Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rationing Allies

Okay. The house is officially on the market and life can start to return to normal. Well, normal except for the fact that the house will be in a perpetual state of hyper-cleanliness (while not normal, I do love this feature of the house being for sale). Back to blog!

Friends, I love my husband.

But first, a history lesson.

As complicated as rationing was in the U.S. during WWII there is no doubt that our allies across the pond had it much worse. Not only were U.K. rations much more restrictive and meager, but they experienced more frequent and lasting shortages (not to mention the bombings).

Their period of rationing was also significantly longer than that experienced in the U.S. Whereas U.S. rationing lasted for the better part of three years (roughly 1942 to 1945), rationing in the U.K. lasted a whopping 14 years (1940 to 1954). Of course, that could have been much shorter had the U.S. continued even a modest course of rationing and used the surplus to aid struggling allies in their post-war efforts. But I digress.

There's been some recent attention drawn to WWII rations in the U.K. by the reality TV show "The 1940s House" (you really should watch it if you haven't) and by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. There are also several examples of modern folks trying out the U.K. ration program (my favorite, of course, is On the Ration).

So it only seems fair that during our own year-long rationing program we honor those allies who had it much worse than us. I mean seriously honor them - not just go with a "Look, I made a Woolten Pie" kinda thing. Which is why a few weeks back I suggested to TMOTH that we give U.K. WWII rations a try for two weeks (one week seemed to easy).

And without much hesitation at all he said, "Okay."

Friends, I love my husband.

So from October 1st to October 15th we will be living on WWII civilian rations from the U.K. What will our rations be for that two week period? Well, just like the U.S., the U.K. rations changed a bit during the course of the War. What we will be following are roughly c. 1945 rations; not the lowest of the low but they're slim enough to make me a little nervous.

Now, I'm at the mercy of Internet sources for this list so please, readers in far distant lands, chime in if I've made any mistakes (Mr. Graham - I need your wisdom!).

Weekly Rations For a Family of Four

Basic Rations
8 oz preserves
8 oz sweets
32 oz sugar
16 oz bacon/ham
16 oz margarine
8 oz loose tea
8 oz butter
8 oz lard
4 oz cheese
4 eggs
4 liters fresh milk (for the girls)
Enough milk power to make 4.8 pints


The meat ration fluctuated during the War but the figure I've found for 1942 was each person was allowed 1s,2d per week to purchase beef and/or pork. According to the inflation calculator, that would equate to 2.16 pounds today (sorry, my keyboard doesn't have the symbol for British pounds). Under the current exchange rate ($1.00 = .6417 pounds), that would equate to $3.36 per person, per week...or $13.44 per week to buy pork and/or beef for the family.

Fish was not rationed, nor were sausages - but sausages were hard to come by at times.

Tinned Foods, Biscuits, Cereals and Misc.

These items were rationed on a point system and for our two week period we are allowed a total of 12 points. Mr. Graham was nice enough to post a run-down of point values on his blog.


Yes, even soap was rationed in the U.K. during the War. This includes soap for washing dishes, clothes, household areas and humans. We have four coupons per week to use on soap, and each coupon can buy one of the following:

4 oz hard bar soap

3 oz toilet (scented) soap

1/2 oz liquid soap

6 oz soft soap

3 oz soap flakes

6 oz soap powder

I've found an on-line source from which I can purchase soap flakes, so I'll be ordering them soon.


I find references to fuel (both heating and petrol) being rationed in the U.K. during the War, but I can't find any specific information. Can anyone help with this?

Of course, we won't be able to use any of our current cabinet or fuel tank contents during this two week period. It just wouldn't be fair to supplement our U.K. rations with U.S. rations.

We've haven't really laid this out for the girls yet, since the household has been a bit berserk in the rush to get it everything done before it went on the market. Maybe we'll allow them a few days of normalcy before we pop this on them.

And maybe I'll promise them my share of the sweets to get them through it.

--Rational Mama


  1. I am as ever in awe of your comittment to this project.

  2. Hi Michelle!

    British rations declined over the course of the war, starting with what (to me, on 1945 average rations) look quite generous and getting down to under 2,500 calories in the winter of 1946/47 before we got a useful loan from the US government. We paid that off in about 2005, having defaulted repayments only 30 or so times!

    In 1940 red meat was 1s 10d's worth (12d to a shilling, 20s to a £pound, so 240d = £1) a week. That converts to decimal currency as 9 new pence. If you use the official UK inflation figures from you get £2.63, or $4.13 per adult per week. For children under 6, the meat ration was half that.

    By 1945, it was down to 1s 2d (£0.06) or £1.32 ($2.08) per person per week - again, half that ($1.04) for kids under 6.

    The reason for rationing by price was to push people in to buying the cheaper cuts of meat Britons previously hadn't been willing to touch! You could get any weight of meat, but only up to the limit of the price. Kidneys, liver, brains and tripe were not rationed. Nor were they edible in the first place, IMHO!

