Food prices in the Great Depression of the 1930s were somewhat paradoxical, when you look back and think everything was so cheap, yet, at the same time, they were way too expensive for many people who lived in those times.
Food prices were not much of an issue for those who worked during the Great Depression, as they could afford daily necessities, and perhaps a few extras, such as a movie or ice cream; But, for those who were unemployed, even in everyday life, basic necessities were completely out of reach.
In fact, it wasn’t that food prices were high, but the lack or absence of money that kept most things people not only wanted, but needed, at arm’s length, or on the other side of a glass shop window. .
Imagine that you can’t run to the store and get the food you want, the clothes, and the medicine if you need it; Hence the inability to afford a mortgage, rent, electricity or cooking gas. Can you go without?
Who, in our affluent day and age, could deal with that kind of inconvenience, when we used to flip the light switch in the morning, and turn on the automatic coffee machine to relieve some of those twelve dollars–a pound of ground-bought specialty coffee beans–after already enjoying the taste of The big six dollar mocha with friends.
There is no such thing for families during the Great Depression, given their poor circumstances. Imagine buying just one cup (if you can get one today) of coffee with cream and sugar, for five cents; a breakfast of two eggs and toast with a piece of muffin and a cup of coffee for 25 cents; Or a candy bar for a dime a dozen.
It doesn’t sound like much, except that those who were employed probably only made $2 or $3 a day, but when you don’t have a few small coins, Depression-era food prices seemed pretty high! For those who had money, life was, no doubt, more comfortable even considering the times, but for those who had to skimp and scrape to put food on the table, their days were filled with anxiety and strife.
Many mothers were often without food, so their children had more food. She did not spend her wages foolishly, if she had any, but used them for the things which were necessary for the survival of her family. It was every cent.
As money was scarce during the Great Depression, families ran out of what little they might have earned, from some kind of work, or perhaps from the acquisition of something of sentimental value.
To make matters worse, families’ lives were often endangered or faced serious challenges, as men set off to other parts of the country in search of work. Some of the men, however, never returned but, instead, turned to illegal activities in hopes of earning, or to alcohol, which only worsened their problems and those of their families. Some even chose suicide.
In any case, most people had nowhere to turn, because borrowing from their neighbors or relatives would cause them more problems. Local stores may have extended credit to some people, but they were rarely allowed to pay, as some people were still paying bills due, long after the war had ended, following the Great Depression.
Money – or the lack of it – was the main thing that controlled millions of lives for many years during the early part of this century. It is no different today. Money, for many people, one way or another, still rules.
Troubled times are coming again for those who don’t think so, as many people around the world are suffering, from our already ailing economy. I’ve certainly noticed that food prices are currently soaring (or, more realistically, the dollar’s depreciation), as a half-empty bag of groceries costs a lot more today than it did not so long ago.
But hey! There is hope, and for those in the know, there is no reason to be surprised and despondent by these difficult times ahead. We can take precautions, plan and prepare to manage our current and future lifestyle by staying ahead of the game.
We can learn more about the food prices of the Great Depression, and valuable ways on how to prepare ourselves and our families, for what may be, more or less, depending on our circumstances, a lot like, or worse than, the Great Depression of the 1930s.