Ask Aunt Ruthie FAQ on Food/General Goods


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This page contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and answers regarding food, general goods and prices of items (including food) in the 1930s time period. The questions are organized by sub-category as best as possible.

Question Index


General Goods


Questions and Answers


Q: What types of food would eat in a typical day?

A: I can only tell you what type of diet we had at that time.  As these years were economically tough I am afraid the diet was not too varied but my folks did the best they could.

Breakfast:  Hot Oatmeal milk and sugar and perhaps a glass of milk. Perhaps hot porridge.

Lunch:  Home Made Soup with Bread  or  Sandwich of some sort Possibly with peanut butter or banana.

Supper:  We ate a lot of hamburg as it was the cheapest meat. Potato and perhaps cabbage (or some kind of vegetable). Possibly a repeat of lunch if there was enough left over from lunch.

Also ate a lot of stews. Hamburg was the meat mainstay - cooked many ways in varied dishes such as shepherds pie.

  We rarely had dessert except on special occasions.

  There was six kids in our family and believe me it was no easy task feeding kids during these years.  People that had more money than us probably had a little better diet.

There was no eating in restaurants or treats at the candy store.

Q: Can you describe sharecropping?

A: Sharecropping was a contract between land owners and tenants.  Tenants would sow seed and nuture crops. The tenant would then get a portion of the profit from the sale of the crops.

They did use reapers, binders, balers and tractors. but ofttimes men would use a scythe to cut down hay and handpick other crops such as corn.

General Goods


Q: What were the prices of food items?

A: Food prices in the 30's were pretty low as these were pretty lean years after the Stock Market Crash of 29. Eating out was not a common thing for the working class. However, I will attempt to give you some prices to the best of my recollection.

Coffee 5 or 10 cents a cup . Donuts 5 cents. Hamburger 15 cents. Fries 10 cents. Hot Dog 10 cents. Roast Beef Dinner $2.00 Ice Cream Cones 5 cents. Soup 10 cents a bowl. Assorted sandwiches 15 cents. Cokes 5 cents.

Bread 10 cents. Butter 29 cents. Milk 10-15 cents qt. I do not remember milk by the gallon.  Our milk was delivered by a milkman driving a horse and wagon.  They were in quart bottles and was pasteurized so all the cream was on the top.

Hamburg 15 cents lb. Potatoes 20 cents a peck. Soup bones free - and we sure made a lot of soup in those days.

These were economically tough years and you just had to be a good shopper for groceries and any other needs.

I must confess that we were a pretty poor family in the 30's and eating out for me was non existent.

More price info:

Colored Thread - 10cents a spool
Coal Oil - 25 cents a gallon
Light Bulbs - 3 for 25 cents
Shoestrings - 5 cents a pair
Hair Dressing - 20 cents a bottle
Balloons - 1 cent each
Flower Seeds - 3 packs for 10 cents
Flour - 50 pounds for $3.00
Canned Goods (variety) - 10 cents

All of the above are approximates

Q: Can you tell me some prices of goods in the 1930s?

A: I have seen gas stoves for as low as $50.00 Price of gas was about 7 - 10 cents a gallon.

My mom and dad rented a two story home for $8.00 a month - and even that was a struggle to get together. Bread would sell for 10cents a loaf. $2000 to $3000 would buy an average house . Cars from $900 to $1400. Shoes $8.

Some other prices: a fountain pen would cost 50 cents plus ink. A dining room set would cost $150.00 Hard cover books would run about $2.00 but we mostly used the library because it was free reading. You could buy a writing tablet for 25 cents. Shoes for women would run between $5.00 and $9.00. Shoes for men would be around $10.00. Pictures to hang on the wall would cost somewhere around $5.00 and up. A man's suit could be bought for $20.00 and up. A woman's dress could be obtained for $7.00 to $10.00.

Washing machines were not available and my mother washed all our clothes in a wash tub or laundry tub.  She had a scrub board and believe me it was darn hard work.  In the 40s we acquired one which cost $125. An iron would cost about $10.

Q: How much would a blue collar worker make in a year?

A: For those lucky enough to have work the average wage for a blue collar worker would have been in the neighbourhood of $900 to $1050 per year.

Q: What were wages for part-time or occasional workers?

A: For those lucky enough to have a job the wages were not terrific by any means.  Depending on what kind of work, you could earn anything from 25 cents to possibluy 40 cents per hour.  Field hands would make something like $2 to $3 a day.

Q: How much would a new car cost?

A: Car prices in the 30's would range from about $700 to $900.

Q: How much would a new house cost?

A: An average bungalow type house would cost around $1500 to $2500.

Lots for sale

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Last updated: May 5, 2005


© Terry Cumming, 2000-2005