Homefront During WWII

This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook

The hardships of a country at war hit the homefront during World War II. Shortages and rationing made the preparation of appealing and nutritious meals a real challenge. The traditional American meal of a meat dish, salad, and side dishes of vegetables and potatoes was limited by rationing. Recommendations of nonrationed foods that contained large amounts of important nutrients and vitamins were included in a variety of books and pamphlets designed to assist the homefront cook. Many labels on food were changed during the war, and cooks were encouraged to read the labels to make sure ingredients were all healthy and filled some nutritional requirement. Red meat, which was rationed, had to be replaced with other sources of protein. Poultry provided a good alternative for cooks, in part because it was more readily available - it could not be shipped to troops because it did not keep as long as beef. Fish was another great alternative to meat and also replaced meat in many meals. Cooks often fixed dishes using scraps that otherwise would have been thrown out. Peanuts and soybeans were substituted for meats, cheese became more popular, and eggs were included in many meals.

Fruits and vegetables were also in short supply. Families planted victory gardens, which provided more than half of all the vegetables in their diet, as well as fruits and even flowers.

Sugar, a crucial staple in American cooking, was rationed. Creative cooks found new ways to prepare old favorites by using honey or syrup to replace granulated sugar, as well as fruits from their gardens to sweeten dishes.

Cooks tried their hardest to make healthy and tasty meals despite shortages. Cooking on the homefront may have posed challenges, but cooks became more creative and resourceful because of the war.

The Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, Dauphin County, contains wartime records from the Works Progress Administration, including posters, recipes, and instructional books. The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Centre County, honors Pennsylvania's citizen soldiers.


Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA
The official repository for permanently valuable government records.

Pennsylvania Military Museum, Boalsburg, PA
A museum that honors Pennsylvania's citizen soldiers.

For Further Reading

pa-trail-of-history-cookbook-sm.gif Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook
Edited by Kyle R. Weaver, Diane B. Reed, and Fred Lauver
Forward by William Woys Weaver

Stackpole Books and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
documenting-pennsylvanias-past.jpg Documenting Pennsylvania's Past: The First Century of the Pennsylvania State Archives
Edited by Willis L. Shirk Jr.

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
pa-military-museum-toh.gif Pennsylvania Military Museum: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide
by Arthur and Marjorie Miller

Stackpole Books and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
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Homefront During WWII