Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (2024)

This post may contain affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.

By Lisa Sharp 1 Comment

These 1940s ration recipes are a look into the past and the struggles of rationing during WWII. Try one of these vintage desserts or dinner recipes today!

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (1)

During World War II rationing was implemented by many governments in an effort to make sure that military and civilians had fair access to scarce resources.

Rationing systems varied by country buttypically involved the government issuing ration books and coupons or stamps to households that could be exchanged for specific goods at designated shops. The number of coupons or stamps a household received was based on its size and composition, and they were typically limited to a certain amount per week or month.

In the United States, rationing began in 1942 and lasted until 1947, though most ended in 1945. Sugar was rationed until 1947. The rationing system covered a wide range of goods, including meat, dairy products, sugar, coffee, and gasoline. Families were issued ration books, which contained stamps for each type of product. The stamps had to be used to purchase the corresponding item, and once the stamps were used up, families had to wait until the next month to receive their next ration.

In Britain, rationing began in 1940 and lasted until 1954, long after the end of the war. The system covered a similar range of goods as in the United States, but the British government also rationed clothing and household goods such as soap and washing powder. Families were issued ration books and had to register with a local shop to exchange their stamps for goods.

Rationing was a significant hardship for many people during the war, as they had to adapt to a restricted diet and limited access to essential goods. However, it was also seen as a necessary sacrifice for the war effort, and many people supported the system as a way to ensure that resources were fairly distributed.

In addition to rationing, many countries also implemented other measures to conserve resources during the war. For example, governments encouraged people to grow their vegetables in victory gardens, people were also encouraged to keep animals like rabbits and hogs for food, and they introduced recycling programs to collect scrap metal and other materials for use in the war effort.

Reading wartime cookbooks is a really good way to see what it was like to try and feed a family with rations. It could be very hard and often people were left feeling hungry and many didn’t agree with how food was rationed. Some even bought extra food on the black market.

Many ration recipes have survived and are still enjoyed today. They are still a great way to save money and make your food go further.

1940s Ration Recipes

Give these ration recipes a try for a look at our past and a time when people had to get creative to feed their families while helping the war effort.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (2)

Photo Credit:

Chocolate Wafer Icebox Cake

This old-fashioned ice box cake uses chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream to make a delicious “cake”. Also known as “Zebra cake”, these types of cakes became popular during the war era because of sugar rations.

Also known as War Cake, Wacky Cake is mixed in the pan that it's baked in. And it has no eggs, milk, or butter due to the rationing of those ingredients. It's moist and tender and perfect with a cup of coffee.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (4)

Photo Credit:

Beans on Toast

A British dish that is eaten for breakfast, lunch, a snack or dinner, beans on toast has kept UK families sustained for years. It was very popular during wartime.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (5)

Photo Credit:

Scottish Tea Bread

This tea bread was popular in the UK during WWII because it uses no butter. It's super easy to make and is perfect with a cup of tea.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (6)

Photo Credit:

Lord Woolton Pie

The classic World War 2 cheap vegetable pie with a delicious shortcrust pastry crust and loaded with lots of seasonal root vegetables. One of the best rationing meals during World War 2.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (7)

Photo Credit:

Savoury Potato Biscuits

This recipe is straight out of the Ministry of Foods Potato Leaflet from the 1940s.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (8)

Photo Credit:


This is a recipe much like the National Loaf which was a bread made from wholemeal flour with added calcium and vitamins. It was created to help with the shortages of white flour and sugar.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (9)

Photo Credit:

Cheese & Tomato Mashed Potato Pie

This is an updated version of the WWII recipe but you will find notes on how to make it like the original recipe as well.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (10)

Photo Credit:

Mock Fried Egg

Eggs were often hard to get if you didn't have your own chickens so mock egg recipes became popular during WWII.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (11)

Photo Credit:

VE Day Condensed Milk Cake

This recipe for VE Day Condensed Milk Cake is a slightly adapted version of the original recipe which was published in The Ministry of Food leaflet.

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (12)

Photo Credit:

Grandma's War Time Orange Drop Cookies

Grandma's War Time Orange Drop Cookies are an old family favorite dating back to the second world war when rationing was in force. Grandma always came up with a great cookie for everyone enjoy!

I have ordered some wartime cookbooks and will be sharing more ration recipes over time so be sure to stick around. If you sign up below you will not only get a vintage dessert e-cookbook for free, but you will also get to see more vintage recipes and homemaking.

More Vintage Recipes

The Best Vintage Gingerbread Brownies Recipe

Vintage Cranberry Glazed Ham Recipe

9 Best Vintage Cranberry Recipes

11 Delicious Vintage Soup Recipes

Make It Do or Do Without: 1940s Ration Recipes - Retro Housewife Goes Green (2024)


What food was rationed in the 1940s? ›

A typical weekly ration per person, when at its lowest level, was butter 4oz; bacon and ham 4oz; loose tea 4oz; sugar 8oz; meat one shilling-worth; cheese 1oz; preserves 8oz a month. By 1942, most foods were rationed except vegetables, bread, and fish.

