15, 2010

Preparing for the Big Day AND Another Week of Scenarios

Things are in full chaos mode at the Rational Living household. Sissy's birthday party (with 15 attendees!) is on Saturday afternoon, so we're in a frenzy of cooking, cleaning and crepe paper. But I squeezed out a few minutes to let you know how we did last week and what scenarios we are facing this week.

Last week we used 62 of our 64 red points and 125 of our 192 blue/green points.

We used 125 of our 193 miles.

We had a special treat on Tuesday when the Rational Living household was taken out to eat in honor of Rational Mama's thirty-f(*cough*cough*) birthday. We had a lovely dinner at the local Indian restaurant and the night was rather ration-friendly, since most ate vegetarian meals and we had plenty of blue/green points left to "pay" for the frozen vegetables that were used.

However, the dinner out got use thinking...during the weeks that we go out to dinner it doesn't seem fair to give ourselves the full amount of ration points, since we don't count our meal's points when dining out. So, since this Tuesday is our regularly-scheduled, no special event, only once a month, Rational Living household night out for dinner we are only allotted 13/14ths of our ration points: 59 red and 178 blue/green points.

With that in mind, here's our four scenarios for the week (that's the most scenarios per week so far!):
  • Beef - limited availability, only 1/2 the normal purchase amount available
  • Coffee - limited availability, only 1/2 the normal purchase amount available
  • Canned fruit - scarce, available but at 1 1/2 the normal ration points
  • Dried fruit - scarce, available but at 1 1/2 the normal ration points

As if the fruit issue wasn't challenging enough. Sigh.

Two recipes on the menu this week call for one pound of ground beef per recipe, so that will now be 1/2 pound each, to be extended by adding black beans. Tortillas also make another appearance this week. Since our town has had a thriving Hispanic population since the late 1800s we are allowing ourselves this treat, as they would have been available in local markets during the 1940's.

This week's menu:

Saturday: Sissy's Birthday Party! Homemade macaroni and cheese (historic recipe), coleslaw, broccoli casserole, relish tray and banana cake (historic recipe)

Sunday: Tacos and (canned) corn - special request for Sissy's real birthday

Monday: SPAM burgers and oven-fried cabbage (thanks to reader Carla for the great cabbage idea!)

Tuesday: Out!

Wednesday: Spaghetti marinara

Thursday: Cheese enchiladas and black beans

Friday: Hot dogs, saffron rice and carrots

Did you see that on Monday?!?! It's our first SPAM recipe! I have vague memories of having SPAM a few times as a child and being mesmerized by the thought of meat in a can. I'm interested to see how the girls react. I'll report all the gory details and let you know how the party fare is received.

Have a great weekend!

--Rational Mama

Monday, January 11, 2010

Historic Recipe: Hot Cabbag Slaw (and a Plea from the Rational Living Household)

Friends, we knew there would be times during our year of living on WWII rations that we would be discouraged, discontent and otherwise dissatisfied with the situation in which we had put ourselves. Little did we know such a circumstance would arise so quickly within the year.

Lemme 'splain.

Remember how one of the limitations we're working with is that the only fresh produce purchased must be seasonal? That means for the months of January through March the only fresh produce items allowed are cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, turnips and winter squash.

Now, the majority of the household has a fondness for green leafy things and as such we've been eating far more cabbage than the average modern American family. Cabbage salad, coleslaw, Asian cabbage salad, cabbage vinaigrette and so on. One of the recipes we tried was the "Hot Cabbage Slaw" recipe in Joanne Lamb Hayes' Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked.

1 small head (1.25 lb) green cabbage
1 large red bell pepper (stems, seeds and ribs discarded)
1 cup water
2 TB bacon fat or vegetable shortening
2 TB all-purpose flour
2 TB lemon juice
1.5 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

*I substituted 1 large carrot in place of the unseasonable bell pepper

[Warning: the following pictures contain images of over-cooked, slimy vegetable products. Children and the squeamish may want to look away.]

