Rochester woman living a year on WWII rations

Katie Whipple
Katie Whipple, of Rochester, is trying to live a year on World War II rations. One of her hobbies is as a wartime reeanctor. She's photographed here in a dress that was made in 1940.
Photo courtesy Katie Whipple

Saying she wants to better understand what her grandparents experienced during World War II, a 31-year-old Rochester woman is spending a year living as close as she can to the ration mandates Americans were under during the war.

Katie Whipple, a theological student in the Presbyterian Church, says she hopes the experience will also make her own hobby of being a World War II reenactor more authentic. She started her experiment in September and is blogging about her experiences.

"This has been something I've wanted to do for a while," Whipple said on MPR's Midmorning Monday. "I wanted to connect with (my grandparents) in that way."

To stave off shortages during the war, Americans had to abide by rations for several everyday items: from eggs, butter and canned goods to gas and even shoes. Rationing started in 1942; families received a new booklet every month with an allotment of points to spend on the items.

Whipple is trying to ration herself in as many ways possible; she is limiting herself to 48 points a month for canned foods; 64 points for meat, butter and cheese; and she's even rationing just four gallons of gasoline a week, one pair of shoes a year (to save on rubber), and one pound of coffee every five weeks.

Americans were encouraged to raise chickens or grow 'victory gardens' to supply their own fresh produce. The result for Whipple has been a 'greener' lifestyle in which she doesn't waste as much food or have as many snacks. She hasn't figured out gardening yet — because she lives in a studio apartment — but admits to other measures, like picking up individual coffee beans off the floor.

When she realized this week her milk had gone sour, "I had to find some recipes to use up my milk because I didn't want to throw it out."

Still, Whipple's Thanksgiving meal this week shouldn't be too affected; poultry was one food item that wasn't rationed, she said, in part because it wasn't as popular a food item in the 1940s. Meat was the bigger-ticket item and highly rationed. Still, a can of cranberries cost her eight points — 1/6 of her monthly allowance for canned goods — so she had to save up.

Whipple expects her biggest challenges will be living within the coffee allowance and riding her bike on inclement days, so as not to use her gas ration. She'll also have to allow for some math errors.

"I just realized today I didn't ration my sugar enough for making Christmas cookies," she admitted on the program. "I'm going to have to stretch."

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