Would a wartime diet help our waistlines? By 1939 the Second World War was underway and enemy u-boats targeted goods vessels bound for Great Britain hoping to weaken the home front. Food supplies were threatened and to help keep control of potentially dwindling provisions, rationing was introduced. But did food rationing also have a positive side that we could learn from now? Jasmine Phillips has tried and tested a Forties diet for a week. Here’s her verdict. Endured by the British public for 14 years, food and fuel among other things were strictly limited, meaning that people were forced to eat less and walk or cycle to their destinations. Such thin, active women wore naturally small clothes and, as I was once told by a vintage dealer, there are now reams of beautiful but tiny vintage dresses to be found from the period. He had picked up a number of these petite dresses over the years, but discovered, much to his dismay, that he simply could not display them in his shop; the reason, ‘None of my customers could fit into the dresses, and it just depressed them.’ In order to wear the dresses, should a true vintage queen adopt the lifestyle and eating habits of another era? Taking inspiration from the dietary transformations that the ration book necessitated, I began to actively consider if Forties living could be a sustainable way of life in these modern times. The ration book was very strict about what your allowance was, and a significant number of staple food items were regulated. Every individual was issued with one alongside an ID card, and in turn had to be registered to a specific shop so that the shop keeper could order in exactly the amount needed for the number of customers they had. Even the shop keepers were frugal with their stock. Your allowance of these items would have varied slightly throughout the war depending on what was available, but I took figures from 1945 and, while perusing my local supermarket, worked out that in today’s terms you would be allocated on a weekly basis the equivalent of: 2 Rashers of Bacon Any Meat to the value of £2 (meat was rationed in monetary terms) 57g Cheese (1/3 small block) 57g Butter (1/3 packet) 57g Cooking Fat/Lard 57g Tea (15 bags) 230g Sugar (1/2 small bag) One jar of jam per month 340g of sweets per month 12 Responses Sophie Wood July 27th, 2009 I got into this a few years ago and bought a helpful book entitled ‘The Ration Book Diet’, (a quick search on Amazon throws up a number of similar titles) and unlike Pattern’s recipes have been adapted for modern life, my personal favorite was corned beef hash with beans. That said, women of the forties were thinner because they ate less and got more exercise and you don’t need to follow a forties diet to do those things, but it could be a novel way to get started. Reply Carolyn Ekins July 28th, 2009 Having lived 100% on a 1940′s wartime ration diet for around 4 months, I found your tastes changed too. For instance suddenly having no convenience foods such as fatty snacks like crisps, collecting dripping from your bacon rashers (yeah I know sounds disgusting) and using that to cook some potato pancakes in or even to spread on bread and toast it lightly so the dripping melted into the bread became a REAL treat!!!! (seriously) These sort of taste changes only kicked in after a month or so and really surprised me! Anyway- great article Jasmine. Do you think you will do this again or was it just too time consuming to cook from scratch everyday? Carolyn Ekins Reply Fran January 27th, 2010 Hi, I have been interested in adopting this type of lifestyle/eating habit type of thing for quite some time. I don’t have the money to order the book that you spoke about however…I was wondering if you could possibly send me some stuff via email such as recipes and the ration amounts? Reply Lindy Hopper February 21st, 2010 Thank you jasmine for an interesting article. This is something i have thought of trying for some time, although i’m a vegetarian so i’d have to use meat substitutes. I’d also miss pasta dishes, although i guess that macaroni would have been available. Do you know if it was rationed? I was lucky enough to meet marguerite patten 5 years ago at one of her talks. She’s a wonderful speaker & very elegant and slim, a lovely lady. I do hope you’ll let us know how you get on, jasmine. Good luck! X Reply Louise February 21st, 2010 Another big difference from today was that the average person rarely ate out. Most meals were made at home and there really wasn’t much in the way of conveinence food. My dad, who was born in 1940, told me that he remembers in 1946, after the war had ended, having Christmas dinner where 25 people shared one chicken. Hard to imagine in our modern world of plenty. Reply Kristen February 21st, 2010 This article reminded me of Jitterbug, a blogger that has adopted a 40′s lifestyle. She uses a “reducing” plan that’s helped her lose 58 pounds so far. I just love her blog, which is here: http://destination1940.blogspot.com/. Reply Kat February 21st, 2010 Great article. I like cooking wartime style meals occasionally but I don’t think I could manage it every day. I’m always amazed at how far you can make food stretch when you have to. It would be interesting to see how people would cope on rations these days. Reply Carolyn Ekins February 21st, 2010 Kat- having lived on a rationing diet 24/7 (apart from a few blips) for 6 months now I can confirm that it is hard… initially because of adapting to a diet where some of the essentials are very much restricted ( eggs I find the hardest to cope with) but also because of the sheer time it takes to cook from scratch which can be quite frustrating at times when you work away from the home and still have your family to cook for too Saying that- it is surprising how quickly you adapt to living like this and you are right- it does save a LOT of money! C xx Reply Kiri February 22nd, 2010 It sounds intriguing but I don’t think I could do it, at least, not at this point in time. Interesting article though! Reply Keren May 10th, 2010 After watching the DVD for ’1940′s House’ I decided to try this diet (supplemented with some of my grandmother’s depression-era recipes) and found that numerous benefits came of it. I saved money, I became better at managing time (let’s face it, grandma worked twice as hard as any of us do, without all of our modern conveniences – and she MADE time), my allergies started going away, I lost weight, and I found I could do without a lot of things that had previously been ‘necessities’. It isn’t just a diet, it’s a frame of mind that can be summed up with these words - WASTE NOT, WANT NOT. Besides, the food is pretty good if you use the right spice combinations. Reply Frazer Irwin July 24th, 2013 I missed WW2 by a couple of years however was brought up on a rationed ‘wartime diet’. To this day eat within my means. Though at times waver to the odd steak or two. Suppose it’s easier for me, been there, got the T-shirt etc. You could try rationing in reverse. Clear the shelves of everything you don’t really need. Shop every day for fresh food and don’t buy anything that can’t be recyled. In other words tins, cardboard, plastic, you don’t need them. If I can live this way on a pension you should find it so much easier. Reply Polly September 27th, 2013 Sounds good. But even as rations, the fats and sugar seem like a lot? I eat way less fat (and no sugar) and am still twice the size I should be. Maybe it is the cycling … Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Name* Email* Website Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.