Roder — Rationing challenged us during World War II

By Mary S. Roder

Rationing of some foods, clothing, rubber, lubricants and metal began in 1942 to aid the World War II war efforts.

The rationing lasted about three years. Rationed items causing my parents the most difficulty were gasoline, shoes (they had 12 growing feet to keep shod in addition to their own), butter and sugar.

Mother always had a special pitcher of sweetened milk on the breakfast table. Karo Syrup was readily available. She used it to sweeten the milk for use on our Post Toasties or Cheerios. For whatever reason, when we had oatmeal or Cream of Wheat she allowed us to sweeten it directly with either honey or syrup.

We didn’t always have butter on the table but when we did, we had to make a choice. We either put butter or jam on our bread, never both. I think of that sometimes when I am applying a liberal slap of butter on a sweet roll or toast. Flour, eggs, cereal, bread, milk, macaroni and noodles were not on the rationing list.


Most homemakers could make substantial winter meals using no more groceries than those.

Fresh fruit and vegetables weren’t rationed, but processed or canned garden produce was. We lived on the farm and so we had home-canned vegetables from our mother’s big garden. Mother hoarded her sugar so that when peaches, cherries, plums, apricots and pears were in season she could buy them by the lug and can them for use during the balance of the year.

She didn’t have enough sugar to make jams or jellies, but neither was rationed so homemade jam wasn’t necessary. We also had a lot of our own meat. It wasn’t unusual for farm neighbors to get together to butcher several hogs or a steer and share the meat and lard. When supplies ran low, someone else would butcher and we would have everything we needed once again.

Children were encouraged to help their families by planting Freedom Gardens. We were also supposed to collect and save aluminum for recycling. Some people turned in aluminum pans, but I don’t think our family did that.

The only aluminum I remember collecting was from the inside wrapper off a stick of gum. We separated the little piece of aluminum foil from the waxed paper lining and turned those scraps in at school.

As part of the war effort, drivers were encouraged to drive 35 miles per hour to save on fuel. The stamps in the gas ration book were spent with great care. Once your stamps for the month were used, the car didn’t move until the next month’s book was available.

Rubber was tightly rationed. One man tells about accidentally slashing the side of a tire on a curb during those years. He had to go to the rationing board to get a form.

The form was taken to two garages for certification the tire was beyond repair. Then he went back to the rationing board for their review of the certifications. His problems weren’t over when he was handed the coupon for a tire. It was difficult to find a dealer with a tire of the right size and even more so when he had to ask someone to use some of their gas ration to drive him around looking for a tire.


Many stations had no tires of any size to sell — although some found one when a few extra dollars were offered.

My husband recalls the difficulty farmers had when their equipment wore out. The machinery was repaired with baling twine and fencing wire as long as possible. Anything new in a farmer’s yard was suspect — probably obtained through the black market.

My parents explained why there was little complaining about the difficulties rationing caused. Those too young or too old to wear a uniform or those with medical problems keeping them home, read the newspaper reports on the progress of the war.

The reports were daily reminders the sacrifices made at home were nothing compared with those of their neighbors and relatives serving in the military.

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