Rationing challenge: Cuban rations

A new week has dawned and a fresh task is quite literally on my plate as I continue with my rationing challenge. This week I will be trying to live on the equivalent of the rations Cuban citizens receive from their government.

When I think of the concept of rationing, I can’t help but automatically think of Britain in the Blitz, the Dig for Victory campaign and the types of World War Two recipes I inflicted on myself last week. But rationing has taken many forms around the world and the Cubans have had more than their fair share of it. They have been living under the rule of what’s known on the island as the Libreta de Abastecimiento, which translates as ‘supplies booklet’ – since 1962. Originally the ‘libreta’ was only supposed to be a temporary measure introduced during the crisis in 1962, so many Cubans are unhappy that it has lasted for nearly 50 years. While there have been rumours that the Castro regime plans to disband the rationing system, these have yet to become reality although potatoes recently came off the ration list. The government claims the system helps ensure each citizen receives a minimum level of sustenance, but critics say it’s unreliable and merely a way of controlling the Cuban people. Prison sentences for black marketeering or ‘cow killing’ can be harsh.

In the Cuban rationing system, each household has a libreta or ration book through which they purchase rationed items at the local bodega or shop. Similar to the system established in the UK during WW2, households have to buy most of their rationed items through the bodega with which they are registered and are unable to purchase them elsewhere. These items are sold at government subsidised prices and rations can vary depending on the age and health of the citizens in the household.

Cuban’s receive their rations on a monthly basis, although, that said, there are often seem to be shortages of certain foodstuffs, long queues and complaints at the quality of certain items. As I am only carrying out this challenge for a week, I have reduced the monthly rations to a week’s worth:

Rice – 675g

Beans – 143g

White sugar – 350g

Dark sugar – 350g

(Source = http://cubamigo.org / Wikipedia)

These and the meat rations mentioned below are thought to cover between one third and one half of Cubans’ calorie intake for a week. Other items have to be purchased outside of the rationing system, which can be tough as Cubans’ average earnings are around $20 per person per month. I will also have an extra £3.25 with which to supplement my rations – roughly a week’s Cuban wages at current exchange rates. Many Cubans also receive a free meal at work or school cafeterias at lunchtime.

Meat and poultry is distributed separately every 15 days and rotates between products. For the benefit of my challenge, I have allotted myself 113g of minced beef (1/4 lb) for the week. It doesn’t sound like an awful lot, but I should count myself lucky as the rationed beef in Cuba is often mixed with soya bean to make it stretch further. Apparently Cubans call these types of meat product, Objeto Comestible No Identificado, or ‘non-identified edible object’. At least they still have a sense of humour after 48 years of rationing. Whether I – a rationing weakling – will retain one after a week of Cuban rations remains to be seen…

Could you survive on Cuban rations? Do you have Cuban relations or friends who do so each day? How do they manage? Leave a message and let me know.

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6 Responses to Rationing challenge: Cuban rations

  1. Flo says:

    But Piper that weekly wage has to cover clothes, rent, heat, cleaning, travel to work, beer money, fags, toys for the children ….. It\’s not just for food you know. So you could well have an extra 50p out of the some that you have decided is a weekly wage. She says laughing that we had to tell you that pensioners wear clothes as do job seekers when you have been looking at previous challenges. Oh dear what shall we do with you? And out of that wage you would have to feed your pets too!

  2. Martha says:

    I don\’t have anything specific I wanted to say, but felt it was time to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog. So, yes. I really enjoy reading The Frugal Life… 🙂

  3. Bill says:

    Hi piper,always such a damned good read, so much common sense, & plenty of humour too. It brightens me day so much, & also reminds me that I am not the only victim of rip-off Britain. Good luck with this Cuban ration, even tougher than last week. Try the pint of water before each meal, & pint of water instead of a snack, as taught in survival training, in Hereford, at least since 1940. Also from Hereford, 2 , or even 1 meal/day, even alternate days, any means of eating on a disciplined, regular basis.

  4. Piper says:

    Hey – thank you Martha and Bill for those kind messages. I\’m blushing now! That\’s made my day. Will try the pint of water trick, Bill. Sounds like a good one.

  5. Kerri says:

    Hi Piper, good luck with the latest rationing challenge. I remember seeing a programme not long ago saying the governement were looking at abolishing the free work meals and upping people\’s rations or wages. This was proving very unpopular with many people, who would rather have the free meals than a wage rise (that might surprise one or two). For many, it\’s the only proper meal they have each day.Regarding the £3.25 – that might be GBP at current exchange rates but is that in proportion with UK food prices? I suspect food in Cuba (as well as some other things) are priced lower than the GBP rate. Perhaps it would be more of a like for like comparison if you took this into conideration too?

  6. Antonio says:

    I think that government should incorporate a dual system government, Capitalism and Communism

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