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Monday, March 4, 2013

Potatoes two cents a pound in 1913; price now eight times higher when buying in bulk

A lot has changed in the last 100 years since your great grandma was shopping for groceries, and the U.S. Department of Labor has documented those changes. In 1913, great grandma was buying potatoes at $.02 per lbs. You can expect to pay between $.15 and $.66 per pound for potatoes depending on whether you buy 50 lbs. or 2 lbs. of potatoes - it's cheaper to buy in bulk!

To examine prices over time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has Consumer Price Index (CPI) data going back to January 1913 and a few average prices going back to at least that far.

Here are some other interesting facts of changes...

By 2013, flour had replaced potatoes as the cheapest item per pound among the items tracked. And while potatoes remain among the cheapest food items today, potato prices have increased over 39-fold since 1913, the sharpest rate of increase seen of the items tracked over the past century.

Of the items listed on a per pound basis, butter was the most expensive in 1913, selling for slightly more than 40 cents per pound. By 2013, prices for coffee, steak (round and sirloin), chuck roast, bacon, and cheese were all significantly higher than butter.

Of the average price items listed, egg prices have increased the least, up about 5-fold in the last century, as advances in production, delivery, and storage techniques have outpaced those seen for most other food items.

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