Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Rations and Points ... An Overview


I was asked the other day if I would do an overview of the rationing and points system used in the United Kingdom during the Second World War, and I thought it would be an ideal way to see how much knowledge I have managed to acquire over the last few weeks of reading and research.  I have however checked and rechecked the amounts and the foods that I have listed below.  
There could well be some things that seem not got quite right, as I've mentioned before, and other people have also commented, amounts of foods available changed frequently.  Some things vanished off the rations and you simply couldn't get hold of them, at other times during the war things were added to the ration.  Sometimes, for instance,  something like oranges were suddenly available and children and pregnant or breastfeeding women always got first dibs on them.
Rationing started on 8th January 1940 ... a date that sticks in my mind as it is Alan's birthday .. not the 1940 bit I hasten to add  ;-)
  The Government itself had been preparing since 1936 and had the ration books printed ready not long after this date.  They had warned housewives in January 1939 to try and slowly lay down supplies of tinned goods in an effort to have a good food store across the country, but of course not everyone could afford to do this.  The first things to be rationed were bacon,  ham, butter and sugar ... but lots of other things quickly followed.  Most things were rationed by weight with the exception of meat, which was rationed by price.


So the usual basic rations, which are the ones we will be living on from next week are -
Rations – per person per week  (adult or child over 6 years)

2oz butter 
4oz margarine 
4oz lard/dripping/equivalent weight in oil 

2oz cheese
- or 8 oz if vegetarian on surrender of your meat ration coupons

3 pints milk  

8oz sugar 
2oz tea

1 egg - 2 for vegetarians
or
you could surrender your egg ration, both fresh and dried, and instead get chicken feed for your chickens 

4oz ham or bacon 
2oz fish - not rationed but frequently unavailable 
Sausages – not rationed, but not always available


Meat – to the value of £4.66  (equivalent to 1s 6d in 1940)

3oz sweets

Rations – per person per month

Onions – ½ lb per month if available 
1 small jar Camp coffee per month  if available


1 packet dried eggs per month = to one dozen eggs


1 packet dried milk per month = 7 pints of milk 

1lb Jar of Jam or Marmalade -
or you could surrender your preserves coupon and receive an extra 8oz sugar for making your own.  

     &
1 small box cocoa every 2 months

*** *** ***

After a year of war the Points system was brought in on top of the basic rationing.  This was to try and make sure that everyone had a fair chance of getting an equal share of the foods available regardless of how much they earned.  A lot of lessons had been learned during the First World War.

  The points needed to purchase different foodstuffs, usually dried, packets, tinned or bottled varied from day to day, week to week or month to month.  This was basically because lots of the things available on your points were imported goods and it depended which ships had got through to unload their precious cargos.

AND ...
to confuse matters even more ...

... the amount of points that each person was given to spend each month varied at different times during the course of the war, anything from the most common 16 up to 24.  You would have found out about any sudden changes either from the newspapers, the daily radio bulletins ... which were usually on at 8.15 in the morning for all things Ministry of Food related ... or just from the shopkeeper when you arrived with your list.  


The availability of food meant it's points value went up or down.  So for instance you could have gone into your grocers one Monday and bought a can of Corned Beef for it's usual 16 points, the following week the same can would cost you 24 points but suddenly on the shelves would be lots of tins of Spam at only 12 points each ... this was how the Food Ministry managed supply and demand of the food that they had available.

Every person in the country got 16 points per month each to spend on what they could get hold of.  Of course if you lived on your own this could prove very hard as some things were 20 or 24 points and would have been outside of the points you had available.  You could not carry points over to the next month.  For a family of four with 64 points between them there was a lot more choice.

So what sort of things could you usually buy with your points?

 One can of Meat or Fish  = 16 points 
1lb Dried Fruit = 8 points
1lb lentils = 2 points
Tin of Baked Beans = 4 points
Box of Cereal = 4 points
Tin of Tomatoes = 6 points
1lb Rice = 2 points
1lb Chickpeas/split peas/dried beans/peas  = 2 points



Of course while you shopped with your ration books, and had the little coupons snipped out or marked off by the shopkeeper, and used your little 'points' vouchers you still had to hand over your cash to pay for your food.  Prices were quite strictly monitored by the Ministry of Food and most people liked the fairness that this produced.  But the cost of living did go up during the war and income tax went up to record levels as the Government needed more and more money to keep the country's infrastructure going.


