Would a wartime diet help alleviate food poverty?


I’m not saying it’s a solution but I do believe it’s a well worn shoe firmly planted in the right direction..

Living on a budget is no stranger to my family and I. We’ve pretty much lived on little or no income (and no government assistance) since the autumn of 2012, unsure where our next penny would come in. If it hadn’t been for a little financial help from my brother and some thoughtful friends and family, I truly don’t know how we would have got through.

And now we’ve sold our house off (very cheaply) and I’ve paid back my brother and we’ve paid our utility debts, 6 months rent for our new life in the UK and I’ve enough to travel to and get set up in blighty to make a new start. We’ll all need to get jobs ASAP though and that concentrates the mind..

I’ve been reading comments by readers and doing some research into the cost of living in the UK. It’s been 9 years since we’ve lived there. I can see, more than ever, there appears to be a poverty gap, families relying on food banks etc. It concerns me.

I did further reading and found out that Nottingham appears to have been the poorest city (income per household) in the UK in 2012.

People are obviously struggling..

Jack Monroe: Mum who fed son on £10 a week lands book deal for her breadline recipes

I see a movement towards eating well on less. I came across a blog in the UK by a “Girl called Jack” (now called Cooking on a Boot Strap) who had lived in a financially unstable situation with her young son and who had created good nutritional meals for just £10 per week. I applaud her…. I REALLY APPLAUD HER.

I see there is the “Eatwell Plate” recommendations by the National Health Service and further research led me to read that the cost of providing the Eatwell Plate recommendations to one person for week came in at just under £17 per week.

I then out of curiosity did some calculations using online store prices in the UK following a 1940s wartime rationing plan of approx 2000 or more calories per day

Per week

On ration

Bacon, Ham, Meat £2.00
Milk £1.50
Fats and cheese £1.35
Sugar 0.25p
Preserves 0.15p
Tea 0.25p
Egg 0.15p (free range)

Off ration weekly

Oats 0.25p
Bread 0.45p (1 loaf per person wholemeal)
Split peas/kidney beans 0.75p
Potatoes 0.75p
Vegetables 0.75p
Salad 0.75p
Fruit £1.00
Spices, extras £1.00

TOTAL= £11.35p

This is rather a strict scenario of wartime rationing. I’ve compared prices and took an average value for most foods via http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk and it doesn’t allow for splurging and luxury goods BUT what it does do is provide a weekly spend to provide a nutritionally sound weekly food allowance living on wartime rations and it comes in at under £12 per person per week.


I’d love to continue this discussion- please post your comments below!

Articles of reference you may find interesting

How little money can a person live on? *RECOMMENDED READ**



21 thoughts on “Would a wartime diet help alleviate food poverty?

  1. Well, we decided, my children and I, to join in with this wartime diet too. We have followed your blog C for some time now, and I have always found inspiration and strength. I have alot of weight to lose 🙁 , and we have a very low income. We began by controlling portions and increasing veg intake as an ease into rations, as we had a number of things to eat up, which I wont/havent replaced as we get into our wartime diet properly. We are almost at the point of totally wartime rations now, and I have to say, I have lost weight! (small cheer at myself, but I still have a long long way to go) This is really helpful, I had been trying to work out uk prices for equivalent rations so all of this is exactly right for us at this time, and ties in with everything we need to do, massive thank you C!! I LOVE this blog!!!

  2. I know that since we went back on this our food bills have decreased – so yes maybe rationing should be re-introduced (for the Fat Cats as well lol)

  3. Hi, love your blog! my family and I (3 children, husband and me) recently completed a ‘live below the line’ challenge to raise money and awareness about poverty globally. I’m not sure if you have heard of this initiative, but it is a good one. We had to live on £1 per day each for five days for all food and drink. So that would be a budget of £7 per week per person. I enjoy cooking, and we live on quite a small food budget anyway so I managed to make up some pretty good meals, packed lunches and snacks on that amount of money. If I had had that extra £5 a week per person to bring it up to the £12 per week you suggest I think we could have managed quite well. The things I found that we couldn’t afford were good sized portions of fruit and veg, I managed some, but not the recommended 5 portions per day. We also mostly ate vegetarian as I can’t cope with really cheap meat products, I know too much about what goes into them! The blog I wrote whilst completing the challenge is at http://www.livebelowtheline.org/me/naphtali25 if you want to have a read and look at the recipes I used and what the kids got in their packed lunches etc each day, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up the page. It has definitely made me more conscious of pricing even though we are no longer on the challenge!

  4. I live in the Canadian Arctic and 11.35 pounds is $17.87 Canadian dollars. The rationing and the portion sizes works well for me but not when based on a money value. I think a lot will depend on where you live and the food prices.

