WARNING: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems. For help, go to moneyadviceservice.org.uk

Recipes from wartime when people were on food rationing

July 3, 2020 Lifestyle

Rationing began on 8 January 1940, when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. Every person in Britain lived on these rations and were given a ration book. They had to register and buy food from their chosen shops as there were no supermarkets. People had to visit several different shops to buy meat, vegetables, bread and other essentials. 

Many vegetables were home grown and dried ingredients were used to make things like fruit cake. While many of our men were on the home front, the women were trying their best to make the most of the food they had to feed the family. This involved using the rationed recipes in the Ministry of Food leaflet.

Woolton pie known as Lord Woolton pie was a firm favourite as it was a pastry dish with vegetables.

This would have been your rations for the week:


  • Butter: 50g (2oz)     
  • Bacon or ham: 100g (4oz)     
  • Margarine: 100g (4oz)
  • Cooking fat/lard: 100g (4oz)
  • Sugar: 225g (8oz).    
  • Meat: To the value of 1/2d – 1lb (450g)
  • Milk: 3 pints (1800ml) occasionally dropping to 2pints (1200ml).
  • Cheese: 2oz (50g) rising to 8oz (225g)
  • Eggs: 1 fresh egg a week.     
  • Tea: 50g (2oz).
  • Jam: 450g (1lb) every two months.
  • Dried eggs 1 packet (12 eggs) every four weeks.
  • Sweets: 350g (12oz) every four weeks

With bread flying off the shelves right now,  why not try these wartime recipes from the wartime kitchen?

The National Loaf for WW2

1 ½ lb wholemeal bread flour
1 ½ tbsp salt
1 ½ tbsp dried yeast
1 dsp honey or treacle
450 ml tepid water
(Makes 2 loaves)


1) Sift the flour. Mix together all the ingredients and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a soft dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave until the dough has doubled in size (around 2 hours).

2) Knock back the dough, give a short knead then cut into two equal pieces. Place in 1.5 litre loaf tins, allow to rise for a further 2 hours.

3) Pre-heat oven to 200°c then bake loaves for 30 min. To test the loaves turn them out of their tins and give the base a tap. if it sounds hollow, they are ready. Allow to cool on a wire tray. 

This can be used for toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and any left over or stale bread can be used in this trench stew recipe which dates back to WW1.

Trench stew was the order of the day, on Remembrance Sunday. This recipe dates back to WW1, from the trenches, where food was often cold by the time it came from the field kitchen to the front line. Soldiers would often throw together whatever they had to hand to make a hot meal, cooking it over a little stove in the trenches.

Trench Stew

turnip or large potato

1 parsnip
2 carrots
½ tin corned beef
½ stock cube
1 or 2 crackers or stale bread
1 pint of water


Chop up the vegetables, carrots into small pieces, other veg larger pieces and add to the pint of boiling water with a stock cube in.

As the veg becomes tender, mix in 1/2 can corned beef and crumble in the stale bread or crackers and simmer for a few more minutes.

As meat is also in short supply at the supermarkets,  why not try this 1940s Lentil Curry?

This curry was the bomb! It’s extremely healthy, boasting at least 18 grams of protein and 18 grams of fibre just in the lentils alone (based on a 292 g can of green lentils). You can increase some of the spices to your own taste.

Lentil Curry

½ lb Lentils (or a 292 g can of green lentils)
1 teaspoon Flour /cornflour
1 teaspoon Fat
1 teaspoon curry powder or to your own taste
1 small Leek or Onion
1 carrot
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 apple chopped
1 teacup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons sultanas
2 tablespoons rice
lots of salt and pepper


Soak lentils overnight in boiled water. Melt fat, add chopped vegetables and fry lightly. Add chopped apple, sultanas, flour, curry powder, vinegar and stock and allow to simmer. Add lentils and allow to cook steadily until soft (about ½ hour if not canned). Season and serve with hot boiled rice.

This cheese, potato and onion pie is very satisfying and uses two ounces of cheese and some sliced onions sprinkled over the top, which goes a long way in adding flavour to this simple, tasty and comforting wartime dish.  Don’t limit yourself to just potatoes though. Throw in any leftover root vegetables to add to the potatoes and it will be delicious! Why not try adding chopped carrot and turnip?

Cheese, Potato & Onion Pie

3 lbs of potatoes chopped (or make up to 3 lbs with any chopped root veg)
2 onions chopped in half and very thinly sliced
2 oz grated cheddar cheese
tablespoon of margarine or butter
Thyme, salt and pepper


Scrub vegetables and scrape or peel if necessary.

Chop into smallish pieces (carrot needs longer to cook so if mixed with potatoes make sure the carrot pieces are smaller).

Simmer vegetables until tender in boiling water.

Meanwhile add sliced onion to a pan with a little butter/margarine/fat and sauté gently until golden.

When potatoes/vegetables are cooked and tender drain well and then mash with a tablespoon of margarine/butter and lots of seasoning. At this stage you can add extras such as some garlic powder or some chopped sautéed garlic to add extra flavour. Mix well and when you are happy with the flavour add to a pie dish.

Sprinkle over the top with some grated cheese and finally the sautéed long onion slices spreading out evenly over the top.

Place in a pre-heated hot oven at 220 C until the top is golden. This will take about 20 minutes.

Hunt Pie

3/4 pint of water
1 onion or small leek
3/4 lb of chopped root veg and cabbage (eg: couple of potatoes, carrots and
spring greens)
4 oz lentils
2 oz minced beef
1/2-1 teaspoon of meat or vegetable extract
salt and pepper


2 oz porridge oats or oatmeal
2 oz of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
water to mix
1oz butter/margarine chopped optional


Bring water to boil.