I hope this post has helped you understand something of the rationing system and to appreciate why I've been so totally confused over the past few days.  Sometimes it seemed that the more I read, the more the facts and figures changed but we are not going to stress unnecessarily over this but just do our best over the course of our month Living on Rations.

There are a couple of bloggers on my sidebar who have a much better understanding of both the rationing and points system.   If you want to read their blogs they are Frugal in Norfolk ... who along with her family lived on rations for 6 years through necessity, and has a fascinating record of these years on her War Diary page and The 1940's Experiment where Carolyn has lived on rations a number of times in the last few years, gaining much publicity as well as experience as she did so.

Sue xx

34 comments:

  1. So interesting, I had no idea that the amounts for some things were so low such as eggs. I make cakes and have eggs often with our meals, so I would have exceeded our ration in a flash. I couldn't see cheese mentioned but I think you mentioned it in a previous post. I think it's something like 2oz which I could nibble on very quickly.

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    1. Yes it's 2oz of cheese - listed under the butter and lard.

      And yes ... it could go in an instant which is why I grated and weighed out all the cheese Alan is having each week. He would eat 2oz in two mouthfuls otherwise ;-)

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  2. Thanks Sue, very comprehensive and very interesting. One thing I don't understand is why eggs were so rationed....didn't more people keep chickens then?

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    1. There was a mass slaughter of chickens (as well as other farm animals) just after war broke out as it as thought there wouldn't be enough grain to feed them all. In my opinion it would have made more sense to give them out in threes or fours to households to keep for their own eggs and then to use for the pot when they stopped laying.

      As I say above people that did keep hens could surrender their egg rations and get chicken feed instead, which is what we would have done.

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    2. Thanks Sue, I didn't know that. I remember my Grandad keeping hens in his garden, as well as growing lots of veggies. It always felt such a treat when we had a sleepover with them and were given a boiled egg for breakfast from Grandad's hens.

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  3. When our village put on a WWII exhibition at the end of October 2011 (we’ve also had Edwardian and WWI exhibitions - it is so much fun to go back in time using actual primary source material) a group of us lived on rations for a couple of months as close as possible to how the villagers would have done in September/October 1941. As you say the rations and local availability changed so much over the duration the only way to do it accurately is to pinpoint a moment in time. As a rural community we allowed ourselves home-reared eggs and honey and allotment produce, and note we deliberately carried out this experiment in September and October. The Imperial War Museum was very helpful for recipes and I had my grandmother’s book of recipes too. I still make her tea loaf and lentil shepherd’s pie and beetroot cake is surprisingly delicious. On the day of the exhibition we made a selection of our favourite foods to sell to raise money for charity. My mother was evacuated from Harrow on the Hill to farming relatives in Shropshire for the duration (her parents both worked as nurses in London hospitals during the war) and she always said she never ate better in her life. But old habits die hard and when I cleared my parents’ house after their deaths there was enough tinned food to survive a siege which I gave to the church food bank. They rarely ate this food, it was there for emergencies such as the 1956 and 1974 oil crises and lorry strikes and bad winters! I wonder if you have a local museum which might have diaries and letters which illustrate how people on your Welsh hillside lived during the war. Local newspapers can also be interesting with reports about wedding feasts as well as advertisements for local businesses and there may even be people still living in your area who can remember what it was like during the war.

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    1. That's a good idea to look up some local history. The only one of our neighbours, that speaks English and is old enough to remember the war is too unwell to be grilled for information unfortunately. Lovely comment, thank you.

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    2. Thank you Sarah, for such an interesting post. Although I'm a Yank, my father's older brother fought in WWI, and I grew up with my dad's intense interest in that war and WWII. We lived in England for 3 years when I was a teenager (Air Force), and toured the battlefields of northern France--what vivid memories for me, when I realized how people in Europe suffered. I try very hard to be respectful of the plenty we now have (and may not have for long!) in my cooking, and actually find the challenge to be pretty interesting!

