Really, figuring out ration books and ration stamps and point values should be easy. I’ve got my Prudence Penny Coupon Cookery book, with handy-dandy recipes and grids to list point values prior to heading to the grocery store. And I’ve got scads of ration stamps and War Ration books No. 1 and No. 3. Found a newspaper article listing the ration points for January 1944. Have my Ration Dates article and am ready to budget those points. It’s my patriotic duty, after all.
People did this every day in the United States. Rationing began in May 1942 and ended in 1946. All I’m trying to do is create one Victory Dinner in September and the process is already driving me mad.
Okay…let’s start with the journey a family needed to take in that infamous month of May 1942.
The Rules of Rationing
Step One: Register with a local OPA board. That’s the Office of Price Administration. Required information to receive your ration book included your name, address, height, weight, color of your eyes, color of your hair, age, and sex. Repeat for husband, wife, and every single child. And don’t forget to measure your sugar before standing in the registration line – you needed to declare it. Stamps were then removed from your coupon book to reflect the pounds of sugar lurking in your cupboard.
Step Three: Make a menu. Make sure you have the correct amount of stamps.
Step Four: Go to store, shop, and hand the stamps to the cashier or butcher.
Easy peasy, right?
Easy – I don’t have to register with the OPA! Excellent. One less government office to survive. Instead, I bought some stamps on the black market. EBay, that is. I became the proud recipient of the Oliver family’s ration books. The family, in order:
- Husband: John Serle Oliver. 37. 5’9 ½” and 174 lbs.
- Wife: Alice Luella Oliver. 32. 5’3 ½” and 154 lbs.
- Sons: Garland Serle, 12 years old; Delford Rex, 11 years old; Carrol Eugene, 8 years old.
- Let’s not forget the daughter: Retha Janet, 15 years old.
They obviously didn’t use all the stamps, hence it became my lucky day. Here’s my black market grouping:
And then I started looking at the ration points. (Later, the stamp points changed drastically. Here, the stamps are each worth a point.) So let’s take a look:
I have 288 blue stamps! And even a No. 22 stamp for a pound of coffee!
And then the problems begin. You see, each person was entitled to 48 blue points and 64 red points each month. Let’s do some math:
And were the Victory dinner only for me and my lovely spouse? 13 stamps.
13 BLUE stamps.
Blue stamps, you see, are for canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. If you want meat, cheese, fats, oils, fish, or milk products, you need RED stamps. I DON’T HAVE ANY RED STAMPS.
AND I’M HOSTING A DINNER PARTY FOR SIX.
Not that I need those stamps for beef, pork, or veal; I’m quite happy skipping those, especially since a pound of hamburger costs 6 points, a sirloin 8, and salmon 16.
I can do chicken. Chicken wasn’t rationed. But above said spouse stated categorically: NO CHICKEN.
Then I can use just 4 points for the required can of condensed tomato soup (now I’ve got 9 blue stamps – yay! – I love budgeting!) And then I’ll use 5 points for the ½ lb. of Cheddar Cheese, and 1 point for the evaporated milk and and and…oh, wait…
CHEDDAR CHEESE AND MILK USE RED STAMPS!
Ah, you say. It’s black market EBay to the rescue. Well, I say back – have you ever tried to find red stamps? Do you know how brutal the bidding war is for red stamps or tokens? Trust me, the last battle I waged was for a set of 10 red tokens, and I felt my rent was more important…
So please, if you have access to any red stamps or tokens (I only need 6 – 7 at the most), or can get your hands on meatless/cheeseless World War II recipes, TALK TO ME.
And red stamps? Anyone got some red stamps????
PS – to my Allies in the UK, our system still provided all the needed food for the home front. I know you suffered. You are not expected to troll for red stamps. In fact, we should send them to you…
Next time on the Patriotic Duty: recipe choices and a chance to vote…
Research provided by:
- The Office of Price Administration
- Ames Historical Society
- Prudence Penny’s Coupon Cookery
Any of the above math.