Add onions/leeks, vegetables, lentils, vegetable/meat extract and seasoning, put the lid on the pan and cook on a medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Stir to prevent sticking.

Make pastry and press into a round shape enough to cover the top of the mixture in the saucepan.

Replace the saucepan lid and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.

Lift pastry with a slice and set aside.

Remove mixture and place in pie dish and put pastry back on top.

Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4-6.

You didn’t waste anything when rationing so here is an idea of a hearty stew where all the leftovers were used up.

Everything In Wartime Stew

1 lb of mince beef or a mixture of leftover meats
1 small cabbage
1 onion or 1 leek
Any veggies that need using up
Several soft tomatoes
Oxo and marmite (marmite is optional)
Salt and pepper


Brown the mince or leftover meats and onions

Chop up the remaining veg into smallish pieces

Chop up the soft tomatoes and add to meat and onions and then add water

(about a 1000 ml)

Add the oxo and marmite and stir

Add the chopped veggies

Cook and occasionally stir adding salt, pepper and some dried herbs like thyme to your own taste

Cook on medium heat in the saucepan for about 20 further minutes

Enough for 8 served with mashed potatoes or bread and butter.

The Oslo Meal was originally given as an EXPERIMENT to school children during WWII. This very nutritious but basic quick meal vastly improved the development and the health of the nation’s children. Many families began using it as a main meal on occasions because of its simplicity and this was very appealing to busy housewives.

The Oslo Meal

2 slices of wholewheat bread spread with a little margarine or butter

small block of cheese (grated and placed over salad if wished)

fresh lettuce leaves and other salad items like carrot, cucumber or tomato and a glass of cold milk.

Corned Beef was a popular part of the meat ration due to its availability. As it was already cooked it could be eaten cold or used in a variety of recipes

Corned Beef Fritters

2 oz self raising flour or plain flour (you can use wholemeal/wholewheat if you wish)
pinch salt
1 egg 
dash of milk
pinch of herbs 
2 teaspoons grated onion
6 oz corned beef finely flaked
a little dripping or margarine (or cooking oil)


Mix and blend the flour with the salt, beaten egg and dash of milk.
Beat until a smooth batter is achieved
Add corned beef, onions and herbs
Melt the dripping or fat in a frying pan
Drop in a spoonful of the mixture and press down to form a small patty
(mixture should be enough to make 8)
Fry on either side until crisp and brown and serve with veggies or salad
while warm.
Makes enough for 4 people

If you fancy something sweet, then try these wartime welsh cakes.

Welsh Cakes taste even better the day after, when the flavour of the nutmeg comes through.

Wartime Welsh Cakes

6 oz plain flour with 3 teaspoons baking powder added (or use self-raising flour)
2 oz margarine, butter or dripping
2 oz sultanas (or mixed dried fruit)
1 small carrot grated
2 oz sugar
1 fresh egg or 1 dried reconstituted egg
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg


Rub fat into the flour and baking powder mix until it resembles breadcrumbs

Stir in nutmeg, sugar and dried fruit

Mix the egg and milk together and add to dry mix to form a stiff dough (add more liquid or more flour as needed)

Treat mixture as pastry and roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick

Use 3-inch rounds to cut out

Pre-heat griddle or heavy frying pan and grease

Put in Welsh Cakes and cook until golden brown on both sides over a moderate heat (about 4 minutes)

Set aside to cool

Sprinkle with a little sugar

Serve with butter/jam and a nice cup of strong tea!

Makes about 12-18

If these WWII recipes do not appeal to you then maybe try one of these more up to date quick and easy recipes for families on a budget.

Slow Cooker Bread

1 packet active dry yeast

1 tbsp sugar

360 ml luke-warm water

450 g plain flour

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt


Line a slow cooker with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, combine yeast and sugar.

Add water and stir until combined.

Add flour, olive oil and salt and stir until a dough begins to form.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes.

Roll dough into a ball, then place in a slow cooker.

Cook on high until golden on the bottom and cooked through, about 2 hours.

Carefully remove bread from the slow cooker.

To crisp up the crust, transfer bread to a baking tray and grill until golden.

Leave to cool and slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

Stir Fry Beef And Noodles

500g stir fry beef

250g dried noodles

Pack of stir fry mix veg

3 tbs teriyaki sauce

1 tsp Chinese five spice


Mix beef and teriyaki sauce together and leave for bout 30mins

Cook the noodles according to the packet and put on one side

In a wok or large frying pan fry the beef with a little oil until cooked

Add the stir fry veg mix cook for a few minutes

Mix the five spice with 150ml of water and add to the pan

Add the cooked noodles and stir fry for a few minutes to heat though

Quick And Easy Homemade Cottage Pie

500g of mince beef

A pack of mixed casserole veg

1kg of potatoes

450ml boiling beef stock


Fry the mince until browned

Chop up the veg mix into small pieces

Add to the pan with the stock once it has been brought to the boil and simmer for around 30mins to reduce the stock

While this is cooking, peel and boil the potatoes then mash and season to taste

Put beef mix in a casserole dish top with the potatoes and cook in the oven at 200c until browned

Cheesy Cauliflower And Broccoli Soup

1 cauliflower

1 head of broccoli

1 large onion

Stock cube

Seasoning to taste

Tube of primula cheese


Fry onion in pan

Boil cauliflower and broccoli until soft with stock cube and with just enough water to cover the veg

Add the fried onion and blend until smooth or to your liking

Add the tube of primula cheese and stir.

Serve with crusty bread