It's no secret that I am genetically predisposed to hate grocery shopping. My mom hates grocery shopping. I remember her various attempts to make grocery shopping more enticing when I was growing up (coupons! But not just coupons, couponing parties with best friends and group trips to Stop and Shop - the BIG Stop and Shop - to shop together and see who could save the most money!) and it never worked. I used to beg to go with her and she'd look at me like I was nuts. I don't know if it's because she couldn't imagine why I would willingly want to go to the grocery store or if it was because once in the grocery store, I would start angling for Kidz Kuisine (which I would then never eat because they tasted like crap), expensive sugary cereal ("If you want a bowl of food dye and sugar I can give you that at home for free!") and books ("But mo-om, this is the Babysitters Club where they intercept a sex trafficking ring!").
Now that I have kids, I realize that it's a little of column A and a little of column B, with an extra dash of "doing anything with even one kid increases the errand completion time exponentially" thrown in for good measure. Then you add in the facts that we're essentially a one-income family with three kids and that even the "cheap" groceries are now blindingly expensive and it's a perfect storm waiting to happen. The kind of scenario when you eye the thermometer (freezing!), look at your kids (bouncing off the walls!), check your bank balance (haha!) and debate whether making mac n' cheese for a second night in a row will put you straight on the Mommy Bus to Hell (probably, especially when you're out of peas to go with).
Today I had to bite the bullet and just go already. Our larder was making Mother Hubbard look like a hoarder extraordinaire and Shaw's was having a decent sale on chicken and beef. And frozen vegetables. And some random deal where if you get two frozen pizzas you can get two bottles of soda for a penny. (Frozen pizzas are GREAT for nights when I have an early call and Tim is stuck with dinner duty. Soda is great for company. There's my junk food justification of the week. Ta-da.)
So we dropped Mary off at school and headed to the supermarket. It was a good time to go. I only had two kids with me, the temperature was actually in the double digits, and it's pretty quiet in the aisles before 9 a.m. Which was good because we started out with Lily in the cart and Anna walking alongside, and that lasted until we got to just outside the entrance.
"Mommy, can we use that cart? Please? I LOVE IT."
Parents reading this blog probably know exactly what cart Anna was pointing at and are cringing along with me. For those not in the know, "that cart" is one of the behemoth carts that has a plastic car stuck to the front, with two seats and two steering wheels, complete with beeping horns. It steers like a Mack truck, and that's when the wheels are all in alignment and not completely wonky, which never happens. It shudders and rumbles and takes up the entire aisle. And usually I have to remind Anna that beeping the horn loudly and shouting "OUT OF THE ROAD! BEEP BEEP! CAR!" is not polite.
The store looked pretty empty, so I signed, tranferred Lily from one cart to the other and let Anna climb in to the car portion, where she immediately dropped her coat on the filthy floor of the vehicle. The static electricity made her hair stand up completely. Mercifully, the horn appeared to have been broken by one of the local miscreant youth. I performed a 27-point turn to get it out of its spot, and we shook and rattled our way through the produce section. Stock clerks turned and watched us rumble past. Lily shouted. Anna turned the steering wheel. We were off.
We picked up jelly and cilantro and basil. I grumbled to myself that it appeared the cost of jelly that was not 99 percent corn syrup had gone up again. I picked up bags of carrots and potatoes (free with purchase of chicken) and vowed that this time I would actually remember to use the potatoes before they went bad.
Grabbed the pizzas, checked out the reduced price freezer section (or, as I fondly call it, "the scratch 'n dent") and stuck a bottle of chocolate milk in the cart for a treat for the girls. Noted the bakery scratch 'n dent had already been picked over by the earlybirds and that the grocery SnD contained only cleaning products. Found a mismarked roast for $1.89 a pound, and mentally paired it with some of the potatoes. Picked up some ground beef. Felt like children would no longer starve (I'm weird like that). Cart got stuck approximately 1,001 times. Got a bunch of frozen peas and made our way to the checkout.
Somehow I wound up trapped in front of the cart, reaching over the ridiculous car to load the grocery belt. My purse remained at the back of the basket, just out of reach, taunting me.
"Anna, stop, we are not here for candy. Lily, sit down. Lily, stop trying to touch the raw meat. Hi," I said, finally, to the woman at the register.
"Do you have your Shaw's card?" the cashier chirped, as I attempted to wedge myself between the cart and the candy rack, nearly removing a rib in the process and causing Anna, who was lovingly petting the bags of M&Ms, to retract her hand in a hurry.
"Maybe," I said, digging through the abyss that is the bottom of my bag. "Maybe. No. Wait, wait, yes. Yes I do," I said triumphantly, producing.
"See?" the cashier said. "I knew you could do it! Never doubt yourself."
"Oh man," I said, bagging my groceries and attempting to pay (protip: accidentally selecting the 'cash back' button not once but three times will delay this process). "I have three kids. Most days I doubt my ability to remember pants."