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How to Buy Food for Economy and Quality

How to Buy Food for Economy and Quality

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by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

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Information-packed book shows how to buy the best economically, describes most common foods, gives you tips on what to buy, and shows what to look for in the foods you do buy. Over 100 illustrations.


Information-packed book shows how to buy the best economically, describes most common foods, gives you tips on what to buy, and shows what to look for in the foods you do buy. Over 100 illustrations.

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How to Buy Food for Economy and Quality

Recommendations of the United States Department of Agriculture

By Dover Publications

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1975 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14522-8



Milk is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and riboflavin, and contains many other vitamins and minerals as well. It also supplies fat and sugar. Getting enough milk should be a pleasure. This booklet can help you shop wisely for the whole array of dairy products that you can use to get your daily supply of milk.


Dairy products include not only milk and cream, but also products such as butter, cheese, and frozen desserts. The following dictionary defines the dairy products you use, and offers buying and using tips where applicable.



Fresh Fluid Whole Milk

Fresh whole milk is usually homogenized and fortified with vitamins. Sometimes it's also fortified with minerals. It must meet the requirements for minimum milkfat content set by the State or municipality where it is sold. The milkfat content is usually about 3.25 percent, the minimum recommended by the Public Health Service "Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance."

All Grade A milk and milk products sold today are pasteurized—heated to kill harmful bacteria. Grade A pasteurized milk, according to the standards recommended in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, must come from healthy cows and be produced, pasteurized, and handled under strict sanitary control enforced by State and local milk sanitation officials. Requirements may vary in different localities. The "Grade A" rating designates wholesomeness rather than a level of quality.

Homogenized milk has been treated to reduce the size of the milkfat globules. In homogenized milk, the cream does not separate and the product stays uniform throughout.

In Vitamin D milk, the vitamin D content has been increased to at least 400 U.S.P. units per quart. This is the minimum daily requirement for children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers.

Tips on Fresh Whole Milk:

• Get enough milk. Children under 9 need the equivalent of two to three 8-ounce glasses each day; children 9 to 12 and pregnant women need three or more; teenagers and nursing mothers need four or more; adults need two or more. See the Milk Equivalencies Chart on page seven to find out what foods can be substituted for fresh whole milk to meet these requirements.

Chocolate Flavored Milk and Chocolate Flavored Milk Drink

Chocolate flavored milk is made from pasteurized whole milk with sugar and chocolate sirup or cocoa added. In most States, regulations require that to be labeled chocolate flavored milk, the product must be made from whole milk; to be labeled chocolate flavored milk drink, it must be made from skim or partially skimmed milk.

Strawberry, coffee, or maple flavorings are sometimes used for other flavored milk and milk drinks.

Tips on Chocolate Flavored Milk:

• Chocolate flavored milk (or milk drink) can be heated for quick and easy hot chocolate.

• It can also be used in cookie or cake recipes that call for both milk and chocolate or cocoa.

Cultured Buttermilk

Cultured buttermilk is made by adding a lactic acid-producing bacterial culture to fresh pasteurized skim or partially skimmed milk. The resulting buttermilk is much thicker than skim milk with the same nutritive value. It has an acid flavor and it's a good thirst quencher. Almost all commercially marketed buttermilk is cultured. There is, however, a natural type which is a by-product of buttermaking.

Tips on Buttermilk:

• Always keep cultured buttermilk chilled. If allowed to warm, it may separate. If your buttermilk should separate, just stir it.

• Natural buttermilk is not sold in consumer packages. It's dried and used in pancake mixes and bakery products.

Dry Whole Milk

Dry whole milk is pasteurized whole milk with the water removed. It has only limited retail distribution. Where it is distributed, it's used mostly for infant feeding and by persons such as campers who don't have access to fresh milk. Dry whole milk is distributed mostly to manufacturers of chocolate and other candy.