  • Rinse and shred cabbage. Thinly slice pepper (carrot) lengthwise.
  • Combine cabbage, pepper, and water in a heavy 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 10 minutes
  • Pour into a colander and drain very well, reserving 1 cup liquid. If necessary, add water to liquid to make 1 cup.
  • In same saucepan, melt bacon fat; stir in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in 1 cup reserved vegetable liquid, the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • Stir reserved cabbage and pepper (carrots) into thickened sauce and return to a boil. Cook, stirring, until vegetables reach desired tenderness, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir.

I believe the culinary term is...ewww. Sadly, this recipe did not work for us; it was a combination of slimy cabbage, bacon flavor and lemon that no one found palatable. The children wouldn't touch it, The Man of the House and I ate our allotted serving and then I'm afraid, my friends, that the remainder ended up in the refrigerator and, after a week, went to visit trash mountain. So sad. One of our goals is to not waste food this year. So sad.

And it also makes me feel very thankful that this type of meal is a choice - not a necessity.

And this brings me to the plea: please oh please oh please oh please oh please if you have any fabulous, ration-friendly recipes for cabbage, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, turnips and winter squash can you please post them? They would make the Rational Living household happy and renew our faith in seasonal eating.

From the bottom of my stomach,
Rational Mama

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Historic Recipe: Chicken and Waffles

This historic, classic comfort food recipe comes from Grandma's Wartime Kitchen: World War II and the Way We Cooked. It's perfect for recent sub-zero temperatures and serves as a good way to stretch the family's poultry supply.

1 3/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, separated
1 TB melted butter
3 TB shortening (only needed if your waffle iron isn't non-stick)

Chicken Gravy
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups cut-up leftover cooked chicken (cut into 1 inch pieces)
2 TB finely chopped pimiento, optional
1 TB finely chopped fresh parsley

Note: The recipe called for leftover cooked chicken, but I used some of the turkey meat I had in the freezer from the first week of rationing. Also, I did not use the pimiento and used dried parsley instead of fresh.
  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a baking sheet or oven-safe place in the oven to heat. Preheat waffle iron.
  • Prepare waffles: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat together milk, egg yolks and butter in a small bowl. Beat egg whites with an electric beater until stiff peaks form.

  • You'll have three bowls (flour mixture, milk/egg mixture and egg whites):

  • Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add milk mixture and stir just until all dry ingredients have been moistened. Fold in beaten whites.

  • Brush waffle iron with shortening (if needed) and bake waffles. Remove waffles to oven to keep warm until all have been baked.

  • Prepare chicken gravy: gradually beat broth into 1/3 cup flour in a heavy saucepan. Add 1/4 tsp salt and the pepper.
  • Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until thickened. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Sit in chicken, pimiento (if using) and parsley. Keep warm until all waffles have been baked.
  • Top waffles with chicken gravy and serve.

Overall, the family was pretty pleased with this recipe: warm, comforting and tasty. That said, I think the 2 cups of turkey was more than enough. When we make this recipe again I will probably only use 1 cup of diced poultry. Also, the waffles had a very bread-like texture, very similar to a biscuit. In the future I might just pair the gravy with biscuits, which require less attention. Or, I will use a different waffle recipe that creates a nice, light and crispy waffle.

Either way we will definitely be repeating this recipe again during the rationing year!

--Rational Mama

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This Week's Scenarios and Menu

Mr. Bowles' Amazing Marketplace Scenario Randomizer has spoken! Our scenarios for this week are:

Processed Meats - no new purchases available

Coffee - limited availability, only 1/2 the normal purchase amount available

Whew! I am so thankful that cheese and butter were not restricted, since we're saving them up for Sissy's birthday party on the 15th!

We'll be fine with the processed meat we have on hand (leftover pepperoni from last week's purchase) and since we're not big coffee drinkers we're doing quite fine with the 2 pounds I purchased at the beginning of rationing.

