Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Food shopping together proceeds smoothly, for once

Note: This column appears in the 6/9 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/10 issue of the Peoria Times

I do most of the grocery shopping. It is just one of the domestic roles I fell into, probably because a) I do most of the eating and b) I despise grocery shopping slightly less than my wife does.

I have a pretty good routine though. We make a list of the things we need, and then I will go to the store, forgetting to bring the list, and the coupons I acquired on the previous shopping trip, and our reusable shopping bags. My wife will call me as I’m on my way to the store to inform me that I forgot all those things, and to remind me to pick up an obscure item like scallions. She will say, “You know what scallions are, right?” and I will say, “Yes,” although I really don’t, but plan on figuring it out.

I will spend about 20 minutes in the produce section wandering around aimlessly before I call my wife and ask, “What do scallions look like?” Then I will breeze through the store, picking up items we enjoy eating and that are on sale. “Do I like that?” and “Is it on sale?” are the only two questions involved in my thought process when selecting items.

If the checkout lines are too long, I will attempt to use the self-checkout line, and will get halfway through the process before realizing I have vegetables to weigh. I will spend about 10 minutes trying to find the code for and accurately weigh bell peppers before cancelling the entire order in frustration, placing all of the items back into the cart as the machine yells repeatedly for all to hear, “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO CANCEL? PRESS ‘I AM STUPID’ TO CANCEL,” and going to wait on the now longer line at regular checkout. I nonchalantly peruse the gossip mags as I wait.

When I reach the cashier, I will inform him or her that I forgot my reusable bags, so as to make it known that my intentions are pure. Also I forgot my club card. Can you look it up with my phone number? On the slim chance that I actually remembered coupons, I will forget to present them at checkout, and will only remember I have them after the transaction is complete and additional coupons are printed. I must then immediately walk over to the customer service counter, where no one is at the moment, so that I can get refunded the difference. If I deem the worker to be friendly, I will attempt to squeeze in several of the coupons I just received.

When I get home, we will empty the bags together as my wife periodically asks, “Did you remember to get (item)?” I will say, “Shoot. No. Sorry. Hey, did you hear Kate Gosselin had liposuction?”

This is not a perfect routine, but it works. In fact, its usefulness is best highlighted on the rare occasions we go food shopping as a family. I wait in frustration as my wife stands in front of yogurt for an eternity, inspecting each label and trying to determine which is the best deal per ounce, as I follow our daughter around picking up the things she has knocked over. My wife will ask me questions about items that aren’t so much questions that seek my opinion, but more her telling herself out loud she should buy something.

“Should I get this apple jelly? I can use it for lunch … ”

“That thing weighs 30 lbs. Last year you bought ‘pumpkin butter’ that’s still unopened in the pantry.”

This is why I don’t go shopping with you. Just get what YOU want, and let’s go!”

Anyway, I bring this up only because last weekend we went food shopping as a family—at a megastore, no less—and nailed it. I agreed to everything, we split up to save time and generally knew the whereabouts of things, and our daughter waited until checkout to flip out (because, since you asked, I took away from her the plastic container of strawberries she was sticking her fingers through). It was surreal—the greatest, most productive shopping trip ever. It may never happen like that again, so I wanted to write it down to remember that it did.

I have been known to forget things.

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