Tip on Dry Whole Milk:

• Because of its fat content, dry whole milk doesn't keep as well as nonfat dry milk. If it is not used soon after the package is opened, it develops an off-flavor.

Nonfat Dry Milk

Nonfat dry milk is made by removing nearly all the fat and water from pasteurized milk. "Instant" nonfat dry milk is made of larger particles which are more easily dissolved in water. Nonfat dry milk has about half the calories of whole milk and the same nutritive value as fresh skim milk. Some instant nonfat dry milk contains added vitamins A and D.

Tips on Nonfat Dry Milk:

• Nonfat dry milk needs no refrigeration and can be stored for several months in a cool dry place. After it is reconstituted, however, it should be refrigerated and handled like fresh milk.

• Nonfat dry milk can be used both as a beverage and in cooking. When using as a beverage, reconstitute it several hours before serving to allow time to chill. Use cool water.

• Nonfat dry milk is very economical. A family of four that has 21 quarts of whole milk delivered each week could save more than $3.00 each week by using nonfat dry milk instead.

Skim Milk

Fresh skim (or nonfat) milk usually has less than 0.5 percent milkfat, the percentage recommended to States under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. It is often fortified with vitamins A and D.

Tips on Skim Milk:

• Skim milk contains all the nutrients of whole milk except the fat.

• The flavor and food value of skim milk can be improved by adding a teaspoonful of instant nonfat dry milk to each glass.

Lowfat Milk

Lowfat milk usually has between 0.5 and 2 percent milkfat, depending on State regulations.

Tips on Lowfat Milk:

• This kind of milk may also be labeled "2%" or "2-10" milk in the store.

• Lowfat milk can be "made" at home by using half whole milk and half skim or instant nonfat dry milk.

Evaporated Milk

This type of milk is prepared by heating homogenized whole milk under a vacuum to remove half of its water, then sealing it in cans and sterilizing it. When mixed with an equal amount of water, its nutritive value is about the same as whole milk. Evaporated skim milk is also available.

Tips on Evaporated Milk:

• Refrigerate after opening.

• Evaporated milk is handy to store and is usually less expensive than fresh whole milk.

• A mixture of water and evaporated milk makes an inexpensive infant formula.

• Evaporated milk, with an equal amount of water added, may replace fresh milk in recipes. (Used full-strength, evaporated milk adds extra nutritive value.) It also can be used in coffee or on hot or cold cereal.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

Sweetened condensed milk is a concentrated milk with at least 40 percent sugar added to help preserve it. This canned milk is prepared by removing about half the water from whole milk. It is often used in candy and dessert recipes.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has standards of identity for many of the different types of cream if they are shipped in interstate commerce. These standards give minimum milkfat requirements for each type of cream.

Light Cream (Coffee or Table Cream)

Light cream must have at least 18 percent milkfat according to Federal standards of identity and most State standards.

Tip on Light Cream:

• For maximum shelf life, do not return unused cream from a pitcher to its original container. Store it separately in the refrigerator, or better, pour only the amount to be used at one time.


Half-and-half is a mixture of milk and cream, homogenized. Under State requirements, it must have between 10 and 12 percent milkfat.

Tips on Half-and-Half:

• Half-and-half can be mixed at home using half homogenized whole milk and half table cream.

• As with light cream, do not return unused half-and-half to its original container.

Light Whipping Cream

Light whipping cream must have at least 30 percent milkfat under Federal standards of identity.

Tip on Light Whipping Cream:

• To whip this kind of cream, have both the bowl and the cream well chilled.

Heavy Whipping Cream

Heavy whipping cream must have at least 36 percent milkfat.

Tips on Heavy Whipping Cream:

• Although heavy whipping cream is more easily whipped than light whipping cream, it is still good to have the cream and the bowl well chilled.

• Don't overwhip heavy cream. It may get grainy.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is made by adding lactic acid bacteria culture to light cream. It is smooth and thick and contains at least 18 percent milkfat.

