Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hitting the Food Store

What do you call the place where you buy groceries? In my husband's family they call it the "food store." I don't know why, but I find this adorably specific.  I chalk it up to their East coast roots where liquor stores are called "package stores" and where our local grocery store, when we lived in Philadelphia ten years ago, literally only sold food. It was a small Acme and had a minuscule toiletry section with about two shampoo choices. Simply a food store, not the enormous pharmacy-liquor-toiletry-makeup-bakery-seafood-butcher-grocery mega store like we have here in the Midwest. A place where you can buy a watermelon for your picnic right alongside a five piece outdoor table and chair set for that picnic, and maybe a Chiefs t-shirt you can spill a beer on at that picnic. Our Acme in Philly was a place to buy plain old food. If you wanted a large fresh seafood selection you'd go to the fresh seafood store. You need deodorant, you go to Walgreens. Perfect T-bone, visit your butcher. Acme just had the basics, so calling it a food store made sense. But here, it's just quirky. Why am I mentioning this at all? Because tonight I hit the food store and after a hectic crazy work day with multiple meetings, an after work networking event that included a tasty chilled Riesling, I realized, crap, we have nothing in the house for dinner. So I took one for the team (since my trip to the store takes 1/3 of the time Joe's trip would take, sorry, dear) and went to buy food.

I have an abusive relationship with the grocery store.  I create a healthy and structured list, including some planned meal ingredients, some snacks, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I put these things in the cart. And somehow the box of Nilla Wafers jumps in. And then that delicious tomato basil foccacia, and possibly a Kit Kat bar, and pudding. These things were not on the list.  But this isn't the worst. The worst is that I start the week with big plans to eat at home every night, then two nights we do and then we don't. And then two weeks later I realize that bag of green beans is still sitting in the crisper and has morphed into a soggy brownish bag of goo, that I then have to carefully remove without puncturing the now weakened bag and dousing the floor with rotten bean fluids. We go through this cycle on a monthly basis. Shop and cook for a week, then eat out eat out eat out. Feel guilty, clean fridge, restock with new food. Cook at home for a couple of days. We take a trip or have super busy weeks at work, or turn moderately lazy, and the fresh healthy food dies in the fridge while we enjoy a little beef with broccoli.

So this time I dialed it back. I realized that if I buy smaller quantities I can always stop on my way home and pick up the fresh stuff to cook tonight. Duh. And I can feel less guilty about throwing away the mushy avocado and rotten cilantro for that guacamole I never got around to making, because I didn't buy it this time. Plus if I visit the grocery store more often I get to enjoy experiencing these:

- The 16 year old ginger trainee who took 16 minutes to type in the code for the melon I bought.

- The old man wearing slippers whose cart only contained beer and tube socks. I think he's a bachelor.

- Our ice maker is broken. I bought a bag of ice. I always forget to grab the bag of ice on my way out. I loaded all groceries into the car and then realized, shit,  I forgot the ice. At least I was still in the parking lot and not sitting at home on the couch when I remembered, like last time.

- The candy bar debate. I had enough calories banked today. I really wanted one. But which one? When I only allow myself one every third trip or so, it becomes an enormous decision. I felt like a five year old, just staring and drooling in the check out lane while the ginger checkout boy slowing decided if those were tomatoes or onions that I was buying. Seriously.  Kit Kat was today's big winner. It was crisplicious.

-I've noticed that when I remember to bring in my reusable cloth grocery bags, I often receive and then return the pompous nod of camaraderie and superiority with other cloth bag carriers. That is when I remember to bring them in with me.

- I always pick the cart that is permanently wedged inside the fifteen other carts. I briefly and futilely struggle to free my chosen cart, look like an angry weak idiot, give up, and pick another cart. I suspect that the 16 year old cart retrievers super glue them together and then sit back and mock all the frustrated shoppers as we frantically yank and pull on the long chain of carts. I also invariably pick the slowest lane. No matter what.

-This adorable elderly Asian couple was shopping in front of me through most of my trip. They were dressed to the nines, giggling and kissed twice in the soda aisle. I think they were on a grocery date, no wedding rings.

