Selecting Food

Marketing Versus Telephoning
Visits to food markets or grocery stores are most essential, especially if one is learning to buy. It is first necessary to find desirable market places or stores,--those that are clean and reliable. Screened windows and doors, and adequate bins, boxes, jars, or other receptacles for storing foods are necessary in keeping foods clean. After one has found desirable places for marketing, it is well to become acquainted with desirable brands of staple canned or package goods. After this knowledge is gained such foods may be ordered by telephone, or by messenger with satisfaction.

But no matter how experienced the buyer, it is more satisfactory to select at markets perishable goods such as meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables that wilt readily. In certain cases where the housekeeper has such obligations or so many duties that a personal visit to markets is impossible, food must be purchased by telephone or messenger. Such a procedure, however, is usually followed at the sacrifice of economy and satisfaction in buying.

Fresh Versus Canned Foods
Fresh foods of good quality are generally more desirable both from the standpoint of flavor and nutriment than canned goods. When, however, fresh foods are unseasonable, their price may greatly exceed that of canned foods. A good rule to follow is to buy fresh foods when they are in season and the canned ones when fresh foods of reasonable price cannot be secured. The practice of buying perishable foods, especially fruits, when they are abundant and canning them for later use is thrifty.

To buy factory-canned fruits and vegetables when fresh winter fruits, such as cranberries, oranges, and apples, and root vegetables may be purchased is questionable both from the standpoint of economy and nutriment. It is often more economical to purchase dried rather than canned fruits. The former usually contain more food value per pound.

Bulk Versus Package Goods
Time spent in placing and sealing foods in packages and the cost of the containers make the price of package foods exceed those sold in bulk. Moreover, large packages usually cost more proportionately than small ones. On the other hand, package foods may be cleaner, require less handling, and are often much more inviting because of their attractive wrapping. It does not follow, however, that all foods sold in containers are cleaner than those sold in bulk. Unsanitary conditions sometimes prevail at factories where the foods are packed. It is a safe rule to buy in package form only those foods which cannot be washed or sterilized by cooking.

Uncooked Versus Cooked Foods
Not only breads, cakes, certain cereals, and canned goods may be purchased ready cooked, but other foods, such as salads and puddings, may be bought in certain markets and stores. Such foods are much higher in price than those of equal quality prepared at home. The cost of labor, fuel, and "overhead expense" as well as of materials must be paid for by the purchaser. Unless one is engaged in business other than housekeeping or one's housekeeping duties are too arduous it is generally not wise to make a practice of buying cooked foods.

Large Versus Small Quantities
It is usually wasteful to purchase perishable foods in large quantities. Fresh meats, perishable fruits such as berries, and green vegetables should be purchased only in quantities sufficient for immediate use. It is sometimes economical, as far as fuel and time are concerned, to buy enough fresh meat for two days' consumption, provided all of it can be cooked on the first day, and then used cold or merely reheated on the second day.

Unless storage space is limited, flour should not be purchased in less than 25 pound sacks. In less quantity than this it usually costs more per pound. It is wise for small families, however, to purchase flour and other grains in smaller quantities in the summer time since weevils may infest such food materials.

When a non-perishable food such as sugar, or any of the grains, sells for a fractional sum per pound, it is economical to buy several pounds so as not to add to the cost per pound. It is wiser, for example, to buy 2 pounds of dried beans at 12 1/2 cents per pound than one pound at 13 cents.

Semi-perishable foods such as eggs and fats can usually be purchased with satisfaction in quantities sufficient for a week. They should, of course, be stored in a cool place. Many persons find it economical to buy eggs in large quantities in the summer time and pack them in water glass for winter use.

Root vegetables and canned goods are cheaper when bought by the bushel and case. There must, however, be cool, dry storage space to make the purchase of the former in large quantities practical.

It is impossible to purchase certain foods for small families in small enough quantities for immediate consumption. A can of molasses, for example, is usually more than enough for use at one time. When this is the case, the greatest care should be exercised to store such foods carefully and to utilize them before they spoil.

Cooperative buying usually means a saving. Such foods as flour, potatoes, dried vegetables, sugar, apples, and dried fruits may be purchased by the barrel, box, or other measure. If several families jointly purchase such quantities of foods, the expense is reduced. It is also of advantage to buy from the producer. The middle man's profit is thus eliminated.

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  Cooking Notes 2006