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Groceries 'Cheaper' Now Than in 1862, Grocer Magazine Finds


Groceries today cost one-thirteenth of what they did 150 years ago, according to a study from The Grocer magazine. The magazine applied an inflation measure to the 1862 prices of 33 items including eggs, hot chocolate, bread, grapes, a toothbrush and sherry.

The weekly basket of food, drink and household items priced at £93.95 now would have cost an 1862 shopper £1,254.17 in real terms.

The magazine put the fall down to wage increases and greater imports.

The Grocer carried out the analysis to mark its 150th birthday.

While a Victorian shopper would spend a third of their money on food - today our grocery shop accounts for less than 10% of our weekly expense, it said.

It found the biggest relative changes were seen in non-native fruits

This week a pineapple cost an average of £1.72 but in 1862 it sold for 5s - estimated to cost £149 in real terms.

1862 v 2012 prices in real terms

  • Pineapple: 8,553% higher
  • Grapes 1kg: 7,419% higher
  • Melon: 5,972% higher
  • Tea 250g: 2,713% higher
  • Butter 250g: 1,138% higher
  • Bread 800g: 451% higher

The magazine said this meant the 1862 price was 8,553% higher when adjusted for inflation.

Similarly, the 1862 price of 1kg of grapes was 7,419% higher while the cost of a melon was 5,971% higher, according to the calculations.

"The reason food is so much cheaper in real terms today is that wages have gone up 10-fold over the last 150 years, while technological changes have made food from around the world readily available," wrote reporter Elinor Zuke.

"In 1862 the average shopper would have spent about a third of their earnings on groceries, whereas now it is around 7% or 12% if you include eating out.

She added: "Twenty years later, in 1882, butter was shipped to the UK from New Zealand for the first time. Butter and lamb from New Zealand are a good example of how bringing food from different places has made it more available and hence cheaper."

Source: BBC - Groceries 'Cheaper' Now Than in 1862, Grocer Magazine Finds