During the war, the US was forced to ration and conserve because of shortages. Rationing meant that people were only allowed to buy a small amount of everyday items. It was also the only way to make sure that everybody got a fair share. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the economy shifted to war production overnight. Military production was now the more important than consumer goods as nationwide rationing began almost immediately. Starting in May of 1942, prices were frozen by the U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) on practically all everyday goods, starting with sugar and coffee. War ration books and tokens were issued to each American family, dictating how much or many tires, cars, bicycles, gasoline, fuel oil and kerosene, solid fuels, stoves, rubber footwear, shoes, sugar, coffee, processed foods, meats, canned fish, cheese, canned milk, fats, and typewriters any one person could buy.
World War II Story Sharing
There were also different kinds of rationing. One kind is uniform coupon rationing (sugar), which provided equal shares of a single commodity to all consumers. Another is point rationing, which provided equivalent shares of commodities by coupons issued for points which could be spent for any combination of items in the group (processed foods, meats, fats, cheese). The next is differential coupon rationing, which provided shares of a single product according to varying needs (gasoline, fuel oil). The last is certificate rationing, which allowed individuals products only after an application demonstrated need (tires, cars, stoves, typewriters).
World War II Rationing on the U.S. Homefront
The national maximum Victory Speed was 35 mph, and carpools were encouraged. The main idea was to conserve rubber, not gasoline (World War II Rationing on the U.S. Homefront).
Rationing During World War II
Each family was asked to send only one member for registration and be prepared to describe all other family members. Coupons were distributed based on family size, and the coupon book allowed the holder to buy a specified amount. Possession of a coupon book did not guarantee that sugar would be available. Americans learned to utilize what they had during rationing time. While some food items were scarce, others did not require rationing, and Americans adjusted accordingly. "Red Stamp" rationing covered all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. Each person was allowed a certain amount of points weekly with expiration dates to consider. "Blue Stamp" rationing covered canned, bottled, frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices and dry beans, and such processed foods as soups, baby food and ketchup. Ration stamps became a kind of currency with each family being issued a "War Ration Book." Each stamp authorized a purchase of rationed goods in the quantity and time designated, and the book guaranteed each family its fair share of goods made scarce, thanks to the war. Rationing resulted in one serious side effect: the black market, where people could buy rationed items on the sly, but at higher prices. The practice provoked mixed reactions from those who banded together to conserve as instructed, as opposed to those who fed the black market's subversion and profiteering. For the most part, black marketeers dealt in meat, sugar and gasoline in the US. Recycling was born with the government’s encouragement. Saving aluminum cans meant more ammunition for the soldiers. Economizing initiatives seemed endless as Americans were urged to conserve and recycle metal, paper and rubber (World War II Rationing).
Farming in the 1940s
Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market, so the government turned to its citizens and encouraged them to plant "Victory Gardens." They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetable and about 20 million gardens were planted. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different kinds of foods and formed cooperatives, all in the name of patriotism (Reinhardt). By 1944 Victory Gardens were responsible for producing 40% of all vegetables grown in the US and more than 1 million tons of vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens during the war (Victory).