Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food

According to the historical consumer price index, 30 cents in August 1917 was worth $5.65 in June 2017, the most recent month for which inflation can be calculated. Can you live on $5.65 worth of food per day in the modern era?

The article portrays it as a major feat, but it actually doesn’t strike me as too difficult, especially if you eat homemade prepared meals and don’t eat out. Get some bread, turkey, American cheese, and mayonnaise — you can make two sandwiches for lunch at the cost of, what, maybe a dollar or two? Have some Cheerios and milk for breakfast, that’s maybe another dollar or two.

But you would almost certainly have to spend more than $5.65 to eat what the author, Dr. Mary K. Isham, describes over the course of a day:

  • “A bowl of steamed whole wheat with milk and sugar” [for breakfast]
  • “Three cheese sandwiches, a large glass of iced whiskyless eggnor with a few  drops of vanilla instead, and a big banana” [“for luncheon”]
  • “Two slices of beef loaf, baked yesterday; boiled corn on the cob, a plate of combination salad, three slices of bread and butter, coffee, half a sugar melon, and two wafers of chocolate peppermint” [for dinner]

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food: New York Doctor Tells How She Manages to Spend Only That Much for Three Square Meals Consisting of First-Class Viands

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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