Week One WWII Ration Experiment

How did the first week of my month-long WWII ration challenge go? Let’s do a wrap up!

What did I cook?

We keep a vegetarian/vegan household, so doing with less/no meat wasn’t a struggle. I did miss having a couple more eggs as comfort protein. For the first two thirds of the week, I had made vegan dinners, which then became my lunches. I used recipes I would normally prepare, but maybe hadn’t cooked in a while. I also had a leftover red lentil curry from the weekend (compliant to the rules) that we ate up. Here’s what I made:

Bara Brith tea bread

Drew likes a sweet baked good nibble in the morning with his coffee while his porridge cooks. I made Wartime Bara Brith, with raisins and currants I already had on hand. The jar of marmalade has now become my jam ration for the month. Breakfasts for me included toast with peanut butter and porridge with homegrown blackberries.

Blackberries from the garden.
Lentil Stew with Sweet Potato Mash, homegrown greens and homemade whole wheat bread

By Friday, I realized I still had an egg and nearly all of my cheese ration left! I’ve always wanted to try Carolyn’s Homity Pie and, boy, that was lush after simple fare. I still have two portions left.

Homity Pie

I also employed a strategy suggested by the Ministry of Food for every adult to consume 1 pound of potatoes, prepared in any form, a day. I had trucked out last Sunday to our BJ’s bulk food warehouse and bought two, 10 pound bags of taters, one red and one yellow. Husband eats potatoes & beans for his work lunches. So I roasted about three pans of spuds in the course of the week between us two.

Potatoes ready for roasting

What was easy or surprising?

I thought I’d run out of sugar and oil, but I didn’t, there were a few ounces of each left. I liked that there wasn’t a steep learning curve in adopting new recipes. I didn’t feel all that deprived. On Friday, I even had a couple squares of chocolate and a gin & tonic to unwind and it was enough to feel lavish.

We ate more bread. I bake a batch of three whole wheat loaves (a future post on my process for that). We normally go through 1 or 1.5 loaves in a week. We had plowed through two loaves by Saturday. I baked on Sunday. Let’s see how long that lasts!

I was also surprised just now with rounding up the trash in the house – we regularly put out two kitchen bags worth a week, plus whatever goes into the recycling. This past week, we only filled one kitchen can! I think this is due to my not having any takeout or extra processed food containers. I wonder if the trend of less trash will continue.

What was hard?

I did have a planned lunch with a friend – which then rolled into an evening out with hubby. I went overboard with frozen custard in a waffle cone, corn chips, and half a beer. We call that having a snarfle. I bounced right back on Sunday and ate on plan all day. The modern world is still out there to pull us in.

What else did I do?

I banned my phone from the table, which I was successful at about half the time. Gentle nudges from my husband helped remind me to put it down! I read several interesting articles from the Smithsonian Magazine, which is a perennial gift from my parents. I also listened to vintage radio broadcasts from the 1940s, now found on YouTube, and speeches from Winston Churchill or the Roosevelts. I started the summer reading program for our public library, to track minutes of reading towards earning prizes. We tried to analog more – going to the gym, going for walks around the neighborhood, going on a long hike on Sunday. I can feel my quality of life going up.

Getting a little meta here, I figured out why I like lifestyle challenges. This feels like playing a game: there are rules, a set period of time, an element of pretend, reflecting on wins and failures, seeking out rewards, community interaction with other people sharing a similar experience. At the end, you can ‘go back’ to regular life, but you’re never quite the same afterwards. You’ve proven to yourself that you can choose differently and maybe what you did during the challenge is better than your normal baseline life. Do challenges feel like play to you?

The WWII Ration Challenge Month Introduction

As a historian, I have become deeply nerdy about certain aspects of world events. The rationing systems in Great Britain and the United States during WWII is one of those fascinations for me. As you can see, I bought multiple books, both reproduction and originals, filled with recipes and detailed stories. I follow blogs, video channels, and groups where modern people try out the ‘ration diet’ for various lengths of time. They recreate the recipes (which usually turn out edible!) and try other limitations imposed during wartime.

