Rationing was part of life on the US Home Front during World War II. Along with
gasoline, sugar, coffee, processed foods, meat, and cheese—fats and oils were
rationed. To help produce the glycerin needed by the military, housewives also
collected kitchen waste fats.
butter and oils began early in the war. Most cooking oils came from Pacific
lands conquered by the Japanese, and the supply plummeted. Fats were also needed
in higher quantities for industrial and military use. For example, the Navy used
lard to grease their guns. In addition, the United States provided the fats
needed by many of our allies for military and civilian use.
of Fats and Oils
By Christmas of 1942 a serious shortage
of butter and other fats developed. The Office of Price Administration added
butter, fats, and oils to rationing on March 29, 1943. Points were assigned to
each type of fat based on scarcity. Grocery stores posted the required ration
points along with prices. Lard was removed from rationing on March 3, 1944 and
shortening and oils on April 19, 1944, but butter and margarine were rationed
until November 23, 1945. Butter required a higher number of points than
margarine, so “oleo” margarine became more popular. Naturally white, oleo came
with a packet of yellow food coloring to mix in.
Ration Books Two, Three, and Four included blue
stamps for processed foods and red stamps for meat, cheese, and fats. Each
person received 64 red stamps each month, providing about 12 pounds of fats per
The vital substance of glycerin comes from fats.
In the United States, most glycerin came from the production of soap—when fats
and lye are combined, soap and glycerin are formed. Glycerin is a crucial
ingredient in the manufacture of explosives such as nitroglycerin. It was also
needed for other military uses—as a lubricant, in protective paint for planes
and tanks, in hydraulics, in the production of cellophane for food wrappers, and
in dyes for uniforms.
In addition, glycerin is vital in pharmaceuticals as a
solvent, protectant, and emollient. To free up some of the supply, glycerin use
was restricted or removed from civilian products such as beverages, gum,
antifreeze, tobacco, cosmetics, lotions, soaps, and shampoo. Pharmacists learned
to use other solvents to make suspensions and elixirs. However, more glycerin
was needed, so America turned to the housewife to provide more fats.
“Pass the Grease and Make the
“One tablespoonful of kitchen grease fires
five bullets.” “One pound of kitchen fats makes enough dynamite to blow up a
bridge.” Slogans like these prompted housewives to salvage cooking fats. In June
of 1942, a national program was begun for collection—but it still wasn’t enough.
To reward collection, starting in December of 1943, housewives received 2 red
ration points and 4 cents for each pound of grease.
How were waste fats
Housewives saved fats trimmed from meat
(boiled down), pan juices, skimmings from stews and gravies, even water from
boiling sausage (chilled and skimmed). The grease had to be free of water and
juice, strained through a fine-mesh sieve to remove impurities, and stored in a
cool and dry place, preferably refrigerated. When a pound had been collected in
a tin can, the housewife took it in to her grocer or butcher, who would return
her tin can—tin was scarce too!
would you deal with rationed butter and oils—or saving your kitchen
Labels: rationing in World War II, rationing of fats, saving waste fats, World War II