We have a few left-over anachronisms in the refrigerator and cupboard that we'll get rid of this week to put us on the up and up. Hence, the tortillas and wonton wrappers mentioned in the menu below:

Saturday: Homemade pizza (pepperoni, olive, onion and pineapple for the girls)
Sunday: Homemade tacos and (canned) corn
Monday: Mushroom and barley soup with fresh-baked bread
Tuesday: Out for Rational Mama's birthday!
Wednesday: Egg puffs and (frozen) mixed vegetables
Thursday: Turkey wontons and (frozen) broccoli
Friday: French toast casserole and (frozen) blueberries

For this week's menu we used 62 of our 64 red points
on ground beef for the tacos, canola oil, turkey for the wontons and cheese and butter for Sissy's birthday menu.

We used 125 of our allotted 192 blue/green points on canned pineapple and other fruit, canned corn, spaghetti sauce and beef broth. Mostly, though, our blue/green points were used for frozen produce; we are desparately missing the variety of fresh produce normally available to us. Everyone in the household agrees that this is the hardest part of rationing so far.

I also purchased an additional 2 pounds of sugar.

Tuesday night's dinner out with family will be the first time we've eaten out since at least December 26th. Not a new world record, I know, but a good change. We have a no-rules policy towards eating out during the rationing year, since we will be doing it so rarely. This gives our modern souls a little break and is still in line with the historical example. Early in the rationing period purchases at restaurants were not included, but the government quickly decided that wasn't in the best interest of the general food supply. Folks still ate out in restaurants during the war although selections were often, but not always, limited and ration points were usually recorded.

As for the gasoline ration, last week we used 73 of our allotted 193 miles. Pretty impressive, but the horrible weather we've had has made us more home-bound than usual. I expect that number to increase significantly once warmer weather is the norm.

It will be interesting to see exactly how lunch and dessert for 17 people will work out on the 15th. I've got one more week to prepare and plan and calculate ration points.

Oh, and there's at least two more historical recipe posts on the way! One was nice and comforting, the other'll see. If points allow then next week we will try our first SPAM recipe!

--Rational Mama

Cabin Fever

Another weekend with 12+ inches of snow on the ground and -20 degree wind chills. The girls had two days of school cancelled this week because of the weather. We are all getting a bit squirrelly and need to get out, but it doesn't seem likely to happen.

At least the girls were able to have a sleep-over at their grandparents last night while The Man of the House and I went to a movie. I'm sure the change of scenery was good for the girls, and since we only see about one movie a year in the theater the movie was a nice departure from the ice and snow.

Now, The Man of the House is at work and the girls are still over at their grandparents. I'll have to brave the elements in a bit to go get them, but in the meantime I have homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee and seed catalogues. Not a bad start to the day.

--Rational Mama

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rationing Across the Pond

It's snowing here. Again.

We're expecting 2 to 5 inches of white stuff, in addition to the 10+ inches we already have on the ground. Snow has become monotonous and it's only early January. Sigh.

At least our monotony will be broken up tonight by another round of Mr. Bowles' Amazing Marketplace Scenario Randomizer. I'm a little nervous that cheese will be restricted - Sissy has her heart set on serving all 17 attendees at her family birthday party from-scratch macaroni and cheese.

Oh, and anyone who thinks we have a challenge this year should check out the folks at On the Ration - a modern couple "across the pond" who is living on U.K. WWII civilian rations for an entire month. U.K. civilian rations were considerably tighter than those in the U.S. and subject to much more frequent shortages. The current weather condition in the U.K. isn't making their month any easier.

To learn more about U.K. rationing and the homefront I highly recommend a viewing of 1940's House. It's available through Netflix and is a guaranteed three hours well spent.

Stay warm, readers!

--Rational Mama

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Historic Recipe: Mock Apple Pie

Greetings from Rational Living!

During this next year of living on WWII rations we will be trying various period-appropriate recipes both to connect with our 1940's counterparts and to make the most use of our available consumables. Recipes will come from a variety of sources including three fabulous books:

Additionally, I'll be pulling recipes from some of the 1942 - 1946 newspapers in the collection at the Kansas Historical Society.

Today's recipe is actually from an Internet source: the website for the National WWII Museum. The original recipe was provided by Janice M. of Germantown, IL and there are several similar recipes available on the Internet. The following is the recipe I as made by yours truly.

