What and How America and Her Allies Ate When Their Food Was Rationed

1940s Vegetables

Sustainability and Preserving what we grow in  food gardens is not a new thing. 
Community and school gardens are not a new thing.

Today, a lot of folks treat the vegetable garden as a neat hobby, but not as a life-sustaining necessity. During wartime, it became a crucial part of daily life, and a means to avoid real hunger and hardship. We should do it now, like they did it then, when their lives and health depended upon making it through months and years of sparse rations. It's hard to imagine doing without sugar and butter, and that morning  cup(s) of coffee...and all the things that make our meals edible and life enjoyable. 
Grow it, can it, freeze it, dry it, and stretch out our meals in a healthy manner. We waste so much food....that was unthinkable then. Food brings people together. During wartime, gardens growing the food brought people together.

During rationing in WWI and WWII, finding things that weren't rationed to mix with your Victory garden veggies to create those daily, large sit-down family meals, as was our custom, was not easy. Creativity and patriotism kept them going.  From what I have read, most of the available food options for stretching your meals were not much to work with, and we didn't eat a lot of that stuff before rationing because we just didn't like the stuff in the first place.

As an aside, Coffee was rationed, but people were so consistently upset by that sacrifice, that it didn't last as long on the rations list. Using chicory or other ground, dried leafy things as a substitute just wasn't working well. Everyone sacrificed quite a bit by following some of the suggestions publicized by the government to be used as food extenders. Sustainability through patriotic creativity was key. 

The family had no choice but to be brave and eat new things in new ways. Picky eaters went without, after a lengthy lecture and shaming at the family dinner table. It included the mantra parents of picky eaters have always fallen back upon ".... be thankful, millions of kids are going without and going to bed hungry tonight, they'd be happy to have this food on their plates",  the culprit, hanging their head in shame, could take that truth to the bank. Although, after reading the ingredients of some of the things kids had no choice but to eat, I do have a little empathy. The chastised children went on to fall back on that same mantra when confronting their own kids' picky eating,which was then updated to begin with "When I was a kid.....". And they meant it.

Wartime recipes were fairly healthy because they contain little fats or sugar. 
They also featured smaller quantities of red meat and cheeses due to their being rationed.

Stretch Those Mashed Non-rationed Potatoes With Other Mashed Non-rationed Produce
I guess that because we could eat potatoes until we grew extra eyes, and it was pushed 
as a food to fill us up fast, the boredom and blandness of the potato needed an extra kick.
Using your victory garden crops to stretch meals wasn't that hard at all.

About that 30,000 lbs. of potatoes..


"Sacrificing for the Common Good: Rationing in WWII"

Americans learned, as they did during the Great Depression, to do without. Sacrificing certain items during the war became the norm for most Americans. It was considered a common good for the war effort, and it affected every American household.

When the United States declared war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government created a system of rationing, limiting the amount of certain goods that a person could purchase. Supplies such as gasoline, butter, sugar and canned milk were rationed because they needed to be diverted to the war effort. War also disrupted trade, limiting the availability of some goods.

Americans received their first ration cards in May 1942. The first card, War Ration Card Number One, became known as the “Sugar Book,” for one of the commodities Americans could purchase with their ration card. Other ration cards developed as the war progressed.

The government also rationed automobiles, tires, gasoline, fuel oil, coal, firewood, nylon, silk, and shoes.
Americans used their ration cards and stamps to take their meager share of household staples including meat, dairy, coffee, dried fruits, jams, jellies, lard, shortening, and oils.

The war placed additional demands on the agricultural sector to not only feed the home front, but also support US troops and fulfill America’s obligations to the United Kingdom and other allies through the Lend-Lease Program. The agricultural sector of the US economy expanded greatly from these added demands.

Canning in wartime became a major focus of the US government. Women were encouraged to support their families and the nation by canning produce grown in their garden. Canning, like gardening, was presented in official propaganda as a patriotic and unifying act, linking soldiers’ activities to women’s roles in thekitchen.

The interconnectivity of the two activities ensured that just as victory garden yields reached their peak in 1943, so too did canning levels. The USDA estimates that approximately 4 billion cans and jars of food, both sweet and savory, were produced that year. Community canning centers aided in the process of reaching record levels of preserved food in the United States during the war. In 1945, the USDA stated that 6,000 canning centers were in operation throughout the United States.

Snippets from  articles by
National Mall and Memorial Parks,World War II Memorial
National Women's History Museum

Fats for cooking and serving meals were rationed.

Wartime Ways To Grease Your Food

Mock recipe ingredients.... from all the historic recipes i've read, 
i gathered that "household milk" was very often dried or powdered milk.

Mock Food

Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Dessert The Mighty Potato Fluffy wasn't safe during the war, either


Share The Meat Eat Cottage Cheese
Extend The Extenders Honey Cake War Cake

  Wartime Fruit Preservation - Jams and Preserves From Your Garden--->

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