Walking around today’s British supermarkets, it’s hard to imagine a time when food was rationed.
At the start of the Second World War in 1939, Britain imported 70% of its food.
A principal strategy of Germany was to starve Britain into submission by attacking shipping bound for the British Isles.
To deal with potential shortages, the British Ministry of Food instituted a system of rationing.
Each person was provided a ration book with coupons that were exchanged for food at certain shops. The government ensured those shops were kept sufficiently stocked.
Not all food was rationed—bread for example, wasn’t—but meat, eggs, cheese, butter, sugar, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, lard, milk, and canned fruit all went on ration.
And did you know that rationing in Britain stayed in place until 1954—a full nine years after the war had ended!
Since that time, advances in agricultural production, logistics management, and retailing have been enormous. Looking around the supermarkets, it’s almost impossible to think of rationing ever happening again.
And decades of efficiency improvements have driven costs down too.
In a world of rising prices, it’s good to know some things are still pretty cheap.
Pick your favorite cheap treats from our list—all available in British supermarkets for around £1 (~$1.25).