I don’t know when I lost my power to fulfill the fortnightly role of doing the family grocery shopping but somehow I did.
It was an insidious thing which eventually led to my position as principal grocery shopper being completely overthrown.
This doesn’t make one bit of sense since I am the one most often in the kitchen doing the cooking and therefore should have some say in which foods are purchased.
My husband is an extraordinary cook.
Everybody tells him this.
This is because when HE cooks (occasionally on weekends and when we have guests) he goes out and purchases all the exotic ingredients necessary for his favoured cuisine, unlike myself who must root through the cupboards looking for something vaguely exciting to work with.
This overthrowing of power began the moment I allowed my husband to push the shopping trolley.
After that all that power went to his head, and since he has discovered the Aldi stores, life has not been the same for our family.
My husband has a precise plan of action when it comes to the shopping weekend.
He will lounge around in front of the TV first thing in the morning drinking copious amounts of coffee, take a leisurely shower and sometime around noon he will suddenly spring into action.
He will be gone all afternoon, not returning until dinner time and when he does I am the one expected to pack all the shopping away, which is fair enough since he has obviously been “slaving away for hours fighting with all the other shoppers in the aisles.”
It’s never very exciting though, my job -packing away the groceries and this is because I find myself stacking EXACTLY the same items on the pantry shelves every single time he returns.
The same tinned tomatoes, the same packets of fettuccine, the same “smooth” peanut butter, the same chicken flavoured two minute noodles…
It’s all EXACTLY the same as two weeks before!
I find no excitement, no joy in filling the shelves with the same old, same OLD!
My taste buds have withered,atrophied. They are in a sad state of apathy begging for some stimulation!
And for that matter, its becoming a bit tiresome being victim to the frequent fettuccine avalanches that occur(because I do not LIKE fettuccine)and keep throwing the regular fortnightly packets that he brings home way up on the shelf out of sight and out of mind…until they fall down and hit me on the head.
You see, my husband sets off each time with an exact list in his mind of what to bring home that never varies, even if we already HAVE it at home, and whats more he knows exactly how much it costs and precisely where to find it!
After one such shopping day the children and I counted fourteen 500 gram containers of Aldi brand margarine in the fridge.
Twelve cans of diced tomatoes.
Ten jars of peanut butter…
Eleven cans of mixed beans.
Twenty packets of fettuccine and twelve unopened packets of chicken flavoured two minute noodles, each containing six serves of noodles.
In the freezer were the same neatly separated freezer bags containing, chicken, chicken and more chicken.
The same frozen Aldi peas…the same frozen Aldi beans.
We stared listlessly at the contents of the pantry.
We were depressed…more than that we had simply lost the will to EAT!
Not wanting to offend my husbands sense of duty at undertaking this somewhat mundane domestic task or make him feel inadequate I said to him…
“You suck at doing the shopping!”
“Yeah dad, you really suck!” chimed in the children.
“We want something DIFFERENT to eat!” we told him.
The next week he begrudgingly came home with several packets of spaghetti instead of fettuccine and one jar of CRUNCHY peanut butter instead of smooth.
(Ooh my, such daring, such decadence!)
Deciding to take matters into my own hands I recently decided to accompany my husband on one of his shopping trips to subtly try and introduce some variety into our diets.
“I’m sure there are other animals on this planet we can eat besides chickens!” I grumbled.
My experience that day was certainly an eye opener as it became apparent that my shopping control freak husband had perfected the humble grocery shop expedition down to a tee.
It was regimented…disciplined, a certain order about it that I have not before witnessed in my husbands behavior.
(Least not in the way in which he attends to his household chores…of which there is one – taking the garbage out.)
We began with a visit to Aldi and I was left behind almost running to keep up as he transformed himself into this super efficient shopping machine, carefully calculating the price of each item adding it up as he went, comparing prices, finding the cheapest deals, stacking the trolley neatly so everything fitted just so!
