ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION, OF COURSE

The cover of a small paperback kicking around our house these days keeps catching my attention: How I Feed My Family on $16 a Week.

I know it’s an old book. When I was head cook in the ashram, back in the early ’70s, I faced similar constraints and ours was a vegetarian diet. This one has a subtitle that amuses me – (And Have Meat, Fish or Poultry on the Table Every Night). From a vegetarian point of view, it’s all flesh – that is, all three are meat with no distinction.

That aside, I looked for the original price of the book, $1.75, and the copyright, 1975. Prices have gone up in the intervening years. In this case, those groceries would cost $70.52 today if the general inflation calculator holds. Some food items, like seafood or lamb ribs, have shot up much more. Others, though, like boneless chicken breasts, have gone down in relative terms. Still, as the food economist in our household points out, you couldn’t do these recipes on that adjusted budget these days – it would be mostly beans and no meat. The bottom line’s less than a food-stamps allotment.

And I thought I was doing well on $40 a week for just me – 30 years ago, when I gave myself a sabbatical. Hate to think what that would cost now!

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