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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Rosie the Riveter and Nutrition Plus a Fun Recipe

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

World War II, Rationing, and Nutrition

World War II turned Rosie the Riveter's life upside down. She had many new concerns. It's obvious that she suddenly was concerned about family and friends who were overseas. We know about her work for the war effort. But you might not have thought about Rosie the Riveter and nutrition

WW2 Rationing

What do you know about rationing during WWII? Have you see a ration book, sometimes called a coupon book?

The one to the left was loaned to us by a good friend. Each adult, of course, had a ration book, but as soon as a baby was born, she or he could have their own. The one you see was issued not long after Kris was born. Fortunately, her family saved it and she has continued to keep it all these years. We used it as the source for the WW2 ration books that we make and include in our Be a Rosie Deluxe Costume Kit.

And What Was On the Inside of These Books?

Each ration book had a series of coupons inside. When you needed an item that was rationed, such as COFFEE, as shown in the photo, you torn out one coupon and purchased the item with both a coupon and cash (you're right, there were not credit cards back then).

But what about change?

Sometimes tokens, made of vulcanized fiber, were given as change when ration coupons were used. Below is a photo of some of the ones we have (and include in our Rosie Touchstone Collection. We purchase them and guarantee they are from WW2. I always like imagining the women who used them.

After the war, my mother kept the tokens she had. I remember playing with them when I was in elementary school. Wish I had kept them like Kris has kept all of her family mementoes. I can even remember standing on the playground and showing my small pocketful of these. I think I had both red and blues.

Do you know what items were rationed?

Right after Pearl Harbor, the OPA (Office of Price Administration) developed a rationing system as they knew the war effort would use many of the supplies that had previously been a normal part of the American lifestyle.

Think Gas is High Now?

Gas prices seem like a problem now. But that is nothing compared to what happened during WW2.

The first item to be rationed was tires and that happened on December 11, 1941. Actually, the OPA simply halted ALL sales of tires until an adequate plan could be put into place and that happened on January 5, 1942. Rubber would be critical for the military since Japan had already taken over the countries that supplied rubber to the US.

A way to restrict the use of steel and rubber was to stop the sales of cars (as of January 1, 1942) except to a few designated professions such as doctors and then by February 1942 the manufacture of cars was halted.

Factories making cars were almost immediately switched to military vehicles.

More and More Rationing

Each month saw new consumer products added to the rationed list. For example, in March, 1942 typewriters were rationed. In the same month, the manufacture and sale of dog food in tin cans was eliminated. At that point, dog food began to be sold as a dehydrated product in sacks or bags.

Also in March of 1942, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk and other processed foods were added to the list of rationed provisions. And how much could you get of a rationed item? Here are a few specifics:

1/2 pound of sugar per week 1 pound of coffee every five weeks 2 pounds of meat per week, per person 4 ounces of cheese per week, per person

What was Rosie to do to ensure that she provided her family and herself with good nutrition when so much was limited?

That question gets to the heart of this article. I found a USDA nutrition chart that came out in 1943 that was meant to help Rosies (and others, of course) know what foodstuffs to eat. It stated that there were other sources of protein since red meat was restricted. The chart showed that protein could be found in poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans, peas, nuts, and peanut butter.

What is ESPECIALLY FUN is that the chart specifically shows Rosie. She's even wearing her polka dot bandana. (Rosie's in the upper right.)

What Else?

Want to know about other items rationed? By November 1943, the list included:

  • typewriters (manual, of course),

  • gasoline,

  • bicycles,

  • footwear,

  • silk (think stockings),

  • nylon,

  • fuel oil,

  • stoves,

  • meat,

  • lard,

  • shortening and food oils,

  • cheese,

  • butter,

  • margarine,

  • processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen),

  • dried fruits,

  • canned milk,

  • firewood and coal,

  • jams,

  • jellies, and

  • fruit butter.

Rosie, fortunately, knew how to be careful with food having just gone through The Depression. Many of those recipes came in handy during WWII. And, I imagine the USDA chart was also a help.

And What About Today?

We are all careful with our budgets these days. And many of us are starting to include more plant-based foods in our meals. Both of these trends means that Rosie the Riveter was ahead of her time. You'll find Rosies substituted lentils for beef in Shepherds Pie and inexpensive vegetables for more expensive ones or ones that weren't available, and hearty soups for winter dinners. Ration coupons for sugar and other delicacies were saved for special occasions -- much as we now cut back on too many sweets. Rosie has lots of lessons for all of us.


Interested in Rosie's Recipes?

Kendra and I have a 32 page cookbook with vintage WW2 recipes as well as stories of Rosies. We include a 3 -inch Rosie Employment Badge Fridge Magnet with the cookbook. They are a great pair and perfect for a gift to someone who is a strong, empowered woman, just like Rosie.


Rosie the Riveter's Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients 21⁄2 c flour 1⁄2 t cinnamon 1⁄2 c sugar 1⁄2 c shortening 2 T blackstrap molasses 1 egg


  • Stir the first three ingredients in a bowl. Cut in shortening. Add molasses and egg and stir.

  • Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, form cookies and place on greased cookie sheet. Use your thumbs to press the cookie, creating a well in the center.

  • Fill well with strawberry jam (not preserves) or raspberry jam. You need the red color from the fruit----the redder the better.

  • Bake 10-15 minutes at 350°. Cool cookies.

  • Just before serving, place sour cream in pastry tube or use two small spoons to add white sour cream polka dots to Rosie’s cookies.

Looking for a Vegan Gluten-Free Version?

Here's Mine

Rosie probably wasn't vegan or gluten-free, but we think she'd like this recipe.


2/3 c rolled oats

1/4 c almond meal

1/4 c brown rice flour

1/4 c tapioca flour

1/2 c walnuts

1 t baking powder

1/2 t nutmeg

1/4 t salt

1/4 c coconut oil

Scant 1/2 c agave

1 t vanilla

Fruit jam


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Put oats and nuts in food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds.

  3. Add flours, baking powder and spices. Pulse until well mixed.

  4. Add oil, agave, and vanilla. Combine until a dough forms.

  5. Use a cookie scoop to form cookies and put each one on a prepared cookie sheet.

Turning a cookie to a thumbprint cookie

  1. If you used a small cookie scoop, then you can just press your thumb into the top of each cookie, leaving a small depression. You can press down until you are fairly near the bottom of the cookie.

  2. OR, if you used a large cookie scoop, then you can use both of your thumbs and forefingers to create a larger cookie with an indentation.

  3. Fill each indentation with a fruit jam or even with chocolate.

  4. Bake for about 14 minutes.

  5. Remove from oven and let cool before lifting onto a plate.


We had such fun researching WW2 items that Rosie would have used that we decided to put together what we call our Touchstone Collection. These are items, in a cute little red and white polkadot bag, that you can carry around or keep in a special place to remind you of the strength and courage that you have. Included are a handful of rivets like Rosie might have used as well as a 1943 steel penny (only produced in that year and likely passed through the hands of a Rosie) and a red ration token (also likely touched by a Rosie).

If you would like us to include one of our Authentic WW2 Ration Books based on the one my friend loaned us, just add that to a Convo on Etsy and we'll gladly tuck it into your package at no extra cost.

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Sep 09, 2022

I love your commitment to history and authenticity. Rivets, 1940s recipes, steel pennies, ration tokens and a replica ration book. I can't find anything else like it. You've made my Rosie the Riveter costume so special last year. Thank you.

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