    I think rationing would help immensely to solve the problem of poor nutrition for those living on very small budgets (poverty) and portion control (size and number of servings) would definitely help with the cost of food. One of the biggest nutritional boosters of the rationing eras was the fact that people had to go back to basic cooking in order to get the most for their rations and money. If you only have a set amount of fat and sugar to use you cannot buy or make a lot of snacks like cookies and chips – which we all love but don’t need.

    I have been using portion control for many years and have been amazed at how much money such a simple thing saves. A cup of milk is a serving. In the old days the milk pitcher sat on the table and we would go through liters at a meal because everyone would slake their thirst. Milk is for nutrition. Water is for quenching thirst.

  5. Thank you C for doing fhe £ calculations fir us, i was thinking of doing it when you posted it!
    My world is about to implode a bit here, my husband and I are divorcing after nearly 24 yrs of marriage. Our income has drastically reduced over the last few years anyway as we have a business hit hard by recession so I’m going to try to really go for this when I’m free to do as I please! I have cut down what I buy considerably & have never been wasteful anyway. My biggest problem is portion control which actually is not helped when you buy in bulk. I need to get back to wartime where the housewife could only buy what she needed for a few days. Having everything in the house is too tempting for me to ‘add a little’ here and there!
    I have plans though! I am a pretty good cook and baker(I hate saying it but I have been told…) so I may take my wares to sell at the vintage markets as there are a huge number here in Devon! I am also planning a ‘pop-up’ tearoom (in my home before it has to be sold)based on Wartime theme…this way I can make some money and get to dress up…! Of course I’ll have to separate the ingredients for that side of things…
    Hey C you could do this to bring in extra ££?
    Anyway, if I don’t plan I shall go stark raving bonkers!
    Menu on a lovely hot day yesterday was…
    Breakfast-tea n toast
    Lunch at the beach hut by the sea, a big salad of cooked asparagus,corn,tomatoes,boiled new pots(all leftovers)with kidney beans. Big slice my wholemeal bread
    Dinner-spaghetti with meaty gravy
    Keep calm & carry on i say xx
    Ps, I read all of Jacks blog and felt very humbled by her indeed! I saw her on the tv a while ago and am ashamed to say I promptly forgot her. I shan’t forget again. X

    • Hi Louise, been through the divorce(28yrs) and business collapse so Hugs from me….life does go on and although I said I would never never marry again I did recently after 6 years of rebuilding my life and Im very happy now,although Im pretty sure that Atos will put the boot in soon (new hubs is disabled). Love Jack Monroe she is a real inspiration in adversity and kicking back…so amazing that she has been picked up by the media which gives her an even stronger voice.
      Great idea to use cooking skills to make some money…have you thought about Secret supper Clubs…google Miss Marmite….might work for you too Carolyn as people would love to come to you for dinner!

    • Dear Louise… I’m sending you warm thoughts as my husband and I split up after 25 years together 4 years back so I know what you’ll be going through emotionally and economically. Hugs xxxxxxxx

      Your ideas sounds wonderful BTW


      • Thank you all, I am constantly surprised and delighted by the support I have been given emotionally since I told people about my impending split! I have a 21 yr old daughter at Uni studying Law, an 18 yr old son at college doing the first part of a foundation degree in Computer software/programming who lives at home plus my baby girl-10 yrs old & horrified at being called baby lol!
        All the kids will be based with me and all are really supportive BUT of course ££ will be tight.
        Yes I have also looked at doing secret supper clubs, again I’m thinking wartime theme, especially when my eldest is around as she sings semi professionally so we could have a sing song too! We’ll meet again, don’t know where don’t know whennnnn!!!
        Haha! What fun xx

  6. For my two pennorth worth , I follow the wartime diet as a guideline but add in more herbs and spices…as I cant always get out to shop (Carer) I have a veg box delivered each week of local seasonal fruit/veg (£12) plus 6 free range eggs and 2lt milk (£3) I buy 1lb of mince, 1lb sausagemeat 1lb bacon and 8 sausages from the butchers(£10 for month) and split to do 16 meals so only 4 days a week are meat based and use pulses for other meals. I bake bread and make jams/chutneys..I probably spend a tenner weekly on flour/marg/dried fruit/sugar and top ups so a budget of £25-30 per week for two of us and we eat pretty well on that with really lovely quality local food too. Hoping to grow additional veg in the garden this year as well.

  7. Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes it is very hard and seems (is!!) unfair. When I was a child we always had food but sometimes it was more sparse than at others. My Mom was a great cook and incredible manager and both my parents put the needs of their children first but they also wanted to teach us lessons in life. You can’t always get what you want or what you need.

    No two Christmases or Birthdays were alike. We always had a Christmas tree but sometimes the meal was a stew and a small apple pie and there were no presents or just practical ones like socks and mittens. Other times there was the whole turkey extravaganza but no presents or a small roast beef dinner with a present. I remember one birthday when I did not have a Birthday cake but instead a tower of pancakes with apricot jam in between the layers. I loved that tower!

