Grocery Getter…

Sometimes I view things differently. Might be utterly insignificant-like appreciating the beauty in a gentle snowfall (umm-there is no beauty in falling snow-ever), how I feel about spacing children, religion, politics or anything in between. This might be one of those obscure subjects where you just scratch your head and think, I knew she was a freak. There’s a screw loose. Weirdo. Case closed.

Ugh, nothing to see here folks. Keep moving…

I do remember approximately when this chore/necessity became more of an enjoyable hobby, which might perplex some. Right around the time we moved to Michigan. Early 1987. It hurts me to date this. Why? Because our lives got so much better after we moved to Michigan, which was mostly great, but I never wanted to leave Iowa in the first place. Although I love Iowa with all my heart, life got easier after we moved east. More money, better weather (don’t even start with me. Michigan’s weather is much more mild than Iowa-all year round. Not as frigid, not as many blizzards, not as hot or humid).

We were nearing our 18th anniversary. That’s almost 2 decades of counting pennies at the grocery store. I’m sure not everyone reading this can relate, but there was only so much in the bank for groceries. We were living paycheck to paycheck, on one income with me the ‘stay at a home mom.’ If I was shopping and spotted Mac & Cheese on sale, 4 for a buck instead of 3, I’d splurge and spend a couple dollars buying extras for the kids who grazed from 9 am to 9 pm daily. But the grocery budget was tight and there couldn’t be many splurges. That constant penny pinching kind of ended in Michigan. Though the cost of living was a bit higher than Iowa, Hubs had a better paying job and got regular, sizable bonuses. Sweet.

The main reason (besides more money) was my growing fascination with a chain of stores called Meijer. Never heard of them before we moved east. About half of the store is made up of groceries. This was my first experience with a chain of stores where you could run most of your errands. With one stop. What? Get a haircut, drop off dry cleaning, bank branch-ATM, pay utilities, money orders, fresh produce, rent movies, carpet shampoo rentals, ice cream cones, dry ice, glass-cut to size for your broken window, storm doors, film developed, lumber, electronics, housewares, small appliances, bedding, seasonal (like holiday decorations) clothes, shoes, pharmacy, post office, trees, shrubs, hunting and fishing needs, garden vegetable plants, landscaping needs, bestselling books, cards, party favors. The freaking list was endless. (Although many departments have been eliminated in recent years with the influx of big box stores like Lowe’s). Can you imagine what my famous lists looked like back then with all those departments? Geez, it was the size of a short novel! I guess Meijer was similar to K-Marts 30-40 years ago, (or today’s Walmart, except for the shoppers who refuse to wear pants, underwear or bras) but with the addition of a humongous grocery store-doubling it’s size. They were open 24-7, closed on Christmas Day. I was simply mesmerized. I wanted to move in.

How can shopping here even be fun?

Soon I was a constant fixture at my new favorite shopping venue. There are other grocery store chains in town and I read their weekly ads in earnest. But it is rare when I shop elsewhere. Meat is the main reason I might stray. If stew meat, steak, shrimp, lean hamburger or roasts are on sale somewhere, I will venture from my normal Meijer stomping grounds. But this occurs every couple months-max. I spend a fortune on groceries because we seldom eat out. But we eat very well at home. You can tell by looking at us.

But 30 years ago a big chunk of my shopping at Meijer meant one thing-kids clothes. I could literally listen to our boys growing during the night. What fit them one day would be an inch too short or a size too small the next. Bugle Boy was the popular brand when the boys were young (Shannon 16, was done growing-and way past Meijer’s various brand choices-more into Hudson’s-Jacobson’s type stores). But for the boys, I kept very close track of when they put winter clothes on clearance (right after Christmas and summer duds, right after 4th of July. Strange, just as the weather would heat up in July, all summer clothes were put on clearance and out came the winter coats).

Adam 7 & Joshua 11 in Jackson 1987…

Ever since funds became more readily available I’ve been a quantities shopper. One of my pet peeves is running out of something after I’ve started baking/cooking. Have to stop what I’m doing, run to the store to buy eggs. Really, eggs? Oh, I can’t even deal with crap like that.

So I’m just gonna come clean. Put it out there like every other taboo subject I’ve managed to touch upon since I started blogging. Ahem, I love grocery shopping. (Great, here come the haters). I actually look forward to my weekly trip, though the time frame has changed. I figured out that certain times are much busier than others. I never like to shop when there are scads of people. I learned Monday mornings at Meijer are a dead zone. I nearly had the place to myself. Only shoppers were little old ladies-and me. Umm, I wasn’t old then, but 30 years later, now I’m one of them!

