Saturday, January 21, 2012

Grocery Shopping: Extreme Sports For Mothers.

When my children began walking and talking, the fortnightly excursion to fill our pantry stopped being called grocery shopping and instead became GROCERY SHOPPING. Just like that, in big letters. I now write the shopping list with a big glass of wine. It's that much of a big deal.

Us mothers all have different tactics to help us survive the GROCERY SHOP, and yes, we all get together sometimes to talk about it. Debrief, if you like. Share survival tips, swap war stories, offer advice after particularly traumatic experiences. I told you, it's a bloody big deal.

Some mothers only shop late at night, when dads are home to watch the little ones; some mothers 'pop down' every few days for just a few items at a time; some really clever metropolitan-area-dwelling mothers use Coles online, and all of us rural mums are VERY JEALOUS of those mothers.

I don't tend to do things the easy way, so I do the GROCERY SHOPPING in one big go, once a fortnight. This is serious business. It involves planning, time and a bloody big trolley.

A few days ago, I did the GROCERY SHOPPING with all three children, for the first time. The Boy is eight weeks old now, and the kids were getting sick of eating weetbix and dry crackers. Something had to give, and it made sense that it would be my extreme fear of shopping with all of the terrors in tow.

Naturally, I chose a 38 degree day to undertake this grand outing. I piled the kids in the car, left my re-usable bags sitting proudly next to my front door and drove to the butcher/greengrocer. Some very considerate soul had left a shopping trolley right next to where I parked my car. (This happens a lot in our town. Considerate souls are always leaving trolleys right where the next person might need them.... at the end of the shopping centre carpark, at the doctor's surgery, outside Centrelink, at the bottom of the river.....) I balanced The Boy's capsule on top of the trolley, dumped the three year old in the trolley seat and marched the three of them into the shop. I was halfway through teaching the four year old to select good apples (you can't start too young, I feel. It won't be long, and I'll be able to send her to do the GROCERY SHOPPING while I sit back in my rocking chair with a gin and tonic) when the three year old started wailing, "I'm stuuuuuuuckkkk!". I look up, and the dear child has managed to get her knee jammed in the leg hole of the trolley seat. I note with interest that she is knickerless once again, and calmly tell her, "Yes, darling, you are supposed to be stuck." The green grocer looks mildly alarmed at my apparent lack of concern and comes round from his counter and offers to help extract her from her predicament. He, far more gracefully than I would have done, coaxes her knee free and sits her back down in the trolley. She throws him a dirty look for not setting her free to roam the store.

We complete our fruit and vegetable shopping and discover that the shop's EFTPOS machine is not working. "Never mind", I tell the grocer, "I'll just pop across the road to the ATM." He looks relieved and grateful at not losing out on our $150 sale until I say, "I'll just leave the kids here. Be back in a minute!" His face falls, and I flee the shop before he can protest. I consider popping in for a coffee at the cafe next to the bank, but remember that I have frozen meat in the trolley that will defrost and waste me $50.

We eventually make it to the supermarket and by the time I have unloaded them all, selected a trolley big enough to handle a baby, a toddler and a motherload of shopping, I'm red faced, panting and dripping sweat. The terrors sense my weakening spirit and lie in wake for the kill. They wait until I am precisely halfway through the shopping list, and the three year old says, "I need the toilet."

You what?

I consider my options. Rip open a packet of training pants and whack one on her? Tell her to wee slowly in the trolley seat as I walk quickly around the shop? (Surely people are less likely to notice a trail of drips than a rather large puddle...) Leave my trolley half full, give up entirely, go home and feed them more dry crackers while I enjoy my bottle of wine?

I snarl at her, "Hold it in" and finish the shopping in record time. I'm over budget by $100, but I'm not about to go through my bags to decide what to leave behind. I get back to the car and analyse which order I am supposed to load the car. I finally decide to load the groceries first because I am pretty sure that any thief worth his salt would prefer to steal a trolley full of groceries than three snot-faced children. We all make it into the car alive and I finally realise why bottle shops have drive through service.

It's for mothers who have finished the GROCERY SHOPPING.

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