    There were also many times at meal time when we were asked to give up a portion of our meal to make a plate for one of our older neighbours who was poor or shut in. A few times I felt rebellious about this but I never wanted to see the look of disappointment on my Mom’s face so I stole a piece of bread from my sister when she wasn’t looking. I usually got pinched hard later on for that!

    When I was older I asked my Mom if this up and down life was because sometimes we were poor. She said yes there were times when we were poorer than at other times but sometimes she and Papa decided that we would have a simpler celebration. This was just to show us that life did not always stay the same or get better but it was always changing and sometimes for the worse. But you could still be happy and contented. This has been a lesson that has stood me well over the ups and downs of my life and it is one I passed on. Even the bad and hard times do not last forever. But then neither do the good times. How you look at it makes all the difference.

  8. Hi Carolyn, I did an experiment eating on the wartime diet a couple of months back for my blog eileen54.blogspot.co.uk I was very strict with my rations and for 1 person the bill came to 13.61 for 1 person. The costings and conclusions are all on my blog under april

  9. Haha! I had to smile today as I was reading the free mini newspaper from Waitrose. First an article(written rather badly by a buffoon!)about eating on rationing for a week titled “keep Calm & Cook Like Granny”. In the same paper, a recipe for “Nova Scotia Chowder”…it immediately made me think of you Carolyn! I hope you are not too stressed xx

  10. In honor of the anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy I’m going to have Lord Woolten Pie for my supper. Been watching the History channel, they are playing programs based on WWII all day.

    Carolyn, I checked out the links you posted and was fascinated by the article “How Little Money Can A Person Live On?” Am I correct that the article was referring to people on relief (Welfare, the dole, Assistance, etc.)? It’s just that the article mentions that the median income per person would average L26,000 a year after taxes and that is what a payment would be based on. Making a benefits cap estimate at L350.00 a month. (L is my symbol for pound)
    Now, I’m terrible with math but it sounds like such a high amount in comparison with USA standards. I was trying to estimate the exchange rate. If $1 = L3 then the average single person in Great Britain is living on $1500 a month whereas a single person in the USA is living on $350 a month. Does that sound right?
    Also, what I would like to know is how much does a P add up to, for instance, 90p.per Kg. My analytical brain is telling me it would average out the same as in the states, but my brain has lied to me before…LOL!
    The article stated that household goods would average about L11.55, toilet paper being 80p a week. I was surprised that it mentions L706.00 a year for fuel cost. The average American spends about $2,000 a year for oil or gas. It could cost $706 or more for an oil delivery. I thought it was interesting that they were allowing L5.13 a week for alcohol.
    I apologize for rambling on but I’m trying to understand the difference here. I’ve been living and struggling in the system for some years now. I’m only allotted $35,00 a month in food stamps so following the rationing system has been a good thing. My health is stable and I’m losing weight so it’s a win-win situation for me. I just wish I could make it work in the other areas of my life. Prices keep going up on everything and it’s hard to keep up.
    Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining about my lot in life. It is what it is. But Mr. Hirsch said it best when talking about having an entertainment allowance. (from the article) “People think you can’t have an acceptable standard of life sitting at home and just surviving.”

  11. Ahhhh, thank you Denise…feeling very poor now. Oh well, it helps in re-creating the whole war time experiment.

  12. I recently read somewhere (Reddit?) that the UK is never more than five days away from a food shortage. That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

    So I think some kind of widespread education on how to live on rations would be very desirable. Continuing on with this line of reasoning, perhaps classes could be given as part of a school curriculum, or as a part of further education for adults. Digging for victory could even be encouraged.

    People would save a ton of money, and would be mentally prepared in the event of the unthinkable.

  13. I think that this would be a great idea. We do not realize just how important food security is. I live in the Canadian Arctic and we have been cut off due to weather and environmental conditions (floods and forest fire) requiring the military to fly in food supplies. That was quite a shock. And of course no kitty litter came in for weeks because it is not a priority (maybe not to the Canadian military!!) and very heavy.

    When we moved here it was the first time that I ever walked into a grocery store and the items I was looking for were just not on the shelf. The great mayonaise shortage of 2002 was particularly trying.

    One thing I have learned through all my dieting and also through participating in some hunger awareness fund raisers – it takes practice to deal with hunger. It takes practice to learn how to make a lot go a long way.

  14. Pingback: Colcannon – Recipe No 124 | The 1940's Experiment

  15. Thank you for your hard work. I have been reading from your site for over a year. The WW2 rationing did work to keep many people fed for many years.
    Thank you for showing that it can be economical without being boring. I will continue to read about your recipes and insights.

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