The Food Timeline--historic food prices (2023)

How can we find prices of popular items through the centuries tomake comparisoncharts?
A "Food Thru the Ages " project sounds wonderful! Unfortunately, this is not a simple task. Determining accurate historic values of consumer goods is a complicated economic process--onewhich must factor in regional differences, inflation, labor costs and personal income.To makeinternational comparisons one must also study the evolution of monetary systems and foreignexchange rates. This is why (for example) it is impossible to draw a simple chart of bread pricesthrough the ages across all cultures. If you want to compare your local prices from one decade toanother you will need to factor in the ConsumerPrice Index for your area. Numbers are supplied by the U.S. Department of Labor.

About food prices & weights
Did you know that in Great Britain that a penny-loaf was set by law? Karen Hess, culinaryhistorian, explained "Bread was the staff of life in Tudor and Stuart England, more so among thepoor than the rich.... Its importance was such that the Assizes of Bread, dating from1266, took upon itself overseeing and pricing of the bakers. The price of the loaf was fixed; theweight was permitted to fluctuate in compliance with an official table that took into account theprice of wheat and the extent of bolting. The finest regular loaf was the penny white, next thepenny wheaten...and the household penny 100% whole wheat..." (MarthaWashington's Booke of Cookery, pps 17-18). You will find a link to the Assize ofBread and the Judgement of the Pillory (the punishment for breaking this law!) inthe Food Timeline's teacher resourcespage, under the heading "laws".

If you want to make price comparisons in modern times you also have to pay close attentionto changes in weights and measures. Package sizes/weights of popular consumer goods (candybars, canned products, cereal boxes) vary greatly over the years.

(Video) Food History: TV Dinners

Delmonico's 1838 menu was reprinted in the frontmatter of Lately Thomas' book Delmonico's: A Century of Splendor. This extensive menu reflects the gourmet glory of Delmonico's exquisite meals and wine service. Curiously? These menu prices were expressed in British currency. This stuns contemporary researchers expectingthe new United States to eschew all things British. In context, it make perfect sense.We queried William Grimes, author of Appetite City about this phenomenon. He was kind to respond with this information: "The US used shillings and pence for quite some time, even after the revolution. Hence the cheap restaurants that served "shilling plates." The earliest Delmonico's menus reflect the period of transition from British-style coins to the US ones."

"Although French cuisine was gaining a foothold, the dominant cooking style in New York was still English, reflected in the profusion of oyster saloons and chophouses near the theaters, the markets and the centers of commerce...'Everything is done differently in New York form anywhere else....'...Any innovation that smoothed the flow was regarded as pure genius. Haly and Sabin's refectory on Nassau Street introduced the self-serve concept by arranging lighter dishes along a large table, allowing customers to pick and choose according to their pocket, their appetite, or their time. 'Here one can graduate his feeding precisely to his appetite, and can luxuriate from a penny's worth of bread and butter up to the full capcity of his purse.' the Tribune reported. 'Warm cakes morning, noon and night, good coffee, tea and chocolate, good steaks, etc. pies, cakes, etc. and one may fill with these for a New York shilling.'...For the present, New York's restaurants catered to every taste, at every price. In a fanciful sketch in the Broadway Journal in 1845, a 'gentleman in search of dinner' made a comic tour of the city's restaurants, driven from one dining spot to the next by a series of mishaps that whittled away at his bankroll of 'a half eagle and two shilling pieces.'...Reaching into his pocket to pay for an absinthe at the bar, the hapless gentleman realizes that one of the two shillings he gave the cabman was actually his half eagle. Suddenly, dinner at Delmonico's is off. He is now flat broke...Brooklynites who agreed paid a shilling at Bell's for roast meats (beef, lamb, veal or pork) or a shilling and a sixpence for roast fowl (chicken, goose, turkey, or duck)."
---Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York, William Grimes [North Point Press:New York] 2009 (p. 62-63, 71,72)

(Video) Food History: The California Roll

"The trend of the prices can be judged from two bills that have survived, rendered to 'J.O. Sargent' in 1840 and 1847, respectively...The 1840 bill was for four dinners (plus an incidental charge of 63 cents) at a total cost of $20.76. This works out to an average of about $5.00 per dinner...The 1847 bill was for six dinners, at a total charge of $55.50...The average cost for dinner this time was more than $9.00, though this increase might be attributed either to the fact that on two occasions, when the bill came to $17.88 and $12.00 respectively, Sargent entertained guests, or splurged on wines. The supplemental charges and costs of wines were what could run the check for a Delmonico repast up and up."
---Delmonico's: A Century of Splendor, Lately Thomas [Houghton Mifflin:Boston] 1967 (p. 45)

How much would these meals cost in today's dollars? Inflation calculators provide general numbers. What we don't know? What size were the portions and how many dishes, on average, were ordered.

