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World War II began in September 1939 but it was not until January 8th, 1940 that the first foods - bacon, butter and sugar - were rationed.  Successive ration schemes for meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned and dried fruit quickly followed.  Almost all foods apart from vegetables and bread were rationed by August 1942.  Strict rationing inevitably created a black market, however.

Almost all controlled items were rationed by weight, except meat which was rationed by price.  Game meat such as rabbit and pigeon were not rationed, but were not always available.

Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed but supplies were limited.  Some types of imported fruit all but disappeared.  Lemons and bananas became unobtainable for most of the war; oranges continued to be sold but greengrocers customarily reserved them for children and pregnant women, who could prove their status by producing their distinctive ration books.  Other domestically grown fruit such as apples still appeared from time to time, but again the sellers imposed their own restrictions so that customers were often not allowed to buy, for example, more than one apple each.

The standard ration for an adult in wartime Britain per week (unless otherwise stated) was:

Bacon and Ham

100g (4 oz)


1s 2d

1s 2d bought about 540g (1 lb 3 oz) of meat. Offal
 sausages were only rationed from 1942 to 1944.
When sausages were not rationed, the meat needed
to make them was so scarce that they often that
they often contained a high proportion of bread.
vegetarians their ration of meat was substituted
by other goods.


50g (2 oz)


50g (2 oz)


100g (4 oz)

Cooking Fat

100g (4 oz)


1800ml (4 pints)

The ration was sometimes reduced to 1200ml (2
pints), but the priority was always for expectant
mothers and children under five. Each person got
one tin of milk powder equal to 4½l (8 pints) every
eight weeks.


225g (8 oz)


450g (1 lb)

Every 2 months.


50g (2 oz)


1 egg per week

One egg a week, if available, could drop to 1 egg
every two weeks. In addition, 1 packet of egg
powder (making 12 eggs) was allocated every 4


350g (12 oz)

Every 4 weeks.


o  Each person was also allocated 24 "points" for four weeks with which they could buy one tin of fish or meat, or 900g (2 lb) of dried fruit, or 3.6kg (8 lb) of split peas.
o  School meals were started in the war because mothers were working extremely long hours to help the war effort.
o  Eggs were rationed and "allocated to ordinary consumers as available"; in 1944 thirty allocations of one egg each were made. Children and some invalids were allowed three a week; expectant mothers two on each allocation.

Many people grew their own vegetables, greatly encouraged by the highly successful digging for victory motivational campaign instigated by the Ministry of Food.  In 1942 many children aged between five and seven had become so used to wartime restrictions that when questioned about bananas, many did not believe they existed.

There are so many recipes from wartime Britain available to recreate that we have had to be highly selective of those we have reproduced.  You can find a selection of wartime recipes on Tastes Of History' Blog.