We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Ration Book?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A ration book is a book of coupons which is used to control consumption of certain products which may be in high demand. Ration books are particularly associated with the Second World War, when many countries experienced shortages of needed consumer goods, and they decided that a rationing system would ensure fair and even distribution. Numerous examples of World War Two ration books can be seen on display in museums, for people who are interested in this period of history.

Typically, a ration book takes the form of a pad filled with perforated coupons. When someone wants to buy something such as a pound of sugar, he or she tears out the coupon for that item and presents it to a retailer; the retailer retains the coupon and charges for the item. Having a ration book does not ensure that foods will be available; in the Second World War, many people stood in line for hours to access coveted things like fresh meat and fruit, and others turned to the black market to supplement their rations.

The individual coupons in ration books are sometimes referred to as “ration stamps,” and during times of shortages, they are tightly controlled. Typically, a government agency issues ration books at set intervals, such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly, and consumers must hold on to their coupons because replacing a ration book can be a complicated process. The ration stamps may be dated, so that consumers can only use them during a certain time window, or they may be open-ended, allowing people to save up ration stamps for special occasions. Rations were usually controlled by registering consumers with specific shops, which were provided with the goods for their registered customers.

During periods of hardship, the use of ration books can help to ensure that people have a fighting chance to access the goods that they need, ranging from fabric for clothing to eggs. Ration coupons are typically distributed to a single head of household, who claims all of the members in the household to get access to additional coupons. Some governments may also provide extra rations to pregnant women or people with specific illnesses which require nutritional support.

During the Second World War, many people were encouraged to supplement the ration book coupons with the produce of “Victory Gardens,” small gardens to generate basic produce, thus relieving food producers of some stress. The rationing system could also get quite complex, with point values being assigned to various foods, and consumers swapping rations of some things for others; vegetarians, for example, might choose to exchange their meat stamps for vegetables.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments
By anon334616 — On May 14, 2013

Generally, during World War II, ration books were issued once a year, though the beginning of the issue year could vary; the UK dated theirs as 1942-1943 and so forth.

Each member of a family was issued their own book(s); one applied for the books based on their circumstances, as the ration amounts could vary. Pregnant and nursing women and young children, for example, were rationed larger quantities of milk than the general population. If the circumstances changed, one was responsible for reporting the changes or face legal penalties.

By anon78586 — On Apr 19, 2010

How many ration books are there in the world?

By anon78585 — On Apr 19, 2010

What were ration books used for?

By anon27705 — On Mar 04, 2009

How often were ration books given out?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.