Hundred-Year-Old Grocery Store Scorecard

Source: The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915)
Source: The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915)

When I walk into a supermarket, I informally evaluate it. Is the produce fresh? Are the clerks friendly? Does it stock all of the grocery items that I regularly buy? Is the location convenient? Does it have good prices? . . .  And, if it doesn’t meet my standards, I might go to a different store the next time I shop.

Similarly, a hundred years ago people also evaluated their grocery stores; but that’s where the similarities end.  A hundred-year-old home economics textbook had a Grocery Scorecard that students could use to evaluate their grocery stores – but frankly I’ve never considered the proximity to stables, or most of the other old-time criteria.

I tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses, but when I’m honest with myself, I must admit what while some things were better a hundred years ago, I think I prefer modern food stores.

56 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Grocery Store Scorecard

  1. We now have more standardized and strict regulations so that the health factors of our grocery stores are better. These things might be something to still look at in farm markets and roadside stands.

    1. Your comment makes me curious about whether there was any regulation of grocery stores a hundred years ago. I’m thinking that there was not – but I’m not really sure.

  2. My favorite grocery store is part of a very small, independent chain. Its prices are generally a bit higher, it’s too far away to just stop for a gallon of milk, and it doesn’t have some of the items I like.

    On the other hand, I’m constantly evaluating the stores I go to, and that little one wins hands-down. It’s cleaner than most of our hospitals. The employees are friendly, helpful, and sometimes even fun. Most of the sackers and stockers are local high school kids who may have blue or red hair, or even a tattoo, but still are neat, clean, and polite.

    Best of all, I’ve never brought home sour milk, grainy ice cream, or rotten fruit from that store. Unfortunately, such experiences are all too common with the big stores.

    1. The independent chain that you describe sounds absolutely wonderful. It’s too bad that other companies don’t always have a similar culture. The attitude of the employees can really affect whether shopping is a joy or a chore.

    1. You are lucky if you are generally pleased with the produce. At a store where I shop from time to time, too often fruits and vegetables that have seen better days are still for sale. The store is convenient and the prices are good, but staff are not nearly as vigilant as I think they should be at removing produce that is wilted or overripe.

    1. I’m often amazed by how progressive some educators were back then. This was the era of John Dewey and others who believed that students learned best when they were actively involved in learning experiences that were practical and tied to their lives and community.

  3. It sounds more like the play store we ran in my garage when we were kids. Empty cans and boxes for sale. Milk bottle caps for change. Monopoly money. etc … I can almost relive the smell of old and musty.

    1. Your description of the play store you had in your garage makes me smile. It brings back memories of similar play stores my cousins and I created when I was a child.

  4. I was just thinking that I sort of miss the smell of grocery stores. I remember walking into an A&P or Kroger, and walking past the peaches, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, and all, that you could smell their deliciousness. Now, grocery stores don’t have a smell; they’re pretty sterile. 😦

    1. I’d forgotten until you mentioned it, but you’re absolutely right; grocery stores used to have a grocery store smell. I wonder why the produce is less aromatic now than what it once was.

      1. I’m thinking that maybe they clean more, more foods have preservatives in them . . . . gosh, I was just thinking that even the fridge years ago sometimes had that “certain smell,” too. Now, unless something is severely rotting in the fridge, they’re pretty odor-free, too. So, I don’t know, except it could be the cleanliness factor and the abundance of preservatives . . . 🙂

  5. We have Publix in Florida and they are great! I also love Aldi’s and pick up some seasonal items which are good. I love your blog. It inspires me to review some of my mom’s journals of living in the Catskills after growing in the city.

    1. It’s wonderful to hear that you enjoy this blog. I have a lot of fun doing it, and it’s always nice to hear when someone likes it. You should look at your mother’s old journals. I have found my grandmother’s diary is an absolutely wonderful way to get to know her in a whole new way.

  6. This is very interesting, and an eye opener. When I read through my great grandmother’s letters from the 40s and early 50s, I am simple amazed how they brought groceries home with no car, and when living far from the store. No wonder gardening and fruit orchards were so popular. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. Whew, it sounds like a lot of work to bring groceries home with no car – though they probably ate healthier than we do if much of their diet came from the food they raised.

  7. Wow! What an eye opening post Sheryl. All the things on the list must have been vitally important…like rats and cleanliness. How lucky we are today although I am sure there are still transgressions.

    1. I also found it eye opening. Some of things they considered when evaluating the stores a hundred years ago sure suggest that some stores had major issues.

    1. I’m guessing that stores owned horse-drawn wagons that they used to bring food from the train station or other supply point to the store. Maybe molasses and cooking oils came in large barrels back then, and people brought their own containers to put it in when they purchased it. But that still doesn’t explain what is meant by having a place for molasses and oils – since it seems like they would have been at a certain place in the store regardless of the type of container.

  8. I have a relative that works in the grocery store business. Meeting health regulations and standards involves so many little things that we wouldn’t even normally consider. Plus you have to be on your toes to meet with customer satisfaction.
    I agree, I prefer the grocery stores of today.

    1. I greatly appreciate all of those little things that people do how work in grocery stores do to ensure a safe and clean store. Too often we customers don’t think about all of the important work that the workers do.

  9. Interesting. We have become so picky. A single blemish on an apple and it is set aside. I am as bad as anyone. Show me a fruit fly and I run for the door!

    1. You’re right – we have become spoiled and expect picture-perfect produce. Food that is raised in a chemical-free environment likely will have some blemishes. As for the fruit flies, well. . . I’ll probably follow you right out the door. 🙂

    1. I like how you looked at it from the perspective of the store owners back then. And, I’m sure that you’re absolutely right that it was difficult task for them to meet all of these standards.

  10. I’m with you on that one…I evaluate the store too but I can’t say that I was looking for manure…I will however be on the lookout the next time I go!! Very interesting… 🙂

    1. I’ve glad this post gives you another thing to evaluate. Somehow I think that all the stores in your neighborhood will meet this criteria with flying colors. 🙂

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