The Inflated Can of Baked Beans

I Say Old Bean! by Smabs Sputzer(CC BY 2.0)
“Do you know what inflation is?” I ask.

My youngest daughters Sophie and Gemma-Rose look at me with blank faces.

“I could tell you a story about inflation. Do you want to hear it?”

The girls aren’t sure but I begin the story anyway.

“Once upon a time there was a ten year old girl,” I say. “She was me. I was that girl.”

Ah! This is a story of my childhood. Now Sophie and Gemma-Rose are leaning forward, eager to hear more.

“When I was a girl I lived in Queensland. Do you know where that is?”

“North,” says Gemma-Rose.

“Yes, a long way north. Queensland is closer to the equator than we are, which means…”

“The weather is warmer than here,” says Sophie.

I nod. “Much warmer. When I was a child, we didn’t have proper winters. We just had warm weather and hot weather. Summers were unbearably hot. Sometimes it got so hot we had to go to the shopping centre to cool down. Do you know why we went there?”

“The shops were air-conditioned?”

Again I nod. “We didn’t have air-conditioning at home. Nobody did. We just opened our windows to let in the breeze. The windows didn’t have fly screens on them. I wonder if we had lots of flies in the house. I forget. We used to open our front door too, as soon as we got up each morning. Everyone did. If your front door was open, it meant you were home. If our door was closed, we were probably at the shopping centre trying to cool down.

“We’d walk to the shops, in a long straggly line: my mother, my sisters and me. Maybe other families who lived on our road walked with us. I can’t remember. But I do remember what my mother looked like. She was very beautiful and very young looking. Everyone used to think she was my older sister and not my mother.

“I always lagged behind because I liked to look at things along the way. I always watched out for the kangaroo. It was a pet and it lived in someone’s garden. Of course no one is allowed to have a pet kangaroo nowadays, but it must have been different when I was a child. The kangaroo was called Cassius Clay.”

“Cassius? That’s a great name,” says Gemma-Rose. “I’m going to write that down and use it in a story.”

“Wasn’t there a Cassius in one of Shakespeare’s plays?” asks Sophie.

“In Othello, perhaps. Anyway, this wasn’t a Shakespearean kangaroo. It was a boxing kangaroo. It was named after the boxer Cassius Clay who changed his name to Muhammad Ali.”

“Why did he change his name?”

“I forget. Perhaps it had something to do with his conversion to Islam. Anyway, the kangaroo isn’t important to my story. I just remember seeing it every time we went to the shops.

“Once we got to the shopping centre, we all sighed with relief as we stepped through the automatic doors into the deliciously cool air. It was a very popular meeting place. We’d gather there with our friends, and chat and shop and play in air-conditioned comfort for as long as we could.

“One day when we were strolling up and down the supermarket aisles, my mother suddenly stopped. She picked up a can of baked beans and exclaimed, ‘If prices continue rising at this rate, one day a can of baked beans will cost a dollar.’

“A whole dollar for a can of baked beans? I couldn’t believe my ears. Surely that would never happen. It’s not as if baked beans are something valuable. They’re not precious like gold or silver. No, my mother was definitely mistaken.”

Sophie and Gemma-Rose giggle.

“Hang on a minute,” I say, opening my computer. “I’ll look up the price of a can of baked beans.” A moment later:  “A 420g can of Heinz baked beans costs $1.94.

“Now if wages haven’t increased at the same rate as the price of baked beans, we have a definite case of inflation. We’re getting less baked beans for our money.” 

Perhaps baked beans are more valuable than I thought.
Now I’m wondering…

How much will a can of baked beans cost by the time I tell this story to my grandchildren? 

The Angels of Abbey Creek

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  1. Reply

    1.94 for a dollar for a can of baked beans. Looks like they've turned out to be valuable, after all! I have no idea what they cost over here, although I'd guess it's about the same.

    Loved this little visit with your family, as always!

    1. Reply


      Soon we won't be able to afford to eat baked beans! It's always fun sharing childhood stories. My girls are always a very appreciative audience. Thank you for sharing my story too!

  2. Reply

    Great story, Sue! I could see you and your sisters walking down the road in my mind's eye, with you looking around for Cassius Clay. Whenever I hear Ali's former name, I see myself going out the front door and my Only and Older Bionic Brother in the living room reading a copy of Sports Illustrated with a story of Cassius Clay.

    When I read the title, I thought you would be talking about how beans inflate when they cook. lol

    1. Reply


      It's funny how certain names or people bring back specific memories, isn't it? Only and Older Bionic Brother? Oh I like that name. Now my imagination is going wild wondering what he is like!

      Oh yes, the title is a bit misleading, but maybe more interesting than the "What is Inflation?"!

  3. Reply

    This is such a great way to teach our children about inflation. We normally use ice cream, where the prices have risen by at least 300 % compared to brad and milk.
    In an old diary, I have saved a shopping list, where I noted the prices when I went shopping for my mother. I think it's time for my youngest to write down the prices now and compare.

    1. Reply


      Maybe we all understand better when we have a real life story to illustrate the point. I haven't been keeping an eye on ice cream prices. 300% increase. Wow! Ice cream sounds very inflated!

      I love reading back through old diaries and journals. Things that seemed rather ordinary at the time of weriting, like prices, become very interesting. We once put together a 'time capsule' of interesting facts and figures about our family life. When we returned to it a few years later, we could see what our favourite meals, TV shows, clothes etc used to be, things we'd forgotten all about. Perhaps we should take the time to do this periodically.

    • San
    • March 10, 2015

    Lovely story! We buy non brand baked beans from Aldi!!

    1. Reply


      We buy Aldi baked beans too! Aldi wasn't around when I was a child, but I'm glad we now have a couple of stores near us. The prices are so much cheaper. More baked beans for our money!

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