The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking – Day One

The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking - Day One

The Wartime Kitchen:

Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking – Day One

The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking - Day One

How we lived and how we ate during the war, as in WW2, has been well publicised recently with the excellent BBC programme Wartime Farm, but, my plan to try to live off wartime rations started earlier this year, when I attempted to live on £1 a day – Meal Planning Monday: Live Below the Line ~ Live on £1 a Day for 5 Days to understand Food Poverty. It was hard, and I fell off the wagon on a couple of occasions,  but it brought to mind how it must have been to live on rations not for one week, as I did, but for more than fifteen years, as the population of Great Britain did during and AFTER the war. Wartime rationing is well-known, but what is not so well-known is that rationing in the UK went on until 1954…….that is a VERY long time of coupon cutting and trying to be inventive and thrifty in the kitchen. The more I thought about it, the more I knew that I wanted to attempt to live off WW2 rations for at least a week. So, I asked two of my friends, Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Fiona, from London Unattached if they would like to join me, and thankfully (it’s always better to have some moral support) they both agreed.

Wife and Home magazine

Never has ration book cooking been so relevant in the modern-day kitchen as most of the population struggle to make ends meet during the recession; and, apart from the obvious relevance to thrift and frugal cooking, I also wanted to post my week’s ration book cooking challenge in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday (and Armistice Day on the 11th November). Without making any political statements, I have been wearing my poppy with pride for the last few weeks; to me, it’s a small and humble gesture to all those men and woman who gave up their lives in all the wars, and by buying a poppy every year, I am happy to be donating something to the Royal British Legion, who continue to support all of those whose lives have been touched by war and conflicts. And now it’s my time to attempt to live off rations for one week.

WW2 Rations for One Person

WW2 Rations for One Person

So, what are the rations then? The list shown below is for one adult, a general list, as rationing  and amounts changed and fluctuated throughout the war, and, there were different rations for children, pregnant women and those who worked for the war effort in factories etc.

WW2 Rations 1940: per one person (adult)

Butter: 50g (2oz)
Bacon or ham: 100g (4oz)
Margarine: 100g (4oz)
Cooking fat/lard: 100g (4oz)
Sugar: 225g (8oz).
Meat: To the value of 1/2d and sometimes 1/10d – about 1lb (450g) to 12ozs (350g)
Milk: 3 pints (1800ml) occasionally dropping to 2 pints (1200ml).
Cheese: 2oz (50g) rising to 8oz (225g)
Eggs: 1 fresh egg a week.
Tea: 50g (2oz).
Jam: 450g (1lb) every two months.
Dried eggs: 1 packet (12 eggs) every four weeks.
Sweets & Chocolate: 350g (12oz) every four weeks

WW2 Rations 1940

Funnily enough the lack of sugar and fat doesn’t appear to be a problem for me, as I don’t take sugar in any of my hot beverages and I am always very scant with fat as I am on a low-fat diet! However, it will impact me when it comes to baking, which I do a lot. The eggs, or should I say the egg, will be a problem; but, as I live in the country, I have chickens and according to my dad, whose uncle ran a green grocers and had a small holding with rabbits and chickens, you could give up you egg ration in return for chicken meal, which I plan to do this week. Anyway, the first thing I did yesterday before I started my ration book cooking, was to make a loaf of bread, a National Loaf, with wholemeal flour and, curiously enough, a vitamin c tablet sometimes. Whereas we are used to wholemeal bread now and it has become part of the artisan bread movement, the UK was a nation of white bread lovers before the war, and the National Loaf was met with suspicion and dislike for most people. It was in 1942 that the government introduced the National Wheatmeal Loaf which used all of the wheat grain including the husks. Bakers were banned from making any other type of bread except the national loaf, and The Federation of Bakers was formed in an attempt to assist and organise wartime production and distribution of bread.

The National Loaf for WW2

The National Loaf for WW2

Recipe: The National Wheatmeal Loaf:

(Makes 2 loaves)
From: Ministry of Food – Jane Fearnley Whittingstall

1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
1 dsp honey or treacle
450 ml tepid water
1) Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).
2) Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.
2) pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap. if it sounds hollow they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Beetroot Sandwiches made with The National Wheatmeal Loaf

Beetroot Sandwiches made with The National Wheatmeal Loaf

And now on to my meal plan for today, Monday 5th November: 

Breakfast: One slice of  National Wheatmeal Loaf with a scraping of margarine and 1 teaspoon of marmalade. Two cups of tea with milk and no sugar (about 1 tablespoon milk 30ml)

WW2 Rations Breakfast Day One

WW2 Rations Breakfast Day One

Lunch: Menu One from One-Pot Meals – Ministry of Food leaflet number 35:

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll with Carrots and Parsley Potatoes

Sausage Roll with Carrots and Parsley Potatoes

Steamed Jam Pudding (Eggless)

Steamed Jam Pudding (Eggless)

 High Tea: Beetroot Sandwiches made with a scraping of butter

Beetroot Sandwiches made with National Wholemeal Bread.