(Video) American Foods That Are Banned In Other Countries

Breakfast cereal: the Kellogg's Corn Flake study
breakfast cereal manufacturers (Kelloggs, Post, Quaker, Ralston) left an indelible mark on American tables. In addition to filling generations of hungry bellies, breakfast cereals provide viable insight into our nation's economic situation. How? Prices and sizes of breakfast cereal products reflect dietary recommendations, agricultural surpluses, supply shortages, and political purpose. We selected Kellogg's Corn Flakes for our breakfast cereal price study because it has survived a century of changing consumer tastes, two WorldWars, price fixing investigations, Stagflation and (now) Agflation. It's one of the few constants in a churning bowl of changing norms.

About Kellogg's: In the beginning, Kellogg's patented foods were served exclusively to the residents of the Battle Creek Sanitarium. According to the records of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Kellogg brand cereals were introduced to the American public May 1, 1907. An interesting byproduct of this study was discovering the timeliness of Kellogg's advertising. In the earliest years, Kellogg's Corn Flakes were touted for their healthful properties as aids to digestion. During the Great Depression and WWII, Corn Flakes were promoted as meat fillers and milk extenders. In the 1950s and 1960s they were familiar, filling, and fun for afterschool and bedtime snacks. During the health-conscious1970s these unpretentious flakes led the crusade. Ads laid low during the 1980s-1990s, when pre-sweetened cereals prolifertated. In the 2000s, as we warily watch American corn crops diverted to ethanol production, Kellogg's prices rise again. What story will these prices tell 10 years from now?

(Video) Food History: The Medieval Feast | Let's Cook History | Free Documentary History

[June 29, 1907] "large size," 10 cents
[1908] no size, 10 cents
[1909] no size, 10 cents
[1910] no size, 9 cents
[1911] no size, 10 cents
[1912] no size, 9 cents
[1913] no size, 10 cents
[1914] no size, 10 cents
[1915] no size, 8 cents
[1916] no size, 8 cents
[1917] no size, 8 cents
[1918] no size, 8 cents
[1919] no size, 12 cents
[1920] no size, 11 cents
[1922] "large size," 12.5 cents
[1923] no size, 9 cents
[1924] no size, 8 cents
[1925] no size, 9 cents
[1926] no size, 10 cents
[1927] no size, 10 cents
[1928] no size, 8 cents
[1929] no size, 7 cents
[1930] 7.6 oz, 7.5 cents
[1931] no size, 9 cents
[1932] 8 oz, 25 cents/four pkgs
[1933] no size, 20 cents/three pkgs
[1934] 8 oz, 8 cents
[1935] 8 oz, 8 cents
[1936] 8 oz, 20 cents/three pkgs
[1937] no size, 7 cents
[1938] 8 oz, 13 cents/two pkgs
[1939] 8 oz, 13 cents/two pkgs
[1940] 8 oz, 11 cents/two pkgs
[1941] no size, 9 cents
[1942] 11 oz, 8 cents
[1943] 11 oz, 8 cents
[1944] 6 oz, 5 cents
[1945] 11 oz, 8 cents (also: 6 oz, 5 cents & 18 oz, 12 cents)
[1946] 6 oz, 5 cents
[1947] 13 oz, 17 cents
[1948] 8 oz, 12 cents
[1949] 13 oz, 19 cents
[1950] 8 oz, 16 cents
[1951] 8 oz, 13 cents
[1952] 8 oz, 16 cents
[1953] 8 oz, 15 cents
[1954] 8 oz, 25 cents
[1955] 12 oz, 19 cents
[1956] 8 oz, 29 cents/two pkgs
[1957] 8 oz, 17 cents
[1958] 8 oz, 18 cents
[1959] 12 oz, 22 cents
[1960] 18 oz, 27 cents
[1961] 12 oz, 23 cents
[1962] 18 oz, 27 cents
[1963] 12 oz, 23 cents
[1964] 12 oz, 29 cents
[1965] 12 oz, 25 cents
[1966] 12 oz, 25 cents
[1967] 12 oz, 29 cents
[1968] 18 oz, 39 cents
[1969] 12 oz, 29 cents
[1970] 18 oz, 38 cents
[1971] 8 oz, 21 cents
[1972] 18 oz, 37 cents
[1973] 12 oz, 25 cents
[1974] 18 oz, 43 cents
[1975] 12 oz, 45 cents
[1976] 18 oz, 69 cents
[1977] 12 oz, 50 cents
[1978] 24 oz, $1.15
[1979] 12 oz, 59 cents
[1980] 19 oz, 99 cents
[1981] 18 oz, $1.12
[1982] 18 oz, $1.25
[1983] 18 oz, 99 cents
[1984] 12 oz, 89 cents
[1985] 18 oz, $1.09
[1986] 18 oz, $1.39
[1987] 24 oz, $1.99
[1988] 18 oz, $1.49
[1989] 18 oz, $1.69
[1990] 18 oz, $1.99
[1991] 18 oz, $2.19
[1992] 18 oz, $1.99
[1993] 18 oz, $1.29
[1994] 24 oz, $2.19
[1995-1996] no prices found yet
[1997] 18oz, $2.59
[1998] 18 oz, $2.29
[1999] no prices found yet
[2000] 18 oz, $2.99
[2001-2003] no prices found yet
[2004] 12 oz, $2.99
[2005-2007] no prices found yet
[2008] 12 oz, $2.99
[2011] 12 oz., $3.79
[2012]12 oz., $3.79
[2013] 12 oz., $3.79
[2014] 18 oz, $4.19


