In this chapter we sample some of the most interesting changes in four material aspects of life around 1970--food and drink, fashion, shopping, and health care.
The American people were, in the words of historian David Potter, "people of plenty." Even so, many were distressed by the high prices of foods-- so much so that in 1966 and again in 1970 and 1973 consumers in various parts of the nation organized boycotts of supermarkets. A Gallup poll showed that the 1973 boycott involved 50 million people, or 25 percent of all consumers. Boycott participants acknowledged that the increases in per capita spending on food resulted in part from their demand for more meat, bakery products, delicacies, and easy-to-prepare foods, but these were matters within their control. Beyond their control were such things as the amount of money producers and retailers spent on advertising, promotions, and trading stamps. Buyers "earned" trading stamps with their purchases, placed them in savings books, and exchanged them for such premiums as toasters, can openers, and electric blankets. Enthusiasm for stamps peaked in the early 1960s, and by the end of the decade most consumers regarded them as a nuisance. Some consumers, however, remained passionate stamp collectors who would shop anywhere to get them.
In the midst of plenty, well fed does not always mean well nourished. In recent decades consumers have gained more knowledge about nutrition than in earlier times, but increased knowledge has not always led them to better eating habits. Appealing advertisements aimed especially at children, catchy