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Living on Wartime Rations – what’s in store

Here in Mackay, like much of the worlds population, many are struggling to make ends meet, as the mining boom is over and the recession is in full swing. Many, including me, are overweight, and rely too heavily on expensive convenience and take away foods. Never has wartime and ration book cooking been so relevant in the modern-day kitchen, both from a frugal point of view and a health one.

With Remembrance And Armistice Day this week, I thought it was a good time to again live off rations for a week, and give the kids a feel of what so many experienced during the war. In the UK it was a real possibility that they would run out of food, as so much had been imported before the war and many shipping lanes were now closed and the exporting countries decimated by war. The rationing was tighter than in Australia, and it went on for longer, right into the mid 50s, where as all rationing ceased in Australia by 1950.  

Australia wasn’t going to run out of food, but it did want to help feed The UK and the troops overseas. Food rationing in Australia was limited to tea, sugar, butter and meat while from time to time, eggs and milk were also rationed under a system of priority for vulnerable groups during periods of shortage (for example a drought in 1940 meant that milk was rationed in Sydney for a few weeks). Some meats, such as poultry and fish, were not rationed but were rarely seen in shops – you could eat your own chickens or ducks or go fishing.  Cooked and preserved meats such as frankfurters, sausages, potted meats, canned meats and offal (eg liver, tripe and tongue) were also not rationed. Bacon and ham were not rationed but they were almost impossible to buy as most supplies were sent to the Services. 


WW2 Rations 1940 in the UK – for one adult for one week

  • · Bacon & Ham 4 oz/113 grams 
  • · Meat to the value of 1 shilling and sixpence (around about 1/2 lb/227gm minced beef, in Australia it was 2 1/4 lb from January 1944 to 1948 and fish, rabbit, poultry and organ meat were not rationed)
  • · Butter 2 oz/ 57 grams (Australians got 1/2 lb from June 1943 to 1950)
  • · Cheese 2 oz/ 57 grams 
  • · Margarine 4 oz/113 grams 
  • · Cooking fat 4 oz/113 grams 
  • · Milk 3 pints/1.7 litres 
  • · Sugar 8 oz/227g (1 lb week in Australia from August 1942)
  • · Preserves/Jam 1 lb every 2 months/ one 230gm jar a month 
  • · Tea 2 oz// 57 grams (1/2 lb per 5 weeks in Australia from July 1942)
  • · Eggs 1 fresh egg per week 
  • · Sweets/Candy 12 oz/340g every 4 weeks 
rations for a week in wartime

Beside a ration book are one person’s rations for a week – including four rashers of bacon and one egg.

We will do our week along the Australian guidelines for tea, butter, meat and sugar and the UK ones otherwise. Our food will also be limited to what was available in Australia at the time, including cereals (rice, oats, corn flakes, all bran and rice bubbles), spreads like vegemite, local honey and jam, flour, and fresh local fruit and veg if possible. Tropical fruit will feature as I live in Queensland.   

I have three children living at home, aged 10 to 14, and I will basically follow this wartime guide, below, substituting cereal for some of the bread serving and giving them an extra glass of milk for their ‘school milk’ serve. My kids LOVE cheese, so I think this will be the most difficult omission – 3oz of cheese per week is only 85g!

 food guide for wartime children 
In Australia rationing regulations for food and clothing were introduced in mid 1942. Tea was the first thing to be rationed, in 1942, as supply was limited after Japan occupied the areas of tea growing in the pacific. All Australians over the age of nine were required to register with a tea supplier, and were able to receive one ounce of tea per week, which had to be purchased fortnightly or monthly. The tea rationing caused great inconvenience for Australians as it was a cultural food. I do love a cup of Earl Grey now and then, but I think I’ll manage. Coffee was not rationed, as there not many coffee drinkers at the time. I have about three cups of decaf coffee per day, so I won’t really need to change that habit, but I will stick to the amount given for tea. The biggest thing for me will be no red wine!

The lack of sugar won’t be a problem for me, as I don’t take sugar in any of my hot drinks, however it will impact me when it comes to baking for the kids, which I do a lot, including bread, which I’ll go into another day. 


backyard chickens

My three hens – note the high tech nest and the umbrella stand

As to the eggs, we have three chickens which give us about two eggs each day, so I will use those. During the war people were encouraged to be as self-sufficient as possible: to keep hens for eggs, and to grow their own vegetables at home. Even some public parks were dug up for vegetable gardens. I’ll look a bit more at side that of things too.

Wish us luck!

If you’d like to read more about the benefits of a ration diet, read This


About thewartimewoman

I love history, fashion, art and design, especially of the 1930s to the 1960s. I am also a mother, wife, interior decorator & a treasure hunter who wishes she could drive a 1933 Delage. I studied Architecture at Melbourne university, briefly, and completed a Diploma of Art in Interior Design at the Melbourne College of Decoration in 1991. I have worked on an off as a decorator ever since, in between stints as a florist, balloon artist, having my five children and helping my husband in his law firm. in my spare time I love researching history, blogging and gardening.

3 responses »

  1. A ration diet. You may have something there.

  2. Coming back to read this all again. I was born in 1942, and even though the US government was encouraging formula feeding, my mum nursed me, and well as my sister, who was born in 1947. My grandparents had a small farm, and a neighbour who had a cow, so we were able to trade eggs for fresh milk. Even as a youngster, I knew better than to say “I don’t like it”, because we literally never knew where our next meal was coming from. Even if mum had the points, there was no promise that the grocer would have what she needed when she got there. Chicken wasn’t rationed, as most people didn’t care for it. I think if chicken was taken off the menu today, America would starve to death!


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