Thursday, October 1, 2009

Inflatable Tomatoes and Potatoes

Tater Tot and tomato soup collage
Today's Star Tribune celebrated the 40th anniversary of the paper's Taste section. They've put up a gallery of memorable cover art, and as part of the retrospective, they printed a list of prices for food products in 1969 and 2009.

According to the U.S. Inflation Calculator, the inflation rate between 1969 and 2009 was 588 percent. Of course, not everything inflates at the same rate, and a substantial number of things even deflate (like consumer electronics).

But it's fun to compute the inflation rates for the various food items listed in the Strib:

1 dozen eggs -- 331 percent
1 pound bananas -- 453 percent
1 pound Oscar Meier all-beef hotdogs -- 467 percent
1 pound butter -- 477 percent
7.25 ounce box of Kraft macaroni and cheese -- 575 percent
15 ounce can of Spaghettios -- 582 percent
----general inflation 588 percent----
1 bunch celery -- 596 percent
20 ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup -- 664 percent
24 ounce bottle of Log Cabin pancake syrup -- 676 percent
1 pound Bartlett pears -- 676 percent
Can of Festal pumpkin -- 679 percent
3 pound can of Crisco -- 723 percent
10 pound bag of Pillsbury's Best Flour -- 723 percent
3 pound bag of Red Delicious apples -- 767 percent
46-ounce bottle of V8 juice -- 844 percent
1 head of iceberg lettuce -- 889 percent
2 pound bag of Ore-Ida Tater Tots -- 921 percent
1 can Campbell's tomato soup -- 990 percent

Six items went up less than overall inflation; twelve went up more.

For the sake of comparision, I found out that an economy car in 1969 cost about $2,000; a Toyota Yaris, today, costs $12,000 -- 600 percent more, or very close to the inflation rate.

According to the U.S. Census, the median price of a home in 1969 was about $25,000; in 2009, it was about $212,000 -- an 848 percent increase, despite the price deflation following the recent collapse of the housing bubble.

I can't help wondering... what makes Tater Tots and tomato soup go up in price even more than a house?


Ms Sparrow said...

That's some impressive math. Which begs the question, if inflation rises that much every 40 years, where will it all end!?

Daughter Number Three said...

When I think about inflation, I always remember the scene in the movie I, Robot where Will Smith's character is in a greasy spoon breakfast place and has to pay close to $30 for eggs and bacon.

That's what these numbers made me think of -- that's how 2009 prices would have seemed to someone on 1969.