What Food a Dollar Could Buy the Year You Were Born
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What Food a Dollar Could Buy the Year You Were Born

We may think of $1 as pocket change today, but it used to go a long way
What Food a Dollar Could Buy the Year You Were Born
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Spend enough time chatting with someone who’s been around for a while, and the conversation can quickly turn to how much less expensive everything used to be. Penny candy used to actually cost a penny, the five-and-dime actually used to sell items that cost 5 and 10 cents, a dozen eggs set you back less than a dollar and a McDonald’s burger cost just 15 cents. So it goes without saying that once upon a time, a dollar could go a lot further than it currently does.

In order to learn just how far a dollar could take you at both the grocery store and at the restaurant back in the day, we consulted a couple great resources: the New York Public Library’s extensive database of menus from around the country and the Morris County Library’s meticulous record of staple food and drink prices.

Even though this trip down memory lane might make it seem like everything was cheaper back in the day, don’t forget about a little thing called inflation. In 1950, for example, a dollar was worth $10.65 in today’s money, and in 1980, it was worth $3.11. That said, it’s fascinating to see just how far $1 was once able to take you.

1937: A roast spring chicken

1937: A roast spring chicken
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In 1937, you could buy a whole roast chicken at a New York restaurant called Yee Hop for a buck. Today, you can’t even buy the herbs to make your own roast chicken for that much.

1938: Steamed clams

1938: Steamed clams
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In 1938, a dollar could buy you one of the most expensive items on the menu at Paul’s Ship Ahoy restaurant in Los Angeles: steamed clams with drawn butter.

1939: 4 pounds of butter

1939: 4 pounds of butter
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In 1939, you could buy 4 pounds of butter at the grocery store for just one buck.

1940: 4 cans of coffee

1940: 4 cans of coffee
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In 1940, four 1-pound cans of Ehlers coffee could be bought at the grocery store for just $1.

1941: 3 pounds of top sirloin

1941: 3 pounds of top sirloin
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If you were hosting a dinner party in 1941, you could pick up 3 pounds of top sirloin at the butcher shop for a buck.

1942: 4 jars of mayonnaise

1942: 4 jars of mayonnaise
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You could stock up on four 1-pint jars of mayonnaise for just a dollar in 1942.

1943: Braised stuffed cabbage

1943: Braised stuffed cabbage
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If you happened to find yourself at New York City’s popular Hotel New Yorker with a dollar in your pocket in December of 1943, you could enjoy a dinner of braised stuffed cabbage with rice and paprika sauce, bread and coffee or tea.

1944: 2 broiled pork chops

1944: 2 broiled pork chops
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You could drop into New York’s nautical-themed Mike’s Ship-A-Hoy restaurant and order two broiled pork chops for a dollar in 1945. If you had another dollar in your pocket, you could get an order of Beluga caviar, which used to be much cheaper than it is now.

1945: 5 jars of grape jelly

1945: 5 jars of grape jelly
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If you needed to make a whole bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in 1945, you could buy five jars of grape jelly for a buck.

1946: 12 cans of Campbell’s tomato soup

1946: 12 cans of Campbell’s tomato soup
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You could buy a whopping 12 cans of Campbell’s tomato soup for a buck in 1946. If you weren’t looking to stockpile, you could get a reasonable amount of soup (three cans) for a quarter.

1947: 4 bottles of Heinz ketchup

1947: 4 bottles of Heinz ketchup
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In 1947, the average price for a 14-ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup was 24 cents.

1948: Broiled oysters on toast

1948: Broiled oysters on toast
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Back in 1948, you could visit Pittsburgh’s legendary (but long-gone) restaurant Klein’s and order a dish of oh-so-retro broiled oysters on toast for a dollar. Something called Jim’s Special Stew was also on offer for a buck, but we’re a bit wary.

1949: 4 packages of Velveeta

1949: 4 packages of Velveeta
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Smooth, creamy, cheesy Velveeta (which was once advertised as a health food) cost 25 cents for an 8-ounce package in 1949.

1950: 8 pounds of grapes

1950: 8 pounds of grapes
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Grapes were about 12 cents a pound in 1950, so you could get 8 pounds of grapes for a dollar.

1951: Greek salad for 3 or 4

1951: Greek salad for 3 or 4
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If you visited Boston’s Athens-Olympia Cafe in 1951, you could start your meal with a Greek salad for the table for a dollar.

