Cost of living: Newspaper from 1970s shows difference in price of food

We've all heard our grandparents complain, "Back in my day, bread cost 10 cents". 

But how does that really compare to today?

Newshub has the answer, with a newspaper from the 1970s revealing while on paper prices looked cheap, they matched the general increase of inflation. 

An advertisement in the NZ Herald newspaper from Wednesday, May 13 1970 for food sold at IGA supermarket showed a range of food items and their price. 

The items included rice, chicken, a colouring book, an alarm clock, rubber tyre door mats, an umbrella and risotto. 

Newshub decided to compare the cost of some of the items listed in the newspaper to the price currently. 

Long grain rice (4.5kg) in 1970 was $0.15. When this was compared to the three major supermarkets in New Zealand, Value brown long grain rice was $1.99 for 1kg at Pak'nSave, $2.09 at New World and Essentials 1kg of long grain rice was $2.20 at Countdown.

K Green Peas (454g) sold in a can was two for $0.20 back in 1970. At New World, OAK Garden Peas (420g) was $2.19, the same brand at New World was $2.29 and Countdown Garden Peas (420g) was $2.50.

Another popular item nowadays is Maggi soup. Back in the 1970s, you could get three for $0.31 from the IGA supermarket. When you compared this to today, New World and Pak'nSave sold Maggie Onion Soup for $1.29 and the same brand sold at Countdown was $1.70. 

A common breakfast item, Baked Beans, was being sold for $0.18 back in 1970 and, when you compare this to today, Watties Baked Beans (420g) at Pak'nSave and New World was selling for $1.29 and it was $1.70 at Countdown. 

Sunshine rice risotto was sold for $0.19 back in 1970 but when looking at Pak'nSave it cost Kiwis $2.99 for Diamond rice risotto. At Countdown the same item was $3.40 while at New World it was $3.49. 

Cost of living: Newspaper from 1970s shows difference in price of food
Photo credit: Newshub

While on paper some of the prices from 1970 look incredibly cheap, in today's day in age, as Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen explains, they're about in line with inflation. 

Food prices and headline inflation have moved broadly in line with general prices, which have increased by 5.7 percent per annum on average since 1970, Olsen said. 

Annual food price inflation is currently at 12.5 percent - its highest rate since GST was introduced in 1986. 

But while food price inflation is high right now, it's not the highest it's ever been.

Food price inflation peaked at an all-time high of 25 percent in March 1980, building on large cost increases in the late 1970s. It rose more than 15 percent per annum in 1973, 1976, 1977, and 1979.

Over the past 53 years (since 1970), New Zealand's food price inflation has averaged 5.8 percent per annum, Olsen told Newshub. 

"Part of the trend of food price inflation being higher than headline inflation is with food, it's difficult to achieve improved outcomes from the same product," Olsen explained. 

"For example, an electronic item (a phone) can do more things today for the same price or, at least, usually the increase in capability for the phone is greater than the increase in price, so the per-unit output for some items like electronics over time can decline. 

"But a tomato is still a tomato and so there are not as many avenues to increase per-unit output in the food space. Over time changes to food growing etc have achieved greater outcomes but not to the same degree as other areas." 

Cost of living: Newspaper from 1970s shows difference in price of food
Photo credit: Supplied

In 1970, New Zealand's population hadn't quite reached 3 million and the average weekly wage was $95, which is equivalent to $920 in 2018. 

An Auckland Star newspaper from 1975 showed properties for sale were largely priced in a range between the early $20,000s and the early $50,000s, according to Stuff. 

The findings come after Stats NZ revealed on Thursday the price of food continued to skyrocket - up 12.5 percent from a year earlier. 

Stats NZ's latest data showed fruit and vegetable prices rose by 22 percent from the previous year with tomato, kūmara, and potato costs all gaining. 

Grocery food prices also rose by 12.8 percent year-on-year.