With recent skyrocketing food prices, many people find themselves reminiscing of the grocery shopping of yesteryear. The BC Historical Newspaper collection provides many great snapshots of grocery store advertisements throughout the 1900s. Here is a collated selection of various newspapers advertising from around British Columbia. One advertisement was chosen for each decade, and multiple newspapers were sourced to provide a representation of different locations throughout the province. The Bank of Canada has an inflation calculator that can be found here to compare prices to today’s grocery store prices.
Some interesting notes from the images:
- Potatoes used to be sold in quantities of 100lbs in the early 1900s.
- Even with the recent rising prices of eggs, they are cheaper now than they used to be in the early to mid 1900s when adjusting for inflation.
- Steak is at a seemingly all-time high.
- When adjusting for inflation, the price of ground coffee has fluctuated over time, but stayed relatively the same.
- Kraft Cheez Whiz has been around since the 1950s
The inflation calculator does not go as far back as 1904, but chocolate, bananas, and cocoa seem very expensive while staple foods such as rice, cabbage, onions, potatoes, sugar, and flour are all affordable.
It is interesting that poultry is separate while seafood and meat are grouped together. Some items are sold in weight units while others are unlabelled or sold as “sacks” or “quarters” which makes judging the value of the items difficult.
It isn’t exactly obvious what the difference is between figs and cooking figs, but at least Pork and Beans are on sale. The Spanish Onions from C. J. Inkman seem like a bargain and don’t forget to pick up Ketchup from E. J. Webb either. Both stores have two and three digit phone numbers too!
“Snap” most likely refers to the Hand Cleaner sold in tins. It is unclear what “Multiplier” is in this context. Oranges are quite expensive back in 1935!
Check out the blog post for Advertisements in Wartime for more information on Cowan’s Perfection cocoa. Overall prices seem fairly high, but that may just be because this advertisement was published less than a month before VE day and much of the economy was still dedicated to the war effort.
Thursdays qualified as weekends according to this store. Huckleberries are available in the produce section and Watermelon is in season! Picking seems to have become a big thing if the notice at the bottom is to be believed.
Instant coffee is very expensive, but just about everything else on the page seems very reasonable!
This store appears to have been giving away many different prizes for their grand opening, hopefully whoever won the trip to Hawaii enjoyed it! The Wagon Wheels and Smoked Picnics are great deals from the store.
This store took out a full two pages for their ad. Frozen pizzas are a lot more affordable now than they used to be. Welch’s needed to find a better name for their product than “grape drink.” Someone could make great tomato soup and grilled cheese from everything that’s on sale.
Plush Kittens sneaking their way into a grocery store advertisement. Turkey is on sale right before Christmas time. The price of Steak is on its way up too.
For more grocery shopping ads, please visit BC Historical Newspapers in Open Collections. Thank you for reading!