One note: this was my first attempt in my thirty-f(*cough*cough*) years at making a pie crust. It ain't pretty, but it worked out in the end.

Pie Crust Ingredients
2/3 cup shortening
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour, sifted
5 to 6 TB cold water

Sift flour with salt into large mixing bowl. Cut shortening into flour with pastry blender or, in my case, using the double knife method until particles are the size of small peas.

Sprinkle in cold water, partly mixing until flour is moist. Divide pastry into 2 balls.

Roll out each pastry ball onto floured surface until 1/8" thick.

Mock Apple Pie Ingredients

2 pie crusts
approximately 20 crackers (saltines or Ritz-style)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3 TB lemon juice
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Bring water, sugar, cinnamon, cream of tartar, lemon juice and nutmeg to a boil in a saucepan. Boil for 3 minutes and set aside to cool.

Place crackers into the unbaked pie shell. Pour the cooled mixture over the crackers and cover with the second pie crust.

Cover edges with foil and bake in preheated 425 degree oven until crust is light brown, approximately 40 minutes.

Let cool on wire rack until ready to serve.

And the results...?

Not the prettiest pie, but it's a pie nonetheless.

The taste is very similar to apple pie, but the texture is a bit off.

Either way, a pretty slice - the only thing missing is a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.

And the judges give it two thumbs up!

--Rational Mama

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Results from the Randomizer!

Last Wednesday night we used Mr. Bowles' Amazing Marketplace Scenario Randomizer for the first time - something we will be doing every Wednesday evening during the rationing year. The roll of the die indicated that there would be three scenarios for the this week's shopping. They are:

Salad Oils - None available

Frozen Fruit - Scarce, available but only at 1 1/2 times the normal ration points

Processed Meats - Only substandard quality available

As far as the salad oils go, I'm glad I bought a new jar of canola oil last week. I think we have enough to get us through, but I hope we can purchase more next week.

Frozen fruit is already quite pricey on the rationing list, so 1 1/2 the regular points makes it a definite luxury for the week. Our family typically does not use much frozen fruit at all when not rationing, but that's because we eat lots of fresh fruit instead. Since we're limited to seasonal availability during the rationing project I have a feeling frozen fruit will be purchased more often as a nice break from canned and dried fruit during the winter months. Luckily we had just enough points to purchase some frozen strawberries this week as an extra treat.

Substandard processed meats showed up on our shopping list in the form of hot dogs and some pepperoni for homemade pizza night. In this instance I assumed that "substandard" meant off-brand. Again, not too bad of a scenario for our first week with the Randomizer.

For this week's shopping trip we used 63 of our 64 red rationing points and 185 of our 192 blue/green stamps. Red points were used on pepperoni, cheese, hot dogs and turkey and then buying containers of both shortening and margarine. Friday night will be a special night with 10 point pork chops! Most of the blue/green points were used on canned fruits and vegetables and those point-pricey frozen strawberries. Also, we purchased a modest-sized bottle of ketchup at a whopping 18 points - yowzer!

I also purchased our allotted 2 pounds of sugar (brown).

The dinner menu for this week is:
Saturday - homemade pizza (pepperoni and black olive)
Sunday - sloppy does (using non-rationed venison), mashed potatoes and cabbage salad
Monday - vegetable fried rice and egg-drop soup
Tuesday - baked hot dogs loaded with left-over mashed potatoes and cheese and (canned) green beans
Wednesday - vegetarian taco soup with sour cream and Fritos (yay for historically accurate Fritos!)
Thursday - waffles and (turkey) gravy (historical recipe) and (frozen) peas
Friday - pork chops, cabbage and fresh-baked bread

On Wednesday night we also reset the trip meters on our vehicles - this week will be the first full week to stay under our 193 miles-per-week ration. The Man of the House has been carpooling to work with a gentleman who prefers to be paid in soda (!); this saves us around 14 miles each day that he works. My round trip to work is only 2 1/2 miles, and I often walk to and from work two to three times a week, weather permitting. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't permitted much lately, so I'm itching for some nicer weather in the new year!

