How cheaply and healthily can a person live on WW2 rationing during times of emergency?

Have you lost your job, your business or have limited food supplies?

**I’m reposting this article as I feel that during our current times of unreliable supplies and economic uncertainty due to the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most of us will be having to really pull in our belts and ration our food, certainly try and make it stretch further.

Please take a look at the standard food rationing allowance (below) in Britain during WW2. It was created to ensure that EVERYONE had access to the same foods every week/month regardless of wealth. Rationing ENSURED that everyone got their basic needs. People supplemented their rations with other foods they could freely buy in shops (IF available, there was no guarantee and plenty of shortages)and people turned to growing lots of vegetables in their gardens and allotments to ensure health and fuller tummies.

Much love, C xxxx


Original post from 2017 below

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 and stretch things further 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 ensure your food supplies last longer in the short term, it’s 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

Recommended pages and posts

182 Wartime Recipes re-created
The Pandemic Pantry online global community FREE cookbook project
7 Ration Book Recipes to Beat the Coronavirus Pandemic Panic Buying.


Prepper Princess – Love this gal! She lives in the USA, an independent strong woman with lots of self-sufficiency skills working towards financial independence. Click here!

Homestead Tessie – She loves being as frugal and self-sufficient as possible with what she’s got and she loves creating daily videos! Click here!

Compost and Custard – I’ve known Naomi online for over 20 years. She has a passion for self-sufficiency and home schooling, nature, permaculture and wildlife. Click here!

Riverford Organic Farmers – loads of online recipes as well as supplying organic fresh veg via box. Click here!

Alaska Granny – The AlaskaGranny channel teaches how to become more resilient and resourceful. I like to use what I have to make what I need, and enjoy sharing tips and tricks to help others do the same. Click here!

The Money Freaks, Dave Ramsey Style: Claire Graves runs this excellent Facebook group. Click here to join!

16 thoughts on “How cheaply and healthily can a person live on WW2 rationing during times of emergency?

  1. Hi do you know what a vegetarian would have had in their ration book, I have heard they did one but can’t find out what they would have been entitled to thanks

    • Some vegetarian referencing here: xxxx

      Everyone had to register with a particular grocer and butcher. My mother registered with Marsdens on Hockely except for the one book that she registered as vegetarian at the Savoy vegetarian shop on exchange walk, probably her book, certainly not mine as I, being a child, sometimes got extra this or that. She registered with a butcher on Colwick Road. This shop is still open and has been in the same family for many years. At present it is owned and run by one of the wartime owners grandsons. Nowadays people travel quite long distances to visit this butcher — our lifelong friends, the Gibbys, drive there from Nuthall to buy their essential sausages and other produce. They also have a game licence.

      The shops people registered with only received enough rationed goods for their registered customers and even when they had no rationed rarities for sale, they were labelled “for registered customers only” and often only one item per ration book was allowed.

      There was a monthly points system in operation, each person receiving 16 points. One could buy whatever one wanted (provided it was available) with these points. Tinned foods were on points as were dried fruits and pulses. The 16 points allowed one to buy a 16 oz tin of meat or fish, 2lb of dried fruit or 8lbs of pulses. Mother used to buy pearl barley and lentils with the vegetarian points to add to stews.

      My cousin May’s husband, Walter, who was a railwayman occasionally brought us a rabbit which had been caught by the side of the railway track. They lived at Radcliffe on Trent so also had access to locally grown vegetables and fruit which they could bring for us.

      Dried egg also became available and each ration book could have a certain amount (I forget how much) but the vegetarian ration book had twice as much. In place of meat the vegetarian ration had extra cheese and eggs and milk and very occasionally, dried bananas, figs and apricots.

      There was also a ration of dried milk, called household milk, which could be blended with water to give an equivalent to fresh milk. One had to sprinkle a little at a time, four level teaspoons of this powder whilst beating briskly with and egg whisk for a fork. I used to do a lot of this whisking.

