Six degrees of grocery shopping | Gretchen Leigh

Have you ever thought about how much energy goes into the seemingly simple act of grocery shopping? Each degree of grocery shopping is an entity in itself and deserves admiration and respect from the family who benefits.

The first degree is to compile a list by checking the pantry, opening cupboards, refrigerator and freezer to see what you are lacking. I also have a chalk board with a running list of items my family has ordered. I provided the chalk board several years ago because rather than exclaim out loud that we are out of something, they can write it on the list. I can see how desperately they want an item by the number of exclamation points or capital letters. However, I only go grocery shopping every two weeks on payday, ignoring their graphic pleas. Lastly, I add whatever coupons I have to the list and I’m ready for the second degree – going to the store.

If you’re like me, it’s not just one store, but several. Most of the goods I get are from Costco. I don’t know if it’s really money-saving, but I like buying the bulk items because they last longer. If I’m lucky an item doesn’t end up back on the list for a month or two. After Costco, I go to Fred Meyer to fill in those items I prefer not to buy in bulk or favored food-stuffs they don’t sell at Costco. Then every month or two, I hit Safeway to take advantage of their BOGO meat sales.

When I leave the store, thereby initiating the third degree, I’m really hoping the actual degrees outside are in my favor as I load groceries into the car. Of course, living in the Northwest it's most likely raining. But sometimes I luck out and even if it’s raining it’s fairly warm outside or the wind isn’t blowing.

Loading Fred Meyer and Safeway groceries are easy because they’re in bags already. But it takes time for me to load Costco groceries because I never get a box. Although the box fits into the cart, it is difficult to get out of the cart when it’s full of groceries. I also hate having to deal with the box once I get it home and empty. So I have all the grocery items loose in the cart, wheel them out to my car and put them in cloth bags to make it easier to carry them into the house.

My fourth degree could be easier if I shopped when my family was home. Unloading the groceries into the house is a chore. When my family is home, it’s a snap. But if I shop when my family is home, invariably one of them wants to shop with me. If one of them shops with me, it costs me more money. So it’s really better to shop by myself, which then requires I unload by myself.

The fifth and sixth degrees bleed together and are the most baffling ones. The fifth degree is putting the groceries away and seems straight forward enough. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, which brings me to the sixth degree.

Every time I put groceries away, there is never any space. So in my sixth degree of grocery shopping I have to start looking for abandoned containers. There are usually many; just the other day there was an empty chicken pot pie box in the freezer, an empty cracker box in the laundry hall, an empty plastic storage container in the fridge, an empty taco shell box in the pantry, as well as an empty fruit cup box. It’s kind of like following a trail, ala Hansel and Gretel. I can see what my family has been eating the past two weeks.

Once I even found an old oil filter in the freezer. But I didn’t know if my husband was sending me a message or if he needed medical attention, so I just left it in there and walked away. That, I suppose, is a column for another day.


Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website

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