1952: Knackwurst with sauerkraut and whipped potatoes

1952: Knackwurst with sauerkraut and whipped potatoes
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If you decided to vacation in Miami Beach in 1952 and visit the Sherry Normandie restaurant, you could order a garlicky knackwurst sausage for $1.10. Diners who spent a little more got the all-you-can-eat rock lobster for two bucks.

1953: 2 pounds of American cheese

1953: 2 pounds of American cheese

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Two pounds of grocery store-bought American cheese would have cost you a dollar in 1953.

1954: A club sandwich

1954: A club sandwich
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In 1954, a classic club sandwich would have only set you back a buck at the River View Inn in Delawanna, New Jersey.

1955: 4 jars of pickles

1955: 4 jars of pickles
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For just one buck, you could purchase four 32-ounce jars of pickles at your local grocery store in 1955.

1956: 2 pounds of Keebler cookies

1956: 2 pounds of Keebler cookies
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In 1956, Keebler’s coconut cookies were selling for 49 cents per pound.

1957: 4 boxes of Nestle cocoa

1957: 4 boxes of Nestle cocoa
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8-ounce boxes of Nestle cocoa sold for just 25 cents in 1957.

1958: 24 lemons

1958: 24 lemons
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You could buy six lemons for 25 cents in 1958.

1959: A hot corned beef or pastrami sandwich

1959: A hot corned beef or pastrami sandwich
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If you visited Castle Restaurant in North Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1959, you could have enjoyed a hot corned beef or pastrami sandwich for a dollar.

1960: 2 packages of Cap’n John’s Flounder Fillet

1960: 2 packages of Cap’n John’s Flounder Fillet
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If you felt like heating up some frozen fish for dinner in 1969, you could get two 10-ounce packages of Cap’n John’s Flounder Fillet for just a buck.

1961: 2 pounds of bacon

1961: 2 pounds of bacon
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You could buy 2 pounds of bacon for a dollar in 1961. That's a lot of BLTs!

1962: 4 large bunches of broccoli

1962: 4 large bunches of broccoli
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If you were looking to stock up on broccoli in 1962, you could buy a large bunch for a quarter.

1963: 3 cans of Planters peanuts

1963: 3 cans of Planters peanuts
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In 1963, you could buy three 7-ounce cans of Planters peanuts for a buck.

1964: 3 cans of Chicken of the Sea tuna

1964: 3 cans of Chicken of the Sea tuna
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You could buy three 6.5-ounce cans of Chicken of the Sea tuna in 1964 for a dollar.

1965: A ham sandwich

1965: A ham sandwich
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If you stopped into Chicago’s Conrad Hilton for lunch in 1965, you could fill up on a ham sandwich for $1.05.

1966: Shrimp or oyster cocktail

1966: Shrimp or oyster cocktail

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By 1965, it became tricky to find an entree for less than a buck at a sit-down restaurant, but at Savannah’s Pirates’ House (which still exists, and is one of America’s oldest restaurants), you could start your meal with a shrimp or oyster cocktail for $1.10.

1967: Celery stuffed with Roquefort

1967: Celery stuffed with Roquefort

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Haussner’s, one of Baltimore’s most legendary restaurants, was in business from 1926 to 1999. If you paid it a visit in 1967 with just a dollar in your pocket, however, Roquefort cheese-stuffed celery would have been one of the only things on the menu you could have afforded.

1968: 3 bags of frozen french fries

1968: 3 bags of frozen french fries
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In 1968, you could buy three 2-pound bags of frozen french fries for a dollar.

1969: Shrimp remoulade

1969: Shrimp remoulade

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If you visited New Orleans’ famed Court of Two Sisters in 1969, you could have sampled the classic Creole dish shrimp remoulade for a dollar.

1970: A BLT

1970: A BLT
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At the historic Colonial Inn in Concord, Massachusetts, you could have bought a toasted bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for $1.10 in 1970.

1971: Wendy’s double hamburger

1971: Wendy’s double hamburger
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Wendy’s introduced the drive-thru window in 1971, and it was the first chain to do so successfully, catapulting the brand to national stardom. If you were one of the first to “drive-thru” it, you could have picked up a double-patty burger for 95 cents.

1972: 2 pounds of margarine

1972: 2 pounds of margarine
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In 1972, you could buy a pound of Fleischmann’s margarine for 49 cents.

