Hoorah! Obviously it’s not the overwhelming celebratory hysteria of VE day or the resigned relief when rationing was finally lifted on 4th July 1954… BUT we made it to the end of the challenge!
I wish I owned a set of scales so I could have weighed myself before and after. I’ve definitely lost several pounds over the four weeks, while having pleasingly saved some pounds in my purse too. I feel more energetic and healthy, and am surprisingly not craving things I’ve had to cut out – except the egg issue of course!
We’re now at the end of the rationing challenge, and have found it much easier than anticipated!
On the whole, the rationed allowances have more than met our needs. The only exception was oil, which we would have used in preference to margarine or lard for cooking.
We have eaten well, and the fact that there is such a range of fruit and vegetables available at this time of year has helped tremendously. I have lost nearly 2 kg, probably due to less chocolate and red wine as well as the reduction in animal fat!
We’re now well into week 2 of the challenge and still enjoying the fun of living within our rations and thinking about the source of our food. This week’s focus is on the Dig for Victory campaign, so I’ve focussed more on the fruit and veg part of our diet.
Suprisingly, we’re finding that keeping within our rations is pretty easy! We have significantly reduced the portion of meat used for some of our regular family favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Cottage Pie, or even a roast chicken dinner. Our eating pattern and recipe choice hasn’t changed that much, but the meat meals are better balanced and food is stretched much further. A simple tomato Ragu makes a pasta Bolognese one night and transforms into chilli con carne the next.
When I imagine World War 2 rationing, the first few words that come to my mind are: difficult, despairing and dull. So when I was told that as an intern with Cambridge Sustainable Food, I was making bean burgers to publicise their rationing challenge, I was rather confused…
Personally I associate bean burgers with barbecues on the beach, not a time of hardship and restriction. And anyway, did people really eat bean burgers in the 1930s? Why on Earth was I being asked to make them?
In 1946, just a few months after the end of WWII, 87,000 people rushed to the first National Plastics Exposition in New York, prompting the fire marshal to halt the event . Plastic production, largely for military uses, had increased during the war. But with the end of the war plastic burst with a vengeance into consumer markets and Plastic Age, defined by the ubiquity of these versatile and robust materials, began in earnest. The mass production of plastic consumer goods promised convenience and affordable abundance—a democratization of physical possessions. Susan Freinkel writes in Plastic: a Toxic Love Story that “Plastics freed us from the confines of the natural world, from the material constraints and limited supplies that had long bounded human activity” . 1.7 million tons of plastic were produced in 1954, in 2014 it was 311 million. How much is 311 million tons? It’s about the weight of 31,000 Eiffel towers. Placed side to side, these towers would occupy enough land area to carpet nearly 2.5 Londons (1,572 square km) .
We need protein for body repair and growth, but protein can also be used for energy. Adults generally need about 50-60g protein daily, with 30g meat or 85g pulses (dry weight) providing around 6g protein. More specific estimates for needs are 0.8g protein/kg lean body weight.
People often worry that they’re not getting enough protein, but this is unusual for most of the UK population. We do however need enough calories (from starch and fats) to enable proteins to be used for their preferred function i.e. biosynthesis (bodily made) of functional proteins for growth and repair of tissues.
I signed up for one week of the Challenge. As I was only doing it for such a short time, I decided to be scrupulous and eat only food produced in the UK, as my parents and grandparents would have done during the Second World War.
I weighed out my ration at the beginning of the week and looked with alarm at the apparently tiny amounts of butter, margarine, oil, and the small square of cheese. The solitary egg looked particularly forlorn. I was worried that I would have nothing but potatoes to eat by the end of the week.
My family and I are now on day 3 of the WWII Rationing Challenge, and I hope others are having as much fun as we are! We are: me, a lapsed vegetarian, keen cook and urban gardener; my husband, a Yorkshireman and self-confessed carnivore; and my teenage daughter, a student and an experienced and experimental vegetarian. We live in social housing off Newmarket Road and as we grow a huge range of seasonal fruit and veg, this challenge had instant appeal.
For me, the challenge is not only a way to experience a diet like that of my grand-parents during the 1940s, it will also test my cooking skills, make me think about what I am eating, and most importantly, reduce my environmental impact.
Like the diet of those living in the 1930s, the current UK diet is full of ‘unhealthy’ and ‘unsustainable’ foods. We consume large amounts of animal products, and not enough fruit and vegetables – very few people eat their 5-a-day.
So, here we go again. Headscarves on – it’s rationing time! When I heard that Cambridge Sustainable Food was re-running the challenge that had proved so popular in 2015, I started thinking about what I’d learned the first time round.
What happy synchronicity that Britain’s surprisingly healthy wartime diet is very similar to the one that anyone who cares about sustainability today should be looking to adopt. I would have loved finding out about the Ministry of Food and garnering tips for the