Tag Archives: adjustments

The Dreaded Super-Sized Grocery Cart

For as long as I can remember, when it came to grocery shopping, I was almost always a handbasket kind of guy.

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.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, food, home, Humour

What I Surprisingly Missed During Covid-19

With the recent announcements about gradually reopening the economy, I look forward to seeing how the new normal will unfold, even though we have already been adapting to progressive new normals like mice working their way through a maze.

By necessity, for the health and safety of employees and customers alike, businesses that were able to remain open have had to make significant adjustments.

This was also true for citizens being told to only go out for groceries and pharmacy items, and to only step out once per week to accomplish that if possible.

For me, cutting back on shopping trips wasn’t so challenging in itself because as I get older and more practical, the urge to shop seems to be on a downward slope. Similarly, with the finish line to retirement clearly within sight, it’s not like I need to stock up on collared shirts, pants or dress shoes. For those reasons, shopping only for the essentials wasn’t a huge adjustment.

The big adjustment was in HOW I shopped for the essentials.

The first thing to go was my ability to casually and spontaneously do errands. In the old normal, after my work day, if there was a traffic tie-up on the highway (which, due to a major construction project, was becoming most nights), I would make the best of it and use the time constructively to do errands in the neighbourhoods around the office, picking up a few items here and there. By the time I hit the highway later, with less traffic, I could actually be home in less time.

Also, with only a few items in hand, I could swiftly pay for my purchases through the stores’ express lanes.

The other benefit to my approach was that with the help of sales flyers, I could plan an itinerary to pick up items on sale at different stores on my way home, which helped to stretch my shopping dollars.

And for someone with recurring back issues, running smaller errands was ideal because I would be walking out with only one bag.

The experts’ advice to try to buy everything at one store was a bit of a struggle for me. Let’s be honest, no matter how many acres a single store may occupy, walking out with absolutely everything on one’s list is not a guarantee. When compounded by people grabbing enough staples for a six month isolation, the resulting shortages had me editing the week’s menu plans and rejigging grocery lists on the fly.

And when heeding the advice to buy from only one place, my treasure hunt for picking up sale items at different stores was no longer possible.

My small errands at multiple stores at short internals usually yielded individual totals in the 20 to 40 dollar range. The first time I had a grocery order that crossed over the three digits, I could feel the beads of sweat popping out of my forehead. The last time I had a total that high was Easter 2014, when I was preparing a dinner for 15 guests.

One week, I had an 8 day interval between shopping trips in which I had used up many staples. When the cashier announced my total was over $170, I asked her to repeat it… twice! Admittedly, if I took the time to add up my receipts from my old method with the multiple stops, it probably would have added up to something close to that, but I never really saw it.

Becoming a list keeper is not new to me. I’m usually pretty good about keeping a grocery list and to note items as they are close to running out. But in the first few weeks, I was tormented repeatedly when discovering that I forgot a key ingredient within minutes after returning home. With practice, I got pretty good at taking quick inventory of all staples and anticipating what might need replenishing.

The security briefings before stepping into stores were appreciated but so unlike our usual way of doing things. I remember one clerk advising I should “shop with your eyes, not with your hands.” I thought that was wise advice and hoped everyone else did the same. But trying to pick firm oranges with your eyes is not easy. When the first three I picked up with my freshly sanitized hand deflated on contact, I stepped away from the display and concluded that risking scurvy was the lesser evil when compared to risking Covid-19.

With grocery aisles not quite allowing two metres for social distancing, I appreciated the arrows on the ground that turned each row into a one-way street. But they didn’t come without their own share of issues like the dude parked in the middle of the aisle calling “Honey” to find out which flavour to buy. There was no way to get around him safely to respect social distancing rules and I feared the dire repercussions of doing a three point turn and going down a one-way aisle illegally. Who knew that my new normal would become this kind of traffic tie up?

With a full cartload of groceries, the express lane was out of the question, as I stood semi-patiently on my red dot, two metres behind another frowning shopper with a full cartload of groceries, grunting as he threw his items on the conveyor belt.

And then it was the production of hauling multiple grocery bags back to the car and then into the house. Every step felt infinitely more cumbersome and time consuming. Oh, and I found out the hard way that paper bags are crap on a rainy day.

And then when I got home it was the decontamination process of the items, of me, of the car, of the front door, of the entry hall, of the doorknobs, of the light switch, of the railings, etc. That, in itself, was enough reason to reduce the number of shopping trips.

Between the sanitizing, the social distancing, the bombardment of signage and the multitude of lines, arrows, dots and crosses on the ground, doing groceries wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun. But each time, I recognized the need for all of these precautions, to remain safe, healthy and to not become a community transmitter.

Through the first two months of the outbreak, I didn’t realize how much I would miss something as simple as breezing in and out of stores to run quick errands. Getting into the habit of less frequent trips to acquire more items was indeed a significant adjustment, but given the risks to staff and my fellow shoppers, the adjustment was worth it in the long run to do my part to help flatten the curve.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under Health and Wellness, Misc blogs