In honor of Thrifty Thursday, I want to compare what food cost 100 years ago to what it costs today.
A nifty website from the Historical Text Archive shows costs for many food staples for the years 1914, 1924, 1976, and 2002. The more recent data comes from Starkville, Mississippi, rather than the large urban area I live in (Los Angeles), but the comparison is informative nevertheless. Let’s look at items that appear regularly on my grocery list.
Eggs were 35 cents a dozen in 1914, and 89 cents in 2002. Currently, I pay $1.49 or so at Trader Joe’s, less than what is charged at my local chain (unless my friend Ann shares some of the bounty from her backyard chickens).
Milk was about 9 cents a quart in 1914, compared to $1.49 in 2002. I don’t buy milk in that small a quantity, so I don’t know what the price is today.
Bread went for 6 cents a pound in 1914. Now, they did not have Wonder Bread back in the day, so this would have been for an unsliced loaf of dense bread. In 2002 in Mississippi, bread went for $1.49 a pound. That’s 23 times more for the staff of life than the 1914 price.
Potatoes were $0.18 a pound in 1914, compared to $.89 in 2002, a surprisingly small increase given the time span.
Bacon, one of my favorite foods for dinner when I was kid (along with cinnamon toast), went for 27 cents a pound 100 years ago, but had skyrocketed to $2.39/lb in 2002. So pork belly prices are 13 times more in 2002 than it did just before the start of World War I.
Only the price of sugar has dropped in that time, from .59/lb in 1914 to $.44/lb in 2002.
A table below the one I just described shows prices for a wider range of foods, including cornmeal, beans, and rice for the years 1913, 1924, and 1925 for the city of Chicago, based on another data source, the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re trying to write a family history that describes daily life of your ancestors in those time periods, hie yourself to this web site (http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?action=read&artid=418) and incorporate some of this information about food prices! And then check out the articles and e-books at the Historical Text Archive, which describes itself as “one of the oldest history sites on the Internet.”