When I was a kid, there were two grocery stores in town. Those on a tight budget shopped at one, those with a little more money to spare shopped at the other. In the 1960's and 70's, Moms roamed aisle by aisle, once a week, and picked up everything they needed in one fell swoop: fruits, vegetables, bread, dairy items, meats, and canned goods were all in one place. Even those families (like mine) with more than five kids didn't really vary from this routine--although in my household, Dad did the food shopping every Friday night (it was a big deal if I got to go with him and still be home in time to catch The Brady Bunch, followed by The Partridge Family on tv). And I know several very large families (10+ kids) where they required a parade of loaded shopping carts (along with a police escort to control traffic) to shop for a week's worth of groceries. Still, the routine remained the same: one store, one trip, once a week.
There are four people in my household. Four. Plus one dog and two cats. Yet, I find myself food shopping at least three times a week. And not in the same grocery store.
Yesterday, I hit my local supermarket chain for basic food staples. Then I crossed the highway to shop at the Italian grocer for meats, fresh cheese, and fish. Today on my lunch hour, I'll go to the discount store near my office for paper goods, health and beauty aids, and cleaning supplies. I have a local butcher I visit for meat prepared just the way I like it. My poor dog, who's growing old (yet, according to her vet "is in remarkably good health for her advanced age") has developed severe skin allergies and can only eat one brand and flavor of dog food. Of course, this particular hypoallergenic food is only sold in one particular specialty store, which will require another stop. I buy my produce (and some other basics) at Trader Joe's. Now, however, my daughter is working at Whole Foods and insists I have to start shopping there. Once every six weeks or so, I head to the warehouse store for bulk items. Because of my fondness for my Keurig (single-serve coffee brewer), I order my coffee and tea online.
When did food shopping become so complicated? Wasn't technology supposed to make things easier for us? I seem to have less free time and spend more of it food shopping. Even with a list, I always forget a key ingredient or someone in my household puts an empty package back on a shelf to fool me into thinking we still have plenty of that particular item. Don't you hate when you're halfway through a recipe and reach for the vanilla extract, only to find three drops left in the bottom of the bottle? Happens to me all the time. Empty boxes of microwave popcorn, cereal packages with nothing more than three Cheerios lingering in the cellophane wrap seem to find their way back into my pantry. I'll always locate two AA batteries when I need three. And let's not talk about the milk I bought yesterday that's soured even before I remove the safety seal. Or the times my husband decides he wants something unusual for dinner that requires a quick dash for one or two major items.
Does anyone remember Mr. Drucker? Sam Drucker ran the general store in both Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. I don't have a Mr. Drucker in my life, a man who knows exactly what ingredients I'll need from one week to the next and keeps them not only in stock, but ready to go the minute I walk into the store. And a tab! I don't have a tab at any store. Whipping out the debit card is often a painful experience. I don't seem capable of walking into a grocery store for one item and walking back out in possession of only that one item. Supermarket managers know exactly what they're doing when they display those bargains on the end caps.
We live in a wonderful age, chock-full of time-saving conveniences. For me, grocery shopping just isn't one of them.