Food in wartime

Mrs Lewis, of Severne Road, interviewed in 1977
That was very hard really (rationing). Because working a full day you don't have time to go shopping. Not to get anything special, you know. Sheila used to go and do most of it from the shops down the road, just local shops. We just had our rations, and …we used to have an ounce of butter a head a week, and I think it was four ounces of margarine a head. Still, there's only the two of us, so we had 2 oz. of butter and 4 oz. of margarine. And potatoes if you get any. You waited in queues for those. I'd got pretty well of stuff in my pantry when the war started. I'd got about 5 lbs. of tea, I remember. We used to have a tea man call, and when the war broke out he said he'd sell all his stock because he was going to join up and he said "How much would you like to have" and I bought all he could spare which was about 5 lbs. I think. Cos he said "You know it'll go on ration", so I had quite a nice lot of tea. It lasted a long while.

But other things, like perishables of course, you'd got to...and sugar. That's when I started to go without sugar. We'd got some blackcurrant bushes in the garden. You see, well of course jam was on points – you couldn't get that, and I thought, it's such a shame for me blackcurrants to get spoilt, so I didn't have any sugar in my tea. I kept me half pound separate. And then, when the blackcurrants came ripe, I made them into jam...with my sugar. And then I thought - now I can have a cup of tea with some sugar in, and it made me sick! And I've never had sugar in me tea from that day to this.

But, it was tough. There's no doubt about it. They don't know nowadays. They just simply can't imagine it. And of course, we remember the First World War as well.

I remember waiting in a queue for half a pound of the First World War. When I was a little girl. About ten I should be I should think, or 11. And I've waited for practically eight hours, in a queue, then. And when you got it, it was so rancid and nasty that you just couldn't eat it as it was. My mother used to get a bit of fat, from the butchers -beef fat - if she could, and render it down into dripping, and mix it with the margarine, and an Oxo cube to give it a bit of bottoms. And that's what we had on our bread...

And just had to stand in a queue if anybody (was) selling any. It was very bad then, in the First World War. Then coming to the Second war, we'd got the same thing again...But it was better organized. It was much better organized. There wasn't rations in the First war. You just got it if you could. If you saw anybody selling anything you stood in the queue and hoped for the best, Of course, in the Second war, we were rationed, and so much bread, so much flour. I forget how much now, but I think it was half a pound of bread a day, something like that.


One week's allowance for one person was:

One egg, 2 oz cooking fat, 2 oz margarine, 2 oz tea, 8 oz sugar, 1 oz cheese, 4 oz bacon and ham, and meat to the value of 1s 2d.

Margo Hitchinson on rationing (from ‘Around 4 o’clock’)
Food rationing began in 1940 for basic foods such as meat, sugar, butter, eggs and cheese. Ration books were distributed and everyone had to register with a grocer and butcher. There was great excitement when shops had little extras and word would go round like wildfire when bananas, oranges or tomatoes appeared. An average weekly ration for each person included 8 oz sugar, 4 oz butter, 1 oz cheese, and one egg, although it varied during the war how much was rationed.

Food such as sugar, tea and fats were very scarce by 1941 and rationing made life very difficult. When planning a meal, ration coupons had to be calculated as well as the cost. Tedious queues at shops became a fact of life. Papers and magazines were full of ideas for ‘austerity cooking’ with suggestions for fatless pastry, sugarless puddings, eggless cakes, meatless meals and fuelless cookery. The Ministry of Food recommended the ingenious hay-box where a porridge or stew could be transferred from the stove to a wooden box stuffed with hay or paper. There it would cook slowly throughout the day or night in conserved heat. Pigs Feet in Jelly, Calves Feet Pie, and Sheep’s Head Broth were advocated for a change!


Patricia Smith
We used to have a card for meat. Mr Bourne the butcher was in the third shop on Fox Hollies Road. Mum used to go there, come back, then get some blood off the meat and rub it into the card to hide the mark where it said we had been to him. Then she sent me back with the card. he'd say: "I'm sure your mother's been up and had it", and I'd say: "Oh no, Mr. Bourne".


We had to wait in different queues for different things. Everyone used to tell everyone else: they've got this or that. We used to go to Hazelwood Nurseries to queue for tomatoes. We used to mix margarine with a little cream to make it more like butter.


Josie Smith (with thanks to Sheldon library)

My aunt in Canada used to send us food parcels. She always included a little box of chocolates for my mother. On nearly every occasion each chocolate had been pressed in by the censors in case something was hidden inside.



Ministry of Food War Cookery Leaflet no. 11

(From The War Years, used with permission)