Imagine the government telling you how much meat or chicken you could buy, or how much sugar or flour you could have. Strange as it may seem, at one time it actually happened.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor life in the United States suddenly and dramatically changed. Many everyday commodities, such as food, rubber, tobacco, leather, nylon and metal soon became scarce. The reason was simple. We had a huge fighting force to feed and outfit and we needed to build the machines for war, while over in Europe much of the farmland had turned into battlefields.
The government had to do a balancing act. It had to insure that its fighting men were well fed, while at the same time making sure that the average American family at home still had enough to eat. The solution was food rationing. Food rationing began with basic commodities, such as sugar, and soon included such items as dairy products, meat, coffee, and canned foods. Even chocolate was rationed.
Every member of the family, from babies to Grandma and Grandpa, had their own food rationing book. Each book contained coupons with a letter and a number. The letter represented the ration period when the coupon could be used, and the number represented the number of points. During some ration periods red coupons were used for buying meat, and blue coupons were used for buying other foods. The more scare the item the more ration points were needed for purchase, however the number of ration points needed was not related to the price of the item. Ration coupons could only be used one time as they were redeemed at the grocery store at the time of purchase.
Housewives had to plan their menus carefully. If they should run out of coupons before the end of the ration period their families were out of luck. They would no longer be able to purchase rationed items until the next ration period began. Food manufactures also helped ease the burden of rationing by creating new recipes that helped to stretch those precious scare ingredients, such as sugar, eggs, and shortening.
It is indeed hard to imagine such a scenario today, but our parents and grandparents rose to the occasion. Perhaps that is why the WWII generation has been called, The Greatest Generation.