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Wartime Diets That Saved Nations

January 10, 2024 0 Comments

Wartime Diets That Saved Nations - women cooking over a fire

Starvation and food insecurity are war tactics.

For instance, we’ve heard about how Hitler starved those in concentration camps. But did you know he planned to limit food far beyond concentration camps?

According to National Geographic, “Nazi Germany drew up a ‘Hunger Plan’ during World War II that, had it been implemented, could have resulted in the starvation of some 20 million people or more in territory controlled by the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands did starve to death during the German siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Soviet Union, between 1941 and 1944.”

To combat the threat of food insecurity during the war, the British produced a variety of wartime diets.

Additionally, Americans strove to do their part to support their troops by embracing wartime diets on the homefront.

During times of war, it is necessary to ration food and be resourceful to survive.

I imagine people weren’t thrilled at having to use ration books, but at the same time, I have a deep appreciation for their willingness to do so in order to support their fellow countrymen.

A U.S. advertisement from WWI states, “Food Will Win The War. You came here seeking Freedom. You must now help to preserve it. Wheat is needed for the allies. Waste Nothing.”

It isn’t just about civic duty or forced rationing.

During periods of war, people will go to great lengths to provide food for their families.

Fortunately, by looking through history, we can learn how to create meals using limited ingredients to help our families survive during seasons when food is limited.

Cook Homemade Meals with Basic Ingredients

WWII biscuits

We’ve become a bit spoiled by processed foods, frozen foods, and various flavors.

During WWI and WWII, people cooked meals at home using the most basic ingredients—which were rationed.

Here is an example of a weekly ration for one adult during WWII:

  • Bacon & ham: 4 oz
  • Meat: the value of 1 shilling & sixpence (approximately 1 lb of meat)
  • Butter: 2 oz
  • Cheese: 2 oz
  • Margarine: 4 oz
  • Cooking fat: 4 oz
  • Milk: 3 pints
  • Sugar: 8 oz
  • Preserves: 1 lb every 2 months
  • Tea: 2 oz
  • Eggs: 1 fresh egg per week
  • Sweets & candy: 12 oz every 4 weeks

Citizens received ration points to use toward tinned goods or imported goods. They used these additional rations for things like cans of tinned fish or dried fruit.

Can you produce your own food from scratch using this limited list of ingredients? Of course you can!

But it is much easier if you have a garden and a stocked supply of emergency staples, such as sugar and butter powder.

Waste Nothing

Chicken broth in a pot

One of the mantras of the World Wars was “waste nothing.”

You finished the food on your plate. If you couldn’t, you found a way to use the leftovers.

Every part of the chicken was used—down to the bones for making broth.

This push to “waste nothing” led to a sharp increase in food preservation.

Canning food was one of the main ways they preserved food during WWI.

According to Food Revolutions, “In 1917, women preserved over 500,000,000 quart jars of garden produce and by 1918, had stored 1,450,000,000 quart jars.”

The idea of food preservation was once again at the forefront of people’s minds during WWII.

One poster from WWII reads, “We’ll have lots to eat this winter, won’t we, Mother?” with an image of a mother and daughter canning. The bottom of the poster reads, “Grow your own. Can your own.”

Ava Milam, Dean of the Home Economics Department at Oregon State College during WWII, said, “Every individual homemaker in Oregon can help in the nutrition for defense program by canning, freezing, drying, and storing every bit of fruit, vegetables, and other foods that she can obtain and process. […] If surplus fruit is going to waste or is easily available, it is not only the right but the patriotic duty of homemakers to obtain more canning sugar if necessary and put up more food for future use."

Utilize Tips for “Making Do” with Rations

During wartime, you have to “make do” with what you have.

Something that stands out about WWI and WWII is that it was popular to provide tips for how to “make do” with your rations.

There were radio broadcasts and demonstrations that told listeners how to make the best of the food they had.

Rations often came with recipe suggestions. Magazines and newspapers included recipes using rationed ingredients.

Similarly, should you find yourself in a survival situation, we hope you turn to our Survival Scout articles for tips.

Grow Victory Gardens

A victory garden growing various vegetables

During WWII, America launched a “Food for Victory” campaign, which encouraged citizens to eat leftovers and grow their own produce.

These homegrown gardens became known as Victory Gardens and were a way to show patriotism.

According to the History Channel, “By 1945, some 20 million such gardens were in use and accounted for about 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the U.S.

Those with gardens were much more self-sufficient than those who relied solely on government rations.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we know we must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

You’ll feel more prepared if you have the Survival Seed Vault at the ready.

Learn Now How to Stretch Food

Another wartime diet tip was learning how to stretch foods to make them last a bit longer.

For example, butter was a rationed item during WWII.

To stretch their butter from ¼ pound to ½ pound, homemakers added Knox gelatine.

Food stretching is still common today—especially for those on a tight budget.

Many people will add rice or beans to dishes to feed more people.

Add the Ready Hour Beans Trio and Rice Kit to your emergency pantry to be prepared to stretch meals as needed.

Better yet, make sure you have butter when you need it with our Butter Powder.

Embrace New Food Innovations

Whole Egg Powder 10 Can

By the time WWII occurred, doctors and scientists were much more aware of humans’ nutritional needs.

While rationing still took place, steps were taken to ensure people were getting key nutrients.

For example, a national bread loaf was produced that included whole grains, calcium carbonate, and vitamins A and D.

Additionally, it was around this time that major food innovations, such as dried eggs and condensed milk, became available.

The ability to still get the nutritional value of milk and eggs when fresh isn’t available has made it possible to stay healthy even in times of crisis.

Whole egg powder and powdered milk are must-have items for everyone’s emergency pantry.

Make Food Substitutions

Whenever food is rationed, it is necessary to learn how to make food substitutions.

You won’t have access to all your usual ingredients. Fortunately, there are many substitutes for basic ingredients.

Whether it is rationing during a war or a supply chain shortage, it is wise to know how to make common substitutions.

See 13 Cooking Hacks When You’re Missing Ingredients.

Barter for Survival

long-term emergency food

Throughout history, when countries have been in turmoil, the citizens have turned to bartering for survival.

Especially in wartime.

For example, now that their country has a worthless currency, fishermen in Venezuela barter their fish for other foods and medicines.

With so much turmoil around the world, inflation, and the forthcoming digital currency, it is only a matter of time before bartering becomes a currency we all use.

We may eventually need to function as the Venezuelan fishermen and barter food to get food.

If you have long-term emergency food stored, you can feed your family during times of turmoil or even use it as a bartering tool in the future.


In liberty,

Elizabeth Anderson

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply

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