One of the few times I was not in Meijer shopping, 1990…

I work most mornings until after lunch, so now I usually stop on my way home one day during the week to get the bulk of what I need. It is busier, but not like it gets when the rest of the world gets off work, starting around 4, which is a zoo. Too busy to linger, or leisurely walk from one end to the other, checking out all the clearance items. Lately I’ve been prone to hit Meijer about 5 am. (I can do this in the winter because dairy, meat or other cold foods will be fine in my car while I’m at work). Crazy I know. I’m a lousy sleeper, and if I have to be at work at 7, I have plenty of time to get my shopping done. Although Meijer is open 24 hours, from about midnight to 6 there’s not many shoppers. This is when the shelves are stocked and the floors meticulously scrubbed and waxed. The cleaning crew is nice and polite, but I know they are cursing me under their breath with, “good grief woman, stay home until it’s light out.” I say good morning with a smile and go about my business. Close the store if you don’t want customers at 5.

Another problem with early shopping is checkout availability. Sometimes just the self serve lanes are open because 99.9% of the shoppers have 1 or 2 items. But I have a cart full with a hundred bucks or more of groceries. When someone finally notices my impatient look, they’ll open a regular lane for me.

This mundane stuff gets me going-weird I admit it…

After seeing the front page of a recent Meijer ad I literally lost my breath. Blackberries-98 cents a box. Be still my heart. (It’s the little things in life peeps) Oh my, how many do I need? I’m out of seedless jelly, but how many jars of blackberry jam do I have? I run downstairs (right, there’s no running up and down stairs anymore, but my limp is gone so it’s much easier) and check my stash. A dozen jars of jam. That’s not going to get me very far in my ‘giving away’ department. I resist shopping early in the week because I’m not making jelly and jam after 6 or 7 hours of taking care of babies, so it’s going to get done on the weekend.

This canning obsession is seriously out of whack…

I stopped Wednesday, thinking I could wash, smash, cook the berries for jelly on Thursday. I decide I want about 48 boxes (4 cases, down considerably compared to 5-10 years ago when I would have easily bought 100 boxes) but there were only about 20 boxes on display. I’m a polite shopper and would never take all they have, so I head to the back produce area to ask if they have more? Nope, all of the blackberries are out. I order 4 cases which are coming by truck at 4 am (my kind of people) on Thursday. She takes my name and will have them set aside for me. I waltz in at 6. The whole cleaning crew gives a collective groan. I may not be able to hear them groan but I can see eye rolls. Whatever. Plop all my berries in my cart, and of course only the self check lanes are open. I groan and give my own version of an exaggerated eye roll. (Thanks for the lesson cleaning crew). There is a gal working these dozen lanes, so I ask for her help since you’re not supposed to have more than 20 items. She rings them up, I hand her 50 bucks. Not once since I saw the sale on blackberries did I ever think about buying pectin, sugar, lids or rings. I just ‘knew’ I had enough on hand. (That’s about 50 cups of sugar I’d be using). Haul the berries out to my freezing car, load them in the back, cover them up with a blanket and high tail it to work.

Look at the size of these blackberries. And who’s old hand is that???

I did the prep work for the seedless Friday afternoon, smashed the rest Saturday morning and started 3 batches of each in the afternoon. Next to apricot jam, seedless blackberry is my favorite, but it hurts when I watch the hot juice drip through the cheesecloth. All that beautiful fruit pulp, just wasted. You lose so much when you make seedless. I used 2 dozen boxes for each kind, but only got 18 jars of seedless jelly while making 30 jars of blackberry jam. Bummer.

My latest-seedless jelly and blackberry jam…

John bought me another shelving unit, so I spent a couple hours rearranging my canned goods, canning equipment and food staples I keep downstairs. I kinda keep what I want to use of my canned goods separate from what I plan on sharing. I rarely (I do mean hardly ever) give away spaghetti sauce, canned meat or cranberry sauce. The meat is too expensive and a lot of work, the cranberry sauce I just plain hoard. Hubs becomes belligerent when he sees jars of strawberry jam making their way into gift baskets. Dude, we got plenty.

Luscious, I couldn’t stop snitching blackberries…

Shannon is always on the lookout to make my life easier. A couple of months ago she sent me a link. A new service Meijer just started offering. A grocery shopping service. You fill out your list online and let them know when you want your groceries. Ta-da. Everything delivered right to your doorstep. She even included a coupon to save on my first order. As if. Sure, take away one of my favorite pastimes. No more shopping at Meijer? Are you nuts? Shot through the heart…

My throw away spoon rest. Who is this little dude-devil-mouse-boobs-on-the-outside

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