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Food Rationing, Food Storage, and Wartime: We Have Much To Learn

I am a history geek. There is no one era in time that catches my fancy. All of them do. Lately, I have been studying food rationing during wartime during World War 1 and 2 in America and Britain. Some things have really caught my attention.

1. The government will step in and tell farmers what they can plant, where they can plant, and to do so in the most efficient way. The government will focus on the crops that will feed the most people cheaply. They will also be more concerned about feeding the troops than they will be about feeding the population. None of these things are bad things, but they are the reality.

2. People were very much encouraged to grow their own food. Gardens were almost expected. They were called "Victory Gardens". They were encouraged to grow food rather than lawns because the troops and the population needed food. They were also encouraged to can/preserve the food and share with their neighbors

3. People transitioned from meat based diets to plant based diets with a small amount of meat every day. If you didn't grow your own meat, meat was very heavily rationed by the end of each war. You may have been expected to make five pounds of meat last all week for a family of four.

4. People (town and country) were encouraged to keep chickens, rabbits, and other small livestock for eggs and meat. These things helped stretch the rationed food.

5. Along with food rationing, rubber, cloth, metal, petroleum, and a myriad of other things were rationed. You would have been expected to repair, mend, reuse, and repurpose anything you could to make it last longer. "Nothing wasted" would have been expected. In fact, you would have been looked down upon by your neighbors for being wasteful.

6. Sugar and fats were also heavily rationed. Most families were only given a quarter pound of fat and sugar each a week to make last all week by the end of the wars. That really is not much. Remember, fats are oils, butter, and lard.

7. If you had a dairy cow, you might be expected to give most of the milk to the government and only keep enough for your family to drink. If you had been able to make cheese and butter before, you wouldn't have been able to now because they needed the milk for the troops. If the milked soured for some reason, you could keep that for yourself.

8. Grocers often ran out of certain staple foods every week due to demand. Some things, like produce, may not be available at all and especially if it was grown in another country. Food from other countries might not be able to make it to America due to blockades and bombings. During the wars, boats were often repurposed for the armies to carry supplies.

9. Rationing got more and more stringent as each war wore on. At the start of rationing, you may be allowed one pound of sugar and by the end of rationing you may allowed a quarter pound of sugar.

Remember, before the WWII, we were in a depression in America. When the war broke out, most people were already used to having gardens, canning/preserving, raising livestock, and making everything stretch.

My grandma was born in 1920 and lived through the Depression and WWII. She remembers the Depression didn't hit them as hard because they lived on a farm in Northwest Iowa. They had dairy cows that had to be milked twice a day by hand, a garden, crops, and naturally reused everything. When she graduated high school, she worked as a hired girl to make extra money. She married my grandfather in 1942 and followed him from base to base as he trained pilots. They always made do with what they had and helped other families out. That was just the way it was.

Many people do not live this way anymore. It is just too easy to buy everything and throw it away when you no longer want it anymore. What would happen if rationing were to take place tomorrow?

Could you survive on what was allowed to you by the government? Could you handle stretching food over and over again just to have enough to eat all week? Could you handle cooking from scratch more to make food stretch that much further?

Many people relied on produce that was canned and preserved. They would seek out food that had been forgotten as being food. They would forage. They would hunt and trap. They started gardens if they didn't have one before. They raised chickens in the backyard. They produced more of their own food to make their food stretch farther.

Food storage was the key to their survival and to sending more food to feed the troops. Food storage is still key. You never know when a time like this will happen again. The situation might not be a war, but a personal crisis, a natural disaster, or a national crisis. Could you live like this?

What do you need to do so you and yours would not be affected as bad as others may be? Now is the time to store food, start a garden, raise a few chickens, learn to forage for food, hunt, and barter with neighbors. Now is the time to see how far you can stretch food and learn to live simply without having to rely on grocery stores as much.

You never know when this could happen to you. What can you do today?

Thanks for reading,


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