Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 7th 2014 Contents • Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2014
Is it harder today to survive with
all those ever-rising food prices?
According to CSO Retail Price Index
data, the cost of a basic basket of
food has increased at least fivefold
from 1960 to 2013 (see table).
Food prices have certainly changed
since the 1960s---but so, too, has
the purchasing power of a dollar,
people s salary levels, how and where
people shop for food, and what they
buy, given the wider choice of
imported goods compared to a half-
Nurrun Ali, or Ma, a 103-year-
old great-grandmother from St
Joseph, shared her memories of food
prices from long ago with the Sun-
day Guardian. Two of her sons,
Erfaan (now 70 years, a retired pri-
mary school principal) and Zaffar
(75, a retired UWI administrator)
helped reconstruct some of the com-
mon prices for everyday food in the
1950s and 60s.
The first thing that Ma remembers
is that when she was younger, meat
was often an expensive weekly (not
daily) item on the family menu: "It
used to cost one shilling (24 cents)
a pound for goat meat," she said,
thinking of the 1940s. Most Sundays,
they ate chicken. Other items were
affordable. And no food was ever
A week's groceries
for $40 in 1950
"When you went to the market,
it was six cents a bunch for many
vegetables. It would cost $40 to buy
basic staple foods for a week for a
family of four people," said Ma.
Compare that to today, when,
according to an estimate from her
son Zaffar, you d have to spend at
least $300 to obtain the same food.
This cost would be considerably
increased if adjusted for the changed
content of what many people today
consider to be "basic staple foods,"
Erfaan not only used to help in
the family shop---Gem Poultry Shop
at 64 Charlotte Street, which sold
chicken feed and some basic food
items---but, being the youngest son,
was often the one sent to the corner
shop or market to pick up needed
items. So he remembered many food
"You could buy a hot hops bread
for two cents each in the 50s, or 25
cents for a baker s dozen (13)---Crown
Bakery hops was the best! If you
bought a hops bread at a parlour,
you could even get a dollop of salt
butter to go with it," he said.
And he recalled that bakers would
put a tiny piece of banana leaf on
the top of each hops, so as to tell
when the hops were baked---because
in those days, most bakers used
"Irish potatoes cost five cents for
two pounds. Eggs cost $1.44 a dozen,
but most people would buy eggs
single, for 12 cents an egg. A half-
tin of evaporated milk (about eight
ounces) cost 12 cents.....Andrex toilet
paper from England cost 16 cents---
and that was considered expensive
back then! A sandwich loaf cost 16
cents, a medium-sized zaboca, 12
cents...And you could buy about
two tablespoons of ground coffee
rolled up in brown paper from Chan
Soo s shop for a penny (two cents),"
Buying live chicken, ice
"Everybody bought their chicken
live and carried it home. A live chick-
en cost $1 a lb," said Erfaan. Today,
it costs about $10 a pound for chick-
en already "dressed"---slaughtered,
plucked and cleaned.
"There were not many fridges in
the 50s," explained Erfaan, "so you
went to the Central Market on Char-
lotte and George streets pretty reg-
ularly. If you knew you were having
visitors, you d send someone to the
shop to buy five cents of ice---and
carry it home and use an ice pick
to break it down, to put in visitors
sweet drink. A sweet drink cost six
cents. A big glass of mauby, with
no ice, cost one cent. A rock cake
cost two cents.
"In those days---the 1950s, 60s,
even into the 70s---it was unheard
of for you to buy lunch outside.
Everyone would either walk with
their lunch in a bag, or if they were
a student who lived near to school,
they would walk home for lunch
and then walk back to school. The
lunch was simple---for us, often dhal,
rice and vegetables---and it was
much healthier than what many
folks eat today.
"I remember we used to get pas-
teurised milk from Nestle---four glass
bottles would come in a box for
about $2. That was in the early 60s.
Later, in the mid-60s, you could
buy a half-gallon of goat milk for
50 cents from the Government Farm
in St Joseph.
"You could get two Diana dinner
mints for a cent; a coco-brittle for
a cent; a pack of chillibibi for a cent;
and three Paradise plums for a cent,"
"In the early 60s, when we lived
on Picton Street in Newtown, we
phoned in our grocery orders to
Camacho s in St James, and they
would deliver it free," recalled Erfaan.
"It would cost about $60 to buy
basic groceries for four people for
a week, in the 1960s."
Of cinema and sweeties
Cinema was the major entertain-
ment. "It used to cost 13 cents to
see a film show in the late 40s/early
50s," said Zaffar. Then Erfaan
quipped: "By 1960-61, my high
school years, it was 25 cents a show.
I would break biche some Fridays
to go see movies in Empire, Royal
and Pyramid cinemas...and after the
movie, you could buy a banana split
for 50 cents. It was made of three
scoops of ice cream, one split
banana, strawberry syrup, sprinkled
'Bring back the old-time days'
...when an egg cost 12 cents, and you could feed a family for $40 a week.
Erfaan Ali, retired primary school principal, and his mother Nurrun Ali, who will be 103 in October.
Continues on Page A32
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