      There was absolutely no waste of food and everyone bottled and/or dried fruits, salted kidney beans and made economical chutneys and pickles. The best used was made of every available ingredient. There were some excellent recipes given out on a radio programme called ‘the kitchen front’ which also gave helpful hints on preserving foods without the use of sugar. Towards the end of the war or just after there was a ration of jam and sugar, during the war it had been difficult to make jam as there was insufficient sugar on ration to do this. Instead people had to dry fruit which wasn’t ideal but it did make pies etc in the winter. Eggs were preserved in large, ceramic pots as they lay in this fluid the eggs became coated, up to a half or three quarters of an inch, with a soft but slightly crunchy substance which felt rather horrible when one had to put ones hands in to remove eggs.

      I remember my mother once bought a cake which looked alright and cut alright but when one bit into it produced a fine stringy substance from the bitten piece into the slice. It looked horrible but tasted ok. If one is hungry enough one will try anything. We were told that it was the sweetening agent that produced this effect.

  2. As a history buff I find this absolutely fascinating. There was a social experiment done with a family on BBC or PBS that had aodern family have to get by on the average diet on each major decade starting with WWII rationing. I can’t remember the name of the show but you would love it.

  3. You asked what we spend on groceries and if it is more or less than the £39/$50 a month per person that was the average in the 1940’s. Of course today our exchange rate between the U.K. and U.S. is different, but remarkably, my household is spending close to the same, just a little more. In 2019-2020, we averaged about $55/£47 a week for four adults (including two hungry young men and a very physically active husband). It shocked me too, so I had to think how I could explain it.

    We do buy some treats, but mostly we cook and bake from scratch (even making our own pizzas and pizza dough, soups, and so forth) and we almost never eat out or even get carry out coffee, but then they didn’t do that in the 1940’s. It started really, because of my husband’s allergies.  So we buy less processed food than most Americans do today. We usually shop at Aldi and at our local Farmer’s Market. We will pay more to support local farmers, sometimes to buy organic, or to get free range eggs, but usually food prices at a local market are quite competitive to the large stores if the item is in season, and we do try to buy only what is in season.  I keep a cheat-sheet of what is in season in my purse. Seasonal buying helps the budget even if you are shopping a box store. Strawberry jam, for example, I only make when prices are below $1 a pound or if I can get them for free.
    I am buying larger amounts of many foods than I used to (bulk), and I can do this only because I have simplified my shopping list to basics. I quit buying store cookies, mixes, frozen dinners, and the like except rarely.  I recently bought a 25 lb bag of flour for only $5.50 at Walmart (ASDA), and it will make us 25 (15 inch long) loaves of sandwich bread or a combination of baked goods.  I certainly can use it up before the flour goes off.  That’s about 25 cents a loaf! I keep my own sourdough starter so I don’t even have to pay for yeast.  I make our own yogurt, too, spending only 5 minutes to mix it up, and serve it with homemade jam or marmalade for less than 25 cents a serving.  It would cost half that if I used whole milk, but I use light cream!
    I buy large roasts or large amounts of meat and divide it into portions and freeze.  This saves us a great deal over buying individual packages of meat. I judge what I buy by quality and cost per pound.  The 10 pound ham I just purchased for $15 will be used for at least 8 meals for the four of us, with probably some leftover lunches, too, and I’m boiling the bones for stock which I then reduce and freeze for when I need it.  It does mean that either when I bring home shopping or after the first meal, I have to cut up, to divide, and freeze the portions for meals later. I save bacon fat and meat juices and let them separate into broth and fats that I will later use. 

    I look up how to store each food to make it last well, and I check our refrigerator and pantry about twice a week, always using the oldest food first or anything awkward, so that nothing goes to waste. I save vegetable peels to make stock, orange peels to make house cleaner, apple peels to make vinegar, and sometimes I save seeds to make plants, of which I have had some success with some seeds, though it has taken me a couple of years to get my little lemon trees going! At first, you have to look up how to do these things, but then it’s nothing to save your apple peels while making crumble, and to stick them in a jar and pour water over it to make vinegar. I am not superwoman, and I am not chained to my kitchen either. All of this is easier than it seems before you do it.

