Rationing challenge begins

Spring is here (allegedly) and it’s time for a fresh challenge on the frugal life blog. Many of you may be aware that 2010 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of rationing during World War Two. To mark the occasion, I am challenging myself to live on the equivalent of WW2 rations and find out more about other forms of rationing around the world.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Imperial War Museum in London is currently running an exhibition about rationing and the Dig for Victory Campaign called the Ministry of Food. You may remember that I also recently interviewed Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, mother of Hugh and author of the exhibition’s accompanying book, also entitled The Ministry of Food . Reading the book, I was surprised to find a few comparisons between life during the war and life during the credit crunch. While obviously we are no longer at war and living in fear of bombing raids or invasion, people nowadays are becoming more interested in where their food comes from, cutting waste and in growing their own vegetables.

Plus, rightly or wrongly, media commentators have drawn parallels between the post-war ‘austerity years’ in the late forties and early fifties, when Britain was paying off its war debts, and the current economic problems due to the UK’s debt mountain following the banking crisis. Some people, including the author Philip Pullman, have even called on the government to reintroduce rationing to prevent food wastage and reduce obesity and other lifestyle-related illnesses.

When we think of the concept of rationing, many of us automatically think of Britain’s experience of it during World War Two. But rationing isn’t something that’s exclusive to the UK. For many years there has been a rationing system in operation in Cuba, although there were rumours recently that it may be abolished, and food was frequently rationed – often severely – in Soviet Russia.

This was a typical weekly adult ration in Britain during the Second World War:

Bacon & ham – 4 oz (113.4g)

Butter – 2 oz (56.7g)

Cheese – 2 oz (56.7g)

Margarine – 4 oz (113.4g)

Cooking fat – 4 oz (113.4g) (often dropping to 2 oz)

Milk – 3 pints (but not always)

Sugar – 8 oz (227g)

Preserves – 1lb every two months (453.6g)

Tea – 2 oz (56.7g)

Eggs – one shell egg a week if available

Dried eggs – one pack per month (equivalent to 12 eggs)

Sweets – 12 oz a month (340g)

Meat – 1 shilling’s worth

(source = The Ministry of Food by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall)

I’ll let you know later in the week how I’m getting on!

Have you experienced food rationing, whether during World War Two in the UK or abroad? Do you think we should bring it back for environmental or health reasons? Leave a message and let me know.

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10 Responses to Rationing challenge begins

  1. Bill says:

    It would simply give so many so much more cash ter booze & smoke. Despite this it might be worth a try, could be the best possible health-trip fers some. We certainly need ter cut the waste of essential food on a global basis. We should possible commence with those fat-cats who have such fantastic expense a/c\’s, & live like the morons they are. Most live at our expense, & have no conscience whatever.

  2. Kerri says:

    Best of luck with the challenge Piper, I have always been fascinated with WWII and one of my favourite books when I was a child was about the war at home. I was fascinated with how the war affected the everyday lives of people. I would love to take up such a challenge but I suspect my hubby might not be so emamoured with the idea of powdered eggs, and being a 10 mugs a day tea drinker may well fall at that hurdle. I\’m interested, are you going to stick to the rationing diet regidly, eating the ration portions and only what else would be available at the time such as seasonal veg etc? That would make it really interesting.

  3. Kevin says:

    I read your article and a few thoughts came up.If everyone followed this regime then I bet there would be some unhappy faces in the large supermarket board rooms.As you are doing this by your self I think you will find it very hard to keep up. If it is a group of 4 to 6 then you have more chance to make small savings in preparing a meal that can be used later in the week. Also there is more chance of leftovers.On a posative note I think what you are doing is, in principle, a great idea and with some "tweaking" would produce the beificial results you imagineGood luckKev

  4. Syl says:

    Interesting challenge Piper! It\’s funny, but I looked at the list and thought to myself I\’d easily drop the margarine, milk, sugar, dried eggs and sweets to have a couple fresh eggs and a little more meat. I\’m sure I\’d be reasonably content as long as my own veg patch kept producing. Would be cheating though :-p I\’m sure country folks fared much better than the city dwellers in the day… more space to grow your own, maybe keep a goat for milk/cheese and less of a change of getting bombed out!

