History KS2: Rationing in the UK

This short film explains rationing in simple terms.

The notion of rationing and food shortages offers a glimpse of a world that pupils may not be familiar with.

We hear from an eye-witness called Graham, who recounts how he cycled ten miles because he heard there might be ice-cream.

We also hear from Gladys, who describes how her dad made a carrot Christmas pudding as they couldn’t get dried fruit.

The ‘Did You Know’ section explores how during Easter, some shops sold carrots on a stick instead of selling chocolate eggs. It also discusses the positive impact rationing had on the country's health.

Created in partnership with Imperial War Museums.

Teacher Notes

This short film contains a number of elements that could be incorporated into different subjects as part of a cross-curricular lesson.

Design and Technology:

  • Pupils could grow vegetables in a kitchen garden and use them to cook.
  • They could cook recipes using 'rations' and vegetables.
  • Your class could plan a week's worth of meals using rations and vegetables that could be grown during World War Two.

This touches on the following parts of the national curriculum in England under 'Cooking and Nutrition':

  • Understand and apply the principles of a healthy and varied diet.
  • Prepare and cook a variety of predominantly savoury dishes using a range of cooking techniques.
  • Understand seasonality, and know where and how a variety of ingredients are grown, reared, caught and processed.


  • Pupils could be given a hypothetical budget and use it to purchase food at a ‘shop’.
  • Your class could compare prices, add up amounts and work out change when purchasing different items.
  • Using a 1940's style shop pupils could weigh and measure ingredients, converting between imperial and metric measures.

This falls under Money for years 3 and 4 and Measurement (conversion) for years 5 and 6 in the national curriculum in England:

  • Y3 - add and subtract amounts of money to give change, using both £ and p in practical contexts.
  • Y4 - estimate, compare and calculate different measures, including money in pounds and pence.
  • Y5 - understand and use approximate equivalences between metric units and common imperial units such as inches, pounds and pints.
  • Y6 - use, read, write and convert between standard units, converting measurements of length, mass, volume and time from a smaller unit of measure to a larger unit, and vice versa, using decimal notation to up to three decimal places

Additional fact for the class:

  • A study has found that children who grew up in World War Two became more intelligent than those born 15 years earlier. The theory is that rationing made those growing up in the war cut out rich, sugary and fatty foods, which had a positive impact on their growing brains.

Curriculum Notes

Suitable for teaching history at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland.

This short film could also be incorporated into different subjects as part of a cross-curricular lesson, specifically when teaching:

  • Maths
  • Design and Technology

More from World War Two:

Britain declares war on Germany
Geography of World War Two
How propaganda was used during World War Two
The Blitz
The Battle of Britain and beyond
Machines of the military
Codebreaking during World War Two
VE Day