Rationing made for inventive problem-solving


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/03/2022 (449 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Who knows how much a loaf of bread will cost in three months’ time? If the sanctions being imposed on Russia are successful then it will be worth all the extra food costs.

Making ends meet is going to be more difficult for many of us. A book about food rationing in Britain during the Second World War might seem like a depressing read during the current turmoil but a little of its wartime ingenuity could help bring our food bills down. The Ministry of Food;Thrifty Wartime Ways to Feed Your Family Today, written by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, is fun and instructive to flip through as it is full of gardening lessons and wartime recipes adapted for modern kitchens.

I loved the many full-page illustrated slogans and posters of the time such as “A Clear Plate Means A Clear Conscience” “Go Easy With Bread, Eat Potatos Instead” and the better-known “Dig For Victory” The book was written to accompany a major exhibition on wartime rationing at the Imperial War Museum in 2010 and these illustrations would have been front and centre.

Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book on the U.K.’s wartime Ministry of Food is a fascinating look at a hopefully bygone era.
Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book on the U.K.’s wartime Ministry of Food is a fascinating look at a hopefully bygone era.

The British government’s incredibly successful wartime campaign to feed the country utilized dozens of these catchy slogans in pamphlets published in the millions by the Ministry of Food. They needed to get Britons to grow more food, preserve it and eke out their meagre wartime rations nutritiously as ships bringing food were being bombed by German U-boats. It was imperative that the nation became more self-reliant in a hurry.

It wasn’t going to be an easy task as there were no freezers in the 1940s and few households had refrigerators. With white bread banned and staples such as tea, butter and meat tightly rationed, morale could have plummeted but instead Britain was galvanized with a can-do attitude. Housewives learnt to can food, veggies were grown in thousands of newly cleared and planted allotments and 80 per cent more farmland was cleared and seeded with crops thanks to an army of ‘land girls’. And the pamphlets kept coming with their foolproofm step-by-step illustrated gardening and cooking instruction. A daily radio show offered encouragement and more household hints over the airwaves.

This was a fascinating and upbeat read which kept the horrors of war at a remove and will appeal to many. A practical manual full of tips on how to live frugally, it is also a testament to the ingenuity of the British government and captures the difficulty of putting nutritious food on the table in wartime.

We can only hope that we won’t have to make practical use of its tips.

Anne Hawe

Anne Hawe
West End community correspondent

Anne Hawe is a community correspondent for the West End. She can be reached at annie_hawe@hotmail.com

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