Learn about Life in the 1920s

How to Store Food and Prevent Wastage

IN these days of well stocked corner groceries, telephones and automobiles the basement is likely to be a neglected region devoted mainly to coal bins and the storage of worn-out furniture. The old fashioned cellar with its row upon row of glass jars filled with fruit, its milk pans and its display of smoked meat dangling from the rafters is left in many communities merely as a fond and mouth watering recollection of childhood in the minds of the older generation. The housekeeper of today is accustomed to step to the telephone in the morning, call up the grocer and order the food to be used for that day's lunch and dinner. What small things are kept on hand are apt to be limited to those in the pantry and the ice chest.

While this is the natural result of changed conditions, the wise housekeeper will not neglect completely the possibilities of the basement as a food storage place. Even though it is no longer necessary for each household to lay in during the summer the entire supply of fruit and vegetables to be used during the winter, the presence of sufficient reserve in the basement is a comfort in case of emergency and an aid in providing that sense of completeness and security that marks the true home.

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Careful planning, either in building the house or in partitioning off basement rooms for food storage, is necessary where there is a heating plant in the basement. The old fashioned cellar was under a house that was heated by stoves or fireplaces. It had no artificial heat in winter, and so remained at a temperature low enough to keep vegetables from sprouting or spoiling.

The presence of a furnace or heater for a hot water plant in the basement will make it too warm to keep vegetables for more than a few weeks at a time unless the storage room is partitioned off and provided with ventilation from outside. The best partition for such a storage room is a cement or stone wall of the same material as the rest of the foundation. If built at the same time as the rest of the foundation, the extra cost of providing such a vegetable storeroom will not be great. An outside window should be provided for ventilation.

If the room is added afterward, it may be formed by constructing two wooden partition walls in one corner of the basement. The partition is a double one formed by nailing 2-inch by 4-inch studding to the floor and ceiling of the basement and putting a sheathing of boards on each side of the studding. The air space between the sheathing serves to prevent heat from the furnace or steam from the laundry from entering the room. Double doors which give access to the room serve the same purpose.

To bring fresh air into the store room, a ventilator be may be easily constructed from a few planks. One pane of glass may be removed from the cellar window and the end of the ventilator box fitted in the opening thus made. The bottom of the ventilator should be about six inches from the floor. To regulate the amount of cold air admitted on excessively cold days, when there might be danger of freezing, damper similar in principle to those used in stove pipes may be placed near the end of the ventilator. In storing vegetables it is important to permit a free flow of air all around the containers in which they are placed. For that reason barrels in which vegetables are kept should not be placed directly on the cellar floor, but should be raised a few inches above it on a slatted platform. Shelves for boxes of vegetables should also be slatted.

A good arrangement for such shelves is shown at the bottom of the page. They are made from a few extra lengths of the studding and wooden sheathing used in the partition wall. A sand bin for the storage of celery, sprouts, etc., may be placed at the base of the shelves.

Illustration of Cellar used for Food Storage
Typical Food Storage Cellar

Closed cupboards may be provided for canned fruit, as it is not necessary to provide for ventilation in storage and the doors of the cupboard keep duSt from collecting on the outsides of the cans and jars. If doors are not desired, a window shade furnishes a convenient protection for the storage shelves. These shelves would furnish a convenient storage place for jars of pickles. The same illustration indicates a barrel of vegetables can be placed on the slatted platform provided for it.

The home equipped with a food cellar of this type will be able to lay in several months' supplies of vegetables and preserved fruit at the seasons when they are cheapest and most plentiful. If there is a home garden the beets, carrots and other root vegetables may be stored here in the confidence that there will be little loss from decay or sprouting. This will permit the household to get the full benefit from the garden and not be forced to live mainly on one or a few crops at the time they are ripening and then have to purchase vegetables later.

The small expense and labor required to fit up a storage room of this type will be repaid many times.

Source: Womans Weekly Supplement, 1923




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