Reruns and Leftovers, Wal-Mart

Advanced Grocery Shopping

Sean has not started school yet, and won’t until after Labor Day, but it seems that everyone else has. Consequently I’ve been promoted to most favored playmate status, which is all kinds of wonderful but leaves little time for other things, like attending to this blog.  So here’s a re-run from way back in August of 2005, one of my first posts.

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The earth is inhabited by two kinds of people: Those who love to go to the grocery store and then the other 98% of the population — those who have a life.

Until Sean came along, I was among the 2% who rank a trip to the grocery store right up there with a day at Six Flags. Lately, however, going to the store is more like going to a friend’s Tupperware party — you are obligated to go, you’re looking for the cheapest thing to buy and you hope you don’t have to go again for a long time.

Once upon a time, my weekly visit to the store was a serendipitous adventure. Tom Thumb was my boyfriend. I couldn’t wait to see him. It was exciting to think about what new and exotic fruit or vegetable or gourmet item he might have for me.  Would it be tomatillos, star fruit or imported olives?

I would spend hours going systematically up and down the aisles looking at all the different items and thinking about what fabulous dishes I might prepare.   Even though my household consisted only of my husband and me, the boy bagging the groceries once asked me how many children I had to feed. Unfortunately, for him, he asked this question too soon after a failed fertility treatment. I burst into tears. He tried to become invisible, and in fact, he was never seen again.

Now that I have a kiddo, I’ve quit seeing Tom. Sam is my new guy. If Tom Thumb is Omar Sharif, Wal-Mart is Al Bundy – convenient, cheap, annoying.

The truth is, I have a love-hate relationship with Wal-Mart. I hate how they dominate the retail landscape. I hate how they wipe out the small mom-and-pop businesses when they come to town. I love that they are a block away and sell formula and diapers for less than anyone else in town. And most of all, I love the entertaining study in humanity that is Wal-Mart — almost as good as the airport, only with more local flavor.

Aside from where I shop, how I shop has changed as well. Where shopping once was a leisurely exercise, like golf only with more physical and mental exertion, it’s now a study in ergonomics and economy of motion. The goal of every trip is to maximize the shopping that needs to be done within the time restraints of my toddler’s disposition on any given day. No wasted motion, no wasted effort, no wasted time. Not even a second glance towards the beloved olives.

I remember how, in my previous life, I used to see women in Nike’s, running through the store like spooked race horses, pushing carts laden with children and macaroni and cheese, taking corners on two wheels. And I would think to myself: “They should really slow down and stop and smell the cilantro — life is short.”  What I didn’t know, until now, is that no one with a toddler buys cilantro and yes, life is short, but a toddler’s cart-tolerance is even shorter and death is only a slightly less attractive an option than a toddler melt-down.

Before Sean came along, there were no daily emergency trips to the grocery store. I consulted my cookbooks, I made a list, I pressed my clothes. If I were out of, say, anchovies, it could wait until next week. These days, it seems that I am at Wal-Mart just about every day for some emergency item, like chocolate. I realized this recently when the greeter, who knows me by name, calls to me as I’m pushing my over-the-legal-weight-limit cart out the door. “Nice Nike’s,” he says with a knowing look and a wink, “See ‘ya tomorrow.”

I felt so cheap and tawdry! As if no other grocery store would have me! Tom wants me back you know. He still sends me coupons….

15 thoughts on “Advanced Grocery Shopping

  1. I feel like such a freak. I loved grocery store trips when mine were little. It was a reason to get out of the house, they were contained in the cart and the Kroger bakery gave away free cookies.
    I do remember taking the corners on two wheels when we were potty training and, of course, at the furthest point from the restroom one of them would send out the potty SOS.
    My apologies to anybody I injured during those frantic “buggy” rides.

  2. Your tupperware comment. . .gold, I tell ya, gold.

    I didn’t mind the grocery store when my eldest was young. She would nap in her baby car seat, or when older, sit in the buggy and recite various parts of The Litter Mermaid and wave to passers-by. Then the boy came along. . .that was the end of that.

  3. You always write the best stuff. Today was a grocery day in our house, and, at the moment (with a toddler and an infant), it can still be good, but only about once a week.

    I’ve stolen someone’s idea about an illustrated shopping list for my son, and we try to plan our trips (to Costco as there is no Wal-mart nearby–shocking, I know!!!) when they are handing out the food samples around lunchtime. A brilliant act of marketing, I must say.

    Thank you for a good post on a tough news day. 🙂

  4. Love it! The Tupperware comment is so true!

    I have also just accepted Wal-mart into my life and I am right there with you! Although the people watching aspect of it does make it a more interesting grocery shopping experience!

  5. Tee hee – this is SO true. I’ve never LOVED cooking or shopping like you did, but, yes, now every time I shop with my son, I always say it feels like shopping with a ticking time bomb in your cart! 🙂

  6. “…women in Nike’s, running through the store like spooked race horses, pushing carts laden with children and macaroni and cheese, taking corners on two wheels.”

    That’s me! Except I also have a baby strapped to my chest. My biggest fear when I go grocery shopping is that my almost 3-yo daughter will say, after I have a cart full of thawing frozen pizza and rapidly-melting ice cream, “I need to pee-pee! Mama, I need go potty!”

  7. There was a time in my kiddo’s life when I really enjoyed trips to the store – because she did, too. These days, though (as we near the big 2), it’s, ahem, much less enjoyable.

    Perhaps someday I’ll stop and smell the cilantro. But today I’d just be happy if my Nikes matched. 🙂

    * * *
    When they get to the point where they can walk alongside the cart, it gets fun again. Most of the time. 🙂

  8. Love your take on Wal-Mart!

    I live in a small town with very limited shopping choices, Wal-Mart is a necessary evil nowadays and I get really tired sometimes of being told how “bad” I am for shopping there.

  9. AM – This is why I read your blog. I live vicariously through you. Your motherhood experiences are like visiting a strange land…I never had children, by choice, but I love to read about you and Sean. And this particular story made me very happy that I can still stop and smell the cilantro (and buy it). Next time I’m at Central Market or Whole Foods, browsing through all of the aisles, I’ll pick up some imported olives in your honor.

  10. I, too, have that love/hate relationship with WalMart. One day last week, the people at Walmart were so bizarre (a guy dressed in tails and top hat, carrying a scepter, riding in a wheelchair!) I told my boy to look straight ahead and keep walking towards the checkstand so we could get out of there. But I’ll go back there this week, of course. When people criticize me for shopping there, my answer is when you don’t have a lot of money, WalMart comes in pretty handy.

  11. Oh, my dear AM, I am recollecting the days when I prayed, YES PRAYED, for the day or night I could do marketing by myself, without the flavor of four pre-school infants and toddlers as my eager escorts.

    Sorry, this ain’t very supportive. . .

    Things somehow were easier then; more was expected of young mothers and we eagerly exceeded those expectations because we had signed up for perfection and yearned for it. We were less entitled because our longings weren’t particularly articulated. That would have been “complaining.” Bitching about life was frowned upon.

    Customs, mores, have changed. Life, then, was just. . . easier. This is only a perspective from another era. Different but not better or worse. . .

  12. My child’s limit for shopping of any kind was minimal to none. I would go in the evening, with her at home with Dad, just so I could get through my list. But now at 11-years-old, she has no patience for shopping. If only I could have tolerated the experience early on!

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