How cheaply could a person live on WW2 food rationing?

A couple of my goals for 2018 are to save a substantial emergency money fund AND to lose a very achievable 60 lbs in weight. The two things that concern me right now are financial safety and health safety.

One area to save on expenses would of course be eating food that doesn’t cost so much but still is healthy. Following a ration book diet, although it sounds austere and boring, could be a perfectly doable way to save money and lose weight in the short term, its certainly worth giving it a go for a month or two…

So out of curiosity I’ve broken down first the guaranteed weekly/monthly ration for an adult into how much each item would cost per person and in addition I’ve also added in the cost of extra staples that a person may typically purchase during the week/month such as bread, oats, pulses etc.

Here is what it roughly worked out as per person per week using today’s prices

2-3 pints milk (Dairy milk 75p- £1.10 Plant milk £1.50-2.00)
8 oz sugar (15p)
2 oz tea- about 25 tea bags (50p)
8 oz margarine/cooking fat (70p)
2 oz butter (45p)
2 oz cheese (40p)
1 egg (15p)
4 oz bacon/ham (40p)
Meat to the value of 1s 2d – could be mutton or small pack of sausages or sliced corned beef (£2)

Additionally you were guaranteed to be able to buy one large jar of jam every two months (£1.50 every two months), 12 oz of sweets every month (£1.50) and were allocated 16 points every month to purchase other foods in shops if they were available (only rationed food was guaranteed).

Monthly 16 points example (I think I would spend my points on this)

Lentils/Pulses 2 lbs = 4 points = (£2)
Rolled oats 2 lbs = 4 points = (75p)
Baked beans 2 cans = 4 points = (75p)
Bread/small flour = 4 points = (£1)

Vegetables either bought or grown weekly (I’ve used Aldi’s prices using Super 6 where I can – I personally use a seasonal organic box delivery for my vegetables but want to show the cheapest way to eat on food rationing)

1 small swede (28p)
1 small bag potatoes (28p)
1 small bag carrots (19p)
1 small cabbage (50p)
1 small bag apples (£1.50)
A few onions or leeks (50p)

Using all the above as a rough example I can see that the monthly amount spent on all the above to feed 1 person for 1 month works out to be

£39.00 ( about $52 USD) for one month.

This unbelievably works out at less than £1.30 per day per person for breakfast, dinner, lunch and extra fruit.

What do you spend? Is it more or less than this? Please share!

C xxxxxxxxxxxx

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35 thoughts on “How cheaply could a person live on WW2 food rationing?

  1. A few years back I lived on a $1 a day for food. One week of that was on rationing. My area is very low income, and many are on food assistance programs. I went to the local adult school and offered to teach a course on lowering grocery bills, but strangely, they weren’t interested. It’s hard, but it can be done

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’d love to do something like that…its a shame there was little interest as I’m sure once the word got out it would have been a popular program to attend!! I think the biggest problem we have in this day and age is TEMPTATION! We are surrounded by so many choices… we are VERY LUCKY but then its easier to spend and eat the things that put weight on and too much of them too! (thats my prob!!)… xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thats bad, the school should do domestic science. That would included planning a menu, shopping list and budget, and actual meals 3 times a day preferably. A complete nutrition guide should be followed in order to meet all he requirements.
      Visiting nutritionists (hopefully voluntary sessions) could come and ensure all diets i.e. Gluten free, diabetic, any allergy/sensitivities and vegan, vegetarian etc. Are all catered for within budget.
      This should be happening all over the world.
      And school should be working on earth science, environment and agrarian projects and growing foods in greenhouses and allotment style to ensure all are fully capable of meeting their needs in small budgets.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I spend a lot more than that but wanted to see how much it would cost if one stuck to rationing…..it might be a useful way for someone to save for a month or two or if they are really in a broke situation… there is always ways to find some money! xxxx

