Tuesday, November 10, 2015

On Grocery Shopping

I had thought that tonight I might write one of the meaty posts that I've been wanting to write. But then I saw the news of threats being made on the Mizzou campus, and my heart hurts too much for those college kids to engage my brain to write the post I had in mind.

But I still feel like writing, so I'm going to write about grocery shopping instead. This is sort of the opposite of a meaty post. Except I do buy meat at the grocery store (even though I have one of the best specialty butchers in the city in my neighborhood... sorry, I'm just not that into meat to make a special trip).

We currently get our groceries from three sources. We buy my husband's preferred cheese and cereal, Petunia's strawberry bars, the dried bananas and mangos that Pumpkin likes, and a bunch of wine at Trader Joes. Mr. Snarky goes on Friday night about once a month. He goes on Friday night because our closest Trader Joes is in one of the party parts of town where most of the residents are college kids and other young adults who definitely do not spend their Friday nights at the grocery store. We buy the kids' preferred cereal, applesauce, graham crackers, various fruit snack things that are really candy, beer, more wine, kleenex, toilet paper, and random other things that make sense to buy in bulk at Costco. Mr. Snarky also does this shopping about once a month, because I cannot stand shopping in Costco on the weekend. It makes me hate people. I start to fantasize about running people down with my double-wide Costco shopping cart.

We buy everything else at our neighborhood grocery story, which happens to be one of two stores in a small local chain and not one of the big chains. I'll be honest, if the store down the street from me was one of the big chains, I'd shop there. I clearly prioritize closeness over quality, because our store often runs out of things and doesn't restock until some other similar thing also runs low. For instance, Mr. Snarky likes white grapefruit juice. Our store hasn't had that for the last three weeks. They are making us run down their stock of pink grapefruit juice before they stock more white grapefruit juice. We complain and joke about this, but still do our shopping there. I like to think of it as doing our part to fight food waste. I do this shopping, and I go every Sunday.

As I was checking out this Sunday, the cashier noted that I was alone. One or both of the kids often come with me. I prefer to go alone, but as with many things in my life right now, sometimes my preferences aren't the most important consideration when making a decision.

The cashier and I chatted a bit about how getting to do the grocery shopping alone is a bit of a treat. As I loaded the groceries into my car, I thought back to when I was a kid, when going to the grocery store with my mom was a bit of a treat. I wonder why kids like going to grocery stores so much? I don't hate it (except for Costco on the weekends), but I don't love it like my kids do.

Then, for some reason, I thought back to the first period in my life when I did my own grocery shopping. It was in college. My first two years, I lived in one of the dorms that was not on the main campus. There was a communal kitchen. You could pay a small fee and rent a locker so that you could store pots and pans and food that didn't need to be refrigerated. I also had a small fridge in my room. The closest grocery store was a co-op. I became a member, because that got me a discount on my groceries. Very few students had cars, so we all bought the wire carts that we called granny carts. You could get four full paper bags of groceries in one, if you had the space to store all that food (most of us didn't). I think I went to the store once every couple of weeks. Sometimes I went even if I didn't need anything, just to be with a friend or two and take a break from studying. I ate a lot of meals at the dining hall assigned to us on campus, but often made my own dinner because I couldn't be bothered going back to campus once I was home. And yes, I very clearly thought of my residence hall as my home.

That thought has stayed with me this week, as people have been debating the events at Yale and Mizzou. Campus is a school and a place of work for some. It is a space for learning. It is also home to a bunch of young people, most of whom are out on their own for their first time, trying to become adults. I wish we'd remember that more.

And that's as close to a serious topic as I care to go tonight. Tell me about your grocery shopping routine in the comments. Did you think of grocery shopping as a treat when you were a kid? Is this some sort of weird universal kid thing?


  1. I don't remember thinking that the grocery store was a treat at all when I was a kid. But we lived in a small town with a tiny local supermarket and I had a strict no-treat mother. But once a month, she would go to the military commisary and buy a carload of stuff, and that always felt like Christmas (when she came home. We never went with her.)

    I love doing the grocery shopping, and do it every week. I try to go by myself but it's true that the kids sometimes want to come with me and seem to love it. I go to WF, which I hate, but there aren't any co op alternatives near me, and sometimes to Giant which is super close to home.

