The 219th Festival of Frugality: The Ration Book Edition

Miss Thrifty29 March 2, 2010

Ration Book Welcome to the 219th Festival of Frugality! We are on the right the other side of the pond this week so, as on previous occasions, I thought I’d go for a British theme. This time around we are looking at the good old ration book (above): if there is a physical object that represents the possibilities – and the limitations! – of a frugal lifestyle, then surely this is it.

Rationing was first introduced in the UK during the First World War (1914 – 1918). It was reintroduced in the Second World War (1939 – 1945), when we grew only a third of the food that needed – and U-boats were polishing off the boats that brought in supplies from overseas. The UK wasn’t the only country to ration food and other goods during wartime – the U.S. rationed petrol and certain food products, and other countries also adopted rationing systems – but in our case, rationing was relatively severe and prolonged. We didn’t bin our ration books until 1954.

Here is the amount of food allocated to each adult, weekly (below). Not surprisingly, housewives became extremely resourceful (and skinny).  All sorts of recipes were concocted. Make Do And Mend became a way of life.


Being a 1940s Domestic Goddess sounds pretty wretched though:

With food so scarce many women acted on the principle ‘what the eye doesn’t see . . .’ or even, on occasion, ‘what the eye does see . . .’ One London woman, who dropped the family’s entire butter ration on the kitchen floor, simply scraped it back on the dish for an important guest, though her small son made pointed remarks on the subject at table. A Birmingham woman, whose husband’s dinner was knocked out of her hand, pushed it back on to the plate and ‘tidied it up’ with some more gravy so that ‘the poor man never knew until long after the war’. A King’s Lynn woman saw a neighbour who had dropped half a dozen eggs in the gutter when pushing her pram scraping them up; she scrambled them for supper. Even doctors relaxed their customary standards. A Westmorland doctor who found her weekly joint covered with maggots ‘scraped them off and roasted the joint again’. She also salted down butter in a large bedroom jug. ‘One morning I found a mouse drowned in the salty water,’ she remembers, ‘but I used the butter.’

This extract and others (below) are from a terrific book by Norman Longford called How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life During the Second World War.

I’d like to thank all the bloggers who submitted posts for this Festival of Frugality. It was difficult to make Editor’s Picks. But without further ado, here they are:

Editor’s Picks: The Onions


The taste of this humble vegetable, so long taken for granted, seemed suddenly the peak of gastronomic pleasure, partly because with meat rationed by value, not weight, stews, which used the cheapest cuts, were in favour. At least two Odes to anOnion were written in 1941… In February 1941 a one-and-a-half pound onion, raffled among the staff of The Times, raised £4 3s 4d and in March, when one woman remarked at a first aid lecture in Chelsea that she did not cry if she wore her gas mask when peeling onions, every woman present instantly shouted, ‘Where did you get them?’ Onions became popular prizes at socials and one wartime Girl Guide in Accrington can still recapture her pride at winning one in a treasure hunt, in honour of which her mother baked a special pie.

These posts are the Onions: worth baking a special pie for!

Cathy Stucker presents Finding Money posted at Cathy Stucker. This post made me laugh. Like Cathy, I love finding money in unexpected places! The back-of-the-sofa god will provide.

FMF presents Make and Save Money by Getting Rid of Your Junk posted at Free Money Finance. Let’s face it, you don’t need all that junk.

BWL presents Computer Repair Tips: How To Save Money posted at Christian Personal Finance. You are on your computer right now, aren’t you? Then this post applies to you!

MatthewPaulson presents How To Save Cash On Flowers posted at Fine Tuned Finances. Some good ideas here.

Dana presents 50 Chicken Crockpot Recipes – Get A Great Dinner On The Table With Little Effort posted at Not Made Of Money. What a terrific post: if you are as attached to your slow cooker as I am, you will find a delicious-sounding recipe or two here.

FIRE Finance presents Smart Refrigeration Lowers Electricity Bill posted at FIRE Finance. Some simple, effective ideas from a FIRE Finance’s friendly fridge engineer.

The Horsemeat


Some people purchased goods “under the counter” or on the black market. Apparently black market horsemeat – not eaten in the UK in peacetime – became a sneaky substitute for beef.

The following posts are the Horsemeat, not because they have anything in common with pet food (perish the thought!) but because of their dedication to the frugal cause. Obstacles, be gone! Where there’s a frugal will, there’s a frugal way.

