my thoughts on rations - my thoughts on rations
For some reason, a few months ago, I became fascinated with World War II.

First, I watched a mini series based on The Diary of Anne Frank.* Then I read a book about the rationing system in Britain during the war.

Soon my fascination moved from World War II to rationing. I started wondering how I could apply it to my own life. (Seriously. This is how my mind works.)

one chocolate bar a month

I enjoy some dark chocolate almost every day. I used to have a couple of pieces out of habit. But whenever I gave myself more than a small square, I noticed that I would eat the other pieces quickly until I was left with just one. Then I would savor that final piece of chocolate.

Hmm . . . what if I had just a single piece of chocolate and savored it from the very beginning?

So I decided that I’d only buy one organic, fair-trade chocolate bar a month (I like this one). I divide the bar into smaller squares. Some days I might want two pieces, some days no chocolate at all. But once it’s gone, it’s gone. No more buying chocolate until the next month.

making disposables less disposable

I’ve written before about how I’m trying to be more earth-friendly, but I still use some disposable products.

In order to curb my use of these items, I’ve enforced . . . rationing!

I haven’t made the switch to using reusable cloths for napkins or kitchen clean up, so I’ve decided to ration my paper towel use. No more than one roll a month.

I buy disposable heads for my Preserve razor. I make one blade last the entire month.

I also have a box of plastic sandwich bags on hand. I’m trying to make that one box last the whole year. Since I mostly use my reusable containers when I take food and snacks to go, this should be easy.

Rest assured, I haven’t gone so far as to ration toilet paper or to monitor my guests’ use of it.

more fun with rationing!

Want to bring the excitement of rationing into your life? Here are some more ideas:

  • Trying to cut back on meat? dairy? eggs? Give yourself a weekly ration. Meat was heavily rationed during the war. Since you’re buying a smaller amount, perhaps you could afford to buy the ethically treated, grass-fed variety instead. Same goes for organic dairy and eggs too.
  • Too much sugar in your life? Try making a cup or two of sugar last a whole month.
  • Using disposables for all your cleaning needs? Use less, reuse more and don’t clean as often!
  • Eating too much pasta? Buy a box of your favorite kind once a month. Fine, two boxes.
  • Going nuts over nuts? Make one cup last a week. Try a different kind the next week. Repeat.

And this list doesn’t even cover other rationing that occurred during the war on such things as clothing and gasoline.

Some people may consider this deprivation. Is it really? I could come up with a pretty long list of what I would consider deprivation and using a single roll of paper towels wouldn’t make the cut.

But if all this talk of rationing has got you wanting to eat a whole bag of potato chips, don’t fret. Next week I’ll write about luxuries!

* If you should ever find yourself in Amsterdam, consider a visit to The Anne Frank House. Very moving.

Good read: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame wrote a thought-provoking post on savoring.

41 thoughts on “my thoughts on rations

  1. Caitlin

    I’m pretty sure my current roll of paper towels has lasted me nearly six months. I use cloth napkins and towels for cleaning up, and it’s surprisingly not as much “work” as it seems. I like the rationing idea! I have been really gluttonous and spendy lately.. :(

  2. cworthi

    My paper towel roll lasted 6+ months too, in a little apartment with just me. I like the ones perforated so you can take “half” a towel. The remark about TP made me laugh…I’d be in big trouble of that were rationed!

  3. Marcy

    I love this! I ordered the book, this subject is right up my alley!! Also looking forward to your ‘luxuries’ article!!

  4. Eimear

    I would seriously love it if someone rationed my food. I have a very all-or-nothing kind of personality and so if I get a bar of chocolate, I eat the entire thing in one sitting. Rationing would be so beneficial but I’d need to have someone else enforcing it.

  5. living lagom Post author

    I use the perforated rolls too…and sometimes I cut them in half for really small jobs. The funny thing about TP is that my grandma used to tell us to only use 3 squares when we were little. I don’t think we listened. We must have driven her crazy with our “excessive” TP use.

  6. living lagom Post author

    I hope you like the book! It was long in some sections, but overall I liked it. It’s interesting to learn how people lived in other times and how they adapted to unusual circumstances.

  7. living lagom Post author

    I can ration chocolate and plain popcorn. I can’t ration cookies, potato chips, cupcakes, etc. If I buy a bag of potato chips, I know that it will last one night or two tops. The thing about rationing is that it’s up to you how quickly you eat something, but then you can’t have it again until the next week, month or whatever time period you’ve chosen.

  8. Caitlin

    I understand. There are some things I will absolutely use paper for (cat puke, dead bugs) but for everything else, there’s hand towels. :) I like your rationing idea!

  9. livingsimplyfree

    Don’t clean as often, that’s a thought :-) I gave up paper towels a few years ago and can’t for the life of me figure out why I started to use them in the first place, they aren’t that much easier to use than the rags I use now.

  10. living lagom Post author

    Thanks! We could make up our own propaganda like they did during the war:

    “Rationing: Do your part to save the earth . . . and your money.”


    “Not yo’ granny’s rationing.”

