This information is found on U-S-History.com
With the onset of World War II, numerous
challenges confronted the American people.
The government found it necessary to ration
food, gas, and even clothing during that time.
Americans were asked to conserve on
everything. With not a single person
unaffected by the war, rationing meant
sacrifices for all.
In the spring of 1942, the Food Rationing
Program was set into motion. Rationing
would deeply affect the American way of life
for most. The federal government needed to
control supply and demand. Rationing was
introduced to avoid public anger with
shortages and not to allow only the wealthy
to purchase commodities.
While industry and commerce were affected,
individuals felt the effects more intensely.
People were often required to give up many
material goods, but there also was an
increase in employment. Individual efforts
evolved into clubs and organizations coming
to terms with the immediate circumstances.
Joining together to support and maintain
supply levels for the troops abroad meant
making daily adjustments. Their efforts also
included scrap drives, taking factory jobs,
goods donations and other similar projects
to assist those on the front.
Government-sponsored ads, radio shows,
posters and pamphlet campaigns urged the
American people to comply. With a sense of
urgency, the campaigns appealed to America
to contribute by whatever means they had,
without complaint. The propaganda was a
highly effective tool in reaching the masses.
Rationing regulated the amount of commodities
that consumers could obtain. Sugar rationing
took effect in May 1943 with the distribution
of "Sugar Buying Cards." Registration usually
took place in local schools. Each family was
asked to send only one member for registration
and be prepared to describe all other family
members. Coupons were distributed based on
family size, and the coupon book allowed the
holder to buy a specified amount. Possession
of a coupon book did not guarantee that sugar
would be available. Americans learned to
utilize what they had during rationing time.
While some food items were scarce, others did
not require rationing, and Americans adjusted
accordingly. "Red Stamp" rationing covered all
meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some
exceptions, cheese. Each person was allowed a
certain amount of points weekly with expiration
dates to consider. "Blue Stamp" rationing
covered canned, bottled, frozen fruits and
vegetables, plus juices and dry beans, and
such processed foods as soups, baby food
and ketchup. Ration stamps became a kind of
currency with each family being issued a "War
Ration Book." Each stamp authorized a
purchase of rationed goods in the quantity and
time designated, and the book guaranteed each
family its fair share of goods made scarce,
thanks to the war.
Rationing also was determined by a point
system. Some grew weary of trying to figure
out what coupon went with which item, or how
many points they needed to purchase them,
while some coupons did not require points at all.
In addition to food, rationing encompassed
clothing, shoes, coffee, gasoline, tires, and fuel
oil. With each coupon book came specifications
and deadlines. Rationing locations were posted
in public view. Rationing of gas and tires
strongly depended on the distance to one's job.
If one was fortunate enough to own an
automobile and drive at the then specified speed
of 35 mph, one might have a small amount of gas
remaining at the end of the month to visit nearby
Rationing resulted in one serious side effect: the
black market, where people could buy rationed
items on the sly, but at higher prices. The
practice provoked mixed reactions from those
who banded together to conserve as instructed,
as opposed to those who fed the black market's
subversion and profiteering. For the most part,
black marketeers dealt in clothing and liquor in
Britain, and meat, sugar and gasoline in the
While life during the war meant daily sacrifice,
few complained because they knew it was the
men and women in uniform who were making
the greater sacrifice. A poster released by the
Office of War Information stated simply, “Do
with less so they’ll have enough.” And yet
another pleaded, “Be patriotic, sign your
country’s pledge to save the food.” On the
whole, the American people were united in
Recycling was born with the government’s
encouragement. Saving aluminum cans meant
more ammunition for the soldiers.
Economizing initiatives seemed endless as
Americans were urged to conserve and recycle
metal, paper and rubber. War bonds and
stamps were sold to provide war funds, and the
American people also united through
volunteerism. Communities joined together to
hold scrap-iron drives, and schoolchildren
pasted saving stamps into bond books.
Others planted "Victory Gardens" to conserve
food. For a small investment in soil, seed and
time, families could enjoy fresh vegetables for
months. By 1945, an estimated 20 million
victory gardens produced approximately 40
percent of America's vegetables.
Training sessions were held to teach women
to shop wisely, conserve food and plan
nutritious meals, as well as teach them how to
can food items. The homemaker planned
family meals within the set limits. The
government's persuasion of people to give up
large amounts of red meats and fats resulted
in more healthy eating.
The government also printed a monthly
meal-planning guide with recipes and a daily
menu. Good Housekeeping magazine printed
a special section for rationed foods in its 1943
cookbook. Numerous national publications
also featured articles explaining what
rationing meant to America.
Then there were the food manufacturers who
took advantage of the wartime shortages to
flaunt their patriotism to their profit. The
familiar blue box of Kraft Macaroni and
Cheese Dinner gained great popularity as a
substitute for meat and dairy products. Two
boxes required only one rationing coupon,
which resulted in 80 million boxes sold in
1943. Food substitutions became evident
with real butter being replaced with Oleo
margarine. Cottage cheese took on a new
significance as a substitute for meat, with
sales exploding from 110 million pounds in
1930 to 500 million pounds in 1944.
After three years of rationing, World War II
came to a welcome end. Rationing, however,
did not end until 1946. Life resumed as
normal and the consumption of meat, butter,
and sugar inevitably rose. While Americans
still live with some of the results of World
War II, rationing has not returned.