Wednesday, 18 March 2020

How long would four slices of ham last you?

It occurred to me this morning as I was spreading butter on my toast that I might be a bit greedy when it comes to dairy goodies. You should see me with a block of Cheddar: not pretty.

For reasons that I don't remember, I have an old food coupon book in a folder labelled 'Important Odds & Sods' - see pic - so I dug it out and looked up Second World War rations online. Good lord - how did anyone survive?

From the Imperial War Museums website, I learned that every citizen was issued with a booklet to take to a registered shopkeeper to receive supplies. At first, only bacon, butter and sugar were rationed, but gradually, the list grew: meat was rationed from 11 March 1940; cooking fats in July 1940, as was tea; and cheese and preserves joined in March and May 1941.

Allowances fluctuated throughout the war, but on average one adult’s weekly ration was 113g bacon and ham (about 4 thin slices), one shilling and ten pence worth of meat (about 227g minced beef), 57g butter, 57g cheese, 113g margarine, 113g cooking fat, 3 pints of milk, 227g sugar (that's the same as the meat ration!), 57g tea and 1 egg. Other foods such as canned meat, fish, rice, condensed milk, breakfast cereals, biscuits and vegetables were available, but in limited quantities on a points system.
Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed, but supplies were limited. Some types of imported fruit all but disappeared. Lemons and bananas became unobtainable for most of the war; oranges continued to be sold but greengrocers customarily reserved them for children and pregnant women, who could prove their status by producing their distinctive ration books.

I also learned that apparently 60% of Britons told government pollsters they wanted rationing to be introduced, with many believing that it would guarantee everyone a fair share of food. I'll just leave that there for you to consider.


  1. Yikes, what a very difficult diet. That's a lot of sugar. I guess people who want rationing are frustrated when others hoard toilet paper or bread (the two scarcities people have complained about in our neck of the woods).

  2. It was my mother's ration book, found when clearing her house after she passed away. She kept all sorts of paperwork (as you'll know, if you've read 'Sparge Bag'. Mr T