I was quite fortunate to have a satisfying job at a grocery store while I earned my way through college. As I worked my way up through the ranks, I was given the job of Frozen Foods Manager. In many ways, it was the very best position in the store. As a bonus, the job was one way that I could enjoy doing something of benefit to others.
I had more of a margin for error when ordering frozen merchandise than when I had been in charge of the fresh produce department at the supermarket. Plus, the inventory was much easier to manage and store. When the semi truck with the weekly shipment of goods unloaded, the frozen foods were the last to come off. Most of us were happy about that, because we’d often be overheated after the carrying and stacking of the regular grocery stock. Going in and out of the large walk-in freezer was refreshing on a summer day.
Back in the early 1970s, supermarkets didn’t have laser price scanners nor was there UPC coding on packages. All the stock boys (my female coworkers weren’t assigned to shelf stocking) carried price stampers in a leather holster fastened to our belts. The frozen food stamper required a special blue ink that could enable price marking through a light layer of frost.
In addition to my stamper, I wore a long, heavy white overcoat that looked like a mad scientist’s coat. Thick, gloves finished my in-freezer attire. I’d sometimes spend an hour at a time arranging and stacking cartons of frozen merchandise inside of the freezer that was kept at minus ten degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t mind at all.
I remember that many new frozen food products were being introduced at that time, so there was the challenge of how to display the items inside of the limited frozen food units on the retail floor. Trying to figure out which new products might be popular with our customers and how much to order from the warehouse was often a sticking point. Sometimes a new product didn’t catch on, and other times one might be so popular that the warehouse often ran out of it.
Aside from the quantity and popularity of frozen juices and vegetables, the next most often sold products were the ready to eat entrees and teevee dinners. These products were just coming into their own at this time. Aside from the grocery chain brand foods, the most popular trade names were Banquet and Swanson. I always had to keep plenty of the Banquet frozen pies on hand during the holidays and Swanson teevee dinners the rest of the year. Both companies often promoted their products with reduced prices that we advertised.
The frozen pizzas had a ready market in our store because of our location across the street from a college campus. Even though microwave ovens were very rare, conventional food preparation was done wherever toaster ovens and ranges were allowed. This is also the time when a greater variety of pizza flavors and brand names were becoming known.
The only frozen product line that I didn’t manage was the ice cream. Each ice cream company stocked and displayed their own ice cream and frozen novelties within one of our display freezers separate from the others. I was glad of that, because ice cream customers were quite fickle and hard to predict.
It’s strange that I haven’t given any thought, at all, to my old job as Frozen Foods Manager in many years. Noticing that today is National Frozen Food Day reminded me of these good memories.
I’m sure you’ll find some way to celebrate this little holiday by enjoying some food you purchased from the frozen foods aisle at your local supermarket.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that health minded people can find frozen organic items to enjoy in the frozen foods case at their favorite stores.