Save on Pinterest

This Is What Groceries Cost the Year You Were Born

Travel back to the time when a loaf of bread cost 20 cents. Oh, the times they are a-changin'!

1 / 18
In His Shop Bev Martin Hands Out Groceries. In The Evening Martin Serves Pub Customers With Non-canned Music. Pub Entertainers Feature. Box 673 422031646 A.jpg. In His Shop Bev Martin Hands Out Groceries. In The Evening Martin Serves Pub Customers With Non-canned Music. Pub Entertainers Feature.ANL/Shutterstock

Ah, the good old days, when you could step into a store and buy anything for a nickel… Or not. You might be surprised by how the price of groceries has changed over the years. It’s almost as surprising as the most popular food the year you were born. Like this? Pick up a copy of The Best of Reminisce ($21) to see magical moments of the past brought back to life.

2 / 18
A woman cooking in her kitchen, which is equipped with a Monarch electric stove.Underwood Archives/UIG/REX/Shutterstock

1930

When the Great Depression began in 1929, prices dropped as fewer people could afford milk and eggs, but farmers still had them to sell. From the 1920s to the 1930s, the price of a gallon of milk, for instance, dropped nearly 10¢ (a big percentage).

Milk: 26¢ per gallon

Eggs: 15¢ per dozen

Bread: 12¢

Bacon: 21¢ for a half-pound

Chickens: 35¢ for a whole fryer

Take a closer look at Depression-era recipes from thrifty home cooks.

3 / 18
Wife of Tenant Farmer and Mother of Twelve Children in Kitchen, near Battleground, IndianaGlasshouse Images/REX/Shutterstock

1935

The Depression continued into the mid-1930s, with unemployment at about 20%. “Milk strikes” among farmers won the government’s support in raising milk prices. In Europe, a gathering war didn’t yet involve the U.S.

For reference, $1 in 1935 would be about $18.55 today.

Milk: 47¢ per gallon

Eggs: 36¢ per dozen

Ground beef: 25¢ for two pounds

See what kind of desserts cooks put on the table during the Great Depression.

4 / 18
Woman with open refrigerator; Shutterstock ID 99385886Everett Collection/Shutterstock

1940

With help from WWII, the U.S. economy was revived, and food rationing was underway on the home front. Demand for milk and other staple foods was fairly high.

Milk: 52¢ per gallon

Eggs: 33¢ per dozen

Bread: 20¢

SPAM: 25¢ a can

This is how home cooks made do with less during the World War II years.

5 / 18
PICNICEverett Collection/Shutterstock

1945

The end of WWII brought soldiers back home. The end of wartime rationing made prices of many foods rise. Plus, a successful ad campaign led many Americans to view milk as a healthy part of a daily diet, which increased demand (and prices).

In the mid-1940s, $1 was more like $14.12 today.

Milk: 63¢ per gallon

Eggs: 58¢ per dozen

Chopped beef: 27¢ per pound

Find vintage recipes from the ’40s worth making today.

6 / 18
A frustrated woman with a mess in her kitchen from trying to bake a cake. It was an early ad for Bisquick.Underwood Archives/UIG/REX/Shutterstock

1950

In the late ’40s, the National School Lunch Act required school lunches to include 1/2 to 2 pints of whole milk, causing the price of milk to leap. In the home kitchen, processed foods became more popular. For example, cake mix was introduced in 1950.

Back then, spending $1 would be more like spending $10.55 today.

Milk: 83¢ per gallon

Egg: 60¢ per dozen (about $6.40 in modern dollars)

Bread: 30¢

Chopped beef: 53¢ per pound

See what other vintage food products might be older than you’d expect!

7 / 18
Woman Cooking in Kitchen with Young Boy Eating Cookies with MilkGlasshouse Images/REX/Shutterstock

1955

The increased industrialization of food production brought along more changes. For example, glass milk bottles were largely replaced with disposable paper cartons. This was also the year the microwave oven was sold to consumers; at least, to people who could afford one—they cost the equivalent of $12,000 today!

Milk: 93¢ per gallon

Egg: 61¢ per dozen

SPAM: 39¢ per can

Take a closer look at our favorite foods from the 1950s.

8 / 18
Child American television chef Julia Child shows a salade nicoise she prepared in the kitchen of her vacation home in Grasse, southern FranceAP/REX/Shutterstock

1960


Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking came out in 1961, sparking a nationwide interest in French food and a retreat from some of the more processed foods that thrived in the ’50s.

Milk: $1 per gallon

Eggs: 57¢ per dozen

Bread: 45¢

Bacon: 59¢ per pound

These Julia Child-inspired recipes are definitely worth making today.

9 / 18
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ed Kolenovsky/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6639878a) Marilyn Lovell, Barbara Lovell Mrs. James A. Lovell, wife of the pilot of Gemini 7 spacecraft, gets a word of advice from daughter, Barbara, 12, on the purchase of bananas during a food shopping to a supermarket at suburban Seabrook, Texas Mrs. Marilyn Lovell with Barbara Lovell, Houston, USAEd Kolenovsky/AP/REX/Shutterstock

1965


Every year, more and more processed foods were released. In 1965, Spaghetti-O’s and Cool Whip were born. Fondue was popular, and international-inspired cuisine continued to surge in popularity.

The inflation rate means $1 then is closer to $8.07 today.

Milk: $1.05 per gallon

Eggs: 53¢ per dozen

Swanson TV dinner: 65¢ each

Travel back in time with these recipes from the 1960s.

10 / 18
Model Cooking In Kitchen Of The Show House At The Ideal Home Exhibition 1972. Ronald Spencer/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

1970

With a recession in the mid-1970s (due in part to rising grain and oil prices), inflation surged, and many foods became more expensive. Home cooks of the ’70s were enamored of cheese logs, carrot cake and meat loaf.