    We could save more in our house if we ate a more plant-based diet (I wish we did but I’m out-voted in our household!), and if we cut out some of our less healthy treats like the husband’s Oreo cookies , but I like to keep him sweet!  Me, too. We eat more meat and sweets than they did in the 1930’s, before the war. 

    We replenish some of our dried herbs from the garden. I do some canning and dehydrating. My plan is for us to put in a large vegetable garden this year (last year we skipped), and to set up a root cellar (or bury a trash bin) for storing crops we grow. I do put in more time to save the money I do, but not nearly as much time as I would have thought before I began… maybe four hours a week total?… so I would like to encourage others to try new things. I save time, too, over a typical household by not needing to shop as often. I usually go out to shop only one morning a week. Less now, of course. The quality of our food is better than processed food, so we feel better and enjoy our cooking more than store bought. We don’t buy anything disposable now, either, like plastic wrap/cling film or plastic bags, only reusable items and this also saves a lot of money, though we are doing it for our planet. One morning a week I keep for “baking day,” and make bread, cookies or “biscuits,” maybe jam or something unusual, often simultaneously running the stove top and the oven. This week while making yogurt, bread and tablet, I made two bottles of pancake syrup. It only cost about 25 cents for the entire batch, as opposed to $3.50 for the cheapest syrup from the store and it would have had corn syrup in it. Ours tastes better. I try to look at making things as getting paid for my time, and with the radio on or company, I quite enjoy it. Now I just need to make a 1940’s apron!

    Come on, folks!  Surely you can spare a morning a week to make things? Particularly when we are all shut in anyway. :)
    I love your blog so much, Carolyn.  You inspire me every day.

    • Loved reading your comment Holly! It brought me back to being a homesteader many, many, many years ago. Am very inspired by what you do, going to make a super effort over the next few months to do as much as I can during these challenging times until everything settles down. xxx

    • This was lovely to read! Such an admirable attitude and it certainly spurred me on to go further on my low-waste journey. I’m making a lot of vegan meats using seitan now that I can’t get out as much and it’s so much more rewarding (and cheaper) than shop-bought soy chunks or similar processed items. I can also recommend investing in a slow-cooker – that way I can easily cook large amounts of grains and pulses instead of buying tinned chickpeas, etc. 🙂

      • Oh, Sophia, that is something I want to do! I have been clipping vegan meat recipes on Pinterest, like carrot peel “bacon,” and the vegan sausages! Maybe you can share your favorite recipe for Carolyn’s cookbook.

        I’m also tempted by some of the vegan cheese recipes. The ones out of cashews might be very expensive to make, but there are some other types, too.

        I have an electric pressure cooker/slow cooker, sort of like an Instapot.

  4. Pingback: How cheaply and healthily can a person live on WW2 rationing during times of emergency? — The 1940’s Experiment – Fit for Denton

      • Loving your blog posts Caroline, I am finding them encouraging especially in these uncertain times. I live alone so I roughly spend around £10 per week on groceries as I am on a strict budget. Being a vegetarian I manage to make fairly cheap, filling meals with heaps of veggies, beans & pulses. I too love trying out some WW2 recipes. Keep up the posts as they are inspirational.

  5. Love this 🙂 but also WOW are stable foods economical in the UK. Cries in Canadian/ 2023. But I do love the message & all the more relevant these days

    • Hi Gemma, yes these are the cheapest prices and things have increased here somewhat too since I did this video but yep I have read that prices in Canada and other countries for staples are pretty pricey in comparison. This might make a really interesting video to do a comparison of say a few different countries. In Canada what stores would you tend to shop at for cheaper staples? When I lived in Nova Scotia we had Sobeys, Walmart, Atlantic Superstore, Save Easy and Costco, Food land & Bulk barn if memory serves me well. C xxxx

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