What did people eat during World War One?

The cost of food more than doubled during the war years.

Lots of food was sent away to feed soldiers fighting in the war.

There was less food arriving because ships carrying supplies were attacked by German submarines.

Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and bread were hard to find. There were long queues outside shops.

In 1918 new laws set by the government introduced rationing.

What was rationing?

People were only allowed certain amounts of sugar, meat, flour, butter and milk.

This was rationing. It made sure everyone in the country got what they needed.

Richer families discovered what it was like to go hungry. Some of the poorest families found rationing left them better-fed than before.

Watch our video to find out more about rationing during World War One.

Which foods were rationed?

A collection of World War One ration books

Ration cards could only be used at certain shops

Families had to say which butcher, baker and grocer they would buy their food from.

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What shops were on the high street?

During World War One the high street looked very different from how it is today.

There were no supermarkets or shopping centres. Shops were smaller and many were named after the families who owned them.

Explore our interactive high street and click on different people to find out more about them.

There are ten different people to find. You can use the question mark button to highlight them all.

Shop owners and their products

A photograph of two grocers outside their shop front in World War One

The grocer sold shoppers many of the everyday things they needed

Their lavish window displays were a common sight and among the products are a few brands we still have today.

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What did children eat?

From 1906, many schools served a midday dinner.

These were solid, heavy, belly-filling meals such as:

  • Bean soup and bread, followed by treacle pudding.
  • Toad-in-the-hole and potatoes.
  • Mutton stew and suet pudding.
  • Fish and potato pie, then baked raisin pudding.

Schools were affected by wartime food shortages and had to cut back.

Sadly, there were a lot of poor families who ate only one meal a day. They got by on tea, bread and jam. They may have had only one meal a week with meat, usually on a Sunday.

Children ate their midday school dinner, back in the classroom, under supervision of their teachers.


Sweetshops in the early 1900s sold hard-boiled candies such as humbugs, peppermints and pear drops.

Sweets were kept in big glass jars. The shopkeeper would weigh them out and hand them to customers in a paper bag.

How did life change?

It was important not to waste anything.

Women repaired socks and stockings. Men hammered new soles and heels onto their boots and shoes.

Mothers had to be inventive in the kitchen with meals like 'potted cheese': crumbs of cheese, mixed with mustard, baked and served with toast.

All resources were focused towards the war. Life became harder for everyone, even those who stayed at home.

Test your maths and times table skills!