Tips on Sour Cream:

• Sour cream is sometimes called "salad cream" or "cream dressing" in the supermarket.

• It's great on vegetables or baked potatoes.

Sour Half-and-Half

Sour half-and-half is the same as half-and-half except that a culture is added.

Tip on Sour Half-and-Half:

• This can replace sour cream, if you prefer less fat.



Butter is made by churning pasteurized cream. It must have at least 80 percent milkfat, according to Federal law. Salt and coloring may be added. Whipped butter is regular butter that has been whipped for easier spreading. Whipping also increases the volume of butter.

Tips on Butter:

• Unsalted butter may be labeled sweet butter or unsalted butter. Some people prefer its flavor.

• Nothing beats butter for flavor in baking, or basting turkey or chicken.

• When using whipped butter in place of regular butter in recipes, use 1/3 to ½ more than the recipe calls for if the measurement is by volume (one cup, one half cup, etc.). If the measurement is by weight (¼ pound, ½ pound, etc), then use the same amount.

• Store butter in its original wrapping or container so it won't pick up odor from other foods.

• Butter can be kept frozen for up to a month.

• Butter is sold in 1-pound, ½-pound, and ¼-pound packages. It may be less expensive in the larger packages, and the reserve can be frozen.

• For easier spreading, let butter warm to room temperature. (This isn't necessary for whipped butter.)

• Make butter the first ingredient on sandwiches. It adds moisture and flavor and keeps the filling from soaking into the bread.


Natural cheese is cheese made directly from milk. There are virtually hundreds of varieties of natural cheese.

Process cheese is a blend of natural cheeses which have been shredded, mixed, and heated. This cheese may contain pimentos, fruits, vegetables, or meats.

If the label says "process cheese food," other ingredients such as nonfat dry milk have been mixed in.

"Process cheese spread" has higher moisture content and lower milkfat content than process cheese and cheese food. It's more spreadable.

Process cheese products usually come packed in slices, loaves, and jars.

Cottage cheese is a soft unripened natural cheese that can be bought in cup-shaped containers or tumblers. It may be bought plain or creamed and in different curd sizes. Federal standards require that it have no more than 80 percent moisture. Creamed cottage cheese contains a minimum of 4 percent fat. Cottage cheese should be used within a few days of purchase.

Tip on Cheese:

Cheese has a high food value and comes in a wide variety of flavors to suit every taste.

For complete details on the great variety of cheeses available, see "How to Buy Cheese," pages 8-18.


Yogurt is a custard-like product made by fermenting milk with a special culture. It is usually made from homogenized, pasteurized whole milk, but may be made from skim or partly skimmed milk. Yogurt has the same nutritive value as the milk from which it is made. Often yogurt is sweetened and fruit flavored.

Tips on Yogurt:

Yogurt can be served at any meal or as a snack. A fruit-flavored yogurt is good for breakfast, or for dessert.

• Yogurt should be kept cold, but not frozen. If allowed to warm to room temperature, it might separate slightly.


Frozen desserts include ice cream, ice milk, sherbets, and ices in their various forms (cartoned, cones, popsicles, etc.) If they are shipped in interstate commerce, they must meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards of identity. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued recommended standards for the manufacture of frozen desserts. These can be adopted voluntarily by any State. They set minimum quality requirements for the product as well as for its dairy ingredients. The standards also provide criteria for plant sanitation.

Ice Cream

Ice cream is made from cream, milk, sugar, flavorings, and stabilizers. It must contain at least 10 percent milkfat.

Tips on Ice Cream:

• Keep ice cream in a tightly closed carton and try to use it within a week if you store it in your refrigerator frozen food compartment. If you store it in a deep freezer, it will keep for a month or two (so long as the temperature is kept below zero). It should be kept hard frozen to prevent it from becoming "icy."

Ice cream is easier to serve if it is transferred from the frozen food compartment to the refrigerator section a short time before serving—about 10 minutes for a pint and 20 minutes for a half gallon.