Beetroot Sandwiches made with National Wholemeal Bread.

Some of the ingredients I used for my first day were not on ration, such as the sausages (although they were hard to obtain sometimes) and I also made my steamed sponge eggless too……but here’s what I have left for the remaining six days, based on two adult’s rations, as my husband is also joining me for ration book cookery week!

WW2 Rations 1940: Two Adults

Butter: 100g (4oz) Used about 1 teaspoon – 3 3/4 ozs (90g) left
Bacon or ham: 200g (8oz)
Margarine: 200g (8oz) Used 1 1/2 ozs (40g) – 6 1/2 ozs (160g) left
Cooking fat/lard: 200g (8oz)
Sugar: 450g (1lb). Used 1 1/2 ozs (40g) – 14 1/2 ozs (440g) left
Meat: To the value of 2/4d  – about 2lb (900g)
Milk: 6 pints (3600ml)  Used 300mls – 5 1/2 pints (3300mls) left
Cheese: 8oz (200g)
Eggs: 2 fresh egg a week – NOT taking this ration up as I have my own chickens
Tea: 100g (4oz).Used 1/2 oz (15g) – 3 1/2 ozs (85g) left
Jam: 900g (2lb) every two months. Used 2 tablespoons jam/marmalade – about 120g (41/2 ozs) left
Dried eggs: 1 packet (12 eggs) every four weeks
Sweets & Chocolate: 700g (1lb 8oz) every four weeks

Ingredients I used not on ration: flour, honey, salt, pepper, gravy browning (Bisto), leeks, sausages, onions, herbs, beetroot, breadcrumbs, carrots and potatoes.

 Menu One from One-Pot Meals - Ministry of Food leaflet number 35:

Menu One from One-Pot Meals – Ministry of Food leaflet number 35:

 Menu One from One-Pot Meals - Ministry of Food leaflet number 35:

Menu One from One-Pot Meals – Ministry of Food leaflet number 35:

Thus far, day one seems okay – the one pot meal menu was a Godsend and the other menus on the sheet are also tasty and easy to use within rationing. I also used my grandmother’s old Indian Tree plates for the meals, as, modern-day plates are larger, and the portions that these wartime meals yield are much smaller than today.

The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking - Day One

The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking – Day One

I also used an old “Quick Cooker Bowl” for my sausage roll, which, should have been steamed in two old baked beans tins, but there were none handy when I came to cook the meal…….hence the recipe name sausage roll I suspect!

The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking - Day One

The Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations with Ration Book Cooking – Day One

In addition to the numerous books I used for reference, and I will list them throughout the week, plus all of the vital first-hand information and tales that I gleaned from my parents, who both lived through the war and rationing, I was very kindly sent a copy of “Wartime Farm”  by Fiona Smith over at Octopus Publishing Group, and I will be posting my review towards to end of the week, as well as sharing what I learned from the book too. The book accompanied the very successful series that was aired on BBC2 and BBC HD recently.

Wartime Farm

That’s it for Day One, I will be sharing LOTS more recipes, tales, information and photos throughout the week, as well as a post on how I managed cooking in a Hay Box! As this is a meal plan of sorts, I am sending this over to Mrs M and her  Meal Planning Monday link up, and, as you may see, I also have a link-up at the bottom of this post, where all of our collective post will be added from me, Fiona and Janice – so you can all visit them and see how they are managing with their living of rations for a week too. I hope that you will join me every day for my Wartime Kitchen: Living of Rations week……see you later, Karen.

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Sausage Roll, Gravy, Carrots, Chopped Parsley Potatoes, Steamed Pudding with Jam

Why not join Janice and Fiona on their Wartime Kitchens?

Comments

  1. says

    What an admirable thing to do.
    When I see the stuff people have in their supermarket trolleys, all the ready-made meals and prepared vegetables, not to mention the wildly exotic things and the green beans flown half way around the world, it makes me wonder how we have gone so wrong with our food. Then there’s the mountains of food we throw in our dustbins, not to mention the tons of stuff wasted because it’s the wrong shape for Tesco. It’s totally insane.

    I recently sorted through some old 1940’s and 50’s knitting patterns and the largest size in the ladies’ knitwear was a 38″ bust. I think a modern version of the wartime diet would be good for all of us.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your supportive comments Jean.

