Today, myself and my husband are embarking on a social experiment. It’s not all that new or novel, but it’s something we have been toying with since visiting the Imperial War Museum in London a year or so ago. We are going to live, for the next few weeks on the average rations of a British family during World War Two (WWII). I say average because rations varied throughout the war, less strict at the start and getting tougher as the war years progressed.
After researching via the Imperial War Museum website, some handy other blogs (such as 100 Wartime Recipes and Recipes – War Time Recipes) and by using a book we have called “Good Eating-suggestions for wartime dishes” originally compiled by the Daily Telegraph and costing 2′- we have come up with a shopping list and menu plan for our first week.
Average rations during the period roughly equated to:
*bacon or ham 110g
*Meat 230g ( although meat was based on cost, so cheap cuts provided more sustenance)
*Butter and margarine 280g
*milk 1.5 l
*eggs 1 shell and the equivalent of three dried
Everything is rough as I am converting from ounces plus availability was not always certain. We are going to assume that vegetables in season would have been freely available (my family always “dug for victory”) and there was reasonable access to fruit. During the middle of the war bread was not rationed, so you can have as much wholemeal bread as you like, wholemeal flour was also freely available. Oats and potatoes were also everyone’s friend and I see myself eating far more of both of them, in a variety of disguises.
Where things get a little more tricky is understanding the availability of non-rationed foods. For example many of the recipes use rice or macaroni but how easy where these to find? There was a points allocation system for items such as tinned fish and dried fruit – but what about barley and other staples?
Why are we doing this? Well for a couple of reasons – for my husband I think it’s largely for historical interest. He is hugely interested in anything to do with history and especially WWII and this is something he has been keen to try for a while. For me, yes I appreciate the history but I am also keen to try to live in a more natural, less processed food, way. Not that we eat all that much processed food – but I think it sneaks in unawares. Also it will be interesting to see how much money we save. Not because we live on the bread line, but because I was raised by a make do and mend family and I think I need to get back to a no waste ethos. Both in terms of food and packaging.
We did our first ration shop yesterday and despite needing non-food goods like toilet paper our bill dropped straight away by 50%. Which makes me wonder what we were buying before!
Having read a couple of articles in newspapers where modern families have tried this lifestyle I can see my prowess in the kitchen will hold me in good stead. Thanks to my parents and grandparents pastry, white sauce, suet pudding and sponge cakes hold little fear for me, but I can see how some women, who had the benefit of “food technology” in school instead of proper “home economics” i.e. making up packet cake mix instead of learning to make your own, could struggle. I am actually relishing the challenge of getting my hands floury and making the most of dripping….
To start todays challenge I am diving into a bowel of porridge, half water, half milk, with a dollop of stewed rhubarb and some of my sugar ration. Accompanied of course, with a good strong cup of tea. My body is thanking me already.