In January 1913, when the U.S. Department of Labor was formed, the buffalo nickel would soon replace the Liberty Head nickel, women were protesting for the right to vote, and a family could buy a pound of potatoes for less than two cents. Fast forward 100 years to January 2013, when the U.S. Department of Labor is a century old, credit cards and online purchases are the more common forms of payment than the cash purchases of 1913, a record number of women are elected to Congress, and a pound of potatoes now costs 62 cents. These historic comparisons show how much has changed in the United States, and food prices have changed as well.
To examine prices over time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has Consumer Price Index (CPI) data going back to January 1913 and a few average prices going back to at least that far. This article summarizes some average food prices over the last century. Table 1 lists selected food average prices a century apart.