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  2. I really love the simplicity of this. I know I probably spend triple that amount and we eat terribly unhealthy! This is something I desperately want to change. Will you please keep us posted on your progress. I adore this idea and your blog!! Happy New Year from Wyoming!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We currently budget $50 a week and often stay quite close if we’re not entertaining. I’m following your lead and trying out your recipes I’m January. As Canada is frozen right now, the rationing will help us not devolve to processed comfort foods. I’m curious to see how my grocery budget is impacted at the end of the month. This week I added a few non-ration friendly treats and spent $30.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Just 25 teabags per week!!!?? I have about 6 or 7 big mugs daily!!! I really like the idea of being frugal which is why I’m going to start planning weekly meals again in order to stop over buying then wasting food x

    Liked by 2 people

      • This is why my Grandma had weak tea with no sugar. She was 21 when the war broke out. My parents also made us children eat whatever was put on the plate, even if we hated it, because their formative years was during rationing. My Dad was born in 1942 and my Mum in 1944. It would have been her birthday today (31 Dec). Happy new year everyone.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I use my glass milk jug I keep and did not turn back in for discount because the store I got it from closed . It is a 64 oz. or 2qt jug 2-3 tea bags, hot water let steep or make sun tea and I have tea cold or reheat for 2-4 days . depends if I drink water also that day. tea last longer.
        If you make it good and Strong you can thin out with really
        hot water to drink hot I know OMG no! But it works in a pinch for me.

        Liked by 2 people

    • First, I’m an American, born and bred. Second I was “born” in the North – Midwest actually, but still considered north, when compared to the South -where I was “bred.” Tea in America is an unusual animal when compared to Great Britain. Its not just “tea” as in black tea, or whatever breed is preferred in the UK. It can be hot tea, iced tea, plain tea, sweet tea, either hot or iced, green tea from the Orient, or herbal tea of any of a dozen or more blends, depending on where you are, who you are, what you were raised on or just your personal preference from a lifetime of exposure.

      Down south in the USA, iced sweet tea, sometimes so sweet that it’s known as “a little tea with your sugar” is also known as the “House Wine of the South.” On this I was raised. Not a constant stream of it, mind you, but during the long, hot, steamy summers, from May to the end of September, when you’re thirsty for something icy cold and refreshing, next to a Coca Cola, iced sweet tea is the deal.

      In every restaurant south of the Mason-Dixon line, if you order iced tea, it just naturally comes sweet. To get it plain, you have to specify. And then you’ll get your plain tea, an offer of no calorie sweetener just in case you’re dieting or diabetic, and a sorrowfull look from the server. And, every self-respecting Southern woman (from the age of about 14) knows how to make a very respectable pitcher of iced sweet tea. One of my aunt’s down there used to make it so sweet even I had to water it down, when I was a child! But everyone has their preference.

      And we all have our favorite brand of tea bags, and type of sugar, either cane sugar or beet sugar. Its something about the way the crystals of the sugar dissolve, or sweetening power, or more likely just personal preference based on how Grandma passed on her personal recipe and nobody really knows why, but those things seem to really make a difference.

      I happen to have my own personal preferences too, but my method seems to produce the best tea I’ve ever put on ice! We live now in the country, (And in the North, but there seems to be hope even for them!) with well water that has a good bit of iron in it, and it doesn’t make very good tea. We have a water softener that takes out most of it that goes into the water heater, and most of the cold water as well. But it still doesn’t make good tea. So, I use commercially bagged ice made from filtered water, and pure distilled bottled water in gallon jugs.. Luzianne brand tea makes a blend just for iced tea, and Domino brand cane sugar.

      I bring half a gallon of distilled water to a rolling boil, and turn it off. There’s a cup and a half of sugar in a four cup measure. Enough of that hot water is ladled into the sugar to almost fill the sugar cup. Then I drop four triple size teabags tied together by the strings, in the hot water, and let them steep for 9 minutes. Not 10. Timed by the clock, 9 minutes. The hot water and sugar are stirred gently until completely dissolved and clear like a syrup. At 9 minutes, the tea bags come out, into a large strainer, and pressed gently with a big spoon, then discarded. The sugar water is stirred into the tea, then poured quickly over ice that fills a one gallon pitcher about 2/3 full, stirring briskly until as much of the ice as possible is melted. I keep the tea in the fridge covered with the lid that comes with the pitcher. If i make two gallons, i pour the tea for the first gallon back into the empty water jug from the pitcher. Then the second batch of tea is processed in the pitcher, and stored. And pour over additional ice to serve in tall glasses.

