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Recipe Swap: What rationing tasted like

With Remembrance Day approaching, many teachers turn to resources of Veterans Affairs for ways to help young people understand the meaning of the day.

Here is an idea that you might want to observe in your own home this Sunday. It is called the “Missing Man” dinner setting, and involves setting your dinner table with symbols of remembrance such as a single red flower as a centrepiece or a slice of lemon or pinch of salt on the table as reminders of the bitter fates of so many who served and tears shed for them. Another suggestion is to have one empty chair at the table with a glass inverted as a reminder of those no longer with us.

Other resources found on this website help teach children the role of food during the war years, from growing Victory Gardens to rationing of foods like meat and sugar.

It is a worthy reminder to all of us that our experience of food shortages in this country were relatively minimal in contrast to those whose agriculture and food systems were devastated elsewhere. Food rationing here lasted five years from the beginning of 1942. In the U.K. rationing did not end completely until 1954.

Even so millions of Canadian men, women and children did their best for the war effort by learning to make do with less. That’s a lesson from history from which all of us can learn.

Here’s some ideas taken from the Wartime Canada ( website if you’d like to serve a simple Sunday meal this weekend and give someone a taste of life on the home front 60 years ago.

I’m always happy to hear from readers with your recipes and suggestions for columns! Write to:

Or email: [email protected]

Recipe Swap…

Increased Beef Ration Recipe

Did your mother or grandmother “stretch” her meat loaf with oatmeal? She may have picked up a copy of Ration Recipes, published by Robin Hood Flour Mills Ltd. in the early 1940s encouraging householders to reduce consumption of meat, butter and sugar by using rolled oats in food preparation. Note the higher temperature and longer baking times for earlier oven models.

  • 3/4 lbs. minced beef1/4 lb. minced shoulder of pork1 egg1 c. milk or 1 c. diluted gravy1/2 c. Robin Hood Rolled Oats1 tsp. salt1/8 tsp. pepperPinch of sage (may be omitted)2 tbsp. finely chopped onion

Mix minced beef and pork. Beat egg, add milk or gravy and blend well with meat mixture. Add Robin Hood Rolled Oats and seasonings, stir until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Pack in loaf tin and cover with greased paper. Bake in modern oven (375 F). Baking time 1 hour 15 minutes. Serves 5.

A Tasty Meatless Dinner

I have cited this excerpt before. It’s from the November 7, 1942 edition of The Winnipeg Free Press. “I wish the sugar rationing had been a little more drastic,” wrote Dr. Logan Glendening. “And every nutritionist believes that the meat rationing, if kept to two meatless days a week, will be good for us.”

Included with the following recipe were these remarks:

“Here’s the main dish you’ve been wanting for your meatless dinner, with good nutrition and good flavour marching hand in hand. Serve it with cream soup, stuffed egg salad and a baked rhubarb cobbler for dessert.”

  • 1-1/2 c. canned corn, drained or cooked fresh corn1-1/2 c. strained canned tomatoes3/4 tsp. salt1/8 tsp. pepper1 tsp. sugar1/2 c. Robin Hood Rolled Oats1 tbsp. dripping1/2 c. grated strong cheese

Mix first seven ingredients in baking dish. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven (360 F). Baking time 20 minutes.

Serves 4 to 5.

Crisp Oat Cookies

“This recipe is specially designed for ration days,” the recipe card noted. “It uses no butter and only a small amount of sugar to give a large number of cookies. Busy housewives will find it a time saver since it requires no tedious rolling and cutting of the cookies. They may be medium size for ordinary use, large for the lunch box or small for afternoon tea.”

  • 1 c. shortening 1/2 c. brown sugar, firmly packed1/4 c. honey1/3 c. milk 2 c. Robin Hood Rolled Oats1-3/4 c. Robin Hood Flour (measured after sifting)2 tsp. baking powder1/3 tsp. salt1 tsp. vanilla

Cream shortening, which has been softened to room temperature, add sugar and honey, blend until very smooth. Add Robin Hood Rolled Oats and milk, beat well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and add to first mixture, then add vanilla. Shape dough into small balls, place on well-greased tins. Press flat with fork dipped in Robin Hood Flour. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in a moderate oven (350 F).

Nutrition in wartime

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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