Feeding a family of seven takes effort. I collect recipes, cut coupons, shop sales, consider our calendar, plan a two week menu and stay within budget. It's a modern day version of hunting and gathering.
With grocery list in hand my first stop is always the discount store. Economically speaking it is a good way to stock the pantry. Up and down every aisle I go filling my cart. I check out, spend more than I would like, bag it up myself, haul it to the van and load it up.
Next I head across town for more shopping. There are some items where generic just won't do for my tribe (although don't tell the kids but there has occasionally been a time or two when I've switched packaging and they've never even noticed).
At store number two, I repeat the process again wandering up and down each aisle filling my cart to near capacity.
Some days I think it would be easier to kill the food myself and tie it to the hood of my car.
I've heard tales of stores that have shelves stocked with everything you need. They carry a wide variety of items, bag your food for you and expect you to drive right up to the door where a young lad will place your purchases in your car. I've never experienced this luxury and sometimes wonder if they only exist in fairy tales.
Yesterday however, the cupboards were bare and the Indians were beginning to get hostile. I needed to go shopping.
Now easy going, flexible individuals would have only shopped for what they needed just that night but not me. My type-A personality, combined with my hatred of the grocery store, caused me to believe I could get 14 days of food in record time.
Nonetheless, I remained focused and psyched myself up like an athlete before her big run.
"I can do it. I'll stick to store brands. I won't blow my budget.”
Menu in hand, stop watch started, I backed my van in next to the cart corral (for easy exit) and head inside. It was almost as if I had won five minutes in the store to fit whatever I could in my cart for some big grand prize. That's how fast I moved in there.
When a neighbor said "Hi!” I waved and pushed on. When the ketchup bottle fell off the shelf in aisle 3, (did my purse do that?) I became conveniently blind and skirted right past it.
I maneuver carefully as I finish my lap in the frozen food department so as not to drop any food along the way and, as small town living goes, when I make it to the checkout lane the woman in front of me recognizes me and comments on the size of my cart.
Nonetheless thrilled to be in the homestretch, I begin to unload my spoils. The cashier eyes my order and calls for help over the intercom. Two boys come over to start bagging along with their supervisor who's brought me a second cart. It's a whole ordeal.
One final ring of the scan machine and the balance is announced. I think my eyes bugged out of my head and my hand froze midair at the size of the bill.
"Right?" says the bubble gum chewing cashier sensing my horror, "That's the biggest order I've ever seen!"
"You know," quips the managing supervisor from the end of the lane, "our store is open more than once a month."
"Oh I know," I respond, swiping my card, "this is two weeks of food. I have kids at home.” I follow up with my best polite but please shut-up smile.
"What?" she comes back with, "Do you live in a shoe?"
I'm sure she thought she was funny but it didn't feel amusing to me. It felt like a jab. It's one thing for me to make fun of me. It's quite another for a complete stranger.
I threw my sacks in the van, complete disregard for my eggs and bread, and peeled out of the parking lot. The entire drive home I was trying to come up with a good comeback instead of standing like a dope gritting my teeth.
When I arrived home my family was waiting for me to help unload the food. As I surveyed their little faces I raised my gaze to take in our house. It's not large. It's not without its wear and tear but it's our home. Not a shoe.
So there lady with the big mouth at the grocery store. You’re wrong. I'm not old and I don't live in a shoe. I might have a lot of children but I most certainly do know what to do and it starts with avoiding your quips and focus my love and attention on my hungry family. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!
This article is a part of my weekly Practical Parenting for the Review Atlas in Monmouth, IL. I have since changed to shopping once a week. Also, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I am a Parent Educator for our local school district. I host parent child activities and accept speaking invitations.