Scotland at War – Rationing in World War I

Most readers are aware that rationing was an integral part of life in the Second World War and afterwards, but it is less well known that it also occurred in the previous war, though not nearly so stringently and to some extent, voluntarily.

The following is a copy of a cutting found in the recipe book of one of my great-grandmothers and from an advertisement on the back, it can be dated to early 1917. My only recollection of the rationing of this period being mentioned is that my maternal grandmother, her daughter, did not like having to cook with margarine instead of butter! Presumably the quantities given below were for a family with two parents, two children and two servants.

Susan Miller member 477

The State Ration – Meals for a week

At the National Training School of Cookery careful and exhaustive trials have been made as to the actual possibilities of the voluntary rations for households of varying numbrs and means. The results given here have been specially compiled for a family of the professional and middle classes, and have been worked out with a view of being of general assistance.

Total allowance of meat 15lb
Flour (for bread, puddings, soup, &c.)18lb
Sugar 4½lb
Allowance for six persons, four adults and two children

Bread and Flour

  • One loaf of 2lb weight needs 1½lb of flour. Lord Devonport allows 3lb flour per head per week.
  • In the menus below three loaves of 2lb each a week are allowed for two people, giving 2¼lb of flour made into 1½ loaves, and ¾lb flour for puddings, meatless dishes, soups, sauces &c., for each person
  • Bread cannot be spared for luncheons or dinners, unless none is eaten at tea time
  • Baking at home may be done on Wednesdays and Saturdays
  • New bread must not be eaten
  • All bought bread must be weighed
  • Flour may be saved by the use of fine oatmeal for sauces, and in suet crusts, soups, &c., and of medium oatmeal in bread (4oz to 1½lb flour is a good proportion)
  • Cornflour or arrowroot may be used for sauces to save flour


  • Suet is extra to the meat allowance, and also bones bought apart from meat for stock
  • If bones are bought with meat as in a leg of mutton they count in the meat allowance
  • Most meats should be boned before cooking, in order to use the bones to their full advantage, e.g. ribs of beef, shoulder of mutton
  • During cooking meat loses weight, about 4 oz to the 1¼lb, but much more if badly cooked
  • Good carving and careful serving help to make food go as far as possible
  • Meat must be eaten at lunch or dinner only, and there should be at least one meatless day a week.

Suggested weekly menu


Breakfast – Porridge, scrambled eggs, bread and butter, marmalade. Meat 8lb
Dinner – Roast leg of mutton (8lb), two vegetables, jam tart (¾lb flour) Flour 1¾lb
Tea – Cake (1lb flour) to last the week, bread and butter, jam
Supper – Artichoke soup, rice and cheese, stewed figs


Breakfast – Porridge and sausage, bread and butter, marmalade or honey Meat 1lb
Lunch – Curried vegetables (pulse and fresh) two slices of mutton hashes Flour, none for the children, orange jellies.
Tea – Bread and butter, jam
Dinner – Maize and tomato soup, cold mutton, potatoes in jackets, fruit, (apples and bananas). Children to have the fruit and soup.


Breakfast – Porridge, Bacon (6oz). Bread and butter and honey (2oz flour) Meat 6oz
Lunch – Purée d’Artois.* Spiced apple tart. (12 oz flour) Fish and tart for Flour 14oz the children
Tea – Bread and butter and cake
Dinner – Shepherd’s pie. Vegetables. Chocolate mould.

Wednesday (meatless day)

Breakfast – Porridge. Fish cakes. Bread and butter
Lunch – Braised onions. Milk pudding. Oat cake (1½oz flour). Cheese. Meat none. Bananas. For the children – Poached eggs, pudding and fruit. Flour 10oz
Tea – Bread and butter and jam. Scones (8oz).
Dinner – Chestnut soup. Egyptian pie (½oz flour). Celery or any seasonable vegetable. Riz Imperatrice. **


Breakfast – Porridge, boiled eggs, bread, butter marmalade. Meat 2lb
Lunch – Gravy soup (stock made from fresh bones and the bone of leg Flour ½lb of mutton). Semolina croquets and tomato sauce. Sussex pudding.
Tea – Bread and butter and cake Supper – Liver and bacon (1½lb liver, ½lb bacon), two vegetables. range Pudding (8oz flour).

Friday (Fish Day)

Breakfast – Porridge, herrings (not for the children). Bread and butter and honey. Meat none
Lunch – Cheese and potato pie. Baked apples and junket. For the children herrings and junket.
Tea – Cornflour cakes (2oz flour). Bread and butter.
Supper – Lentil soup. Salmon Kedgeree (smoked salmon or any fish that is cheap. Artichokes au gratin.


Breakfast – Porridge and brawn (1lb), bread and butter and marmalade. Meat 3½lb
Lunch – Celery and beetroot soup. Apricot sea-pie. For the children chops and pudding.
Tea – Bread and butter, cake, jam.
Dinner – Stewed steak and vegetables (1½lb meat). Fruit salad. Cheese soufflés (1oz flour).

Total meat14lb 14oz
Total flour13lb 8 oz for bread (giving 3lb bread per head per week)
4lb 8oz for puddings &c.

The allowance of sugar is ample and therefore has not been calculated.

N.B. – Luncheons and dinners may be reversed and termed dinners and suppers, in which case, catering for the children would be simplified. When not mentioned the children may have one or at most two of the dishes chosen for dinner. The children should have their heaviest meal in the middle of the day.

*Purée d’Artois – soup made with Artois potatoes

**Riz Imperatrice – Rice cooked in sweetened milk, to which is added gelatine & whipped cream or egg custard, then poured into a border mould. When turned out, the hollow centre is filled with fruit salad or crystallised fruit and whipped cream.

Editor – my own mother was born during the First World War, the daughter of a coal miner. Coal miners were exempt from compulsory military service so all of my immediate coal mining ancestors survived both the First and the Second World Wars. I know that they ate nothing like the amount, quality nor quantity of what is listed above. Indeed being one of nine children, two parents and no servants, my mother would have thought this ‘rationing’ would have been a veritable feast. ‘Ribs of Beef’ ‘Shoulders of Mutton’ ‘whipped cream’ ‘fruit salad’… if only.

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