What time was dinner in the 1920s? ›

For example: A wealthy person's dinner party would commence anywhere from 6-8PM, while a mid-western farm family might be sitting down to dinner (their main meal of the day) at noon. The wealthier you were, the later (and longer) the breakfast. Lunch cut across all social classes at this time.

What time was dinner in the 1700s? ›

Dinner was served at around 2:00 p.m. and was the largest meal of the day. For the wealthy upper class, who were also known as the gentry, this midday meal was quite lavish and could offer many food items such as a roast or meat pie, porridge or pudding, salad, bread, ale or cider, and a fruit tart or other dessert.

How much did things cost in 1970 UK? ›

With the benefit of 34 years' hindsight, life in 1970 appears to have been ludicrously cheap. A loaf of bread cost 9p and the average weekly wage was around £32. Today, a loaf costs 53p and weekly wages are about £475.

How much did a TV cost in 1980 UK? ›

In comparison, a brand new TV in the 80s would cost £109 (£372) for a black and white set, or for a more advanced colour TV you would expect to pay £254 (£868).

When did 3 meals a day become a thing? ›

By the late 18th Century most people were eating three meals a day in towns and cities, says Day. By the early 19th Century dinner for most people had been pushed into the evenings, after work when they returned home for a full meal.

How much did a meal cost in 1920? ›

How badly do you want clean carpets? While you can expect to drop about $20-$30 bucks on a meal for two at a diner in 2020, the same meals would've cost about 70 cents ($18.23) in 1920.

What time did Downton Abbey eat? ›

Downstairs, the last meal of the day was supper, which consisted of more bread and cheese, biscuits, and cups of tea. It was served around 9 p.m. while the family upstairs was enjoying dessert. With all the food made for the family and their frequent dinner guests, you might assume that there must have been leftovers.

How did 3 meals a day start? ›

The three meals per day concept originated with Englanders who achieved financial prosperity. European settlers brought their eating habits with them to America. Unfortunately, practicing antiquated, meal etiquette often causes you to consume calories when you're not hungry.

What time was dinner in Downton Abbey? ›

Dinner will be served at eight o'clock. It is customarily the most formal and lengthy meal of the day, for which you may expect everyone to dress in full evening attire.

How much did a Big Mac cost in 1970? ›

1970s: 65 cents

A vintage McDonald's menu from the 1970s lists Big Macs for just 65 cents each.

How much was a bottle of Coke in 1970? ›

The nickel price had lasted over 70 years. And in retrospect, Andrew Young says, it wasn't a bad thing for the company. It's one reason Coke is everywhere today. The company couldn't raise the price.

How much was a sandwich in 1970? ›

And while breakfast in 1970 may have cost you $4.46, lunch for one cost only a buck. You could buy an entire bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for just $1.

How much was a bag of chips in 1980? ›

Average prices for Potato chips, per 16 oz.:
YearAverage price (Snacks)Inflation adjusted price (2022 dollars)
39 more rows

How much does bacon cost in 1980? ›

The average annual price for Bacon in 1980 was $1.46 per pound.

How many times a day did early humans eat? ›

For the majority of human history, people ate one or two meals per day. The current time-restricted eating patterns like the 16:8 or one meal a day diet (OMAD) mimic this ancient phenomenon. During periods without food, the body evolved to tap into fat stores for energy.

