"I worked in a grocers at the start of the war and I saw that the
shortages we anticipated soon happened. Luxuries like tinned fruit
disappeared, even biscuits were in very short supply. Such "treats"
were kept hidden under the counter for regular customers. Eggs became
less available and were replaced by dried egg powder, a useful substitute
but nothing like fresh eggs. Spam too arrived from America. No one
had ever heard of it and it was long time before it became really
saleable. The only coffee we had was Camp liquid, made of chicory.
Real coffee beans were for the well off.
Petrol rationing started in 1939. Essential services
such as the ARP were kept supplied. In the early days of the war
nearly all the vehicles used by the ARP were privately owned. The
ordinary motorist, of whom there were very few, who's vehicles did
not have a duty purpose, were kept in very short supply.
Food rationing was the bureaucrat's dream! The government
stated that everyone was entitled to a certain amount of a particular
item each week. The customer was obliged to register with a food
supplier who clipped the food ration coupons from each person's
ration book. These coupons were passed to the food office who returned
a coupon to the shopkeeper for the total amount which then went
to the wholesaler who supplied the goods.
The quantity of any item allowed per per person
varied throughout the war according to government instructions.
At one time it was one fresh egg per person per month and things
like sugar, tea, butter or margarine were two ounces per week for
each person of course the most strictly controlled items were those
which came from overseas. It is only thanks to the bravery of our
merchant seamen that supplies reached this country at all. The basis
items which were rationed were tea, sugar bacon fats (butter, margarine)
and meat. Cheese and sweets were added to this list later.
For other foods such as rice, tapioca, beans, tinned
meats, there was a points system and the customer could use their
points as they wished, if the food was available.
Clothing was also rationed on a points system and
women became very adept at make do and mend. The one food which
was freely available to all were vegetables, if you grew them yourself.
The men who had gone to war had left behind allotments and gardens
which the women took over, sometimes helped by the older men who
could not go to war.