Free Spirit presents 5 Steps To Simplify Information Overload posted at Simple.. Frugal.. Content.

Craig Ford presents How to Afford to be a Stay at Home Wife or Mom posted at Money Help For Christians.

Sarah presents Save Dough by Baking Your Own Bread posted at The Penny-Wise Life.

Paul Williams presents Fresh-baked Yeast Bread with Only 10 Minutes of Work posted at Provident Planning.

Jason presents Fighting Evil by Phone posted at Live Real, Now.

Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog presents How To Become A Coupon King (Or Queen) posted at Canadian Finance Blog.

Rainy-Day Saver presents Fix-It Friday: To-Do List Edition posted at Rainy-Day Saver.

Peak Personal Finance presents Before You Buy: Practice Home Mortgage Payment | Peak Personal Finance posted at Peak Personal Finance.

Bucksome presents 4 Steps to Success with Priceline posted at Buck$omeboomer’s Financial Path to Retirement.

Grace presents Convention Freebies posted at GRACEful Retirement.

The Tea Leaves


In July rationing really began, to use an appropriate word, to bite, when it was extended to tea, for the two ounces a week allowed were not enough for most families. Women now began to tear open their empty tea packets in search of a few hidden grains, or followed the Minister of Food’s advice to use ‘one spoonful for each person and none for the pot’.

Rationing tea in the UK? Just imagine! These posts all have a financial theme. I’ve called them the Tea Leaves because in these parts tea, like money, makes the world go round…

Patty Pedersen presents Seven Ways to Invest in Auto and Auto Part Stocks posted at AlphaProfit MoneyMatters – Investing Blog.

BankShout presents Zecco Review posted at BankShout.

ABC presents Technical Analysis Trading posted at ABCs of Investing.

The Financial Blogger presents What Can I Deduct to Pay Less Tax? File Your Income Tax with QuickTax Review posted at The Financial Blogger.

The Smarter Wallet presents SmartyPig Review: Best Savings Account For Your Goals posted at The Smarter Wallet.

DR presents » Review | How to Compare Auto Quotes Online posted at The Dough Roller.

David presents Low Interest Credit Cards posted at Credit Card Offers IQ.

Aaron presents 7 Ways Prepaid Cards can Help You Budget posted at Prepaidcards123.

Wise_Bread presents The First Time Home Buyer Credit and How Big of a Deal is It? posted at Wisebread

CreditCardAssist presents Many Consumers Making Switch to Credit Unions posted at

Ricky presents Roth Investment Advice posted at Qwoter.

The Soap Flakes


All types of soap were rationed. Every adult was allotted four coupons per month; one coupon would get you a bar of soap, 3 oz soap flakes or 6 oz soap powder.

These posts are the Soap Flakes, not just because they are clean and shiny, but because they cover some of the essentials of a frugal lifestyle.

Zen Friend presents Keep It Simple, Be Frugal, Feel Content. posted at Simple.. Frugal.. Content.

Kristia presents When Buying Meat and Poultry, Don’t Let The Yellow Stickers Scare You. posted at Family Balance Sheet.

Lisa Duncan presents 14 Fun Ways to Pass the Day Trapped Inside posted at Living Frugal Tips.

Four Pillars presents Use Your Cell Phone Apps To Manage Your Money posted at Quest For Four Pillars.

Jeff Rose presents How Identity Theft Destroys Your Credit Score posted at Good Financial Cents.

PT presents Use Free Online Tutorials to Do It Yourself posted at PT Money.

MD @ Studenomics presents What Are Some of The Stupid Ways You Spend Money? posted at

Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog presents How To Become A Coupon King (Or Queen) posted at Canadian Finance Blog.

MoneyNing presents How Do I Teach My Child About Money? posted at Money Ning.

Sun presents Creating a Home Directory posted at Earn More Invest Wisely at The Sun’s Financial Diary.

Ryan presents Keep These Senior Year Expenses in Mind posted at The Financial Student.

Tom Tessin presents Saving Money at a Resale Shops posted at FSC Blog.

