Reflections on my Week of Rationing


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.

Yes, planning and cooking my meals did take longer than usual, and coming in late one evening, I couldn’t just quickly cook up pasta with cheese, or whisk a couple of eggs into an omelette, but in fact, the challenge was much easier than I had originally thought.


So, what did I learn?

  1. You can get two good cups of tea from one tea bag, but not three.
  2. Salad without dressing really isn’t very satisfying (I was too worried about running out of my oil ration to make a vinaigrette, and mayonnaise was out).
  3. Oatmeal is my friend. I soaked oats in cold water overnight for breakfast, and ate them with a little honey and a splash of milk. Creamy and filling, cheaper and less fattening than my usual muesli, and fantastic if you add a few raspberries.
  4. Although it is summer, there isn’t much UK-grown fruit available. Strawberries and raspberries are delicious, but I didn’t want them for every meal. I stewed some British gooseberries and I found some (very expensive) English cherries, but I missed the fruit bowl – apples all year round, bananas, oranges, and most of all lemons!
  5. I really don’t like the taste of margarine. I didn’t use any on my lunchtime sandwiches, but instead had slices of homemade National Loaf with lots of moist salad like tomatoes and cucumber. I’ve still got some of my margarine ration left.
  6. It is worth using a good proportion of your sugar ration in an Eggless Fruit Cake. To be honest, it wasn’t the most exciting cake, but it hit the spot when I needed something sweet and sustaining at teatime.
  7. Pearl Barley Risotto is a worthy meal. It was a great success and will definitely remain in the repertoire.

It was really salutary to consider how many of the ingredients I use every day are imported – pasta, rice, olive oil, spices, and out-of-season fruit and vegetables, to name a few. I had previously taken all of these ingredients for granted, but the rationing challenge experience will hopefully make me more thoughtful about the food I buy and cook in the future.

Most of all, I admire those women in wartime who juggled their families’ rations, queued for hours in the shops, no doubt worried about their men away in the forces, did war work, and still managed to feed their families on the limited rations they were allowed. I realise how lucky we are not to have those anxieties.

I had my single egg boiled for breakfast at the weekend. It tasted wonderful.