My week on World War Two rations

This week I’ve taken part in an experiment with the team at Findmypast, to live on a British ration allowance from the 1940s.

While it’s not what I’d usually describe as family history research, it definitely helped me understand what my grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents would have experienced during World War Two.

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What I’ve learned from WW2 ration week

I’ve actually really enjoyed the week – it’s been very achievable, even if the food did get a bit repetitive. I found that the key was to invest a bit of time at the start, making soups and casseroles that could last for a few days.

I tried my hardest to ‘waste not, want not’. One evening, I used the zest from my one orange to create scones based on a recipe I’d found in The British Newspaper Archive. The recipe had been printed in the Lichfield Mercury on 25 February 1944.

 

Recipe for orange zest scones from 1944

 

I would most certainly have thrown the peel away before, but the scones were lovely and really simple to make. I’ll definitely be using that recipe again.

 

Orange zest scones from WW2

 

The meat, milk and fat allowances were pretty high, but I did struggle with the limited amount of cheese and fish. I’m a bit of a cheese addict, so 60g a week just wasn’t enough.

It was also hard to live without tinned goods and out-of-season or imported fruit and vegetables. I’m very much looking forward to my first post-war banana on Monday!

What could you eat during World War Two?

Meat, cheese, eggs, milk, fat and sweets were all rationed during World War Two. These were the rules the Findmypast team followed, based on the weekly ration allowance for an adult in the early 1940s:

Weekly ration

  • Bacon or Ham (150g)
  • Meat (400g)
  • Fish (1 fish meal per week)
  • Cheese (60g)
  • Milk (3 pints / 1¾ litres)
  • Egg (1)
  • Butter (60g)
  • Margarine (110g)
  • Lard or dripping (110g)
  • Sugar (225g)
  • Jam (50g)
  • Sweets (75g)
  • Tea bags (16)
  • No proper coffee – instant only
  • No tinned food, except Spam

 

The points system

4 points per week to spend on the following options:

  • Dried pulses, oats, rice or barley (1 point per 225g of each)
  • Dried pasta (1 point per 110g)
  • Olive oil (1 point per 25ml)
  • Dried fruit (1 point per 225g)

 

Fruit and vegetables

  • Limit of one orange per week
  • Limit of one apple per day
  • No tropical or exotic items, like bananas
  • Make the most of root vegetables, plums and pears
  • Try to use fruits and vegetables currently in season

 

Other items that weren’t rationed

  • Wholemeal bread (slightly stale)
  • Sausages and offal, but the sausages should be mostly ‘bulk’ instead of meat
  • Cigarettes and alcohol, but availability varied

 

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