The Eggs


A more serious shortage than fresh fruit was that of eggs, which became scarce during 1940 following cuts in imports and the slaughter of millions of hens to save feeding stuffs. Before the war everyone in Great Britain had eaten on average three eggs a week; during the war the total dropped to roughly one a fortnight, though there were long periods with none at all. Most people now realised for the first time the important role eggs had played in their diet. Anyone whose work took him into the country would now enquire, as a matter of course, at any likely-looking farm or cottage if there were eggs for sale…A wasted egg was a major disaster. A London woman remembers frying her husband their only egg that week for his breakfast, until ‘it got more and more like lino as I kept it hot. In a fury I cast it into the kitchen boiler and gave him breakfast in bed after that.’

The following posts are Eggs: their subjects are special treats, or special occasions.

Weddings Affordable presents Wedding Help From Friends and Family posted at Cheap Wedding Ideas.

Scotch Addict presents Start with frugal spirits, then graduate to premium ones posted at Scotch Addict.

Belle presents Happy Tree Tapping and Sap Collecting! posted at Homesteaderbelle’s Blog.

Miss Bankrupt presents I Still Buy Bottled Water? Sorry posted at Miss Bankrupt.

Clothing Coupons

Rationing wasn’t restricted to food. Coupons were also issued for clothing: if you saved your coupons, you could get one new outfit every year. People were especially resourceful when it came to clothing: from unpicking old jumpers and knitting them into new garments to, famously, substituting gravy browning for hosiery. Frugal Grandma (above) still looked hot. Would you expect anything less?

vh presents Sartorial Elegance: Thrift Store Edition posted at Funny about Money.

Silicon Valley Blogger presents Guide To Sewing Buttons: How To Sew On A Button Correctly posted at The Digerati Life. I would like my husband to read this post…

The Blitz Spirits

blitz spirit

The following posts were selected for their admirable attitude!  Frugality is a lifestyle, so let’s keep calm and carry on – whatever is thrown at us.

Money Beagle presents Unexpected Savings Karma posted at Money Beagle.

J. Money presents How do you measure the power of money? posted at Budgets are Sexy.

Darwin presents What Does Financial Freedom Mean To You? posted at Darwin’s Finance.

Joe Plemon presents When Does Saving Turn To Hoarding? posted at Personal Finance By The Book.

Mrs. Money presents You Can’t Afford Kids posted at The Ultimate Money Blog.

Billeater presents In A Serious Personal Finance Crisis? Assistance Pointers posted at Billeater.

Image credits: Walraven, Le Petit Poulailler, fdecomite.

Did you enjoy this post?

Free Daily Digest

29 Responses to “The 219th Festival of Frugality: The Ration Book Edition

What an interesting theme! One of my neighbors, now an elderly woman, is still a British citizen. She was a nurse in London during the Blitz. She describes those times eloquently, and speaks of grocery stores with empty shelves. Those of us who were born after 1945 forget how lucky we are!

Thanks for including Funny’s squib on the latest thrift store coup. 🙂

March 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Money Beagle says:

Great job hosting, can’t wait to read through some of the articles and find some new blogs to read. Thanks for including my article.

March 2, 2010 at 7:01 pm

FIRE Finance says:

Thanks for hosting the carnival. We are thrilled to be one of your Editor’s Picks.’ Best wishes ahead :).
FIRE Finance

March 2, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Thank you so much for the educational and information approach to the Festival of Frugality this week. I’ve heard WW2 stories from my mother-in-law who lived in Europe at the time and seeing the ration book and learning more about that time was great.

I also wanted to thank you for including my post in your Soap Flakes category — “How to pass the day trapped inside”. I strive to be an onion. 🙂

Have a wonderful day!


March 4, 2010 at 1:59 am

PT says:

Horse meat?!?! Oh, that’s awful. Thanks for putting this together and including me. 🙂

March 7, 2010 at 5:44 am

Fru says:

Wow – Miss T, thanks for putting this together. It is a real resource to come back to time and again

Fru xxx

May 1, 2010 at 7:39 am

J. Money says:

I LOVE that “Keep calm and carry on” poster! Been meaning to pick one up, so thanks for the reminder 😉

May 6, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I feel that finding new ways to save and to stretch your spending dollar is so important these days. Thank you for the many links on saving and smart spending in this post.

August 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

thanks for putting this together , appreciated .

September 28, 2010 at 1:00 am

My Mum is here at the moment (we are in UK) and she has just been reading it and brought back memories of her experiences having been evacuated to south wales from eastbourne during the 2nd world war.
Thank for article

July 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Leave a reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *