The need for rationing

During wartime, it was important to bring in price controls to prevent profiteering, but also to ensure that Britain did not run out of the necessary items. Britain’s supplies, many of which were transported by merchant ships, were also at risk from German U-boat attacks. In March 1942 alone, the Germans sank 275 ships.

Basic food items, eg meat, butter and sugar were rationed from January 1940. People could not purchase goods without the rations coupons.

The items for one person during rationing - 2oz loose tea, 4oz margarine, 1oz cheese, 2oz butter, one fresh egg, 8oz sugar.An example of an individual’s weekly food allowance
It was almost impossible to get hold of fruit like bananas, oranges and lemons, except on the black market.

Effects of rationing

Many people resented having restrictions on the amount they could purchase. Some manual labourers, including miners were given extra rations, and care was taken to ensure that items such as milk and cod liver oil were offered to children and the elderly.

Rationing of some food items actually lasted for 14 years. Interestingly, rationing improved the diets of many people as rationing listed a weekly list of specified food items and some people actually ate healthier food as a result.

Black marketeering became a problem as some sellers sold these rationed items at much higher prices. These people exploited rationing.

A ration book with name and personal detail on the cover. Inside is information on retailers and numbered squares with stamps over some of the numbers.
Ration books