    Fish is, as you say, unrationed, but hard to come by - you always had to wait in line for it, usually for over an hour. However, that's white fish (cod, haddock etc). If you're willing, unlike Brits of the time, to have tuna, trout or other dark-meat fish, there's always plenty of it available.

  3. Preserves are a pound (weight) every 2 months, so that's 1/2lb a month, or 4oz per person per week, including children.

    Sweets are 3oz a week on average through the war per person, but by 1945 the ration was abolished and sweets were got with your sugar coupons, I'm afraid.

    Sugar is 8oz per person per week throughout the war (it was beet sugar, so not imported) and some of that, in 1945, could be had as sweets: hard candy (boiled sweets) mainly; you could also get those with your 'points'. Of chocolate in 1945 there was very little, although you could sometimes get cocoa powder on points to make your own. What chocolate you could get was 'dark' or 'bitter' chocolate, not the milk or sweet chocolate we now have. Artificial sweeteners were available, but only in 'pill' form - no 'just like sugar' powders.

    Bacon and ham (including gammon) is 4oz/person/week. As you know, sausages are not rationed, but then they contain very little meat anyway!

    I love your fat ration plans, but those are 1940 rations. By 1945, all of the fat - margarine, butter and lard, has been rolled up into one general 'fat' coupon, of 8oz per person per week. That's all: and I still haven't lost weight!

    It's 2oz of cheese per person, but you can give up your meat and ham ration and get cheese instead - but permanently, you can't switch back and forth.

    One egg per person per week, although these were often not available. Powdered egg was available, at one 12-egg packet per person per month.

    You have 3 pints of fresh, whole-fat milk per adult per week, plus what the girls get, and your powdered milk.

    You get one (free!) pint can of concentrated orange juice for each child per week, plus a (also free!) bottle of cod liver oil per month for each of them. They'll like that, I'm sure(!)

    Virtually all of the foods above could be bought with your 'points' if you mismanaged/really needed to, but it was a badge of honor not to 'waste' points on stuff you could get on coupons.

  4. Now, you're really, really, REALLY not going to like what I've got to say about fuel rationing. Really. There was a very limited ration of petrol introduced in 1939. The ration was abolished in 1942. Not the rationing - the ration. There was no private petrol ration at all until a few weeks after VE Day. Then it was 9 gallons (41 liters) a month, until it was abolished again in 1947 due to the economic crisis.

    Between June 1942 and June 1945, you could instead get a licence that allowed you to run a vehicle if you were engaged in vital war work or worked in agriculture. It was for fiddling this that Ivor Novello was sent to prison.

    So, if you want to say you're doing rationing for 1945, then pick this month in 1945; that'll get you at least some petrol - 9 gallons each for your two weeks.

    As for fuel, electricity and gas are not rationed, since both were generated from coal and the British Isles are made of coal! However, ha, coal itself was rationed. And in the winter, there were periods when the electricity was cut off (especially 1946-47, the really bad winter) during the day. Mainly, people responded very well to the appeal that they didn't heat or light their houses during the day, and that they heated only one or two rooms (kitchen and bedroom, say) in the evening and kept the family together in that room.

    By the way, remember that you can't buy any clothing during your experiment - there's no way to get even a sock from two week's of 1945 clothing coupons. That includes secondhand clothes you've paid for, but not hand-me-downs given free. You can, however, practice your darning!

  5. Thank you, Mr. Graham!

    I suspected that the monetary amount for meat was originally too high. That said, your clarifications have allowed some of our ration amounts (fresh milk, preserves) to increase.

    The 9 gallons of gasoline per week would (using the same formula we have used for the U.S. ration experiment) allow the household up to 157 miles per week, which is do-able (and it's what we'll do, since TMOTH's job would equate to the industrial war machine).

    A few follow-up the 4 oz of loose tea per *person* or just per adult? In the U.S. coffee rations were given to all those age 16 and older.

    Also, was I correct in calculating that our family of 4 would have 12 pts per week for tinned/dried goods?

    Thanks a bunch! Mwaaaah!

    P.S. I think we'll pass on the cod liver oil...I've afraid Sissy would never speak to me again.

  6. Your tea is per adult - the children get Ribena squash (blackcurrent cordial) instead.

    Around VE Day, it was 6 points per person per week, including children.

    As TMOTH is in a Reserved Occupation, if his work involves getting "abnormally dirty", he is entitled to double the personal and clothes-washing soap ration.

    By the way, while neither bread nor potatoes are rationed (until 1946), the government ran commercials demanding that we only served one or the other with each meal. I've no idea how much people listened to that: the number of commercials would suggest nobody did!

    J x

  7. I'm looking forward to reading this period of your experiment, and think you're rather brave to attempt it! I only wish I'd been around when you were actually doing it.