Mushroom soup mac n cheese recipe from government rations

Contents of the Government food box and a recipe for mushroom mac n cheese

Contents of the Government food box and a recipe for mushroom mac n cheese - Credit: Archant

Kerstin cooks up a tasty recipe from her regulation government food box and compares its contents to the rations doled out during World War II

Contents of the Government food box and a recipe for mushroom mac n cheese

Contents of the Government food box and a recipe for mushroom mac n cheese - Credit: Archant

I’m getting a weekly government food box delivered to my door - I was deemed vulnerable due to health issues and living alone.

The government should be applauded for getting this underway. More than 300,000 boxes weekly, in such a short time, in conjunction with the local council and distribution companies such as Brakes and Bidfood.

The box contains basic essential foods for those self-isolating. According to the government it contains enough food for one person for a week and is compiled with the help of nutritionists.

Everything is designed to be stored at ambient temperatures and the fresh foods are long lasting.

Contents of the Government food box and a recipe for mushroom mac n cheese

Contents of the Government food box and a recipe for mushroom mac n cheese - Credit: Archant

The choices are quite random: a friend in a neighbouring borough gets completely different food. Nor are dietary requirements taken into account: I get cans of meat (which I give away) and my friend can’t eat most of her box as she is coeliac (a severe gluten allergy).

The last time the government started handing out food in the UK was during the second World War. How does it compare to rationing? In terms of choice, the 2020 foods chosen seemed like something out of the 1950s.

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1945 weekly rationing:

540g meat

230g bacon or ham

1 egg (double for vegetarians)

57g cheese (double for vegetarians)

250g sugar

57g loose tea

1.7 litres of milk

57g butter (so approximately a quarter of a pack)

113g margarine

57g lard (for cooking)

1 bar of soap or laundry soap

1 jar of jam or 2 jars of marmalade a month

340g sweets a month

1 tin of milk powder every two months

Fruit, vegetables and fish were not rationed but were difficult to obtain. Many shopkeepers would only sell one apple per week per person.

Today’s box would feed one person for seven days, at least two meals a day including breakfast, so no one would starve. But you would need some spices, oil, butter, cheese, salt, to make your dishes a little more flavoursome.


Box of Ready Brek. I get this every week which is too much. I’ve tried to make other things such as flapjacks but I can’t say it was a success.

5 Carrots

2 kilos potatoes

1 large onion

5 Satsumas

6 small apples

500g packet of macaroni or spaghetti

2 x 500g packets of rice (basmati or long grain)

Pack of digestive biscuits (good for a cheesecake base)

Can of meatballs or Fray Bentos meat pie

2 litres of long life milk

1 tin of tomatoes

3 tins of soup (mushroom, vegetable or tomato)

Can of kidney beans or peas (make a bean salad or rice and ‘peas’)

Tin of baked beans in tomato sauce

Bar of soap (foamy)

Lynx body wash (I cannot use a bottle of this every week)

2 rolls of toilet paper

Loaf of pre-sliced white ‘Mother’s Pride’ style bread – while this is perfect for dainty and refreshing cucumber sandwiches, today many of us would prefer something along the lines of the ‘National Loaf’, hearty and wholemeal, available during World War 2 (and at the time, much complained about).

Can of tuna in brine. This can be used for tuna salad, sandwiches or added last minute to a tomato pasta sauce.

Box of long-life orange juice (I’ve been making gin and government orange cocktails with this)

Can of mixed fruit salad in juice

14 x PG Tips tea bags

50g sachet of instant coffee

The fresh food and the milk are incredibly useful, although dairy, protein and some basics such as cheese, oil, and butter is missing. (What are you supposed to put on your toast?) The government’s idea of a treat is a packet of plain digestives. Even in the war they got a 2oz bag of sweets in their rations! There is no sugar or eggs so baking would be difficult.

Mushroom Soup Macaroni Cheese

This was surprisingly good, although I did add some cheese I found lurking in my freezer. Quick too! This recipe makes enough for a family meal but feel free to halve it for 2 people.

Serves 6


500g macaroni

butter for greasing the tin

2x410ml tins of mushroom soup

150g cheddar or comté cheese, grated

2 tbsp ground pepper (optional)


Preheat the oven to 180c.

Boil the macaroni in salty water in a large saucepan for 2 minutes less than it says on the packet. Drain.

Grease the baking tin with butter and tip in the cooked macaroni

Stir in the tins of cream of mushroom soup

Grate the cheese on top and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add pepper and serve hot.

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