Food Prices in the 1970s

Grocery prices have fluctuated so much over the years that we often ask ourselves why. There were major events that took place over the 1970s that may shed some light on why food prices were the way they were, at least for that decade.

In the summer of 1971 during his presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon imposed a wage and price freeze in order to excite potential voters. By the time he won the election in 1972, he relaxed the freeze, which made grocery prices shoot up. In 1973, the inflation rate reached an all-time high of 20 percent in one year, which caused stay-at-home moms to organize protests at supermarkets. There was also a boycott on meat from April 1st to April 8th. Nixon eventually re-imposed price controls later that year. Groceries steadily increased proportionally to income, and the household income was lower (the minimum hourly wage in the 1970s was $2.10, if you can believe it!)

Here’s a breakdown of what various food cost each year (and don’t forget to visit our article on 1960s food prices here!)

© 1976 Hudson Valley Evening News.

1970:

To put it into perspective, $1 in 1970 would be around $6.55 today.

  • Milk: $1.32 per gallon
  • Eggs: 60 cents per dozen
  • Bread: 70 cents
  • Bacon: 85-95 cents per pound
  • Apples: 59 cents per 4 pounds
  • Bananas: 12 cents per pound
  • Cantaloupe: 89 cents for 3
  • Heinz Kraft® Ketchup: 19 cents

Some of the most popular grocery items were:

  • Cheese logs
  • Carrot cake
  • Meat loaf
  • Gelatin salad
  • Macaroni salad
  • Trifle

1971:

  • Birds Eye (now Heinz Kraft®) Cool Whip: 38 cents
  • Celery: 38 cents
  • Cranberries: 29 cents per pound
  • Fresh turkey: 43 cents per pound
  • Idaho potatoes: 98 cents per 10 pounds
  • Jif® peanut butter: 59 cents
  • Eggs: 25 cents per dozen
  • Sliced loaf of bread: 16 cents

1972:

  • Half-gallon of milk: 59 cents
  • Can of Campbell’s® Soup: 39 cents
  • Bread: 25 cents
  • Milk: $1.33
  • Ragu® spaghetti sauce: 83 cents
  • 2 oz of Nestle® decaf coffee: 54 cents
  • King Oscar® sardines: 41 cents
  • 6 pack of 12 oz cans of Pepsi®: 69 cents

© livinghistoryfarm.org.

1973:

  • Bread: 27 cents
  • Milk: $1.36
  • 12 oz box of Kellogg’s® Corn Flakes: 25 cents
  • 26 oz Hershey’s Chocolate Bar: 10 cents
  • 15 oz Nabisco® Oreo Cookies: 49 cents

1974:

  • McDonald’s Big Mac®: 65 cents
  • McDonald’s regular hamburger: 30 cents
  • Bread: 28 cents
  • Milk: $1.39
  • 18 oz box of Kellogg’s® Corn Flakes: 43 cents
  • 6 pack of 12 oz cans of Pepsi®: 88 cents
  • 4 oz Hershey’s Chocolate Bar: 15 cents

1975:

There was a rise in vegetarian cooking, but vegetables were often canned and rarely organic. This was also the year the government began to require nutrition labels.

  • Milk: $1.57 per gallon
  • Eggs: 70 cents per dozen
  • Ground beef: 99 cents per pound
  • 1.05 oz Hershey’s chocolate bar: 15 cents
  • 12 oz box of Kellogg’s® Corn Flakes: 45 cents
  • McDonalds was celebrating 25 years of business, so even though their regular hamburger was 30 cents, for their birthday celebration on April 20th, they sold them at their original price of 15 cents

© 1976 Hudson Valley Evening News.

1976:

  • Seedless grapes per pound: 49 cents
  • Eggs: 79 cents per dozen
  • Sweet corn: 79 cents per 10 ears
  • 64 oz Coca-Cola®: 69 cents
  • Eggplant per pound: 25 cents
  • 4 oz can of Starkist® Chunk Light Tuna: 49 cents
  • 14 oz Keebler™ Chocolate Chip Cookies: 75 cents
  • 1 pound of chicken breasts with wings: 59 cents

© 1976 Hudson Valley Evening News.

1977:

  • 12 oz box of Kellogg’s® Cornflakes: 50 cents
  • Bread: 32 cents
  • 10 oz can of Campbell’s® Tomato Soup: 19 cents
  • 2 oz Hershey Chocolate Bar: 20 cents
  • 15 oz Nabisco® Oreo Cookies: 89 cents

1978:

  • Fresh grapes: 69 cents per pound
  • Frozen vegetables: 79 cents
  • Ground beef: 98 cents per pound
  • Margarine: 59 cents per pound
  • Kraft® Miracle Whip: $1.09
  • Pot roast: 79 cents per pound
  • Tomatoes: 49 cents per pound

© The Pittsburgh Press.

1979:

  • Bread: 40 cents
  • Milk: $1.50
  • 12 oz box of Kellogg’s® Corn Flakes: 59 cents
  • 10 oz can of Campbell’s® Tomato Soup: 10 cents
  • McDonald’s regular hamburger: 38 cents
  • 15 oz Nabisco® Oreo Cookies: $1.05

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/this-is-what-groceries-cost-the-year-you-were-born/

http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/70sfood.html

https://www.metv.com/quiz/how-much-did-these-items-cost-in-the-1970s

http://stuffnobodycaresabout.com/2016/07/23/food-prices-in-1976/

https://livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe70s/money_03.html

http://www.inthe70s.com/prices.shtml

http://boomersbuzz.com/how-much-did-it-cost-to-live-in-the-1970s/

https://priceisright.fandom.com/wiki/1970s_Grocery_items

https://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq5.html

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