Back when I was driving to work every day, it made perfect sense to make a quick stop on the way home to buy just the items needed in the short term, and then to breeze through the express checkout.
For those rare times that a handbasket wasn’t enough, I might have opted for the smallest shopping cart possible and going through a regular check-out lane, but that was fine. All in all, it was a pretty efficient system for me for many years.
But why might I have an aversion to super-sized grocery carts? It might be due to trust issues resulting from being stuck with the cart with the annoyingly bad wheel, no matter how infrequently I may use them.
Or possibly, is it just a hyper sensitivity to spatial awareness that I fume when I am stuck behind someone with the big cart, parked in the middle of the aisle, and having to wait for them to make a life-or-death grocery decision before getting through. With a hand basket, I could just suck in my stomach and go around them before they even noticed that I was there.
When my partner and I moved in together, I understood that shopping for two might mean using the small shopping cart more often. Of course, I was happy to make that change.
But then Covid-19 happened.
With public health officials advising us to stay home, to only make essential trips, and recommending less frequent grocery runs, it took some adjusting. But because making lists is one of the things I do with great joy and enthusiasm, it seemed like the transition to a 7-day shopping trip for two people should be easy enough.
But it took some adjusting there as well.
Because we had both been living on our own for so many years, it was easy to shop for one person, knowing what we like, and with what frequency we enjoy certain foods. Plus, when shopping for one, and with limited storage space, we tended not to buy enormous containers of anything, for fear of not going through the full supply and having to toss anything that turned green or furry (or both).
With that mindset, despite our best efforts, in trying to make it through a full week on a single grocery run, we would run short on a few ingredients.
And then when we compensated by buying more of the frequently-used items, our fridge would become a game of tetris, through which we had a wall of products sitting at the front and randomly lurking ingredients at the back, that seemingly disappeared like they were in the Bermuda Triangle. And then when we found them again, it was too late.
But with a little practice, we finally got into a good groove of meal planning, knowing what was realistically possible to make after a tough day at work, versus the meals we are more likely to make on the weekend when time and energy are in greater supply. It didn’t take too long that we became pretty good at weekly meal planning and only needing one grocery run to do it… most times.
But over the winter months, with the farmers markets all closed up, our grocery store became our sole provider. Not “sole” as in fish, but as in our one and only food provider, so the grocery orders got bigger until they hit a tipping point.
And I mean that pretty literally, when I had my grocery cart almost tip over in the parking lot when I hit one of the speed bumps in front of the store. The weekly grocery order was starting to overwhelm the smaller grocery cart.
On one trip in particular, I knew that the end of my little grocery cart days was in sight when my cart was pretty full and I still had three aisles to go. On that trip, I gingerly picked up the remaining items and carefully added them, making sure that they were securely in the cart and not sliding off like it was a ski hill. It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight if the eggs suffered such a tragic fate.
I realized that the jugs of laundry detergent that were on sale needed to wait, so I went through the checkout without them. As soon as I unloaded my cart in the trunk, I was back in the store cheerfully saying “Hello again!” to the team member counting shoppers as the entered and left the store.
I made a bee-line to the detergent section, observing meticulously the one-way arrows on the floor that many seem to ignore, even though it made me look like I was playing hopscotch. I grabbed two jugs of Gain that were on sale, with the same enthusiasm as a runner grabbing the baton at an Olympic relay race.
By some coincidence, I ended up going through the same checkout counter as I went through earlier, cheerfully exclaiming “Hello again!” to the cashier. “My cart was too full for these guys,” I explained. “I guess I’ll need to pick the larger buggy next time” I added, as if the cashier really wanted to hear about my grocery cart miscalculation. “It happens all the time these days” she reassured me.
On the next grocery trip, I reviewed my list and knew that indeed the larger grocery cart would be needed.
Shopping with that beast of a buggy took some adjusting as well.
Let’s just say that stepping up to the bigger cart was a little like the transition from a sub-compact car to a large SUV. Throughout the trip, I had to remain mindful that I couldn’t turn a corner as sharply or as quickly as I could with a smaller one, without taking out an end display of featured merchandise on special.
And as obvious as it may seem, the big grocery cart gets pretty darn heavy as they fill up. No wonder my petite grandmother was so strong if she was able to navigate carts like that especially before holiday gatherings (NOTE: I mean holiday meals many years ago, long before Covid). This was indeed a different kind of workout than what I was accustomed to.
At one point, I was so distracted by the grocery poundage I was hauling, I missed an item. Rather than drive to the end and make a left for the aisle I missed, I parallel parked the buggy behind a display and left it there, making the journey for the missing item on foot, giving my out-of-shape arms a break.
When I made it to the checkout, I was delighted to note that through my complete grocery order, I didn’t have anything precariously perched in a pile, nor did I have to make a second trip for items I missed.
In the end, maybe the bigger buggies weren’t such a bad thing after all, especially if we have to continue making these mammoth, socially distanced, infrequent grocery shopping trips, to do our part to keep everyone safe.
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