Rationing challenge: Day three


When I listed all my rations earlier this week on the blog, I thought it didn’t sound too bad. After all, there was meat, bacon, butter, cheese and even preserves listed there. But then I decided to weigh them all out to see what they looked like – and to ensure I don’t eat what I’m not supposed to – and that came as a bit of a shock. Once I’d measured out the five thin rashers of streaky bacon, 3 pints of milk, the 56.7g of cheese and butter etc. it didn’t look like much at all – as you can see in the photo which includes most of my rations.

It seems strange that there is so much sugar, given all the warnings about dental health that we’re used to, and as I don’t tend to have it in my tea or my cereal I’m not sure what to do with it. I guess I’ll have to make a cake – if there’s enough butter to do so. Plus one issue for me is that there are so few teabags. I counted out 17 of them to make 2 ounces (56.7g). I am a tea addict, so making my teabag ration last over seven days (that’s 2.4 teabags a day) is going to be interesting. I will have to reuse them or make up a thermos in the mornings. Coffee wasn’t rationed during the war so that’s one alternative, although it was scarce in supply. But I am very much a tea drinker rather than a coffee drinker. I made my tea from a cold reused teabag yesterday morning and while it was ok, it wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t disgusting but just isn’t quite as refreshing as usual.

But my heart really sank when I weighed out the sweet ration which had sounded quite good on paper. One small Galaxy Caramel bar and 10 mini chocolate eggs made up the 3 ounces a week (12 ounces a month), so I’m eating one mini-egg a day at the moment to eek them out. In Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book The Ministry of Food she mentions a boy who used to shave his Mars Bar into strips to make it last and I can see why. At least I won’t get fat.

One (real) egg certainly isn’t going far, either, so I haven’t dared eat it yet. I am wondering about ordering some dried egg over the internet and trying it out, although it seems a bit expensive. Unfortunately our hens still aren’t laying at the moment, despite my entreaties to them to get a move on. However, my neighbour is overrun with eggs and said she might try and drop some round, which would be a spot of luck.

I was reading that the Ministry of Food hailed porridge oats as a miracle food, so I decided to have some for breakfast. But I was concerned about using up my milk ration too quickly, so I used half milk and half water. It wasn’t as bad as having it with only water, which I find pretty tasteless, but it was still a bit bland although very filling.

It’s odd not eating much pasta and rice, too and I’m realising how much our diet has changed since the war years. These items would have been imported and weren’t popularly eaten in those days either. The point of wartime rationing was to ensure everyone had a healthy diet because of the shortage of items that were imported. The shipping fleet was being attacked by the German U-boats and the losses to food cargoes were averaging 400,000 tons a month in 1940.

Flo left a message pondering what life was like for vegetarians during the war. I was surprised to find out recently that the Ministry of Food specifically catered for vegetarians and vegans during rationing. Vegetarians were required to register with their local food office and were given special rationing books and extra rations of eggs, cheese and nuts to replace the meat. I’d had the idea that vegetarianism and veganism were lifestyles that became popular more recently that that, but I was wrong.

So far I am finding the whole exercise strangely reminiscent of doing Weightwatchers. It’s all about planning my meals, weighing my food and being aware of every single thing I eat, from the cooking fat I use to make a meal, to the marmalade on my toast. I’m going to experiment with some wartime recipes, so I’ll let you know how I get on with them next week.

Could you live on wartime rations? Can you recommend any good wartime recipes? Leave a message and let me know.

