1917 was a rough year for families. World War I was raging in Europe, and inflation was rampant. Food prices increased that year at the fastest rate they have ever increased in U.S. history. According to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report titled Consumers and Food Price Inflation, “Food inflation hit its all-time high of 28.7% in 1917.”
There are lots of articles in 1917 magazines about the high cost of food. Here’s some excerpts from a hundred-year-old article about how to beat the high cost of food.
Woman’s Wit Pitted Against High Food Prices
We’re racing this year against an ever-soaring opponent, an opponent who has no thought of fairness or humanity, no thought of anything but his own variable wish. You all know whom I mean – Mr. High Cost of Food.
He is a strong opponent. We’re finding him pretty hard to beat. When he rises as he as risen in just the last year, we’re apt to forget about beating him, and give up in despair, for most of our incomes have remained stationary, while the cost of food has grown to monster size, and the elephantine cost of food, we shudder with a “What’s the use?”
To win in any race one must know one’s ground. And the ground in my case was food values–what foods give the most nourishment for the money expended, what foods can take the place of others; it was knowing how to market in order to find out what was there, and to get the best of what I wanted; it was saving of food through proper cooking; it was making use of every ounce I had of brains, perseverance and skills.
It isn’t easy to win the race against food prices- I haven’t won yet, but I’m constantly finding new ways of economy, from studying and discovering food facts. But I know I am going to win, for practical knowledge is the best sort of whip. And when I have the whip hand, why fear even Mr. High Cost of Food?
Ladies Home Journal (April, 1917)