One of my children is involved with a group that is putting together Thanksgiving boxes, and was asked to bring cans of fruit cocktail to include in said boxes. When I was shopping I picked up the requested donation, but what was available differed considerably in content and price.
Seems like an easy thing, right? Just pick up the cans and throw them in the cart. Since I wasn't thinking about blogging about it, I didn't take copious notes, but I will say what I saw by memory, which is hopefully mostly accurate. :) Here is what I remember:
1) The prices were strikingly different. The less expensive of the brands that I seriously considered was, I think, $.72, while the more expensive brand was $1.28. I didn't check the ounces, but the cans looked about the same size. (Perhaps this should teach me to look at everything as a potential blogging post... :)
2) Some of the cans (not necessarily the brands mentioned above) had labels that indicated that the fruit was sweetened with artificial sweetener. The more expensive brand mentioned above (I'll cut the suspense and note here that this is the one I ended up buying, hence I have more details on it) is labeled, "mixed fruit in 100% real fruit juice from concentrate", with an additional proclamation of "same nutrients as fresh".
3) The thing that I think finalized my purchasing choice (since I don't think the artificial sweetener was in the less expensive product mentioned above) was the fact that one of the brands, in reading the ingredient label, said that it had "pineapple sectors". Yeah, I'm pretty sure that that is correct, because I think I read the label at least twice and was trying to figure out exactly what that meant. In an effort to make sure that I did not appear totally foolish in writing this post, I looked up this definition at dictionary.com to make sure "sectors" wasn't something commonly used in connection with pineapple that I just happened to never have heard of. Nope. I was thinking maybe it was a typo and they meant "sections", but who knows? Since I didn't, it did not find its way into my basket.
Sure, I thought about the fact that the two brands under consideration were drastically different in price. I thought about the fact that whoever is going to receive the boxes wouldn't know about the more expensive alternative. But what I thought about most was what I would be willing to eat myself. So I got what looks like the better quality product. (Watch, someone will leave me a comment about how the pineapple "sectors" are actually the best part of the fruit, and I will be mistaken once again...)
Reading labels (and worrying about the quality of the food) is not something I reserve only for Thanksgiving boxes. I actually read the labels on almost (if not) everything, that I buy, and what I have found is that sometimes you find things that you would never expect in the food that you're buying. Many times that has caused me to rethink the purchase--read: I don't end up buying it. That has happened to me with canned soup, frozen foods, etc., and most recently with the cans of fruit cocktail.
If you have someone in the group that you are responsible for that is allergic to certain foods, you probably do this regularly, anyway, but it can never hurt to know exactly what you are feeding/storing/giving when you are buying processed food. For instance, when I update my 72-hour kits (which I was planning to do last month) I will probably include fruit snacks in the mix. I will probably also check to see how much vitamin C there is per serving, because it can vary greatly. If I get more vitamin C in the fruit snacks, it helps me to feel better about the artificial flavors/colors/whatever that are part of the whole package. Yeah, I know they're in there. The thing is, emergency situation food is not always ideal, but hopefully you can include healthier things if you plan ahead, and are not trying to get whatever is available at the last minute.
The real bummer is that I know that we are due to buy more fruit for our storage, and I find that the stuff that I like in terms of fruit cocktail is pretty expensive, at least comparatively speaking. We may have to go with other varieties of canned fruit to get the most food for our food storage dollar, but hopefully there won't be anything in the chosen products that makes me think, "What's that, again?" It may not "pay" to read the label, but in my opinion, it certainly is worth it...