Oysters, Lobster, and 8 Other Pricey Foods That Used to Be Cheap

They used to be foods that anyone could afford, but now they're mostly for the 1 percent


Sushi was invented as an inexpensive way to preserve fish, and evolved into a Japanese "fast food."

Many high-end foods, the kinds you only find on menus at fancy, expensive restaurants, didn’t used to cost a lot at all. In fact, some of the most expensive and luxurious foods on earth were once so cheap that even the poor could afford them — and even sometimes had so much of them that they ended up refusing to eat more.  

Oysters, Lobster, and 8 Other Pricey Foods That Used to Be Cheap​ (Slideshow)

There are several reasons why foods that are expensive today once cost a lot less — changing tastes is one — but the most common one is simple supply and demand. Some foods that used to be abundant are now scarce for various reasons, often environmental; when they were plentiful, the upper classes eschewed them because they were considered peasant food, and now that they’re harder to come, they're seen as prestigious and worth any price.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of foods that were once considered luxury items, reserved only for the wealthy, that are today inexpensive and abundant. Largely due to mass production enabled by the industrial revolution and a global economy, items like sugar, chocolate, spices, beef, and tropical fruits are now cheap and available at every food store.

Read on to learn about 10 foods that were once far less expensive than they are now. And who knows – in a hundred years, foods like bananas, chocolate, coffee, honey, and maple syrup might be much more difficult to come by then they are now, and their prices might skyrocket. In the meantime, we’ll be crossing our fingers that the price of white truffles drops to an affordable place.


In the 1800s, caviar was so inexpensive that bars and saloons used to serve it for free, on sandwiches. Today it’s one of the priciest foods around, and while you can still find low-grade versions that are relatively inexpensive, don’t expect to see anyone giving it away.

Foie Gras


Foie gras today has a reputation for being an upscale French delicacy, but in reality the fattened liver of a goose has been eaten since ancient Egyptian times. And in medieval times, it served as a source of inexpensive kosher fat and was a hallmark of Jewish peasant cuisine. During the Renaissance, it first began to be considered a delicacy by the wealthy, who would send their servants to the Jewish ghettos of Rome to find the stuff.