There were no supermarkets. You went to different shops for different items. For fruit and vegetables, you went to the greengrocer. For meat, to the butcher. For fish, to the fishmonger. For bread and cakes, to the baker. For groceries such as jam, tea, biscuits and cheese you went to the grocer. Other shops sold clothes, shoes, medicines, newspapers and all the other things people needed to buy.
In most shops, the shopkeeper or shop assistants served customers from behind a counter. Many shops were small family businesses. Most big towns had department stores.
Food rationing began in 1940. This meant each person could buy only a fixed amount of certain foods each week.
Much of Britain's food came from other countries in ships. Enemy submarines sank so many ships that there was a shortage of some foods. Rationing made sure everyone got a fair share. You had to hand over coupons from your ration book, as well as money, when you went shopping. When you had used up your ration of one food (say, cheese or meat), you could not buy any more that week. Vegetarians could swap meat coupons for other foods.
What could people buy?
People had to register with local shops to use their ration books. Often long queues formed as soon as people heard that shops had more supplies. The first foods rationed were bacon, sugar, tea, butter and meat. Lots more foods were rationed later, including sweets! One egg a week was the ration in 1941. There were no bananas, so younger children did not see their first banana until the war ended.
Clothes were rationed too, so clothing factories could switch to war work. Paper, petrol and other things, such as soap (one bar a month) and washing powder, were also rationed.
What foods would we have missed?
Frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, burgers and chips perhaps. Remember, there were no home freezers! Potatoes were not rationed, so you could make your own chips - if you could find some oil or fat to cook them in. In summer, people were asked to eat more salads, to save cooking fuel.
With eggs rationed, people tried dried egg powder. One packet was equal to 12 fresh eggs. Dried egg made good scrambled eggs, but it was bad luck if you only liked eggs fried or boiled. Unfamiliar foods appeared too, such as Spam (tinned meat) from America, and snoek, a fish from South Africa.
Grow your own food
Many people grew vegetables at home or on allotments. Children helped 'Dig for Victory' by digging, planting and weeding. Some children worked on farms picking potatoes and fruit.
Some families kept chickens, ducks and rabbits (to eat). People started 'Pig Clubs', collecting food leftovers in pig bins to feed the pigs.
There were plenty of potatoes and carrots, and lots of suggestions for new ways to cook them! 'Potato Pete' and 'Doctor Carrot' advertised these foods, to encourage people to eat more of them.