      I also look askance at the loaded supermarket trolleys, and wonder just how we would manage on rations nowadays, and whether we have the culinary eduction to be inventive in the kitchen with the small amounts of rationed fat, sugar, meat, tea and sweets etc.

      I agree we must have been much fitter and healthier, and a 38″ bust would have been regarded a someone rather busty, when today, it’s about normal!

      Karen

      PS: Do keep checking back daily as I post my ration book diary! :-)

  2. says

    Such a lovely traditional looking meal, you have made Karen. That steamed pudding looks great! I think us country girls will have it a little easier than Fiona in the BIG SMOKE!

    • says

      Thanks Janice! I was also VERY taken with your lovely sausage pie on your post today……very tasty, and if we were closer, I could swap some of my eggs with you, as I notice you have used your weekly allowance already! BUT, as you say, your pie/tart makes two meals, so that is thrifty on the oven!

      I bet us country girls will find it easier than Fiona in the Big Smoke!

  3. says

    What a fantastic idea! I have been planning on blogging something similar since watching Wartime Farm and a visit to Bletchley Park. Will be watching your progress with real interest. Good Luck!

  4. says

    What a fantastic idea! I have been planning on blogging something similar (on a much smaller scale) since watching Wartime Farm and a visit to Bletchley Park. Will be watching your progress with real interest. Good Luck!

    • says

      Thanks so much! Why don’t you join in if you have time and add your posts to the link we have? Do keep coming back to see how the week progresses……Karen

  5. Alice says

    Having grown up in those war years in London and eating via the ration book there are a few words that jar my nerves till to-day and they are “We will make do”
    A can of peaches was given to us at school from, the USA and the whole family had half of one as a very special treat. Eggs were in the form of powder–not a great success for cake making. Was not sure when buying Rabbit that it was not Cat so many went missing.
    Lining up for an hour or so waiting for your turn at the butchers, only to find the piece you had your eye on was sold and you got what was left, if any.
    As a kid the big treat was a bottle of Tizer and a jam sandwich for a pinic over the park that was full of bard wirer. I also did not enjoy the Pom potatos that was closer to wall paper glue and gravy that could be cut via a knife and the extra meat found in the cauliflower that was school lunch. The up side to all this Yes we were slimmer and healther for it. Do I wish to repeat it sorry No I will stick to my veggie diet but will be interested in your results.
    Margereta Patton was the Julia Child of her day and she wrote many many recipes for “stone soup” her cook books can still be found and my help you in your quest.
    As an aside the last item to come off of rationing was sweets wherein the shops were sold out within minutes, so the govenment put them back on again for another few years.
    Adults received 4ozs and in my home the kids got 2ozs per week. I would buy the bar of chocolate by Cadbury that had 6 squares all with differet filling so I got to eat one per day, provided my siblings did not find my hiding place first.

    • says

      THANKS so much Alice for all of your interesting comments and observations…..I read them all with great interest, and there were some familiar sentiments in your reply that I often hear my mum and dad talk about!

      I have several Marguerite Patten books on wartime recipes, which, as you say have proved to be VERY informative and helpful.

      I am almost a vegetarian, I do eat fish a lot, but the lack of meat won’t really upset me, but my husband is a big meat eater!

      I hope you will pop by daily to see how I am doing, and if you have any recipes or meal ideas, I would love to hear them!

      Karen

  6. says

    Hello there,

    I’ve just found your blog via Twitter and really enjoyed reading through this post.

    I loved the Wartime Farm series and I think it was a fantastic eye-opener to the amount of food one person had on rations and the creativity needed to make the most of what they had.

    A few months ago, my husband and I started shopping for our weekly groceries within a set budget of £50 per week for all of our food, household goods etc to reduce our outgoings and also to be more mindful of what we spend generally (still more generous that rations I’m sure!)

    As a result I now plan our weekly menu and food buying which makes you very aware of the price of everything and gets you into a do-we-really-need-that mentality.

    We have an allotment so we are able to supplement our food shop with some of our own veg and I think we save money through making our own bread, pastry, jam, snacks such as homemade granola bars, chicken stock etc.

    I’ll continue to follow your rationing challenge with interest!

    • says

      Hello Kim, so nice to meet you, and I am delighted that you have found my first post interesting.

      I am very impressed with your £50 a week shopping limit, and it is something that my husband and I try t do too…..about £40 to £50 a week – heavily supplemented by home grown produce, just as you have with your allotment as well as my hen’s eggs too.

      The wartime farm series was wonderful wasn’t it? And also rather humbling when you see how little we all had to live on and how hard we all worked, and as a team too. I have thoroughly enjoyed the book and will be covering the book later on in the week.

      What I have enjoyed with the WW2 diet is the abundance of veggies used in all the recipes, fillers and healthy too!

