What modern day foods were available during the war?

It’s easy to list what the rations were in WW2 but what about some of the items we have today? What was around during the war?


I get asked about this one the most… Luxuries, including alcohol and cigarettes, weren’t officially rationed but were limited and expensive as factories focused on the war effort. Alcohol was difficult to get unless you were a regular at the pub or off-licence


were very rare in WW2. A famous shop sign read ‘ Yes we have no bananas’. When confronted with their first ever banana, after the war, many children did not know how to eat it.


was available in the US before WW2, usually in Italian immigrant communities. During WW2 it became very popular with US troops serving in occupied Italy. Although some people in Britain remember being offered pizza by GIs it was a rare and exotic food in WW2.

Pot noodle

instant pre-packaged processed food was not common in WW2. Consumers were quite conservative, preferring not to eat exotic foods Pot noodles first appeared in 1977


were a staple of the WW2 diet. They can be grown in Britain and are a good supply of carbohydrate and nutrients. Potato Pete was a cartoon character designed to encourage people to grow and eat potatoes.

Tomato ketchup

due to food shortages during and after the Second World War, Heinz Tomato Ketchup did not appear on UK shelves for almost ten years between 1939 and 1948.

Corn flakes

invented in the US as an instant breakfast cereal were available all over Britain in 1930s. They were still available ‘on points’ in WW2. The choice of breakfast cereals was limited compared to supermarket shelves today.

Tinned baked beans

were classified as an ‘essential food” by the Ministry of Food from 1941 -1948. Originally from the USA they were first home produced in 1928.


unusual foods such as rook and squirrel were recommended in WW2 as a way of providing extra meat.


can be grown easily on your allotment and are a very useful source of vitamins especially vitamin A.


is native to South America. Like other exotic fruits it was not available in WW2.


were not as widely grown in Britain as they are today. They could be bought occasionally but were very expensive.


are traditionally made from pig’s heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together and wrapped in pigs cawl (the stomach lining), with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes breadcrumbs. Faggots were very popular in WW2 because they are made of offal which was cheaper and more readily available at the butchers.


were very rare in wartime Britain. Orange juice was made available to young children to boost their vitamin C intake.

Instant coffee

became available after 1938 but the shortage of imported coffee in WW2 led to a rise in the use of Camp Coffee; a concentrate made from just 4% coffee with chicory (a vegetable) as the main ingredient… it wasnt widely drunk… which you’d understand if you’ve ever tasted it.


is cheap and common today but in WW2 it was a luxury food for most people.


was made available to help boost protein supplies. It tasted fishy and needed to be soaked in vinegar before it was cooked.


was known of in Britain before WW2 but was not widely eaten. Foods from other traditions have only become popular in recent decades.


is native to Britain and is easily grown in your garden or allotment.

Cane sugar

was imported from British colonies in the Caribbean. The risk to shipping from German U-boats led to a reduction of sugar imports from 1939 and boosted the production of sugar beet on British farms.


has been eaten in the middle East and the Balkans for thousands of years. It only became popular in Britain in the 1970s.


have been eaten for many hundreds of years and are favourite foods in Britain and Germany. They are a tasty way of using up cheaper cuts of meat. 


many of the chocolate bars that we love today were available in the 1930s (Crunchie, Mars, Milky way). During the war sweets and chocolate were rationed. They did not come off ration until 1953. Herschy bars from America could be obtained from generous GIs serving here.


sliced white bread was first sold in Britain in 1930. During the war ‘National Bread’ was introduced. It was wholemeal and heavy but not rationed. It was not popular. Maybe I’m just weird, but I love it, goes to show I eat like a goat and probably wouldn’t have wasted away during the war (lol)


were heavily rationed in WW2. In 1941 the ration for an adult was one egg a week. Imports of dried egg from the USA greatly helped the situation. Dried egg is still used today in many mass-produced foods such as cakes…. and fast food restaurants like McD’s and KFC. Weirdly hard to get whole egg in powdered form today.


high energy and high nutrient foods were imported from the USA to help the war effort. Spam is an American pork based luncheon meat that was a useful and popular addition to the diet in WW2.

Frozen peas

frozen food first appeared in Britain in the 1930s but few people owned a refrigerator to keep them in.


were very popular in Britain before the war. Companies like Smiths continued to flourish during the war because potatoes were home-grown. However the oil needed to cook them did become hard to obtain.


3 responses to “What modern day foods were available during the war?

    • Fritters are of course the stereotype meal for them…. but as a meat its really versitile, and can be used as a meal or sausage substitute…. everything from sandwiches, to omelettes, to salads, spam and potato pie, with cous cous or pasta, spam sausage rolls…. the possibilities are endless.

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