What did the stamps in Book 3 of war ration mean? ›

BOOK 3 - Introduced October 1943

These books contained brown stamps, which were used for meats, canned milk, canned fish, butter, cheese, lards and fats.

Why was rationing such a serious matter to American civilians in the 1940s? ›

Supplies such as gasoline, butter, sugar and canned milk were rationed because they needed to be diverted to the war effort. War also disrupted trade, limiting the availability of some goods.

What was a popular food in the 1940s? ›

Other favorites of the time were Bazooka Bubble Gum, Licorice candies, Turkish Taffy, DOTS Candy, Jolly Ranchers, Whoppers Malted Milk Balls, Mike & Ike, and Rain-Blo Bubble Gum. Snacks that emerged during the '40s include Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Chiquita Bananas, Junior Mints, Almond Joy, V8, and Cheetos.

What were the rations in the 1940s? ›

Even though thousands of items became scarce during the war, only those most critical to the war effort were rationed. Key goods such as sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, coffee, butter, canned goods and shoes came under rationing regulations. Some important items escaped rationing, including fresh fruit and vegetables.

What did people eat during WW2 rationing? ›

Rationed Foods. The categories of rationed foods during the war were sugar, coffee, processed foods (canned, frozen, etc.), meats and canned fish, and cheese, canned milk, and fats.

Are WWII ration books worth anything? ›

A: Millions of ration books were issued during World War II. They were intended to prevent the hoarding of such goods as coffee, sugar, meat and other items in short supply due to the war. Ration books generally sell in the $5 to $25 range, but unlike savings bonds, you can't cash them in as you wish.

Are ration stamps valuable? ›

The overall condition of the booklet as well as the stamps have the biggest impact on the resale value, with a large number of these available on the market. With 100+ stamps and in very good condition your 1940's era War Ration Book would have a fair market or resale value of between 25-50 dollars.

What items were rationed during WWII How did a ration book work? ›

Every American was issued a series of ration books during the war. The ration books contained removable stamps good for certain rationed items, like sugar, meat, cooking oil, and canned goods. A person could not buy a rationed item without also giving the grocer the right ration stamp.

Were eggs rationed in the US during WWII? ›

By the end of the war, rationing limited consumption of almost every product with the exception of eggs and dairy foods. Most rationing restrictions ended in August of 1945 except for sugar rationing, which lasted until 1947 in some parts of the country.

Were eggs rationed in the US in WWII? ›

As eggs continued to be rationed, by July of 1942, powdered eggs became available courtesy of the United States. The allowance was one tin, or packet, of dried eggs every two months. One tin was equal to 12 fresh eggs.

How many pounds of meat was an American allowed per week in WWII? ›

Share The Meat as a wartime necessity.” Poster urging people to voluntarily limit how much meat they buy to between 3/4 pound per week for children under 6 to 2-1/2 pounds per week for people over 12. Office of War Information, 1942. Credit: Collection of the National Archives and Records Administration (NAID: 513804).

What did people eat for breakfast in 1940? ›

1940s: Mint, orange juice, and apple butter

A sample brunch menu includes: orange juice topped with mint, creamed ham and mushrooms, waffles de luxe, maple syrup, apple butter, coffee, and milk. Notable breakthroughs: General Mills rolls out CheeriOats in 1941; the name is changed to Cheerios in 1945.

What was a typical breakfast in 1940? ›

It was homemade bread toasted and buttered, and covered with sugar and milk. Our favorite snack was a slice of bread with oleo and sugar. We also ate warm rolled oats, probably in the winter, and dry breakfast cereals with milk and sugar.

What fast food was created in 1940? ›

McDonald's Corporation is an American multinational fast food chain, founded in 1940 as a restaurant operated by Richard and Maurice McDonald, in San Bernardino, California, United States.

What were 5 items rationed during WW2? ›

The government began rationing certain foods in May 1942, starting with sugar. Coffee was added to the list that November, followed by meats, fats, canned fish, cheese, and canned milk the following March.

What was rationed in the 1950s? ›

You could be kind and blame this lack of British culinary skill on rationing, since rationing continued even after the end of World War II. Indeed, when the Queen came to the throne in 1952, sugar, butter, cheese, margarine, cooking fat, bacon, meat and tea were all still rationed.

What did Americans eat in 1940? ›

It Wasn't All Meat, Potatoes, Jello, and Mayonnaise

Because meat, fats, dairy, and sugars were in limited supply, 1940s eating included a lot more fruits and vegetables than we eat in modern times. Families were encouraged to plant “Victory Gardens” so that more food could be used to feed soldiers.

Why were certain foods rationed during WW2? ›

Food was in short supply for a variety of reasons: much of the processed and canned foods was reserved for shipping overseas to our military and our Allies; transportation of fresh foods was limited due to gasoline and tire rationing and the priority of transporting soldiers and war supplies instead of food; imported ...


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated:

Views: 6318

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.