If I picked something different up to place in the trolley he would pounce on me…”How much is THAT? I haven’t budgeted for THAT!”
At the checkout he demonstrated even more organizational skill by stacking the conveyor belt with the heaviest items first to be put in the bottom of the trolley, the frozen things together, the lightest items at the end to go on top. (Unlike me, who just throws it all on there and hopes for the best as the checkout person hurls it at me at the end with lightning speed.)
Each time I tried to help I was impatiently pushed away “No! That doesn’t go THERE!” he would say.
(What a pity he is not as organized with his dirty clothes in the bedroom. The poor man still can’t figure out where the laundry is or what its for.)
His efficiency was simply astounding.
All the other women in the supermarket stood in awe batting their eyelashes at a man with such admirable shopping prowess.
I wanted to poke their eyes out.
After packing the Aldi shopping in the car, where I was once again forbidden to help, (because “there is a certain WAY it gets packed into the car”) it was onto the next supermarket –Coles.
“That’s where I buy the chicken if it’s on special.” he told me marching full speed ahead.
While we were in Coles and he was checking out the price of fruit and veggies to see if he could get a good bargain I tried to slip a packet of instant cauliflower sauce into the basket which to my surprise caused him to experience a small conniption right there in front of the onion stand.
“I DON’T buy packet sauces from HERE! I get THOSE in Woolworths!” he exclaimed, shaking his head at me as though I had lost my mind.
The cauliflower sauce was slapped back on the shelf and I was met with a very ugly glare.
Well, this did it for me.
I grabbed the sauce and plonked it back in the basket.
“I want it.” I said quietly.
“Not from here!” he said putting it back.
“I want THIS packet of sauce from THIS supermarket!” I said gritting my teeth.
“You can’t have it!” he hissed.
We struggled physically for a few moments playing tug of war with the packet of sauce until finally I gave up and let him put it back on the shelf. (People were beginning to stare.)
As soon as his back was turned though I picked it up and hid it behind my back and when he was preoccupied over the price of chicken breasts I tucked it into the basket where it remained unnoticed until we got to the checkout.
“I am never taking you shopping with me again!” he said as the packet of cauliflower sauce was scanned by the checkout lady.
Smiling smugly I flounced ahead.
On we went, to the third supermarket of the day…Woolworths, where he gets the bulk of the meat and kitty litter.
The same scenario ensued with me being scolded for choosing things that were either “not in the budget” or “cheaper elsewhere”, reprimanded for “touching the trolley!” and just generally ignored.
It had become a tiresome, frustrating expedition and I found myself fighting a losing battle against this super organized shopping freak!
By the time we got to the markets hours later and he went about his meticulous system of purchasing the fruit and veggies I had given up.
We drove home in silence.
The very few items I had managed to sneak into the trolley were received with much excitement by the children.
“See! Mum knows what we like! Please, oh please dear father let mum do the shopping next time!”
Well, I did for a while, and the children were much happier…but then somehow, as time has gone by once again, very insidiously he has begun to take control.
The most recent and final straw for me was when I caught my husband counting out twenty button mushrooms to be put in six separate paper bags.
“Portion control” he mumbled as he stood there and counted, much to my disbelief.
It was with great delight that I only used SEVENTEEN mushrooms that night as I cooked dinner….and made sure I told him so.
We went shopping today.
My husband is not speaking to me this afternoon.
When I told him on the way there that I wanted to try some brown rice for a change he nearly had a heart attack.
“Do you KNOW how much more EXPENSIVE brown rice IS!”
I thought we would have to pull the car over and stop he was so overwrought.
It was a LONG day.
“We’re going to run out of food this week…I’m telling you!” he warned me when we finally got home.
(We won’t, but if we do we have enough fettuccine to kill a person…literally!)
And when he is not looking the children will once more come to me and whisper…
“Thank you….oh thank you dear mother for saving us from all that sameness! You are the BESSSST!”
And I will serve them brown rice instead of white and rejoice at these – my small conquests!