1973: Chicken salad sandwich

1973: Chicken salad sandwich
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If you’d stopped in for lunch at Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel in 1973, you could have purchased a chicken salad sandwich for a dollar.

1974: Hot cakes with butter and maple syrup

1974: Hot cakes with butter and maple syrup
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After spending the night at the Lake McDonald Lodge in Montana’s Glacier National Park in 1974, you could treat yourself to a plate of hot cakes with butter and maple syrup for breakfast for a dollar.

1975: 1 pound of Chock full o’Nuts coffee

1975: 1 pound of Chock full o’Nuts coffee
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A one-pound can of the “Heavenly Coffee” would have cost you a buck in 1975.

1976: 5 cucumbers

1976: 5 cucumbers
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In 1976, you could buy five cucumbers for a dollar.

1977: 2 packages of spaghetti

1977: 2 packages of spaghetti

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In 1977, two 1-pound boxes of Mueller’s spaghetti would have cost $1.

1978: 5 pounds of onions

1978: 5 pounds of onions
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You could buy 5 pounds of onions for a dollar in 1978.

1979: 1 jar of Skippy peanut butter

1979: 1 jar of Skippy peanut butter
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An 18-ounce jar of Skippy peanut butter would have set you back just 99 cents in 1979.

1980: 3 containers of La Yogurt

1980: 3 containers of La Yogurt
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You could buy three 6-ounce containers of trendy La Yogurt for a dollar in 1980.

1981: A tossed garden greens salad

1981: A tossed garden greens salad
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The Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered a tossed garden greens salad for $1 in 1981.

1982: A package of Keebler crackers

1982: A package of Keebler crackers
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A 1-pound package of Keebler crackers would have cost you a buck in 1982.

1983: 1 gallon of orange juice

1983: 1 gallon of orange juice
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A gallon of from-concentrate orange juice from the now-defunct brand Sealtest cost a dollar in 1983.

1984: 1 dozen eggs

1984: 1 dozen eggs
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The price of a dozen eggs hit $1 for the first time in 1984.

1985: 1 bag of potatoes

1985: 1 bag of potatoes
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In 1985, you could grab a 5-pound bag of potatoes for 99 cents.

1986: A can of tuna

1986:  A can of tuna
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In 1986, a can of StarKist white tuna would have set you back a dollar.

1987: An egg roll

1987: An egg roll
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By 1987, the most you could expect to get from a non-fast food restaurant for a buck was an egg roll, like the one offered at China Regency in New York City.

1988: 3 cans of Van Camp’s pork and beans

1988: 3 cans of Van Camp’s pork and beans
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In 1988, three 1-pound cans of Van Camp’s pork and beans could be bought at the supermarket for a dollar.

1989: A box of Kellogg’s corn flakes

1989: A box of Kellogg’s corn flakes
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In 1989, a 12-ounce box of Kellogg’s corn flakes cost 99 cents.

1990: 2 containers of Yoplait

1990: 2 containers of Yoplait
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Two 6-ounce containers of Yoplait yogurt would have cost a dollar in 1990.

1991: A bag of sugar

1991: A bag of sugar
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A 5-pound bag of Domino sugar would have cost a dollar in 1991.

1992: 1 pound of Red Delicious apples

1992: 1 pound of Red Delicious apples
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A pound of Red Delicious apples cost 99 cents in 1992.

1993: A bottle of Coca-Cola

1993: A bottle of Coca-Cola
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In 1993, you could have bought a 2-liter bottle of Coke for a dollar.

1994: 1 pound of hot dogs

1994: 1 pound of hot dogs
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In 1994, you could buy a pound of Armour hot dogs for 99 cents at the grocery store.
 

1995: 1 pound of Farmland bacon

1995: 1 pound of Farmland bacon
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It took 25 years for the price of bacon to double; you could buy a pound of Farmland bacon for 99 cents in 1995.
 

1996: 6 cans of soda

1996: 6 cans of soda
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In 1996, six 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola were being sold for 99 cents.
 

1997: A package of fresh mushrooms

1997: A package of fresh mushrooms
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A fresh 10-ounce package of mushrooms went for just 99 cents in 1997.

1998: A cantaloupe

1998: A cantaloupe
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A cantaloupe would have set you back 99 cents in 1998.

1999: 10 ears of corn

1999: 10 ears of yellow or white corn
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In 1999, you could buy 10 ears of yellow or white corn at the supermarket for just 99 cents.