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HISTORICAL USA RETAIL FOOD PRICES: SOURCES, SURVEYS & DATA [1600-1860] The Value of a Dollar: Colonial Era to the Civil War, prices extracted from advertisements, newspapers, commodities listings, and personal inventories.  Sears Roebuck and Company Catalog, mail order groceries  "New Facts on the Increased Cost of Living," New York Times, March 27, 1910 (p. [1913-1923] Average retail food prices for 51 cities, Monthly Labor Review, March 1923  Food for the Worker/Frances Stern & Gertrude Spitz [1928 & 1929] Average retail food prices for 51 cities, Monthly Labor Review, December 1929  Thanksgiving food prices  Good Cooking Made Easy/Haseltine & Dow [1980-present] Average retail food prices --by product and region Colonial American tavern (publik house, ordinary) prices were set by law.
Earliest prices are expressed in pence/colonial scrip. Food was generally included with the price of room.
Food units are generally for large quantities, not comparable to modern supermarket prices. [SOURCE: Prices in Colonial Pennyslvania, Anne Bezanson, et al, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1935.] [1786-1817] Median annual prices for 14 leading commodities, Western Prices Before 1861/Thomas Senior Berry [Harvard University Press: Boston] 1943 [NOTE: This book offers dozens of price charts, including seasonal variations of Cincinnati Wholesale Commodity Prices 1824-1860 (p.  Meat prices, Boston MA  Retail food costs, California gold miners [1861-1865] American Civil War food prices [1860-2009] The Value of A Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States, selected food prices extracted from advertisements and federal data [NOTE: Value of a Dollar books are available in most public libraries. Urban taverns offered a wider range of services, including both public and private dining facilties. Pricing notes here: "The fare in a rural tavern..simple, whatever the tavern keeper had on hand for his/her own family and was willing to share...
[18th century] Early American Tavern menu prices [1720-1775] Average wholesale prices of selected commodities in Philadelphia (bread, ship's bread, corn, rice, pork, flour, beef, salt, sugar, molasses, wine, & rum. 568-567).] [19th century] American pioneer provision prices [1817-1930] Family food expenditures [1817, 1833, 1851, 1864, 1926, 1930], The American and His Food/ Richard Osborn Cummings. In the back of this book you will find charts for selected items listing both historic prices and prices expressed in 2007 dollars.] [1874-1970] How much did Americans spend on food? These establishments offered meals to the general public. The prices charged for food (and nearly everything else) in a licensed tavern were regulated by law.
Go to: Historical Abstracts of the US Colonial Times to 1970, select Part 1 (zip). Tavern keepers were even required in some areas to distinguish between a "good" meal and a "common" one.
Select CT1970p1-08Chapter G: "Consumer Income & Expenditures." Skip to page 302 "Consumer Expenditure Patterns," where you find definitions and sources. See also Cummings [1817-1930] [1890-1970] Basic commodities (go to page 213): average retail prices of flour, bread, round steak, pork chops, bacon, butter, eggs, milk (delivered), oranges, potatoes, tomatoes (canned), Navy beans, coffee, margarine & sugar, reported by the federal government. However, whatever the quality of the food served, the proprietor was allowed to charge a predetermined price...