  11. eager urbanist

    I love this topic! I agree that self-control is not the same as self-deprivation, and I could use some more control, myself. Like you, I can’t keep cookies, crackers, or cupcakes in my home because I can’t stop myself from eating them too quickly. Trouble is, I almost never find vegan cookies or cupcakes for sale individually at coffee shops or bakeries. So I have to either buy a box of vegan cookies or make a batch of cupcakes, both of which leave me with too many tempting sweets at home. But I’ve recently found some single-serving cake recipes on Chocolate-Covered Katie’s vegan dessert blog, so maybe I’ll be able to make just one serving–and refrain from doing so on a daily basis…

    And since you’re rationing disposables already, have you considered buying or making reusable cotton pads to replace cotton balls? I finally bought some recently, as my daily skin care routine uses up a lot of cotton balls. I bought them on Etsy and they work wonderfully and are totally washable! So not only am I saving money and resources on disposable cotton balls, but I also got to support someone’s small business :-)

  12. Lorna

    Now here’s a topic after my own heart. I’ve really got into rationing over the past couple of years. I did follow rationing amounts for a while, and that’s UK rationing, which was really tough.

    I think it is really interesting to do experiments like this as it resets what you consider to be ‘normal’.

    Funny enough, sugar rations were a massive 8oz a week, plus 8oz of sweets and 8oz of jam per month. Even baking lots of cakes and occassional jam making flurries there was no way I could get through anything like that much.

    As rationing didn’t end until 1954, and actually got a lot tougher post-war due to exhausted soil, the end of lend-lease from the States and helping to feed the rest of Europe, my Mum remembers it clearly and (I would say) probably accounts for her hording tendencies! Most of her generation (born during war) seem to do the same.

    Anyway, something that you may like is clothes rationing. Here are the UK clothes rations and what women could buy for their points (there were other lists for men and children). Although I think 24 point is pretty crippling, 66 a year seems doable, and would really focus attention on quality and versatility. And I love CC41 / Utility fashions…

    1939-42: 66 coupons were issued per person per year
    1942: 48 pts
    1943-4: 36 pts
    1945 24: pts

    Coat 14
    Dress 11
    Blouse 5
    Skirt 7
    Apron / pinafore 3
    Underwear / swimming costume 3
    Socks / stockings 2
    Nightdress 6
    Shoes / boots 5

    Anyway, I could write a small book on this, so I’m glad you are interested too…

  13. Marcy

    I love all of this! I think I will try it, just to challenge myself. As Sandra says, I can think of a long list of things that I would consider deprivations, and a roll of paper towel isn’t one of them. I really love reading about the English experience- they were some TOUGH people- they stood alone, against so much, for so long before any help arrived. And they were under rationing until 1954, I didn’t know that.
    I think a lot of people I know think that we in my family deprive ourselves of a lot. We only use cloth, no paper towel, and I use family cloth ( cloth toilet ‘paper’), I make my own sanitary pads, and use a sea sponge for ‘that time of the month’, make our own laundry soap, I actually use my clothesline, instead of my dryer, and while my husband has been deployed, my preschool son and I have been living in a camper in my dad’s yard to save money, etc…..
    We will be back with my husband very soon, and as soon as we’re settled, I will be trying as many things as I can come across, starting with the book Sandra has recommended.

  14. living lagom Post author

    Until I read the book, I didn’t realize that rationing went on for so long after the war. The book does cover clothes rationing and the points system as well. I think it’s interesting that cosmetics weren’t rationed (though not always available). I guess some red lipstick is deemed necessary in times of distress to keep spirits up!

  15. Simplify Adam

    My favorite rationing trick – intentionally choosing smaller plates and bowls when eating. It helps my brain feel like I’m eating more than I actually am!

  16. cworthi

    Would it help to package things like cookies in small batches in the freezer, then bring out one at a time gradually? That works for me. I plan to try the cake-in-a-mug. A friend of mine has a vegan muffin-in-a-mug recipe that’s fun, and not too sweet.

  17. living lagom Post author

    I’ve tried that before…and then I just thawed a bunch at a time in the microwave. An addict will always find a way to get their fix. :) Even the universe wants me to be an addict! I’ve been getting all sorts of free goodies during Lent!!!

  18. Lorna

    I love Carolyn’s blog (as well as this one, of course!). I’ve been following it for some time and she has really encouraged me to try the recipes that have been lurking in my rationing books.

    I have a strong belief that our fore-mothers have a lot to teach us about living lagom. (Or somewhat less than lagom: they even had to get a prescription in order to be buy a thermos flask. I cannot even imagine…)

  19. Carolyn

    Ha ha, great slogan — passion for the ration! I’m enjoying that blog…and I’ve ordered the book too. You’ve created a run on them! — Carolyn

  20. living lagom Post author

    Whoa! I only have self-control with certain things. Cookies and potato chips regularly get banned from my home when I test myself to see if I’ve mastered eating them in small quantities. I’ve yet to pass this test.

  21. living lagom Post author

    Haha! Maybe if we printed the slogan on secondhand t-shirts or if we promised to donate them once we were done wearing them . . . or turned them into cleaning rags! :)

  22. bugbites

    Thoughtful and interesting post. I’m actually entering into a rationing experiment – surviving on wartime rations for a month. I’m probably nuts. Anyway! Really nifty to see some practical applications for the principles of rationing, set in modern context.

  23. living lagom Post author

    I really like the concept and think it should be seen positively when it’s done out of choice. But even when it’s done out of necessity, a lot can be learned.

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