Recipes over the history were partly influenced by the price and availability of the ingredients. E.g., lobsters, which nowadays are typically rather expensive, used to be very cheap:

When the first European settlers reached North America, lobsters were so plentiful that they would reportedly wash ashore in piles up to 2 feet high. Their bounty made them a precious source of sustenance during hard times—and gave them a nasty reputation as the poor man’s protein.

Where can I view the pricing evolution for a given type of food?

  • You might be better requesting migration to the history SE, if it is on-topic there.
    – bob1
    Jul 5, 2022 at 0:06
  • bls.gov/cpi/factsheets/average-prices.htm for the past few decades
    – Joe
    Jul 5, 2022 at 10:04
  • @bob1 thanks I was unsure whether to post it here, on history SE or opendata SE. We need "crossover questions" between sites imho. Jul 5, 2022 at 20:37
  • I'd tend to say that since this is about price history, it belongs on History SE. But the HSE mods might feel differently. Also, if you ask it on HSE, you might get more links to online references that track specific foods costs over time.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 5, 2022 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


This is really a more appropriate question for History SE, but the answer is simple so fielding it:

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: there are, in fact, many sources. But each of them only covers specific time periods for specific foods, and all of them require a lot of background knowledge and context. For example, "a loaf of bread" means different things at different times in different cultures. And, once you jump back more than 100 years or so, it's impossible to assign unqualified "in 2020 dollars" prices to things, because people's lives, wealth, and earning power are so different. Like, was a one-penny loaf expensive or cheap in 1717? It Depends.

The information you're asking for isn't a spreadsheet or even a book -- it's a college-level course in economic history.

  • 1
    If you're into this, there are many fascinating books on food history you can read. For example, Kurlansky's The Big Oyster goes over how oysters were a cheap, sometimes free, staple food in 18th and 19th century New York. The book "White Bread" covers the history of bread from 1890 to 1980 in the US, including notes about relative pricing.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 5, 2022 at 20:39

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