- The lady behind me in line who was obviously throwing a party for her kids, based on her look of impending doom and exhaustion and a cart filled with frozen pizzas, 20 2 liters of soda, 40 single serving birthday cake flavored ice cream cups and two boxes of cake mix.  And five bottles of wine. Plus she told me, loudly, how much she was dreading her daughter's birthday slumber party this weekend. Her exact words were, "Is there anything worse than a house full of screaming girls?"  Yep, running out of wine.

Do you show good grocery shopping restraint? Do the donuts creep into your cart? How often do you eat out? Am I the only one who threw away a half eaten yellowed container of cottage cheese today?  I feel guilty about being so wasteful, but I'm working on it, though ironically I already have plans to eat out tomorrow night. Thursday night I'll cook. I promise.


Mike Stalls said...

I love you!!

bethany actually said...

Yep, I do the whole, oops-I-meant-to-use-that-bag-of-lettuce-and-those-bell-peppers routine on a regular basis too. I do let extra stuff creep into my cart, but often it's because I have a certain six-year-old with me and I can use her as an excuse.

I find that going to the grocery store NOT hungry really does make a difference in the amount of crap I buy, so if I'm forced to go at mealtime I try to eat a bowl of cereal or something first. That helps me resist Pop-Tarts and potato chips.

Also, we do the thing where we vow to eat at home more, cook meals for a few days, and then eat out for a few days. But the difference with me is that if I have food in the house to cook, I will cook something. It's when I let the fridge get empty that I justify going out to eat. I don't know why, but for some reason it's SO hard for me to make myself go to the grocery store, even though it's literally blocks from my house. I put it off as long as I possibly can, enabled by the fact that Troy walks right by the store on his way home every day and will stop and pick up loaves of bread and gallons of milk for me.

Snowfairy said...

Great post, I love talking shopping especially food.
We mostly call them supermarkets, or just refer to them by the shop name Tesco, Asda, Sainburys it all means food shopping.
I'm a cloth bag lady only because they are so much easier to carry than flimsy plastic, I also get a 'I'm so great i'm saving the planet' feeling.
As for eating out we don't do it very much, once a month on a special occasion or if we're seeing friends. I'd rather cook something at home that tastes really good and only cost 1/8 of the price of eating out and on a special occasion we can both have a drink and not worry about driving.
I could go on for ages about food habits but I'd be a bore so I'll stop! For now

Katrina said...

That is exactly how our house is. In fact as I was reading your post I thought "Crap- I wonder if our green beans are still good!" Better check that out. Sigh. It's a constant struggle here. I HATE cooking. There is really nothing worse I think. But I know it's not healthy to eat our or to eat out of a box. So it's a struggle. I have started to cut back on the amount of healthy food I buy at a time. But to go numerous times a week- NO THANK YOU! I need to have a personal chef. That is all there is to it! :)

Kristendom said...

Do I even need to comment? I'm pretty sure you know what our fridge looks like - and it's usually full of old food that never got eaten for eating out instead. As Sean asked me a couple of weeks ago, "Are you REALLY gonna cook that this week?" The answer should always be no.

Erin said...

Yes! We could just replace your last name with Lieuallen family and it is exactly the same. Except I have never heard Rocco say food store. I like to go as a team because he can bag while I pay - so much less stressful. We also kinda keep each other in check so things don't jump into the cart. The glare I would receive if I even make my way over to the candy isle is an extra hurdle to junk food purchases. Then there is "What are you going over there for?", an even bigger hurdle. So if I make it over to the candy isle after all that, I must really need it. Luckily we don't have candy at the checkout for some reason. I feel like now that I am not burried under books every evening, I have no excuse not to make dinner. We'll see how it goes.

As far as rotten food goes - if I didn't live with someone who is willing to clean it out, rotten food from years ago would probably be in there still- to which Bethany can attest, unfortunately.

Katrina, maybe instead of Christmas presents you should ask for a one-a-month chef to make meals that can be frozen or whatever. That would be a kick-a$$ present!

kassie lou said...

Well, clearly I'm in good company with having to chuck groddy, never cooked food. Erin, your Christmas idea for Katrina is genius! If only we all lived in the same town, we could go to one of those weekly meal cooking places and solve this problem together. I'll bring the kitkats.