My ration related book collection

So when Carolynn, at The 1940s Experiment blog, put forward a month-long challenge starting on June 13th, I thought to myself…

Can I hack it?

We keep a vegetarian/vegan household already. As Orthodox Christians, we follow a calendar of fasting seasons, one of which, the Apostles Fast falls within the month of the challenge. This means I won’t be noshing on eggs or dairy for several days. I know one can still eat unhealthily and extravagantly on a vegan diet which is why the added layer of the Ration Challenge would be good for me, both physically and spiritually.

The British ration rules are generally along these lines, with some variation during the entire span of the era, 1940-1952. I chose the vegetarian ration, as there is a swap for meat for more cheese & egg. The following is for one person, per week:

  • Sugar, 8 oz
  • Cheese, 6 oz
  • Loose tea, 2 oz [roughly 24 tea bags]
  • Margarine, 6 oz
  • Other cooking fat, 2 oz
  • Sweets (candy/chocolate), 12 oz per month
  • Jam/Jelly, 8 oz per month
  • Milk, 3 pints
  • Dried Egg Powder equal to 12 eggs per month
  • 2 fresh eggs per week

What was not on ration: fresh vegetables, fruit [except imports like bananas or tinned pineapple], potatoes, and whole wheat bread. Other foods, like legumes, rice, spices, etc, were available, but on points so that limited what one could get per month.

The caveats, aside from the religious variation we have going on in our household, are as follows:
I have a friend who gives us free eggs 1-2x a month. I will use those, when able, instead of powdered egg. I won’t go buy any. I will just depend on her kindness. I also have a pantry with a sturdy amount of legumes & grains. I won’t need to buy any for the month. I will try tracking how much we use from storage and compare to the points allotted for the month. Peanut butter is also a staple item I am not sure where it falls on the ration (probably points). Again, I have plenty of that on hand, but I won’t get too dependent on it as a sneaky way to get more fat.


  • I need some structure and awareness around how much I am spending on food. I am beyond blessed in resources to where I don’t even think about a food budget. I just get whatever I want to prepare. I will share how much I spend a week which will serve as my mirror.
  • I got a bit fluffy over the course of the first half of the year. Up 5 pounds since New Years! I am 5’4 and around 155. I could lose 15-20 pounds and land squarely in a healthy range.[Of course that won’t happen in a month, but this could be the start of something better!]
  • I want to be cognizant of waste, both of food & packaging, and how I engage with convenience foods. Again, I don’t think of cost, I just think about what I want when I want it. This is not within my ideals of living more sustainably and locally.


  • Follow the Vegetarian ration diet for one month.
  • Have a shopping preference plan: my vegetable garden produce first, then local fruit & veg, then only USA grown produce. Nothing green imported. Limit canned goods of exotics, like pineapple or olives. I will investigate local dairy options.
  • No prepackaged snacks. Bye bye corn chips.
  • Record my expenditures.
  • Sundays after church we have a Coffee Hour, where families take turns bringing a snack spread to share. I won’t count this within my ration but I won’t go bonkers either.
  • Limit dining out to three occurrences. This will probably include my birthday later this month, something to celebrate the 4th of July, and one other freebie lunch on my own.
  • Choose contemporary recipes from my book collection and Carolyn to try each week.

Extras, to get into the spirit of the exercise:

  • Put limits on phone/internet usage. I want more headspace to use towards reading, the increased food prep, and writing.
  • Watch a vintage movie once a week with my husband.
  • Visit the local history room at the library to learn more about how WWII affected life here.
  • No spending on clothing, household extras, or hobbies.
  • Continue victory gardening work.
  • Be mindful of energy and water usage. Hang up laundry to dry, take shorter showers, turn off lights.

Will my husband participate?

Yes and no. As a vegan, he already has a fairly strict personal diet, according to outside eyes. He prepares his own breakfasts and lunches, that usually do not include any added fats and have an abundance of veggies & fruits. He eats pretty much the same thing every day for those two meals. I prepare dinners most of the time and also do the grocery shopping. Where we overlap, then, is where I will keep to the vegan ration plan. I won’t exclude his precious bananas or impinge on his coffee consumption.

And as the Brits love to say, “Let’s give it a go!”