Weekly wartime food rations made creative cooks of every head of the household but fussy eating and even vegetarianism would have struggled under the Ministry of Food’s menu.
The weekly food shop was a little different in the years before VE Day 70 years ago. There were certainly no shops selling a bit of everything – instead you went to the butcher for weekly meat rations, visited the baker for your allocation of bread and so on.
Here is a typical weekly food allowance for one adult during World War II. Children would receive half this amount:
• Bacon and ham (3-4 slices/rashers) 4 oz
• Other meats – 2 small chops
• Butter 2 oz
• Cheese 2 oz
• Margarine 4 oz
• Cooking fat 4 oz
• Milk 3 pints
• Plus 1 packet dried milk per month
• Sugar 8 oz
• Preserves every two months 1 lb
• Tea 2 oz
• Egg (shell egg) 1
• Plus 1 packet dried egg per month
• Sweets 12 oz
A typical adult’s monthly allowance might provide a tin of salmon or fruit and half a pound of dried fruit. Bread, flour, fish (if available), offal, game (including rabbit and venison) and sauces and pickles were not rationed but were often hard to get your hands on.
Good old canned meat, fish, rice, canned fruit, condensed milk, breakfast cereals, biscuits and vegetables were available in limited quantities on a points system.
The Ministry of Food urged families to make most the most of their rations, and published these recipe ideas for the most filling, nutritionally balanced meals possible. And some were actually rather tasty…
6 oz flour
4 oz mashed potato
1 teaspoonful baking powder
½ teaspoonful salt
1 oz fat
4-5 tablespoonfuls milk
Mix the flour and salt. Add the baking powder and work into the mashed potato. Rub in the fat. Blend to a soft dough with milk. Roll out to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into rounds. Brush the tops with milk. Bake on greased baking sheets for 15 minutes in a hot oven. For a sweet scone add 1 oz sugar.
4 eggs boiled for six minutes
1 teacup vegetable stock
2 chopped onions
1 teacup milk (household milk or all vegetable stock)
1 tablespoon cooking fat
1 tablespoon wholewheat flour
Melt fat, add chopped onions and cook very gently, not to brown. When tender, add flour and cook. Then add milk and stock and boil gently for five minutes. Cut eggs in quarters lengthwise, add to sauce and heat through, taking care not to break up the eggs. Serve on a hot dish garnished with a sprinkling of minced parsley.
Vegetables with Cheese Crust
½ cup cooked spinach
½ cup cooked broad bean
½ cup cooked diced carrots
1 onion (or leek)
½ cup chopped cooked potatoes
½ cup cooked peas
1 cup gravy
½oz cooking fat
¼oz grated cheese
Shortcrust (made from 1lb wholewheat flour and 4oz. cooking fat)
Chop up the onion and fry in cooking fat until brown. Add to all the other vegetables and stir in gravy. Put into a pie dish. Mix grated cheese into pastry with a knife. Roll out and cover vegetables with the crust. Bake in fairly quick oven until pastry is cooked and brown.
8 oz flour
1 oz fat
1 tablespoon syrup
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Water or milk to mix
Rub the fat into the dry ingredients and mix to a soft consistency with syrup and milk or water. Place the soaked stoned prunes in the bottom of a greased basin, and pile the pudding mixture on top.
Cover with a greased paper and steam for 1 ½-2 hours. Use the prune juice thickened with cornflour or custard powder as a sauce.
Recipe credit: Recipes Past and Present
Why don’t you get into the VE Day spirit and have a go at some of these recipes this weekend? Let us know how you get on in the Comments section below.