Ration recipes

Go easy on the ration book with vintage recipes

What’s your go to for breakfast? Or are you the type of person to skip breakfast for a large coffee? What about lunch? Or dinner? There are an endless number of recipes with a large variety of ingredients. But what if you were told you had to ration some of the most common ingredients that are essential to many of our favourite meals?  

During World War II essential items like clothing and gasoline were rationed due to high demand and low supply. Some food items were rationed as well. Items like sugar, butter, eggs, meat and tea needed a food ration coupon to purchase. Limits on these items meant that it was necessary to be creative with your cooking. There were war-time recipe competitions, ads and articles about how to use what you can buy effectively, and there was even a book published in 1945 by Sarah Dunne called Wartime Cookery. These recipes were essential for households at the time. The Telegraph, for example, received a thank you from a previous competition winner for publishing war-time recipes. It wasn’t just recipes though. For example, this article provides strategies to stretch, or eke, out your butter rations. Another article, easy on the ration book, discusses how to save as many ration coupons as possible.  

serving dish with food - text says easy on the ration book
'Easy on the ration book', The Australian Women's Weekly, 11 August 1945, nla.news-article51280811

Trove holds a huge number of these recipes. Here are a few examples of war ration recipes used for each meal of the day, including dessert! 


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so some people say. Eggs, pancakes, soggy Weet-Bix, you can’t really go wrong with breakfast. Potato is a great breakfast meal, and even better, they ‘help to eke out the meat ration’. This article all about potato contains some great dishes, including cheesy potato puffs described as ‘a delicious hot breakfast dish for chilly mornings.’  

You could even top it off with a nice hot drink. Tea and coffee were also rationed, but why not try making your own coffee? Wheat coffee seemed to be a good alternative. You’ll only need bran, ground wholemeal flour, treacle and some boiling water. 


Lunch is often a casual meal, so sandwiches are a big hit. Butter is one of the best spreads for sandwiches, but it was much better saved for other meals. Thankfully, there are other spreads out there that can be used. Cheese spread, treacle, marmalade, jam, the list goes on. 

advertisement for how to make sandwiches without butter
'Advertising', The Australian Women's Weekly, 5 May 1945, nla.news-article47118216

If you’re having guests over and need something a little more formal, this savoury luncheon loaf is a perfect meal to serve up. Again, there are no eggs or butter needed, and only a small amount of mincemeat. You could even serve it up with this egg-free vegetable mayonnaise.   


Dinner was often meat heavy for a full and satisfying meal. Fish was also a great option. This is a great salmon pie recipe. Some eggs are broken in the making of this pie, but it can be served hot or cold and can be a great meatless option if the ration book is a bit tight!  

Alternatively, you could go with a vegetarian meal. These vegetable croquettes are an easy to make and satisfying dinner. It would be great paired with a salad or on their own. The best part is that any vegetables could be used. Just mash them all together. It’s a perfect coupon saving meal as it contains no eggs, sugar, butter or meat!  

table setting with various foods
'You should try these ration-saving recipes', The Australian Women's Weekly, 29 January 1944, nla.news-article46938193


When you think of making a cake or pudding or a custard – common and yummy desserts – eggs, butter and sugar are usually on that shopping list. Finding alternative ingredients in baking, particularly for these essential items, can prove to be challenging. This just means home bakers at the time needed to be all that more creative.   

If a slice of cake after dinner is your preference, this ginger cake is one to check out. There’s no eggs or butter, although there is a cup of sugar. It bakes a large cake though and should last for a while (if you keep it stored in a tin with a slice of bread). If you’re more of a pudding person, this competition winning pudding is the one to choose. It contains no eggs, butter or sugar, using ingredients like apricot jam and lard as replacements. It is definitely worth the two hours of steaming.  

Love stirring the pot? 

This is just a handful of the creative and clever recipes that were created during World War II to combat the rations but there are so many more. What can you find? What about other vintage recipes? Explore our cooking collection feature to discover more.  

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