Why do British call lunch dinner? ›

Why do British people refer to lunch as dinner? Because dinner is dinner followed by tea and supper. Dinner is the main meal of the day what ever time it is served. So if your main meal is at lunch time then that's dinner.

Is one meal a day healthy? ›

For most people, there are no serious dangers involved in eating one meal a day, other than the discomforts of feeling hungry. That said, there are some risks for people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Eating one meal a day can increase your blood pressure and cholesterol.

How much was a steak dinner in 1950? ›

1950. Today, if you took your date to Keens Steakhouse—one of the most famous steak joints in New York City—a sirloin would set you back $56 per person. In the 1940s and 1950s, however, that same dish at the same restaurant would cost you just $2.25.

How much was a steak dinner in 1968? ›

Yesterday's menu: The dinner menu from 1968 consisted of hearty American fare. A half of broiled or pan-fried chicken cost $2.75 and a 12 oz. broiled sirloin steak was $4.50.

How much did a pizza cost in 1950? ›

Pizza Hut Cheese Pizza

When college students Dan and Frank Carney opened a pizza place in Kansas in the late 1950s, a large pizza only cost $1.50, according to The Daily Meal.

What was a typical meal in Jesus time? ›

Bread and fish was a common meal. This is illustrated by the miracle of The loaves and the fishes, as well as the meal at the lakeside in Galilee where Christ prepared fish for them over a charcoal fire. The Sea of Galilee had great quantities of fish; and fish were also gotten from the Mediterranean Sea.

What is the heaviest meal of the day? ›

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it should also be your largest meal, according to this registered dietitian.

What did Shakespeare's time eat? ›

The food of Shakespeare's era was cooked with exotic combinations of spices, herbs and nuts. Game birds were crisply roasted, pies were baked with almonds, dried fruit and meat, and salads were tossed willy-nilly with flower blossoms, leafy herbs and greens. "It was a time of great exuberance.

Why is it called supper? ›

Supper stems from the word "sup," and it's also related to the German word for soup ("suppe"). According to the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange, families would put on a pot of soup to simmer throughout the day and eat it later in the evening, which was also known as "supping" the hot soup.

Why is dinner called tea? ›

It combined snacks and a hearty meal and was usually served at about 6pm. This eventually evolved into the lower classes calling their midday meal “dinner” and their evening meal “tea”, while the upper classes called their midday meal “lunch” and referred to the evening meal as “dinner”.

What is lunch called in England? ›

In most of the United Kingdom (namely, the North of England, North and South Wales, the English Midlands, Scotland, and some rural and working class areas of Northern Ireland), people traditionally call their midday meal dinner and their evening meal tea (served around 6 pm), whereas the upper social classes would call ...

What time did British aristocrats eat dinner? ›

Morning After Noon

In London, by the 1730s and 40s, the upper class nobles and gentry were dining at three or four in the afternoon, and by 1770 their dinner hour in London was four or five.

What time was dinner in the 1800s? ›

Etiquette and dinner party fashion dictated that guests arrive between 7:30 and 8:30pm (8 o'clock was the most popular time for dinner). Guests had to be punctual and etiquette books of the time admonished being more than 15 minutes late.

What is the order of a 7 course meal? ›

7 course meal: A 7 course dinner menu includes an hors d'oeuvre, soup, appetizer, salad, main course, dessert, and mignardise.

How much was a White Castle burger in 1985? ›

In 1985, your burger cost an average of $0.77.

How much did a Whopper cost in 1957? ›

The Whopper was created in 1957 by Burger King co-founder James McLamore and originally sold for 37 US cents (equivalent to US$3.57 in 2021).

What did a Whopper cost in 1970? ›

Originally selling for 37 cents, the Whopper was born out of the desire to offer customers a bigger burger than competitors.

When did Coke stop being 5 cents? ›

Between 1886 and 1959, the price of a 6.5 US fl oz (190 mL) glass or bottle of Coca-Cola was set at five cents, or one nickel, and remained fixed with very little local fluctuation.

Why was Coke priced at 5 cents for so long? ›

If the bottlers raised the price of bottled Coke they would get all the increased profit and the Coca Cola Corporation wouldn't get a penny. The company got around the problem by blitzing the country with advertising signs promoting Coke at five cents a bottle and were thus able to stifle any price rises.

How much was a Big Mac in 1960? ›

Since the price of the Big Mac was $1.30 in 1960, that means that it was 20 cents cheaper than in 1950.