      Hope to see you on day two onwards…..

      Karen

    • says

      Thanks Sandi, I am posting a new article every day for a week, with recipes and photos, so I hope you will find them all interesting. Karen

  7. says

    Karen, I discovered your WW2 rationing challenge via Twitter. Good luck with the coming week! I hope that you will find it stirs your creativity as well as it just being a ‘challenge’. I also hope that the recent Wartime Farm series inspires more people to adopt more of the wartime resourcefulness.

    I have been fascinated with rationing for a long time, for environmental reasons as much as dietary/household management. I have unofficially adopted WW2 clothing rationing this year as an experiment. As for the food rationing, I am surreptitiously phasing wartime quantities and practices in at home – bit by bit without labouring it. Whilst saving pennies in these frugal times is a consideration, the rationale for limiting our meat, eggs and animal fats are as relevant today as during the war. With a growing population there is such competition for agricultural land globally that growing grains for animal fodder for a animal protein-based diet is becoming increasingly untenable.

    • says

      Hello Meg, and thanks so much for your comments……well said, and I agree with so many of the points that you have made.

      I am very much treating this a creative as well as thrifty way of using less food in my daily menu, as well being healthier with less meat, sugar and fat and with more vegetables, which, luckily I like. The meal I made today was economical not just due to the ingredients I used, but also in energy, as I cooked the WHOLE meal in a three tier steamer! And, it also tasted delicious……not at all bland as I had expected.

      I am not a huge meat eater anyway, so the meat ration, as well as the sugar and fat ration, will not impact on me that much, although, I do love baking, so there may be a problem there – but I have a few egg free and fat free recipes lined up.

      I am very interested to hear about your unofficial WW2 clothes rationing project, how are you managing? It is all fascinating, and very relevant to today I feel.

      Many thanks once again for your interesting input, and I hope you will find the rest of my week of rationing interesting.

      Karen

  8. says

    a fascinating post Karen and well done you for taking part, what an excellent idea!… I must say the pictures of the sausage roll and your gingham background make it all look rather spiffing!… how very 1940’s of you… hoorah!

    • says

      I am really liking the challenge, and I have discovered some fascinating recipes in old recipe books, and in ministry of food leaflets. Karen

  9. says

    This is brilliant Karen. I have always been curious about what it would be like to live off rations today, it’s so nice that Fiona and Janice are doing it too! Can’t wait to see how it goes and what you end up making, it’s really interesting.

  10. says

    This brings back memories of my gran who I loved dearly. She was the reason I started my blog. She used to tell me stories on how she used to sew the uniforms for the soldiers. She was born in 1919 so she was in her young 20’s at the time. She would always tell us not to waste food and make sure to finish everything on the plate and now I understand. I couldn’t begin to imagine what she had gone through. What a lovely thing you are doing Karen, to give insight oh how people ate and how much rationing they had to do.

    • says

      Thanks Vanessa, and thanks for sharing your lovely memories of your grandma with me too…….my gran was the same, waste not want not and the plates had to be clean! I am so pleased that that this has brought back happy memories, memories through food and grandparents should be cherished. Karen

  11. says

    Another reason I am sorry to have lost your blog. Wartime rationing absolutely fascinates me. A few years ago I put my family on rations for a fortnight and documented the experience on a money-saving forum. I really enjoyed it and still regularly make some wartime recipes. I can see not much is going to get done around here today as I catch up with your blog.

    • says

      Thanks Sue! Likewise, I will be taking a trip over to The Quince Tree later, I can’t comment via iPad on blogger, but I an catch up and enjoy a leisurely read and comment via laptop later……..a fortnight on rations is what I would like to try next time, as I was only just getting into the swing of things after a week. One thing that I realised very quickly was just how BIG our portions are nowadays, it was very humbling to see how little housewives had to work with during rationing, and yet some of the recipes are so imaginative and very tasty too.

  12. Fiona Matters says

    I hadn’t read the first in this series before. Really interesting. I also love the idea of the sausage roll too.

  13. says

    I have just discovered your series on war rationing and am finding it absolutely fascinating. Here in Australia rationing wasn’t as severe as in the UK, but my Mum, who was born in 1939, remembers shopping with her mother and filling out their ration book.

    It looks like these quantities would have been much tougher for single people than large families. 1.5 kg (approx) of fats and sugar per week for a family of six would have been fairly easy to manage, and six eggs might have meant a cake was possible.

    • says

      Thanks Kate, I’m so pleased you enjoyed my WW2 series, and thanks for sharing your mum’s rationing memories too, I find things like that fascinating.
      I agree, it was much harder for single people and even couples to cope on such meagre rations whereas a large family had more at their disposal.
      Karen

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