I fear that someday soon grocery shopping will be my undoing. For some reason, I find myself on a weekly basis reflecting on the many ironies of how the system works. Grocery shopping is an art passed down from mother to daughter from generation to generation. Occasionally sons also learn the trade, but generally speaking the realm of grocery shopping remains the territory of the sacred feminine. Some mothers mentor their daughters by gently coaching them one-on-one through the wild environs of the frozen food aisle while other hardy specimens toss their offspring unceremoniously from the nest by handing them the list and picking them up forty-five minutes later. However you managed to learn, at some point you will embark on the rite of passage known as doing your own grocery shopping.
Years ago, shopping when the kids were little became something of an Olympic sport. Juggling snacks and drinks that you’ve already paid for, mediating between disputes, employing every shred of maternal strategy you possess just to survive. Those days are long gone so I no longer need to summon courage to traverse the unknowns of the local A&P. Now, I simply need endurance and strength equivalent to that required for the Iditarod. Perhaps with the passage of time I’ve simply gained insight that was unavailable to me in my youth. I’m not sure, but I have noticed the futility of the shopping dance that I will attempt to describe to you here.
The very first thing we do upon arriving at the market place is to select our cart. The cart is a modern marvel equipped with a seat to secure one cooperative toddler and an invitation to all other kids to jump on in an effort to tip it over and render it inoperable. Should you manage to succeed in maneuvering the cart in spite of its underage passengers, you simply guide it through the grocery store maze selecting all the items on your list as well as copious amounts of things that are “Buy-one-get-one-free” and ten for ten specials. Placing each one carefully in the cart, arranging them so as to not crush the chips or the bread, we then proceed to the checkout line in preparation for payment.
Here’s where the process becomes interesting to me. We have just spent up to an hour roaming around the store, filling our cart with hundreds of dollars’ worth of food and what do we do next? We begin removing each item from our cart, which moments before we had painstakingly placed it into, and we set these items one at a time onto a short conveyor belt which goes nowhere. Each item is then immediately picked back up by a helpful high school student and placed gently and lovingly into a paper-thin, recycled plastic bag. At least three items may be placed into a bag, four at the most. This guarantees you will return home with a minimum of four hundred and twenty seven bags by the time you are done shopping.
Each bag “full” of groceries is then hoisted unceremoniously back into the cart from which moments before we had just removed it. We then drain our bank account to purchase the goods and receive in return a strip of paper detailing precise damages for each item. After thanking the helpful high school student for his assistance, we then shuffle slowly out to the parking lot, find our vehicle and unceremoniously hoist each bag of groceries into the trunk of the car, out of the cart from which moments before we had painstakingly placed it. (I see a pattern developing here, do you?)
The final leg of our journey takes place when we arrive home and – you guessed it – we begin removing each bag of groceries from the trunk, where just moments before we had painstakingly placed it into. After toting our packages into the house we have one final task: to remove each item from our four hundred twenty seven bags and find them a home in the pantry for approximately fifteen minutes until the teenagers and your husband realize that fresh food has been acquired. At which point they will eat every crumb, ensuring that you will have to do this all over again next week! Grocery shopping – gotta love it?