How much did a hot dog cost in 1970? ›

Buying power of $5.00 since 1951
YearUSD ValueInflation Rate
68 more rows

How much did a Hershey bar cost in 1970? ›

Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar wrappers, 1950-1976

Hershey Chocolate Corporation was committed to maintaining a five cent ($. 05) price for its candy bars.

How much was a Big Mac in 1980? ›

Back then, a Big Mac from McDonald's would set you back $1.30. Today, the popular menu item averages around $6, just for the sandwich, which is a 7% increase compared to 2021.

How much was a Big Mac in 1985? ›

The Big Mac Value Pack, precursor to today's Extra Value Meal, sold for $2.59 in 1985 (opens in new tab), which amounts to $6.09 in 2018. Even adjusted for inflation that's still not enough to buy the large Big Mac Extra Value Meal today, which sells for $8.

How much did a pack of cigarettes cost in 1973? ›

Match with the search results: Here are the prices for each year: 1969 $0.31 1970 $0.31 1971 $0.32 1972 $0.32 1973 $0.33 1974 $0.33 1975 …

How much was a Big Mac in 1986? ›

The price of a Big Mac has risen from $1.60 in 1986 to $5.65 today.

How much is a pack of cigarettes in 1980? ›

The price of a pack of cigarettes (people still smoked in 1980): about $1.00.

How much did a pizza cost in 1980? ›

In 1980,a Domino's large pizza cost $4.99 .

How much did eggs cost in 1980? ›

The average annual price for Eggs in 1980 was $0.84 per dozen. The annual average CPI for Eggs in 1980 was 88.6. The annual average CPI for Eggs in 2021 was 222.074.

How much did a cup of coffee cost in 1980? ›

How much was coffee in 1980? Raw coffee beans costed about $1.58/pound and a cup of coffee at a coffee shop costed somewhere around $0.4-0.5.

What was a typical dinner in the 1920s? ›

If you were to sit down to a normal dinner in the 1920s, you would probably recognize most of the food. You might see baked pork chops or meatloaf or roast chicken, bread or muffins and a vegetable or salad, plus, if you were lucky, cake or pie.

What time of the day was dinner time? ›

Usually when people say "dinner", they mean an evening meal, around 7pm-9pm.

What time did they eat dinner on Downton Abbey? ›

Dinner will be served at eight o'clock. It is customarily the most formal and lengthy meal of the day, for which you may expect everyone to dress in full evening attire.

What time did the servants eat dinner in Downton Abbey? ›

The family take tea in the drawing room, often with their guests. The basement is buzzing again: the servants eat supper at 6 pm - a smaller meal than at midday. A five-course dinner is to be served upstairs at 8 pm, so everyone is hard at work. Dinner is served upstairs.

What was a typical breakfast in 1900? ›

1900s: Cream of Wheat

Hot cereals were staples for breakfast during the first decade of the 20th century. In fact, whole grains like oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat and even popcorn were commonly consumed to start the day.

What is Great Gatsby food? ›

Spiced Baked Hams: Served at Gatsby's party (chapter 3). Salads “of harlequin designs”: Served at Gatsby's party (chapter 3). Pastry Pigs and Turkeys: Served at Gatsby's party (chapter 3). Lemon Cakes: Nick served these when he had Daisy and Gatsby over for tea (chapter 5).

What was a typical meal during the Great Depression? ›

Chili, macaroni and cheese, soups, and creamed chicken on biscuits were popular meals.

What is the last meal of the day called? ›

Dinner and supper: Two simple words often used interchangeably to describe the general setting of the last meal of the day.

What are the 3 meals of the day called? ›

3 main meals of the day
  • Breakfast – eaten within an hour or two after a person wakes in the morning. (Index) ...
  • Lunch – eaten around mid-day, usually between 11 am and 3 pm. In some areas, the name for this meal depends on its content. ...
  • Dinner – eaten in the evening.

What time do the French eat dinner? ›

Dinner usually takes place between 6pm (Belgium, Canada) and 8pm (France). In France, there is a main dish and a dessert, and sometimes a first course (soup or grated or sliced raw vegetables). The main dish is brought out once the first course is finished, and dessert is brought out after the main dish has been eaten.

Did servants ever get a day off? ›

By the 1880s, servants were given a half-day off on Sundays, starting after lunch (and only if all their chores for that morning had been completed), and they were usually given one day off each month, starting after breakfast, and again, their chores all had to be finished first.

How much did a ladies maid make? ›

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for maids and housekeeping cleaners in 2019 was ​$24,850​. This means that 50 percent of maids and cleaners make more than this amount and the other 50 percent earn less.


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