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World War Two: Meals at home

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Meals based on very little meat in wartime Britain

Meat rationing extended into the 1950s. Hence my aversion to the awful grisle that passed for mince in my school dinners.

All the following meat recipes show ways of padding out what little meat there was in wartime and the austerity afterwards.

Meals including meat

Guest contributions

Spam was a precooked meat product which came from America in tins which were opened with a metal turn key. Spam could be eaten straight from the tin, sliced with chips or a salad. The best way to eat it, in my view, was cut into slices, dipped in flour and water and deep fried. (Incidentally English girls who went with American soldiers were also known as Spam.)

1940s magazine advert for Spam

Magazine advert for Spam. Photographed at Tilford Rural Life Centre 1940s event

A type of shepherds pie could be made with mashed potato and scraps of meat, like the odd rabbit and pigeon that we caught. Meat from this source was not easy to prepare but we were used to it.

My mother would get some fresh lard from the butchers and mix it with flour and water, mould into a round tennis ball shapes and drop them into the meat stew to make it go further. The results were known as dumplings.

Horse meat and whale meat were available from time to time. I have eaten both.

Peter Johnson


The occasional rabbit was a treat, if you were lucky enough to get one. If you 'heard of one going', you immediately set off to get one, perhaps walking miles. My mother used to go on her bike with my sister strapped into a seat on the back. Nothing was thrown away. After the occasional chicken, there was chicken soup for several days afterwards. I still can't bear chicken soup!

Michael Sullivan


My gran would make brawn which was bits of meat, like cow heel and pigs feet, stewed then mixed with jelly and put into a mould to set. It was served in slices. I can see her now sucking off the jelly! My mum would eat tripe, eurghh, with lots of vinegar and pepper.

Hungarian Goulash was a tasty way of eking out meat with a lot of seasoning and vegetables. We seemed to live on it for a while!

John Cole


Pearl barley was used a lot to pad out stews.

Marion Cole

Meals 'pretending' to be meat

Guest contributions

My mother created shepherds pie without having to use any of the strictly rationed meat. The potato topping was not a problem as potatoes were not too difficult to obtain. The 'meat', however, was composed of stale bread (nothing was ever wasted) to which was added dripping along with 'Oxo' (beef extract cubes) and anything else that was available.

Jan Clifford


My mother loved to scrape the dripping that was left in the bottom of the tray that the Sunday roast had been in. She spread it on toast with loads of salt.

Pamela Brierley

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