Shorter shah-PEENG?

As has been my habit for the past twenty-plus years, I do our grocery shopping every week. I do 92.5% of it at Wal-Mart, where, as I have whined repeatedly in the past, there seems to be a strong tendency toward discontinuing items – especially ones like toothpaste, deodorant, hairspray, and mascara – that I buy regularly but infrequently. Take mascara, for example. I’d buy one, and a few months later when it was getting low, I’d go to Wal-Mart to get a replacement, only to find that they no longer carried the brand and type I wanted. Then, because I was running out of it, I’d have to quickly either try to locate it at a different store or quickly find a different brand. Once I realized that this type of challenge was not just a one-time event but was occurring with some regularity, I started buying such products three at a time. That way, I at least have some margin when they cease carrying a particular item.

Last August, Andrew began attending school, and many aspect of our lives changed, including grocery shopping. For several years prior, he had always accompanied me on my weekly Wal-Mart run, “driving” the cart for me and nearly single-handedly. . .

  • loading it all onto the belt (in my preferred order, and while chatting cheerfully with the checker)
  • loading all the bags back into the cart
  • pushing the cart out to the car and loading all the groceries into the trunk
  • carrying the bags into the house, and
  • (with increasingly less help and supervision from me) putting all the stuff away

WHAT a blessing he was to me on Wednesdays!!!

But now all the above falls to me alone, with the result that the total time involved in a standard Wal-Mart run, from leaving our house to having it all put away, is two and-a-half hours. Wow! That’s a lot of time, and I have been giving serious thought to how I might recapture some of those valuable minutes for other more important projects and activities.

It occurred to me that there are some things that I seem to buy every week of my life. Produce, of course, but also lunch meat, cheese, eggs, bread, “crunchies” (our family term for things like pretzels, crackers, and chips), etc. As I meditated on my shopping habits, I realized that we do have an awful lot of storage capacity. We have a great pantry, plus a canned goods shelf and a crunchies shelf in the playroom. We also have an upright freezer and an extra fridge in the cellar. So. . . I have recently been experimenting with not buying everything every week.

For example, we use about two and-a-half gallons of milk a week, which means I’m lugging two or three jugs into the cart, onto the belt, back into the cart, into the car, into the house, and into the fridge every single week. But if I bought six gallons of milk (which lately has been dated nearly three weeks out – yay!), yes, I’d still have to do all that requisite hauling this week, but next week I could skip milk, and instead stock up on, say, three kinds of cheese and two kinds of bread. And the third week, I’d do milk again with two kinds of lunch meat, and three boxes of eggs, followed in the fourth week by, for example, loads of canned goods.

My theory is that then I wouldn’t necessarily have to do every aisle of the whole store every week, and while I would have a heckuva lot of a few things each week, it shouldn’t take as long to put the load away, because there’d be fewer different items.

My plan is to review our stash each week and ask myself, “Do I have enough of this to get all the way through one to two  weeks?” If yes, I don’t buy any of it. If no, I buy at least three to four week’s worth of it.

I’ve been endeavoring to do this system for most of a month. Give me a few more weeks and ask me how it’s working.

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