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11 Responses to Rationing challenge: Day three

  1. Bill says:

    Hi there piper, . . . there are several types of porridge. The Royal porridge, oft called Navy, is made with cream, RAF is made with pure milk, & Army is made with water. I have been making mine with water since I left school in the mid 60\’s, but oft slop soft, low fat cottage cheese with fresh ground sweet red paprika & fresh pressed/chopped garlic, on top. If I have no cottage cheese, I use fresh grated low fat Mozella, or grate any other cheese that I have. I always cook fresh chopped rhubarb, fresh strawberries, or sultanas in me porridge, in order ter avoid sugar. I find that the same porridge can be eaten as a desert, or even a main meal at any time of day. Oats have possibly the lowest glycaemic index of all food, & are therefore the most healthy diet.I also eat raw (porridge) oats as muesli, with plain natural low fat yoghurt, equaly good with garlic & sweet red paprika.I sometimes stir a tea spoonful of oats with/without a raw egg into me hot cocoa, with fresh chopped mint. Best all stirred into a paste with cold skimmed milk, before adding hot water. Just as good as Horlicks. I also find that a teaspoon of oats, fresh chopped mint, a teaspoon of cocoa, all mixed into a joghurt dip/sauce is brill with bannanas.Porridge can also be served cold, thickly sliced, as a pudding, as during cooling, it dehydrates slightly. It can be served as a savoury or desert, dependent on fruit/veg content. It can also be quickly reheated. My dear, departed mother, would oft call me a dirty swine, just cannot imagine why.Dried egg is almost as unwelcome in me diet as Carnation, sweetened or plain, but I would welcome a few of yer Free-Range eggs. Until then I can easily live without eggs, & console me\’sen, that many Chinese/Nipponese squaddies that I met in the 60\’s & 70\’s were still serving on a diet of dry (raw) rice & dried fishheads. No great wonder that they were such lean, mean fighting machines, simply chewing a small teaspoonful of dry rice as they marched, on foot, through the jungle. They chew each mouthful fers several hours. They never stop fers food, or even a brew.

  2. Flo says:

    Here you go Piper – vegan sponge cake with neither eggs nor milk and which could be sandwiched together with some of the jam that you have – http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/food/recipes/cakes/vanilla-sponge-cake.aspx and there are lots of vegan cakes here – http://www.boutell.com/vegetarian/cake.html and they don\’t use eggs or milk. You see you just have to think differently with regard to cakes – they would fill up the spaces and use up the sugar which I suppose is there for energy. Don\’t you put jam on your porridge?One of the pleasures of being virtually vegan is that you do see life differently and learn other ways of doing things. Family always reckoned that potatoes should be scrubbed then cooked without peeling as the skin had more goodness than the rest. However, vegetable peelings went to the pigs. On the subject of vegetable waste, you probably know how much fun your chickens have with an old cabbage or brussel sprout stalk when you take off what you want to use. Mother always insisted that the stalks from the garden were kept for the chickens in the chicken coop. She said that it made the yolks more yellow and kept the birds in better health. It was family tradition passed on down from wartime ways and is still done with those who keep chickens down on my allotment site – even with the younger people.

  3. Kerri says:

    oh wow! that\’s not an awful lot is it? Regarding the sugar, could you use some of it for a fruit crumble (other ingredients depending of course). I guess, like you say it was used for energy but also prob to add some flavour to other foods that were otherwise bland. I guess good old stews were quite popular, they could go far and be bulked out with veg when there was little meat. I wish I knew more about wartime cookery – as you say, it\’s amazing how much our diets have changed. You can certainly see how those in the country were at such an advantage with a more ready supply of fruit and veg, as well as farming industry for additional meats/dairy etc.

  4. Piper says:

    Ha – vegan cakes using no butter or eggs. What a brilliant idea! Kerri – DJ reminded me of something I\’d forgotten. Apparently our sugar nowadays is much sweeter than it was during wartime or even in the 1970s so perhaps they needed more of it to get things sweet.

  5. Wendy says:

    Hi Piper, I think its quite difficult to do the ration book diet in isolation, especially nowadays. In the war, people would trade stuff – my gran would always trade her tea for someone\’s butter. And then people would be growing veg, keeping pigs etc – can you make bread, or is flour rationed? And have you thought about loose tea – it might go further, I\’m not sure.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I believe a lot of people stockpiled dried and tinned foodstuffs before the war – my grandmother being a case in point who had a sideboard stuffed with packets of tea, sugar and tinned goods – so that made ekeing out the rations a bit easier. Plus a great deal of \’grow your own\’ went on – my grandfather had two full-size allotments plus a largish garden – as well as keeping chickens and rabbits for meat. I\’m sure the ration book diet would be difficult at any time but perhaps this time of the years makes it doubly so.

