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The grocery story

April 27, 2009

We were home and making dinner by 6 Friday night, and with the television off and the stereo on, we ate at the table. We needed a fridge clean-out day before a big trip to the grocery, and we’ll eat almost anything in a salad,  so it was mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber, yellow bell pepper, sauteed asparagus, olives, grapes and radiatore for us.  Jack had one of his favorite high chair medleys: grated cheese, peas, avocado, pasta pieces and cheerios. The smorgasbord left us short on food and long on shopping lists.

Of all the chores and errands that have become harder to squeeze in around work time and Jack time, getting groceries presents the biggest challenge. A couple of years ago, we’d just stop on the way home, or run into town early on a weekend morning, or shop on one end of an evening out. Now, of course, evenings out are few and far between, and the 30 miles between our house and the nearest grocery seem longer than they once did.  With so much more to work in and around, there is no longer any “running” into town; it feels more like swimming. At the end of a workday, when I’ve already not seen Jack or his dad for most of the day, none of us are excited to prolong the reunion with an hour-long detour.

When I was little, a trip to Wal-Mart or the I.G.A. was a nearly all-day affair usually saved for one Saturday every few weeks. The hometown store sold milk and eggs and plenty more, but the prices were higher, so we bought most things in town and in bulk. Three bottles of ketchup at a time, cereal by the bag, two watermelons. My dad’s pickup (the only car we had that could get down – and back up – our long, steep driveway) would come back full of food that would take a half an hour or more to unload and put away into the fridge, out in the deep freeze, under the counter and onto various shelves.

During college and grad school, I quickly got used to life near the grocery. One year we lived a couple of blocks from the store; the next year we moved across the street from another. It was easy for me to stop there on the way home, or to walk over. I stopped stocking two weeks’ or a month’s worth of food, stopped using the freezer and started buying food on a near-daily basis.

Then we moved back to Arkansas, outside my hometown, more than 20 miles from the nearest decent grocery. After forgetting a pantry staple or key ingredient a few too many times, and encountering the $5.10 gallons of milk at the local gas station, the long lists and marathon shopping trips began again. I love to cook, and the nearest restaurant is too far away even to tempt us on the most harried weeknights.  We buy pounds of baking supplies, root vegetables and pasta at a time, so that weekly quick trips to buy milk and produce actually stay quick. We buy certain things at Sam’s Club, and we find places in our tiny kitchen to make the most of their giant packaging – this morning I propped open the kitchen door with an industrial-sized bottle of olive oil.

On Saturday, while D was leading a day full of academic activities for 50 high school students, Jack and I decided to make a grocery run. I checked the fridge, the cupboard and the shelves multiple times to make the list; I waited for the perfect afternoon time for Jack to take a 30-minute ride in the car and an hour-long ride in a shopping cart. I shopped for frozen peas and berries last, and made sure they were bagged with other cold stuff, in hopes they’d make it home without melting together. I was delighted when my husband, having gotten my message, showed up at the store to meet us, follow us home and help carry all of those bags, which took more than 30 minutes to bring in and empty.  Jack, cute and useless, supervised.


Sunday morning, 7 a.m. surprise: I’d forgotten the coffee. Consider this Reason No. 573 why living next door to your mother is great.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 28, 2009 9:49 pm

    I don’t live that far from a grocery store but it is definitely so hard to make a quick trip with 2 little ones. I will have Michael meet me at the store and take the kids home while I grab the groceries when I have to stop on the way home from work. I ALWAYS forget something and it is usually the one thing I really needed (LOL)>

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