      So, leave out the sugar if you must, but my sweet tea has converted my Northern born husband, and several friends of his! The plain variety won over his sisters, and even wowed his father. It’s just dark, clear and smooth as velvet. Hot or cold. And it really makes more than a gallon of tea, because it’s poured over additional ice when served, which gets melted into it, adding to the volume. So, drink it cold over ice, or hot in a cup or mug, slightly thinned with a little more water. Add lemon, milk, whatever is your pleasure, or drink it straight. That’s enough water for 2 gallons of tea, and those large iced tea bags each equal three regular size bags, so that’s 12 to the gallon. Enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the recipe….It’s amazing just how many different ways there are for making hot and cold tea!!!! Personally sugar in tea sets my teeth on edge but I know even as a child drinking tea with two sugars in was pretty much the normal in the UK. Things have changed now a bit. I mostly drink green tea which i is just literally the green tea leaves/bags steeped in hot water for a couple of minutes and then drank as it is…no milk or sugar. Thanks for sharing your recipes and history! C xxx

        Liked by 1 person

    • I know! I spend way too much also! I am really going to try to cut back and stop eating out and eating smaller portions. This will be a good thing for our budget and my waistline. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think some of the prices are a bit out, milk for example is 79p for 2 pints in Aldi at the moment, but a full tin of corned beef is only £1.59 ( if memory serves me right), so it probably evens itself out. However, you would need to include herbs, spices, sauces and flavours and these can be surprisingly pricey.

    For those who suggest putting tea into a flask of reheating days old tea, you really don’t like tea do you? I am so fussy about my tea it’s unbelievable, and would sooner cut down on the quantity of tea I drink rather than the quality. Incidentally, am I the only person who puts ON weight when living off WW2 rations? Which is a shame because I do enjoy the discipline of it, of course, it’s not enforced, so that helps me appreciate it so much more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm not to reheat the tea (oh and love tea by the way!) but more to ensure you cut down the tea bags/loose tea you are using on a daily basis by having two or three mug fulls in a flask ready!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gahhh yep I quoted for 1-2 pints…will change that. I based the meat prices on fresh sliced corned beef so that would be more pricey. Yes obvs that doesn’t include replacing the herbs/spices we have in larder….those would definitely have to replaced as otherwise meals would be really bland!!! Lol! Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t remember the last time I bought jam, literally decades ago;
    and on checking, I seem to have used about 8oz sugar since I moved to this house over 4 years ago.
    I have no sweet tooth!
    I think I’d be doing a black-market deal for more tea and coffee, however…
    1940s wisdom for those on a modest income, to obtain a balanced diet, was to apply about 1/5 of the food budget to each of the following groups: cereal foods; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and eggs; milk and cheese; and in a final class, fats, sugar and miscellaneous items. [from America’s Housekeeping Book (1945)]
    Happy New Year and every good wish to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Carolyn, I LOVE your blog! I have followed for years, but this is the first time I have commented, and I just want to thank you for providing something that is interesting, educational, and really useful for these days of tight budgets.

    I also follow a vegan diet, and I love adapting your recipes to be vegan; for me, economy, taste, and living meat-and-dairy-free all come together in your site. I especially like this post, because this month my food budget is about $60, and I find that there is a real joy in being creative, and using the inspiration provided by The 1940s Experiment.

