Cleanup in Aisle Five!

Kathy Buckworth CleanupInAisleFive

Food shopping with a toddler really puts the “gross” in grocery.

“Shop till you drop.”

It takes on a new and urgent meaning when you hit the produce department with a 1-year-old. I am on my fourth toddler. Don’t worry, the others are still around; they’re just bigger. With so many mouths to feed, I am a war-worn veteran of the weekly ordeal known as grocery shopping. Navigating the aisles with the first three kids could never be described as fun, but we all got through it mostly unscathed and unpunished – both them and me. Then along came child number four, or the “whirling dervish” as I like to call him. At 19 months, he already has his own firmly established rules for grocery shopping, which many other parents may be familiar with:

  1. Mommy may not touch the handle of the grocery cart. If Mommy attempts in any way to push the cart forward with this handle, ear-piercing shrieks will commence. However, this rule can interfere with rule number two.
  2. The cart may not stop moving at any time. If this should occur, it will be taken as the starting pistol for the “toddler scramble to escape from the front seat of the cart.” During this competition, contestants earn extra style points by hand waving, dramatic swaying atop the seat, and convincing the judges of their willingness to test the rigidity of the cement floor with their heads.
  3. Mommy may not attempt to pry freshly baked loaves of bread from child’s hands. Any resultant twisting and squeezing is not to be blamed on the perpetrator. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, after all.
  4. Junior must not be pushed to perform assorted silly baby tricks and bye-bye waves for the delight of grandmothers and checkout clerks. Picking one’s nose and eating the found treasure is the only acceptable response to these requests.
  5. If a purse is left within grasp, it shall be emptied. Some contents may be eaten.
  6. The best time to fill a diaper is five minutes into the shop. As most shopping trips take an hour, watch Mommy decide whether to crowd into a dirty washroom stall, temporarily abandon the groceries, and head to the car for a change, or stick it out in the store and hope no one notices (like they wouldn’t notice a full diaper cooking at 100 degrees for 55 minutes).

I did take a break from grocery shopping (a period I like to call the “halcyon days”). It was a glorious time of domestic laziness, ignorant of a time crunch, unlike when I held a full-time job. This is when I discovered the heaven that is Internet grocery shopping. Sitting at a quiet desk, or even from an airport lounge computer, I could browse the offerings, wineglass in hand, jazz playing softly with no juice box whizzing past my ear. Sure, the prices were premium, but if we wanted to eat, this was our trade-off. I got to know the deliveryman by name, eagerly anticipating his weekly visits.

Then came the day I laid down my briefcase to start “eternity leave” with my children. As I couldn’t sew, didn’t know how to bake and would rather part with my husband than my cleaning lady, it became clear that I should at least attempt some domestic chores the old-fashioned way. So, I was back to the grocery store.

The first expedition quickly degenerated into hand-to-hand combat (and that was before we got to the bag-your-own portion of the adventure). I hurried home with the receipt to see how much money I had saved versus Internet shopping. If it were within 10 percent, I would mount a campaign to persuade the budget manager (my husband) to abandon these hellish outings.

To my chagrin, the savings came to a staggering 25 percent. No matter how many ways I cooked the books, I could not justify the expense, and so I now find myself at least once a week braving the aisles and praying for miracles. The only chore more arduous is clothes shopping with my preteen daughter. But that’s another story.

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