WWII Rationing Challenge


After the success of Cambridge Carbon Footprint’s 2015 Rationing Challenge, we thought this summer would be another great opportunity to look back into the past to learn some lessons in sustainability. Rationing in Britain was in place between 1940-1954 and although it was unpopular, a surprising outcome was that despite the queues, shortages and lack of variety people were healthier and followed a more sustainable diet than we do today. They consumed less meat, dairy and sugary products and fewer processed and out of season foods. This challenge, by remembering the hardships people faced during the wartime years, should teach us about the value of food and the importance of wasting less


This food challenge explores the common ground between a diet from the forties/fifties and eating sustainably today. Our current consumption of meat and dairy products, processed goods, out of season fruit and vegetables and foods that are flown in from all around the world have a huge impact on our carbon emissions – an eye watering 30% are linked to food. Very little food went to waste during the war years, so the challenge will share tips on making the most of everything.


The challenge will give you a window of opportunity to try returning to a diet largely based on seasonal fruit and veg, grains and pulses. The rationed foods in this challenge will be: meat, bacon & ham, butter, cheese, milk and eggs, margarine & lard (or veg oil), jams & preserves, sweets and tea. We do not expect participants to only eat the types of food available in 1945 and you can eat as much as you like of everything else. We strongly encourage you to explore local, seasonal produce and you can visit our Food Directory for local shopping suggestions. We do ask you keep to the correct amounts for any food rationed e.g. cheese 2oz, sugar 8oz, 1 egg. Please note that vegetarians were entitled to double the quantities of eggs and cheese. 

20th June – 18th July

During this 4-week period, you can choose whether to take part for a week, a fortnight, three weeks or for the whole month.


All participants will receive their own WWII rationing challenge booklet. Inside the booklet are the rations available for one person for a week (or a month in the case of sweets and preserves). There are no shopkeepers to stamp your ration book, but when you go to the shops, try to stick to the amounts shown on the ration card page. 

Once you have signed-up below, you will be able to collect your ration booklet from the challenge launch event or from one of our festival stalls (Strawberry Fair on 3rd June, Arbury Carnival on 10th June, the Abbey Big Lunch on 11th June and Chesterton Festival on 17th June). It’s possible to arrange delivery for local participants (please get in touch to request) and also to download a copy. 


We’ll help you explore a more animal-free, local and seasonal diet that wastes less too by providing you with tips, advice and recipes. In the 1940’s The Ministry of Food would constantly help housewives to make the most of what they had by sharing tips and recipes through newspapers, magazines and the radio. Our tips and recipes will be sourced from the original ‘Ministry of Food’, from people of the period and from more modern times. Click the War-Time Cookery icon below for tips and recipe ideas!


Sign up to the challenge using the sign-up button below. Signing-up will ensure that you receive all challenge-related correspondence from CSF as well as the all-important ration booklet.