  2. My routine is similar to yours. Costco about once a month, for lots of things: meat, cheese, frozen stuff, nuts, canned goods - pretty much whatever they have that we also use. We have a pretty big storage area for bulk goods, and multiple refrigerators and freezers. If possible, I will send my husband because I also dislike Costco. Sometimes we go together. Rarely do I go alone. Then, once a week, I shop at two stores. Walmart (because it's close and cheap) for most things, and Whole Foods for additional produce, meat (can't bring myself to buy this at Walmart), some dairy, and then fancy things (protein bars, bulk nuts, special oils, etc, etc.). I used to be really good about shopping every weekend, but since having my daughter (now almost 2), I am not so good about it because I don't really like taking her (really not that bad, just a hassle), but I SHOULD take her since it's a better use of time than to have my husband stay home and watch her when we both don't get enough productive non-kid time as it is (i.e., I don't want to use up my "kid free time" at the grocery store).

    I also have found memories of living in residence. I didn't really like grocery shopping though because it always involved a long walk with very heavy stuff.

    As soon as I was old enough to drive (16), my parents delegated grocery shopping to me as a teenager. I went (sometimes with siblings) every Sunday for the last couple of years of high school. And I generally enjoyed it.

    1. Ooh, my parents gave me the shopping when I turned 16 and got my license too! I loved it back then!

  3. Have you heard about the 'day of racial reconciliation' at Narbonne HS? It's a non-magnet, non-charter school in LAUSD that has done some remarkable things. The teachers, the students, the community have all exceeded outsiders' expectations of what poor and immigrant kids should accept as their lot in life.

    The students went to the administration with their idea after the press reported 'race riots' at their school. The students said that was the wrong lens to apply to the incident. The administration should get credit for listening to the student leaders.

    The national press did not come for the day of reconciliation.

    1. No, I did not hear about that. It sounds like a good idea.

  4. At home we go to the upscale grocery for all of our stuff and then hit the city for special stuff about once a month.

    Here it's weird because WF doesn't have everything we need, TJ's doesn't have everything we need, and the upscale grocery doesn't have everything we want... so we alternate at all those places on top of a local neighborhood market that has good cheese and bread and the farmer's market. It's a lot more work! But we do eat better food than at home...

    Also: I still like grocery shopping, though I would like it more if I had more time!

  5. Zenmoo8:53 PM

    I try to do the 'dry goods' shopping (dog food, toilet paper, cereal etc) on-line and buy meat from a speciality butcher & fruit & veg & fancy cheese from a green grocers. They are both directly across the road from my daughter's school so it's convenient to do while she has swimming lessons (at school, immediately after school) or straight after. There is also a small supermarket in the same complex if necessary but I prefer to avoid it with kids in tow.

  6. Reading about people's grocery shopping routines is surprisingly fun! Thanks for sharing everyone. I should post random fluff topics more often.

  7. Before kids I had a very elaborate routine (excel spreadsheet & meals planned for the nonth!) That involved Sam's club, co-op & regular grocery. Now a days with kids we do a weekly trip that alternates between co-op and trader Joe's. When I was a kid, I have memories of doing some shopping with my mom but don't remember it being particularly enjoyable (or not).

    And a tribute to the best grocery stores - publix chain in the southeast - clean, well organized, great variety & excellent customer service and the Davis Food Coop in Davis, CA.

  8. My husband is banned from going to Costco, because he can't control himself. He goes to buy detergent and comes back $400 later with a ton of cool but unnecessary stuff.
    Our main item is bread, we are very particular about the kind we buy (artisan batard(e), ciabatta, or baguette) and that pretty much fixes our main store, where I go once a week (on Sundays). They also have very affordable organic fruits and vegetables. We go to Costco monthly or so, for a few items like water softener pellets, detergent, Havarti for sandwiches, and the Kirkland brand goat cheese everyone loves.

  9. The whole food shopping/meal-cooking thing is still a thorn in my side that I just can't seem to sort out in a way that makes it less annoying, but it's getting better.

    I discovered Instacart and I am in love. Yes, it's Whole Foods prices but it's the same price in-store AND I don't have to go anywhere, and I can shop at 2am if I want online. They have *almost* everything I need, except for a handful of things which I buy at Trader Joe's once a month or so.

    My 3yo LOVES coming to TJs with me, and oddly, she is a super fun shopping buddy so I don't mind it.

    I too hate Costco but since our dog is on a daily pill that I get refilled there every other month or so, I usually cruise through about an hour before close on a weeknight and pick up a handful of meat items for our freezer and a large bag of bananas. (We can always eat more bananas).

    Hubby goes to the regular grocery at least once a week, sometimes more, to buy whatever special stuff he wants (junk, a certain type of deli pepperoni, Boboli pizza crusts, etc). He'd probably be happy in countries where they shop daily.

    I have a handful of things for kid lunches and snacks + bulk household items like dog food, Kleenex and TP on Amazon subscription and that has been working really well, except when they discontinue things we have bought for years (RIP plain instant oatmeal).

    I generally plan meals a week at a time now and that seems to work ok. But we still eat out way too much.


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