Interactive Investor

Coronation food costs down 10% since 1950s

24th April 2023 14:02

by Alice Guy from interactive investor

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interactive investor research compares costs of celebrating coronation in 1953 and 2023.

King Charles III 600

Interactive investor calculations compare the costs of celebrating the Queen’s coronation in 1953 for the average family with the costs of celebrating King Charles III’s coronation in 2023.

Alice Guy, Head of Pensions and Savings at interactive investor says: “As families prepare to celebrate the King’s coronation next week, interactive investor research shows that the cost of a celebratory coronation tea has fallen 10% in real terms since the 1950s, while wages have quadrupled in real terms. A celebratory coronation tea for four people in 1950 would have cost over 9% of an average week’s wages, compared with 2% in 2023.”

Cost of coronation celebrations

1950s (adjusted for inflation)



Cost of coronation tea for 4

Homemade fruit scones (with strawberries and cream) for 4




Pot of tea and milk for 4




Chicken sandwiches x 4




Cheese sandwiches x 4




2 pints beer




Total cost of coronation tea




Percentage of week's wages for coronation tea



Cost of other goods

Cost of TV



Number of weeks to pay for appliance



Cost of fridge



Number of weeks to pay for appliance



Wages comparison

Average weekly wages



Average annual wages



Average hours worked per week



Average hourly wage



Assumptions: 1950s costs adjusted for inflation, based on ONS inflation figures, food costs based on 1955 domestic food consumption and expenditure report, electrical costs from Retro Wow 1953, average wages and hours worked based on Bank of England data and ONS

Alice Guy says: “During the last 70 years, food prices have remained remarkably similar in real terms. Supermarkets with their economies of scale have successfully kept down food costs, despite rising wages, so that a celebratory spread for four people costs 10% less in real terms in 2023 than in the 1950s.

"In the 1950s, a family celebration like the coronation would have been a rare treat and even a simple tea would have made a significant dent in the family budget. Food costs were very expensive compared to wages in the 1950s. A coronation tea for a family of four including scones, jam, cream, chicken, cheese sandwiches and a pot of tea would cost over 9% of a week’s wages in 1953, compared to just 2% in 2023. 

“Chicken was a rare and expensive treat in the 1950s before intensive farming methods reduced the costs of rearing poultry, whereas cheese was a lot cheaper than the current day. Families struggled to put food on the table and many people relied on allotments to grow extra food.

“Despite the recent cost-of-living crisis, families have enjoyed a huge rise in living standards over the last 70 years as rising wages and a relative drop in prices lifted many out of poverty. The average wage was only £7,474 per year in the 1950s (in today’s money) only £144 per week and there was little spare to pay for more than the bare essentials.

“In 1953, many families bought their first ever TV at great expense to watch the first ever coronation to be televised. But TV ownership was still low overall, with an estimated 2.5 million TVs owned in the UK in 1953. In the 1950s, a TV would have cost £1,415 in today’s money, nearly 10 week’s wages for the average worker compared to costing 1/3rd of a week’s wages in 2023.

"Most families crowded around tiny TVs with richer friends to watch the Queen’s coronation, owning a set themselves being beyond their wildest dreams. Appliances like TVs and fridges were often rented to make them more affordable.”

“Buying a fridge to store food was also a luxury in the 1950s, with only 33% of UK households owning a fridge by 1962, according to history website Retro wow. It’s no wonder, as buying a fridge would have cost over 6 weeks’ wages in 1953, compared to around 1/3rd of a week’s wages in 2023.

“Just like the 1950s, families can reduce the cost of a coronation spread by making homemade sandwiches and scones and opting for a good old-fashioned cup of tea over more expensive drink options. There are likely to be lots of food offers in the the supermarket for the coronation weekend so it's worth shopping around and being as flexible as possible with your food and drink choices."

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