Mondays are the grocery shopping day in this family. Living out the boonies requires some organization in the matter of meal prep, since popping out to the store on a whim isn’t a realistic option. There is a grocery store that charges far more than necessary, and a Walmart that I avoid upon pain of death. Combine that with the hassle of lugging around two kids and it’s really worth effort to make one big shopping trip per week.
The ordeal – for that is what it is – begins earlier in the morning, when I sit down with a stack of cookbooks to plan out the dinner menu for the week. This is a crucial step, for it allows me to shop accordingly instead of buying loads of groceries that don’t get used for awhile, and there’s never any ambiguity about what’s for dinner. That way I also get to try out new recipes.
We get in the car and drive for forty minutes. There are always a few complications. A grocery cart requires a 25-cent deposit and I make sure I’ve got a quarter even before I leave home. Dragging the kids into the store to find a grumpy teenage employee to break my $20 bill, then returning outside to find a cart, forcibly insert the toddler, and lock in the baby seat while juggling reusable bags and my purse and the list that always seems to disappear is so miserably difficult. With a quarter, though, life’s a breeze!
The toddler protests against riding in the cart. On days that I’m feeling generous, I agree to let him walk – if he promises to stay beside me. Fat chance. Every single time, he makes a dash for it. I’ve yet to figure out the ideal reaction: either abandon the baby and my purse in the cart and run after him, usually catching him while the former are still in view, or pop that rickety old cart into high gear and go careening down the aisle after him, baby seat bouncing precariously. Neither is particularly good, so I’ve learned to watch him constantly and lunge if he shows the slightest indication to flee. Eventually he gets put in the cart, kicking and arguing vehemently, but then I fish out the list and give it to the toddler to hold. By the end, it’s chewed and soggy, or gone altogether, but at least it keeps him occupied.
There’s a young guy who works in the produce department every Monday morning that we’re there. He provides some much-needed comic relief to my frazzled self. Once he was sweeping the floor, pushing around a mess of lettuce bits, crumbly broccoli florets, hair, dirt, and whatever other nastiness accumulates on a grocery store floor. I got in his way and apologized. “No worries. I’m just making myself a salad,” he said. I was still chuckling five minutes later when I got in his way again. “It’s okay,” he said. “I know I won’t be sweeping you off your feet.” When he’s not making clever remarks, he’s always got jokes for me: “What do you call a line of rabbits hopping backwards? A receding hare line!”
We work our way through the store, trying to stick to what’s on the list while the toddler uses all his logic to convince me to buy junk food. “Mommy, we need Nutella! I need Nutella!” Sure you do, honey. The rest is fairly uneventful until we get to the check-out and I face the eternal dilemma: if the baby seat is in the cart, there’s nowhere to put the grocery bags and I’m forced to carry them on my arms while pushing the cart, which is very heavy. If the baby is in the front carrier, then I have to pack the grocery bags with a 20-lb baby on the chest who still needs his head supported, which means I’m packing everything with one hand. Somehow I do it and we limp out of the store, only slightly worse for wear.
The drive home is always worse, since the kids are cranky and hungry. We explode into the house and I try to make lunch and unpack the groceries simultaneously, while fending off the toddler’s attempts to bite into any fruit or vegetable he can get his hands on. The baby serenades us in the background with his wails. At least Monday morning is over, and it’ll be another week until I go through the whole ordeal again. In the meantime the fridge is well stocked, and when that’s the case, my husband and I are both very happy people.