Canadian Housesoldiers and War Time Rations

During World War II, a call to help win the war went out to housewives across the country.  They were being enlisted as “housesoldiers” to keep their families strong and healthy by feeding them well.  Convinced that “the first line of defense was in the kitchen” Canadian housewives took up the challenge despite food shortages and rationing.


To help their efforts, home economists, government departments, utilities, food companies, and community groups published advice columns, recipes books and pamphlets on how to stretch their rations, make do with less, eliminate food waste, plant victory gardens and can their own fruits and vegetables.  A collection of these booklets can be viewed at

Looking through these booklets has given me a tiny glimpse into the challenges faced by these housewives as well as their resourcefulness and ingenuity.  It also makes me appreciate just how many choices and options we have available to us today – thanks to those who fought on our behalf.

Here are a few of the tips and ideas I found for three of the key food items that were rationed – butter, sugar and meat.


– use shortening, lard, pan drippings or “vitamin enhanced margarine” instead of butter

– reduce amount of butter in any recipe

– use condiments like mustard, ketchup or jams and jellies rather than butter

– use herbs and spices on cooked veggies instead of a pat of butter

– only put out a wee bit of butter on the table for each meal rather than the whole block (portion control)

– extend butter by mixing it with water, margarine, evaporated milk and/or gelatin

– extend butter by mixing it with mustard (recommended by French’s mustard)

Click here for How to Extend Butter with Water



– use brown sugar, corn syrup or molasses instead (much easier and cheaper to get)

– reduce amount of sugar in any recipe

– use dried fruit to sweeten foods

– serve warm desserts (warm foods tastes sweeter)

– serve cakes without frosting or icing

– use syrup from canned fruit to sweeten food

– serve more seasonal fruit

Click here for a classic War Cake made with Molasses or Brown Sugar



– choose less expensive cuts of meat

– reduce portion size of meat

– use vegetables and beans in place of meat e.g. Vegetable Loaf, Baked Beans

– use every morsel of meat eg. use bones for broth, then save bones for munition production

– make more stews, meat pies and casseroles, less steaks and roasts

– extend ground beef with vegetables or bread crumbs

– save leftover meat and grind with pickles for sandwich filling

– mix meat with home canned tomatoes and vegetables

Click here for a Tasty Vegetable Loaf from 1943


Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener. For more articles, recipes and tips on Making Home Cooking Easy and Enjoyable visit her blog at

Funding for this article provided by the Canadian Home Economics Foundation.