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Rationing in Britain during World War II
At the beginning of World War II the United Kingdom imported 55 million tons of foodstuffs per year, including more than 50% of its meat, 70% of its cheese and sugar, nearly 80% of fruits and about 90% of cereals and fats. One of the principal strategies of the Axis was to attack shipping bound for Britain, restricting British industry and potentially starving Britain into submission.
In order to deal with the extreme shortages the Ministry of Food instituted a system of rationing. Each person would register with their local shops, and was provided with a ration book containing coupons. The shopkeeper was then provided with enough food for his or her registered customers. When purchasing goods, the purchaser had to hand over the coupon as well as the money for the purchase. On 8 January, 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. This was followed by meat, fish, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, milk and canned fruit.
As the war progressed, most kinds of food came to be rationed, as were clothing and petrol. Restaurants were exempt from rationing, which led to a certain amount of resentment as the rich could supplement their food allowance by eating out frequently and extravagantly. In order to restrict this certain rules were put into force. No meal could cost more than five shillings; no meal could consist of more than three courses; meat and fish could not be served at the same sitting.
Clothing was rationed on a points system. Initially the allowance was for approximately one new outfit per year; as the war progressed the points were reduced to the point where the purchase of a coat constituted almost entire year's clothing allowance.
Rationing of some items continued after the end of the war, the final end of all rationing not coming until 1954.
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