    Happy 2018, and again, thank you!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for leaving this lovely positive comment Jack and Happy New Year to you too! I agree, sometimes being creative and managing a small budget can make you feel good about ones self when you manage to achieve almost the impossible… thank YOU!!! Jack- C xx

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  8. Don’t let govt. know this figure.
    This works for people who can plan, cook from raw ingredients, can follow recipes and who have a proper kitchen. Not much help to the e.g. Grenfell Tower survivors living in temporary accomodation.
    ‘Domestic Science’ WAS taught in British schools (but only for girls!!) in the past. However, it did not have much impact on the children who needed it most. For example the girl who had a Curly Whirly chocolate bar and a packet of crisps for lunch and bread and jam for supper. When she took fish pie, cooked at school, home her parents said: Yuk! and put it in the bin.
    Nowadays ‘Useful’ knowledge is banned from schools, which are ranked on GCSE results and not on what the pupils have gained from the time at school. And the poorest and most deprived families depend on ready cooked takeaways or frozen stuff to put in microwave And have done so for decades.
    I don’t know what the answer is. Eating a healthy and economical diet is a ‘luxury’ to be enjoyed by the priviliged section of society.
    Sorry to sound negative- I had sprout and carrot bake with pasta for New Year dinner.- Yum!
    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU CAROLYN and to fellow followers of this Blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sounds like the current situation. Cut funding for everything that has any connection to arts, music, domestic or vocational skills, programs for challenged students, those who require one-on-one attention daily with an educational aide, and a specific plan of action for their education, and anything else that isn’t the subject of standardized testing. Which is what is taught in lock-step fashion, teach to the test. Nobody gets to develop actual critical thinking skills anymore, or analysis, or research as the latest Presidential will attest to. “Dumbing down the educational levels seems to be what they fall back to, instead of finding actual ways, effective ways, to help teach the skills to those who have troubles keeping up, and actually learning what’s needed to function in today’s world.

      Oh! And lord help you if you happen to suggest that dollars be subverted from ATHLETICS and into the classrooms! They will have you ridden out of town on a rail in a heartbeat! Heaven knows too many School Boards worship at the Altar of Athletics. Just take a look at the size of the athletic fields of the majority of suburban high schools, and compare to the size and equipment inside those schools.

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      • There really needs to be an “Edit” function available for our posts. Or maybe just for me – I don’t know! 😣
        I did go back through my post before sending it, yet I still have missed several typos, and a couple of “keystroke buffering” sequence errors. My “challenged,” and challenging, new “smartphone” (smart? 😞) seems to be badly in need of a few exercises in grammar, spelling, context and syntax! 😝
        This is the newest Android “replacement phone” from my cellphone company, to replace my previous Android. To the keystroke buffering I mentioned previously, it seems to be quite the keystroke buffering “champion,” since it seems to take very little one-finger typing to exceed its limits, where it begins storing up a backlog of keystrokes to the point where I can barely make out where it is, or where I left off at either end! 😲
        Case in point – the line where it says, “..as the latest Presidential will attest to.” I KNOW I typed “..as the latest Presidential ELECTION will attest to.” (Yes, I know, it should have said, “..to which the latest Presidential election will attest.” for all us grammar scholars out there! I lost my head briefly!)
        So, thank you very much for your patience with me, and hopefully, I won’t have to do any more of this!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. We spend about $150 (US) a month for groceries for three of us. I do buy meat in bulk much of the time so every few months I spend an extra $100 or so for that. I invest in really good deals so I have to estimate because I also buy in bulk (for example, a couple years ago I got 25 pound bags of pulses for 50 cents a pound).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Carolyn, this is a wonderful post and I enjoy your blog so very much! You are really inspiring and I am learning a lot from you. Thanks for taking the time to keep us informed and challenged. 🙂

    Like

  11. Some months, we spend more than $52/month per person and some months we spend less. I tend to save a great deal from growing my own veggies and canning/freezing things.

    I buy things on sale. But, I’m sure during WWII it would not even be possible to buy things on sale, or get the wide variety we like to eat. I like to think I would have been one who grew veggies in my victory garden and helped my family eat better.

    Liked by 1 person

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