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Rationing was experienced, or should we say endured, by everybody in Britain during the Second World War from the average person on the street right up to the Royal Family!


Rationing was introduced in early 1940 as a measure to try and control the consumption of food which, in the most part, had to be imported.


As an island nation, Britain imported vast quantities of goods before the war. Before Nazi U-Boats so successfully disrupted or destroyed the Merchant convoys that brought these goods to our shores we were importing 55 million tonnes per year.

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Obviously, those worst hit by rationing were in the cities.


 For those who lived in the countryside there was always the option of growing plenty of different foods to supplement the rations.


 In the cities this could still be done, but required people to dig up their flower gardens and replace them with vegetables.


 Even the moat at the Tower of London (which was of course not full of water!) was turned into a giant allotment to feed the Beefeaters.

The system of rationing meant that every family had to register with their local shopkeeper and they in turn were only provided with enough food to sell to their allocated customers.


The first food-stuffs to be rationed were: butter, sugar and bacon. These were very soon added to, though, and the list of rationed items included: meat, cheese, fresh eggs, jam, tea, cereals and milk. To help people cope, and to cut down on wastage of fresh goods, solutions like dried eggs were introduced. In the same way that we have dried mashed potatoes, dried eggs were used. They literally had the moisture taken out of them and could be reconstituted by adding water.

Women, who of course weren’t allowed to fight, were instead encouraged to join the Land Army and work on farms to feed the nation.

Parents were encouraged not to give rations meant for children to adults instead, particularly meat and milk. Various substitutes were given when certain foods were unavailable and raw turnip was often suggested as a way to maintain a healthy body!

Babies and young children were also given Cod Liver Oil and concentrated orange juice, as were nursing & expectant mothers and invalids.


School meals were also introduced during the war to try to ensure that children had a hot meal when their parents were away or working long hours.

Growing your own is very fashionable these days - it was life and death during the war!

4ozs ( 100g )


to the value of 1s.2d ( 6p today ). Sausages were not rationed but difficult to obtain : offal was originally unrationed but sometimes formed part of the  meat ration.


2ozs ( 50g )


2ozs ( 50g ) sometimes it rose to 4ozs ( 100g ) and even up to 8ozs ( 225g )


4ozs ( 100g )


4ozs ( 100g ) often dropping to 2ozs ( 50g )


3 pints ( 1800ml ) sometimes dropping to 2 pints ( 1200ml ). Household (skimmed, dried ) milk was available. This was I packet each 4 weeks.


8ozs ( 225g )


1lb ( 450g ) every 2 months


2ozs ( 50g )


1 shell egg a week if available but at times dropping to 1 every two weeks. Dried eggs - 1 packet each 4 weeks.


12 ozs ( 350g ) each 4 weeks.

The weekly food allowance for an adult was:



MEAT -          



BUTTER -                


CHEESE -                


MARGARINE -          




MILK -                        



SUGAR -                    


PRESERVES -        


TEA -                        


EGGS -                      



The fact that food and clothing was in short supply instilled a great sense of recycling in the general population which is, of course, once again becoming popular. People had to “make do” with what they had and so, if a sock had a hole in it, it would be darned rather than thrown away.


A common character in Government poster campaigns was the “Squander Bug”, who was used to try and encourage people to be frugal with their possessions.

It wasn’t only food that was rationed. Clothes were also limited. A system of coupons was used to limit the number of clothes that any person could buy in a one year period. Different items of clothing were worth a certain number of coupons.