Frozen Custard (French Ice Cream)

Some ice cream has egg yolks added. This may be called frozen custard, French ice cream, or New York ice cream.

Ice Milk

Ice milk is made from milk, stabilizers, sugar, and flavorings. It must contain between 2 and 7 percent milkfat if it is sold in interstate commerce. The soft-serve frozen dessert you can buy at the roadside stand is like ice milk except that it's specially processed to be served soft.

Tip on Ice Milk:

• Treat ice milk as you do ice cream. (See "Tips for Ice Cream.")


Sherbet is made from milk, fruit or fruit juice, stabilizers, and sugars. Sherbet has a high level of sugar—about twice as much as ice cream. It must have 1 to 2 percent milkfat.

Tip on Sherbet:

• Handle sherbet like ice cream. (See "Tips for Ice Cream.")

Water Ice

Water ice is like sherbet except that it contains no milk solids.


To help you buy dairy products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has quality grades, or a "Quality Approved" rating, for manufactured dairy products. For a manufacturer to use the USDA grade or "Quality Approved" shield on his product labels, his plant must meet USDA's specifications and must operate under the continuous inspection of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

To qualify, a plant must pass an initial survey by a USDA dairy inspector and subsequent inspections made a number of times a year. The inspector checks the plant and surrounding areas to see if they are clean, orderly, soundly constructed, and in good repair. Processing and packaging techniques must be sanitary. Incoming raw products are checked regularly, and the plant must have a laboratory testing program to maintain proper quality control. Even the labels must be approved by USDA before the packages can carry the shield. The labels may carry no conflicting or misleading statements.

During processing, a USDA inspector keeps constant check on all aspects of product quality, right down to a final check on the product in consumer packages. Some brands of the following products bear a USDA shield.


Cottage cheese and pasteurized process cheese may bear the USDA "Quality Approved" shield if they are of good quality and are made under USDA supervision.


One way to be assured of high quality butter is to look for the USDA grade shield on the package. The grade shield (AA, A, or B) means that the butter has been tested and graded by experienced government graders. Butter graders judge quality by U.S. grade standards that set forth the requirements for each grade. They also test the keeping quality of butter.

U.S. Grade AA Butter:

• has delicate sweet flavor, with a fine highly pleasing aroma;

• is made from high-quality fresh sweet cream;

• has a smooth, creamy texture with good spreadability;

• has salt completely dissolved and blended in just the right amount.

U.S. Grade A Butter

• has a pleasing flavor;

• is made from fresh cream;

• is fairly smooth in texture;

• rates close to the top grade.

U.S. Grade B Butter:

• may have a slightly acid flavor;

• generally is made from selected sour cream;

• is readily acceptable to many consumers.


USDA Grades AA and A are used on Cheddar cheese. As with butter, U.S. Grade AA is the best and Grade A is almost as good. For more on Cheddar cheese grades, see "How to Buy Cheese," pages 8-18.


To earn the "U.S. Extra Grade" shield, instant nonfat dry milk must have a sweet and pleasing flavor and a natural color. It must also dissolve immediately when mixed with water.


On the basis of the calcium they provide, the following are alternatives for 1 cup of fresh whole milk:

1 1/3 ounces natural Cheddar cheese
1½ ounces process Cheddar cheese
1 1/3 cups creamed cottage cheese
1 cup cocoa made with milk
1 cup custard
1 1/3 cups ice cream
1 cup ice milk, soft serve
¾ cup homemade macaroni and cheese
1 milkshake (made with 2/3 cup milk and ½
cup ice cream)
1 cup oyster stew
1/5 of 15-inch-diameter round pizza, made with
cheese topping
1 cup pudding, made with milk and cornstarch
1 1/3 cups canned cream soup, prepared with
equal volume of milk
1 cup yogurt


Excerpted from How to Buy Food for Economy and Quality by Dover Publications. Copyright © 1975 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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