His & Hers Shopping Lists
When I was at home with the children over 50 years ago, and my husband was working in the food distribution business, I did the weekly supermarket shopping. Then, in l970, we switched roles. By then, he was working as a writer and management consultant from an office in our home as I went off to teach full time at Atlantic Community College. I proposed a pact about the weekly shopping chore.
“I’ve done it for the first seventeen years. How about doing it for the next seventeen years?” He replied, “Fine with me.” He’s really a most agreeable fellow.
Once he took over the task, he put his management skills to work and created an inventory system with sheets of paper on a clip board. I had used the time-honored system of scribbling items on a yellow lined pad as I thought of them during the week. There would be staples, of course, as well as particular requests from the three kids. Eggs and milk, peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish — they ate lunch at home — juices and the precise brand of cereal each of the three children wanted.
“There are no Sugar Pops! I hate Special K and Product 19. Ugh!” So much for trying to brainwash them into eating healthy cereals. Anyway, when my husband took over the task, his inventory list not only grouped items in categories, it was arranged in the order of encountering them in the store. Starting with the fruits and vegetables, his list just marched up and down the aisles at Shop Rite. Wow! I was impressed. I would still submit my helter skelter jottings to him to be incorporated into the multiple pages of neat columns and boxes.
Once a week, he would stand with his clip board and survey the pantry and the refrigerator as he “ took inventory”. At first, I was bemused. Then, I quickly discovered that we rarely ran out of anything. There was lettuce when needed for salads. Extra apple sauce and tuna fish always at hand. Elbow macaroni and a variety of cheeses. Chicken breasts, steaks and hot dogs in the freezer. As for cereals, he had his granola and the kids had their Sugar Pops. Life was serene.
Until 1987 when the seventeen year pact ran out. We tried to alternate for a while, but that didn’t last long. I had pulled my right shoulder raking leaves from the nineteen oak trees in front of our new house and was out of commission for heavy lifting. I quickly discovered that there’s a limit to how many small bags the supermarket checker was willing to assemble.
“Oh, please don’t put the apples and potatoes in the same bag. It’s too heavy for me. I have a frozen shoulder.” This request would be met with a skeptical glance at best. The implicit signal was, “Give me a break, lady!”
Finally, my husband took pity on me as my shoulder slowly improved with therapy sessions. He took over the supermarket trips for good. When he walks around on his weekly foray, he often meets friends who see his clipboard and invariably make the wrong assumption.
“Hi, Bob. Oh, are you writing an article?”
“No. I’m doing the food shopping.”
“Oh. See, you.”
Next time, he may encounter the same person, and the question arises again, with a slightly different twist.
“Hi, Bob. How’s the article coming?”
He finds it easier to answer, “Just fine.” It’s faster than going back to Go, collecting his $200 and explaining once more that he’s doing the food shopping.
If he’s in a chauvinistic mood, and someone questions him as to why he does the food shopping, he has been known to say, “I wouldn’t let my wife spend all this money.” That comment filtered back to me a few times. But it is a small price to pay, I have decided, when he treks in with a zillion bags each week. I am reminded each time I lift a juice bottle how heavy those bags can become.
Once in a while, I will venture forth with an emergency list on my trusty scribble sheet. Perhaps I am inspired to make stuffed eggplant and need the ingredients at hand that morning. When I arrive at the store and walk down the aisles, I am overwhelmed by the dizzying selection of tomato sauces, teas, crackers and cookies. Not to mention ice cream and other such forbidden delights. It is indeed a jungle of choices and temptations out there. I avoid the experience as much as possible. He likes to say, “We ate home one night in a row last week.”
Here’s the arithmetic on our shopping lists: I did it for the first l7 years. Then he took over. And we have been married for 61 years. That means his l7 year turn has morphed into 44 years if I have the math right.
But, who’s counting anymore? My hero goes forth each week to forage for provisions. With a fail-proof inventory system like his, I wouldn’t change a thing. What a guy!