For reference, $1 in 1970 would be about $6.55 today.

Milk: $1.32 per gallon

Eggs: 60¢ per dozen

Bread: 70¢

Bacon: .85-.95¢ per pound

Find the retro ’70s recipes worth making today.

11 / 18
Picture Shows A Woman Cooking In A Kitchen On Show At The Exhibition. Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock

1975

The ’70s saw the rise of vegetarian cooking, with the classic Moosewood Cookbook released in 1977. At the time, vegetables were often canned and rarely organic, but the revolution had already begun—Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse had been serving farm-to-table fare since 1971. In other health-minded news, the government began to require nutrition labels for food.

Milk: $1.57 per gallon

Eggs: 70¢ per dozen

Ground beef: 99¢ per pound

See what milk cost the year you were born.

12 / 18
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ralph Hampton/REX/Shutterstock (348408b) Model Released - Child cooking helped by her mother Child Cooking - 1981Ralph Hampton/REX/Shutterstock

1980


You could buy a Kenmore electric range for $299 and a Kenmore refrigerator for $449, but spending $1 at Sears would be like spending $3.10 today.

Milk: $2.18 per gallon

Eggs: 83¢ per dozen

Tuna: 99¢ per can

Bacon: $1.39/half pound

Take a look at the McDonald’s menu in the 1980s.

13 / 18
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Crb/AP/REX/Shutterstock (7331873a) Dairy section of a grocery store shown in 1981 Dairy Grocery StoreCrb/AP/REX/Shutterstock

1985


The famous ad campaign—”Milk. It Does a Body Good.”—was born. In some cities, bakers were rejecting quick-rise processed white breads in favor of “artisan breads,” usually made with whole grains, and often with traditional sourdough starters rather than commercial yeast. (Still, commercial bread was as cheap as ever.)

Other popular choices? Pesto anything, blackened anything (think chicken or fish) and creative pizzas, like pizza rolls and deep-dish pies.

Milk: $2.20 per gallon

Eggs: 80¢ per dozen

Bread: 99¢

Ground beef: $1.47/pound

Check out our favorite ’80s recipes, big hair totally optional.

14 / 18
Girl baking cake in kitchenPhotofusion/REX/Shutterstock

1990

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 1990. Down on Earth, Campbell’s was introducing its Cream of Broccoli soup and Stouffers was marketing its frozen entrees to busy parents. If you purchased an item at the grocery store for $1 in 1990, it would cost about $1.96 today.

Milk: $2.78 per gallon

Eggs: 89¢ per dozen

Chicken: 79¢ per pound

Find the best recipes from the early 1910s to the fly 1990s.

15 / 18
WOMAN IN THE KITCHEN PREPARING FOODKudos/REX/Shutterstock

1995

America met the Food Pyramid, a federal recommendation for a healthy diet, which included a base of whole grains and two to three dairy products per day. Another iconic milk ad campaign—”Got Milk?”—came out in the mid-90s. Home cooks embraced making their own bread, with sales of bread machines increasing 320% between 1993 and 1997. Other food trends included fusion cuisine, molten cakes and way too many cosmos.

Milk: $2.50 per gallon

Eggs: 92¢ per dozen

Bread: 89¢

Ground beef: $1.49 per pound

Find recipes from the ’90s worth making again today—including a molten chocolate cake.

16 / 18
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Keith Srakocic/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6456698a) BAKED FUNKY FRIES Packages of the new "Funky Fries" that the H.J. Heinz Co. is marketing through their Ore-Ida brand surround a toaster oven with the "Kool Blue," left, "Crunchy Rings," center, and "Cocoa Crispers," right, varieties prepared in Pittsburgh, . Beginning in May, H.J. Heinz Co. will ship a new line of Ore-Ida frozen potato products called ''Funky Fries'' featuring five new shapes, colors and flavors, all intended to give kids even more say over their parents' grocery store lists FUNKY FRIES, PITTSBURGH, USAKeith Srakocic/AP/REX/Shutterstock

2000


You might remember Starkist tuna in a pouch, Funky Purple ketchup and the introduction of all kinds of bars and bite-sized snacks.

Milk: $2.78 per gallon

Eggs: 96¢ per dozen

Bread: 92¢

Ground beef: $2 per pound

Take a closer look at the most iconic American foods throughout the years.

17 / 18
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Bruce Adams/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock (2158114a) For Femail - Diet/slimming Foods - Range Of Slimming Products From Tesco Boots Slim Fast And Atkins. For Femail - Diet/slimming Foods - Range Of Slimming Products From Tesco Boots Slim Fast And Atkins.Bruce Adams/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock

2005


After years of low-fat diets being common, more Americans turn to low-carb diets, thanks Atkins and South Beach, which focused on meats over carbs. The documentary Super Size Me, released in 2004, encouraged Americans to rethink the drive-thru. Other iconic foods of the aughts? Bacon in everything, cupcakes and food trucks.

Milk: $3.20 per gallon

Eggs: $1 per dozen

Bread: 97¢

Ground beef: $3.29 per pound

See the most memorable dessert from every decade.

18 / 18
Charming neat woman examining contents of the bag; Shutterstock ID 687220006; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/Shutterstock

Today

Many foods are as cheap as they’ve ever been. As reported on NPR, Americans went from spending almost 18% of their income on food in 1960 to just 10% today, even though we spend more money at restaurants.

Milk: $2.90 per gallon

Eggs: $1.54 per dozen

Bread: $1.99 for a loaf

Ground beef: $6.29 per pound

We found the most popular fast food chain in every state.

Note: Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.

Popular Videos