I thought this was a very interesting post over at the Atlantic. While it discusses the technological differences of kitchens in the 1950's from today's kitchens, it also goes into the economies a bit. Read it here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/01/the-economics-of-kitchens/70549/
This part was intriguing:
And what was available was much more expensive. "Food prepared in the home" consumes less than 10% of the average family budget; in 1950, that figure was almost 30%. It shows in the cookbooks. The Betty Crocker is full of economizing tips: ways to stretch ground beef by adding Wheaties; noodle and rice rings that artfully disguise the fact that there isn't much protein to go around; "one egg" cakes praised for being economical. This was not a handout for welfare recipients; it was expected that the average housewife would be anxiously counting the cost of the eggs and milk used in her baked goods, and looking for ways to stretch out even cheap cuts of meat at the end of the month. Now, I'm sure there are still people in this country who worry about the price of adding an extra egg to their cakes--but they are not the average, or even close to the average. Cooking is both much better, and much easier for those who choose to do it, than it was when my kitchen was built.
The difference between what percentage of our budgets food consumes, is pretty dramatic. It used to be that food consumed over a third of our overall spending, now it's less then ten percent. Wow!!
And, what that extra cost represented, was a frugality with food. It was served on smaller plates (ever notice the difference in size?), in smaller portions, and when you did get a whole piece of meat (like a roast), it was usually a special occasion.
One of Michael Pollan's Food Rules is to eat less and eat better. He directs you to spend more on your food to eat better quality food.
That eat less, eat better meme has been a constant theme of mine. Eschew the junk for the truly great. If I'm going to indulge in dessert, then it's not some Hostess cake, it's some incredibly delectible confection at a great restaurant or a wonderful home-made dessert whipped up by a dear friend or myself. Instead of filling up on hamburger, I save my red meat splurges for a welled-cooked, medium rare rack of lamb.
So pretend like its 1953 and eat less, but eat better.