After the outbreak of war only essential foods were imported into Britain. People didn’t see a banana until after the war. To allow food to be distributed fairly, ration books were used from January 1940, with tokens for various items such as butter, eggs, sugar, bacon and meat. This was to prevent stockpiling.
Pregnant women and nursing mothers were given extra allowances for food and milk. From aged 5 upwards, everyone had their own ration book. Bartering and black-market trading became a way of life.
Clothing coupons were also necessary. New textiles were scarce and utility clothing which used less material came into vogue. Coal was rationed to save fuel for industry, you had to bathe in less water, and even soap was rationed.
Professor John Raeburn (1912-2006), born in Aberdeen, set up the Dig for Victory campaign while he was head of the Agricultural Plans Branch of the Ministry of Food.
At the end of the war Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food, warned that rationing would not disappear overnight.
The food situation, far from becoming easier, may well become more difficult owing to the urgent necessity of feeding the starving people of Europe.
Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food, 1944
It was many years before life got back to normal. Rationing continued into the 1950s but the wartime diet was a healthy one; there were never restrictions on vegetables, and ‘junk foods’ had not been invented.