Sunday, May 18, 2008

An ode to the supermarket

The refrigerator is empty.

Well, almost.

A single snow pea is alone in the vegetable crisper, having somehow managed to escape the thin plastic produce bag when all the remaining vegetable orphans were gathered up for the traditional "What's Left Stirfry."

We adults play a game of rock, paper, scissors to see who will get the task of refilling the larder.

I lose.

I snake up and down the aisles of the grocery store, throwing this and that into the shopping cart.

I can do this in my sleep, I think to myself, despite having the Champ sitting in the sling, protesting the inability to reach a breakable item and Ittybit asking every six steps if we need whatever is in her line of vision.

"No honey, we don't need any pickled pigs feet today, but we could use a few of those pears. You may pick them out?"

It's been a tradition in our house that if a child asks for healthy food as we do "The Big Shop" together, we indulge. I keep telling myself a child that eats vegetables is priceless, so don't worry that the sugar snap peas are pricey.

We avoid most of the center aisles where the prepackaged food is at eye level. We try not to buy anything that has any recognizable children's characters marketing it to us.

"We do not buy Dora yogurt," I tell Ittybit with the same firmness I've established her father and myself as "Dog People" not "Cat People."

"There will come a day when you can buy your own Dora foods," I tell her. "But until that time comes, we will be buying the one with the cow on the label because it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup."

Nothing usually changes, not even the order in which the items appear as we rarely alter our route through the maze of narrow aisles. Even the pre-schooler's picks have become predictable: "We need bananas, apples, oranges, cucumbers, broccoli, peppers and spinach ... can we have melon, too?"

Week after week the same things pile up in the cart: fruit, vegetables, coffee, cereal, pancake mix, bread, pasta, sauces, juice, meats, eggs, milk, cheeses, butter and ice cream. Occasionally something new catches my attention and I pitch it in with the rest of the provisions.

So it was with some surprise that the check-out clerk totaled our haul and handed me the bill for 160 smackeroos.

I'm not sure if the checker in Lane 7 noticed my head spin completely around (because I think from the jarring sensation in my neck it happened pretty fast) but there I was sputtering and wondering when exactly WAS the last time I did the marketing?

Might it have been last year? Could it really have been only last week? Have prices really gone up that much in only seven days?

I was full of questions, and yet I didn't want to be THAT person. You know, the one who stares at the cashier in disbelief, muttering about how her food dollar used to go so much farther. Emitting a cloud of blame that somehow wafts over the register in the direction of the poor soul who is collecting payment? Yeah. THAT person.

Instead I look over at the person putting my groceries into the colored, reusable bags we've accumulated in hopes of saving the planet. Nothing really out of the ordinary is going into the bags.

There's no super-duper sized container of laundry detergent; no pharmacy, cleaning or personal products.

Besides a few boxes of cereal and one box of snack crackers there’s not much that isn't considered a staple.

I sign the receipt and sigh.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with food.

1 comment:

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Yeah, I try to ignore what I spend at the supermarket b/c it really is my only (very large) indulgence but I ran in for just a few things and spent $90 the other day! I fear that many people are having to live on very little these days. Don't even ask me how I feel about gas prices. Someone is laughing all the way to the bank.