World War I: “With Meat at War Prices, Eat Cheese and Beans”

Source: National Archives
Source: National Archives

A hundred years ago meat was expensive, and in short supply, because much of it was needed to feed the soldiers fighting in World War I. Here’s what a magazine article said:

With meat at war prices, every housewife should learn to make tasty and nourishing meals with wholesome substitutes to be had at half the price of meat. One of the best substitutes for meat is cheese, and there are so many ways of preparing dishes of cheese that the housewife should learn to make use of this very wholesome food.

Another wholesome substitute is baked beans.

Roast beef— An average helping or portion, weighing 3 1/2 ounces, contains 360 food units, supplies 4/5 ounces protein, and costs 8 cents.

American pale cheese—An average helping weighing 2 3/4 ounces, contains 360 food units, supplies 4/5 ounce protein, and costs 4 cents.

Baked beans (as purchased in can)– An average portion, about 9 ounces, contains 360 food units, supplies 5/6 ounces protein, and costs 5 cents.

Other inexpensive foods rich in protein and therefore capable for building up the body are fish, eggs, oatmeal, lentils, dried peas and peanuts. Vary your diet and cut down your butcher bill!

National Food Magazine (November, 1914)

31 thoughts on “World War I: “With Meat at War Prices, Eat Cheese and Beans”

  1. A great choice for Veterans Day. I wonder though if the army still eat more wheat, fats, sugar and meat than the civilian population? Today the WW1 civilian diet would surely be considered the healthier diet for everyone.

    1. hmm. . . I have no idea whether the diet of individuals in the military differs from the diet of civilians today –but now you’ve made me curious and I may have to research it a little. 🙂

    1. I think that food units are the same as calories–but I’m not absolutely positive about it. Some of the nutrition terminology differed back then from what we use today. For example, one of the components of food a hundred years ago was “ash” –and I’m clueless what that refers to. I should so some research on this, and then do a post on it.

  2. With meat prices up again, the advice still is good. Of course, the advice is good even if meat is affordable. I do love my chicken and beef, but even when I was growing up, we had occasional meals where meat wasn’t included. I wonder if that was a habit born of deprivation.

    1. It’s nice to hear that you liked this post. We have so much today. We are very fortunate–times were so much tougher during the great depression in the 1930s. Many families really struggled to put food on the table during those years.

  3. Interesting that the foods the government was promoting then to save the best for our troops is now what doctors and ecologists are promoting now to combat obesity and cancer and global warming and heart disease.

  4. Cheese and meat I think are in the same pricy bracket,today .. But I love beans.. Black ,red, pinto, and even lentils. Lentil and smoked sausage soup with cornbread, perfect for a cold winter night!😋

    1. There are so many factors that influence which foods are popular. Food trends ebb and flow over time. Some foods may now be considered less appealing than they were in the past, while others are considered healthier (or less healthy).

  5. Here we are 100 years later and for health reasons aline, this advice still works. I would have thought that canned beans came a bit later, that dried legumes bought in bulk would be the norm. “Pale cheese”–doesn’t sound too appetizing. We made up for it with Velveeta after the next war 🙂

    1. My sense is that some “modern” processed foods were available in the early 1900s, but that most people still made many foods from scratch. When going through old issues of Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping I often see ads for Campbell’s Tomato Soup and Libby’s canned fruits.

    1. I also found it interesting. It seems like the foods were were considered less desirable (but healthy) back then are now widely recognized as being healthy and nutritious.

  6. My grandparent’s raised chickens for themselves during WW 2 and they were in Detroit. They also kept a big garden. Actually, they were doing this even before the war. We eat quite a few beans in my family today. In fact we had them yesterday (and the day before)

    1. Chickens in urban and suburban areas seem to be making a comeback. I’ve seen several articles in my local newspaper about how the zoning ordinances are being changed to allow people to raise a few chickens on small lots.

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