October 1943: This month last century

October 1943: This month last century

This is the first in an ongoing series of blogs about New Zealand history. These blogs are going to focus on 20th century events and objects as well as topics in Te Papa’s history exhibition Slice of Heaven: 20th Century Aotearoa.

Following from the recent blog about the diarama in the exhibtion showing a New Zealand family during at World War Two I’ve chosen to start with an event that affected Kiwis during the war.

67 years ago: butter rationing begins (on 28 October 1943)

A weekly butter ration of 8 ounces per person (225 grams or 16 tabelspoons) was introduced by the New Zealand government in October 1943. This almost halved the average weekly consumption of butter, which was around 415 grams. It followed the rationing of other basic food items such as sugar and tea. Meat rationing followed 6 months later in March 1944. People had to use coupons like these to purchase these items.

Sugar coupons from ration book, 1943, GH12052 Te Papa

At the time, butter was used daily and often very liberally in practically every kitchen around the country. Suet and dripping were the alternatives, not olive oil or margarine.

Butter rationing meant that many favourite foods and baked goods were affected, even the humble sandwich. One frustrated mother wrote to a newspaper, declaring that: ‘It is bad enough to be without or very short of sultanas, bananas, raisins, baked beans, dates, honey and eggs for school lunches, but without butter too, it is a bit too much.

Food rationing was introduced so ensure that New Zealand’s agricultural products were sent overseas to feed Britons, whose diets were suffering because of the war.

This poster, which dates from the 1940s, highlights the importance of New Zealand’s contributions to the British Empire’s war effort.

Poster ‘The Empire’s Strength’ 1940s GH15353 Te Papa
In fact food production was just as important as New Zealand’s military efforts overseas. This was summed up by the slogan ‘Farm or fight! Let us organise victory on both fronts.’ New Zealand also supported Britain’s post-war recovery so butter, like many other commodities, continued to be rationed long after the war ended in 1945. In the case of butter, it was not until June 1950 that restrictions were lifted.

Read more about WWII in Slice of Heaven: 20th Century Aotearoa

See more WWII posters in Collections Online


    1. Dear Linda Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the blog interesting. Kirstie

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