  5. Piper says:

    Thanks for your comments and kind wishes. You\’re right, Syl, – I\’m not quite sure what to do with all this sugar! And Kevin, you make a good point about how much better it would be to pool the resources of a group of 4 or 5 people. For once I\’m wishing we had a big family! Kerri, like you, I find the resourcefulness that people had during WW2 fascinating. In answer to your question, I\’m going to try to stick to the rations but supplement with whatever we\’ve got in the garden and would have been off-ration at the time. Wish me luck!

  6. Bill says:

    I would not miss the butter, cooking fat, sugar, eggs or sweets, as I have not taken sugar for over 20 years, find butter is normally far too salt, & need ter avoid as much animal fat as possible, due ter me ulcer/hernia. I have not eaten eggs or poultry since Xmas 1970, but will do so again some day, if I ever succeed in producing me own Free-Range. The only preserves I eat are tescos pickled beetroot/red cabbage. I do eat baked beans, also canned spagheti, but would much prefer me own home made pasta, if I had a semi decent kitchen.I look forward to eating me home grown Free-Range pork & bacon next Xmas, even if I have ter graze the M-Way embankment. Sadly, there is no hope of ever purchasing, or leasing, agricultural, or any other land, in UK, anytime this millenium. I would purchase or lease anywhere twixt 2 – 100 acres, but a riding school can easily afford 6x the agricultural purchase price. Even in such hard times, the leisure industry is thriving better than ever. Also the top end houising market is consuming most of the greenbelt, which does not serve the homeless, such as me\’sen, onto the housing ladder, by any means. We simply end up ever deeper into housing poverty, & are not even allowed window boxes, or any other form of home grown food, in so-called Social Housing. My own cell has been turned over by council contractors for 1 hour both yesterday, & again today, & they will be back again tommorrow, also next week, at least an hour on each visit, simply ter turn over & trash all me personal belongings. They have, & need no warrant or police, they simply threaten with kicking the door in, & an immediate, untimely eviction, when they would be forced ter rehouse me in an even worse situation.

  7. Bill says:

    p.s.On the subject of WW2, even Hitler would be far better than the current shower, terms & conditions. They make the Gestapo look like so angelic.

  8. Flo says:

    I\’ll swap you the meat and eggs (neither of which I eat) for the cheese. I\’ll bet there was a fair bit of that went on. Funny the things that the government thought were essential to eat. Not a mention of thinks like baked beans, butter beans, kidney beans, pearl barley, lentils which are the staples of my diet and which would have been imported in many cases. Makes you wonder what happened to vegetarians in those days. We aren\’t a new species that arrived with the aliens in the 1970s. Food for thought to crack a bad yolk. Wonder what happened if your one egg was bad. Hmm.

  9. Bill says:

    Floh darling,I also love cheese, every type except Romadour. I eat as much as possible even if it is slowly killing me. One of me few vices.I suspect that there was a thriving Black Market during the war, & certainly post war. I remeber the fuel rationing extremely well, & the equaly extreme fuel theft. Tyres were also expensive, judging by the level of theft. Back then gov.uk did all they could to encourage home grown food, with the least possible food miles. Today they do all possible to prevent home grown, & favour as many food miles as possible, even importing much fresh salat from the USA, not by sea, which could take a week, but by air, which only takes a few hours, and is costing so much in fuel, therefore pollution.

  10. We’ve been food rationing for the last year (ww2 style) and we love it. Its a definite change in thinking to start off with but, 1 year on, its second nature and we’re seeing the benefits. We can feed 2 adults and 3 growing children on £30 per week (at the most, usually less), we can now save 40% of our income, we’re healthier than ever. I’ve lost 2.5 stone since the end of April 2012 alone and kept it off. We’re healthier than ever.

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