The next few weeks of shopping should be interesting because we are preparing for Sissy's birthday party, during which we will be feeding 17 people a noon-time meal. We've already developed a relatively ration-friendly menu and should be able to make all the long as the Randomizer doesn't throw us a kink!

--Rational Mama

Friday, January 1, 2010

Why Ration?

Happy New Year from the Rational Living household! A new year seemed like a good time to reassess why we undertook this year-long rationing project (of which we just completed our first week). The Man of the House has provided the following essay…
--Rational Mama

When Rational Mama asked me to help explain the reasons we are undertaking this project, I was looking forward to writing a well organized and moving essay. It turns out that I am not quite the essayist that I used to think I was. Maybe it's the 15 years of not writing anything or maybe if she gave me a due date I could wait until the night before, get hopped up on Mountain Dew and microwave popcorn and pull an all-nighter of writing AND studying for the calculus midterm. Actually, my personal solution to the coffee vs. soda dilemma was to swear off caffeine completely, so the Mountain Dew solution isn't really an option now.

Anyway, when she mentioned that she would like to do something like the rationing project someday I pretty much immediately said "lets go."

For my part I think I was aware that I am guilty of being the type to talk about all that is wrong in the world and what should be done and then go back to hiding in my comfortable middle-class oblivion without committing to do anything about anything. Then this opportunity to commit to making some real changes to our habits and lifestyles came up. It just seemed like the right time to actually “get off the sofa” and do something. I don't have any delusions about saving the world from gluttonous consumerism and all it's cascading affects but at least for my own mental well being it's better than living with blinders on and pretending that nothing is wrong.

This is where the moving essay was going to be but for now you will have to settle for a quick survey of some of the issues that could be improved by those with the most using less and sharing more.

First off, there is the environment. This is the big one and it is more complicated that I can do justice. It’s not just one of the issues, it is many issues rolled together. Let's be clear from the beginning: in high school I was the idealistic type of environmentalist who thought we were supposed to save nature for nature’s sake. I have replaced that guy with a realistic and occasionally cynical and pessimistic environmentalist. I now realize that nature doesn't feel or care - people feel and care. We need to protect nature for the people. I’m sorry to have to bring up such an overworked topic, but Global Warming is real. Your children and grandchildren will live in a world shaped by our actions today.

So how is this an environmental project? That is the complicated part. I really believe that everything is connected and every action has consequences. The more we consume, the greater our impact on so many levels. We have chosen the World War II rationing scenario to make it interesting and give us specific guidelines but the real issue for me is to slow down our consumption.

Another personal goal is to increase awareness of some more directly humanitarian issues we feel strongly about.

By rationing, we are forcing ourselves to be mindful and not take for granted how lucky we are just to live in one of the "first world" nations. For example, as I gave the dog a bath, did some laundry, ran the dishwasher and took a bath yesterday I was really aware of how much I take for granted an abundant supply of clean water - and that is just the beginning. During our year of rationing there will be restrictions on what we can eat and when, but we will never go hungry. We may move the needle on the thermostat (between 60 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit going into January), but we won't be truly cold. We will carpool or walk when possible and combine and minimize shopping trips but I still am grateful that I am not one of the people I see standing in the snow and wind waiting for public transit.

I am not half the researcher Rational Mama is but in the future I will be posting highlights of other areas of the world (and some not so far away) where people have to make due with so much less than even our restricted amounts, along with some ideas about what we (and you) can do to make an impact. More good impact, less bad impact - that is the general idea we are working on.

I hope you enjoy reading about the nuts and bolts of our experiences trying to match the restricted consumption that was experienced by “The Greatest Generation.” While you do, please remember that they are considered Great because of the sacrifices they made and the change they brought about in the world. It may be difficult to convince today's populace in general that global environmental degradation is an enemy on par with those faced in WWII. But perhaps as you follow along with our little project you will consider if there are any small sacrifices you can make to help give a better world to our descendants and comfort to those who are suffering now.

--The Man of the House