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
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
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 relatives.
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 United States.
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 their
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
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.