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  4. I was born in the 40’s. I do remember the great excitement of an Orange and a few walnuts in shells in one’s Christmas stocking. A treat! The rationing was much worse after the war for until the early 1950’s.

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    1. I was very shocked to learn that bread and potatoes ... that had been freely available during the war ... went on ration towards the end and after the war. But it makes sense, as only one sort of potato was grown over most of the UK seemingly it created a disease problem that took some wiping out, and perhaps something similar happened with the wheat.

      Sweets were rationed for a long time after as my Dad used to tell me.

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  5. Thanks for the link Sue. We spent 6 years on rations due to reduced circumstances, it taught us a huge amount! There was also clothes rationing which gave adults very few clothes to buy if needed.

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    1. Your war diaries are absolutely inspirational, why you have never turned them into a book I'll never know. And you were brave enough to do clothes and other rationing such as soap!! I've read right through 3 times now over the years.

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  6. I used to work with a lady who grew up in London's East End. She said that when rationing arrived her family actually had better food than before the war.

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    1. That was a good side to it, fair prices and equal food availability for all, and the weekly ration gave you almost a perfect balance of the fats and protein you needed ... even if it was a little heavy on the carbs for todays thinking.

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  7. What a fab post. Half a pound of onions!!! I think this would be the most difficult one for me. We eat loads of onions.

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    1. This would have been pretty impossible for us to cope with if it were not for the abundant amount of leeks we still have growing ... the ones seen in the blog header photograph :-)

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    2. A good substitute. We grew them lady year and dug up the last ones at the start of January.

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  8. I was a very small child when rationing finally ended and can remember a big family talk as to whether the flower garden could be reinstated. It had become an extra veg patch from the first days of the war. My grandparents lived through the first war and knew exactly how bad things would be. We had chickens but the feed was scarce and everyone went gleaning round the corn fields, all veg peelings were boiled up with the smallest potatoes. These helped to feed the pig and the chickens.

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    1. It must have been quite upsetting for true 'gardeners' to lose their flowerbeds and immaculate lawns.

      I watched a programme recently where they were ploughing up the bowling green in a small park ... my Nana would have been horrified!! I wonder now if her local green was ploughed up to grow vegetables in.

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  9. A wonderfully easy to understand summary thanks Sue.
    I was born at the end of the war and can remember having sweets on ration and
    concenttrated orange juice.
    I also remember a great fuss being made about a banana! I didn't like it and couldn't
    understand all the excitement.
    When rationing finished we were given the ration books to play with ( with the inevitable results!).
    I often wish they had been kept. Sue

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    1. I think the problem with bananas was that they were given out to children with lots of hype about them being wonderful, but then they were eaten very eagerly while they were still bright yellow, and hence not very ripe or sweet. My Mum felt exactly as you did and was not keen on her first ever banana.

      Oh what a shame that you 'played with' your ration books ... ah well at least you remember having them :-)

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  10. have loved reading your blog....although I know you're doing WWII rationing and not below the line, I thought you may find this link interesting.....the woman who writes it did the snap challenge and included her recipes, maybe you may find something in this you can use..... https://www.pinterest.com/oneperfectbite/snap-food-stamp-challenge/

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  11. Very informative...I wish the grandparents were around to ask about this...

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    1. I know ... my Nana was born in 1898, so she lived through both wars, the first as a teenager and the second as a young Mum with two children. She would have had a mine of brilliant information, as it is I only know a little bit of her life then, she died many years ago.

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  12. I have 2 of those dried milk tins - mum used them for biscuits.

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    1. Lucky you, I love the old food packaging ❤

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  13. The tinned fish on points was always pilchards and I've often wondered since why tinned salmon or crab wasn't. available. Does anyone else remember this. ?
    EH

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    1. Salmon and tuna was supposed to be available, and I've seen pictures of it in the old grocers photographs, but I guess that would have been snapped up pretty quickly and then all that would be left were the pilchards ☹

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  14. This proved just too confusing for me when I tried some time ago...so now I'm beginnng my £1 each per day...for food and drink! Yikes. x

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    1. It's taken me a while to get my head around it for sure.

      Good luck with your challenge, it seems there are lots of us up to challenges at the moment.

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