  7. Flo says:

    Piper vegan cakes can be very good once you get into the hang of them are are actually quite frugal as well as yummy to make at home. Something to remember once you come off this ration thing. I think that the more "useful" ideas have lived on from war days with a lot of older people (leftover use, batch cooking for more than one meal) but some of the more inedible ways of stretching food have been quietly lost.

  8. Bill says:

    piper, mon cherri, . . . I would top up the tea ration ter 70gr, a 25% increase ter allow fers tare weight of the empty bags, say 22 bags?Me father would have called such a convenience product "sweepings from floor". I have also seen the vast difference in the size of the leaf, the old style loose tea was a much larger leaf, guaranteed ter block the drains (LOL). I used ter weigh & pack the stuff (4oz packs) before I left school, also various sugars, dried & candied fruits etc. I have also transported the slightly larger 28lb paper tea bags as used by the entire British Military. The RAF only provide spill proof in flight, slightly stronger than BA, & much cheaper, but not as good as the Army or British Rail, (RIP).Me brother makes the brew with a bag in an old tea strainer, French style, although he has never been any furter south than Potters Bar or Minehead. He then uses the same old bag the entire we(a)ek.I rarely drink black tea, & then preferably with lemon. I used ter enjoy Indian chai, made with milk instead of water. The Turks, Irani, Iraqi & Afghani all drink pure sugar, slightly diluted with clear tea. It is not fers me. If yer have fruit bushes in yer garden, yer are quids in. Yer could easily pick & dry blackberry, blackcurrant, rasperry & various other leaves. Easy ter store in small 250gm ? vaccy packs, but not in the fridge, as it would cause further dehydration, therefore mould. Sweet, young nettle leaves can also be picked & dried, not only an extreme tasty & refreshing brew, but also a great detox. Similar ter lettuce, nettles are a pulse, therefore lives picked when young sweet & tender are completely replace in around 2 weeks, & can therefore be picked several times in a season. With useful fruit bushes, leaves are not picked until after the fruit, & then best from the new seasons growth. Cammomile tea is simply a case of finding or growing some sweet young docks, then taking all the ripe seed just before it is lost ter wind & weather. Slight dehydration on a windowsill is necessary, before storing, as above. Best fresh cracked with pestle & mortar or similar, or even in a coarse pepper mill. immediately cover with cold water before adding boiling water, & wallah.Me vegan ommellettes are also good, simply use soda water as at least 50% the liquid fers batter, good fers both savoury & desert.Bon appetite, xxxxx, Bill.

  9. piper says:

    Thanks for the ideas, guys. If we had a pig I think I\’d probably eat him today, poor chap! Good point about the loose tea leaves – I\’m sure the teabags must use up some of the weight.

  10. david says:

    why don\’t you fry the bacon then with ther dripping off the meat put it in sandwiches,cos thats what they did.

  11. Marlena says:

    So which was it???/ rations of WW2 or rations that Cubans live on? For a start "TRUE" Cubans NEVER have beef…….if they are caught there are BIG penalties……..beef is reserved for TOURISTS……….When we go there (for a month at a time) to visit………we stay WITH a family and see just how they have to survive first hand. NOT ONLY are the edible things still rationed but also things like soap and toothpaste and they are of inferior quality. But they NEVER complain. Their wages are £8 -£10 PER MONTH to live on and EVERYONE is paid th same from street sweeper to DR. If they could have the experience of going shopping over here just once it would be amazing. We dont know just how the other half have to live……..but I will say this, never have they ever failed to put on a sumptuous meal for us. They are not big on hot cooked food because of the temperatures, but prefer salads. If only all of had the experience of living like they do!!!

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