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Memories and Musings: Grocery shopping 101

By Gene Gallelli

Okay, I admit it: I enjoy grocery shopping. So, sue me!

After finding a parking spot directly across from a cart return and before passing through the automatic sliding glass doors into a magical world of coffees, cans and calories, I consult my carefully prepared shopping list and then enter the overwhelming world of stacked dinners and desserts.

After pulling free a disinfectant wipe and cleaning the handle of a shopping cart and then passing through the second set of automatic doors, the cart and I make a hard right and head to grab a few priorities: apple fritters or cinnamon rolls or glazed doughnuts, chicken tenders at the deli – for munching on the ride home – and, finally, cherry tomatoes and a dozen eggs (free range, open range or Home on the Range).

Now, after gathering my essentials, I’m ready for the up-and-down dance of the aisles, having temporarily avoided the tempting barrage of hot dogs, bacon and breakfast sausages (for which I usually weaken and return for later).

After checking my list, I head for the dreaded, mile-long cereals strip. “Dreaded” because the ubiquitous combination of corn, oat, wheat and “mystery” grains, loaded with raisins, berries, chocolate chips and peanut butter chunks, make me almost hyperventilate. So, I pick a box of plain corn flakes and shredded wheat – I’m a closet purist – and head for the land of cans and plastic bottles.

This aisle – cans and plastic containers – goes quickly because, except for an occasional desire for Italian green beans, seasoned collards or turnip greens, I prefer fresh or frozen veggies.
By now in my travels, I’m forced to explore the back-of-the-store meat, fish and poultry section. The chicken, ground chuck, hot Italian sausage and pork chops are easy picks; it’s the red meat section that takes time: What’s on sale? What’s marked down? What has the best thickness, marbling and potential tenderness? I usually walk away with a few rib eyes or thick sirloins or nothing at all. Fresh fish is rarely in the shopping cart, although I love it, especially when prepared by someone else in one of the many excellent nearby restaurants.

There are several aisles or sections of the grocery store that carry all the essentials of daily life but are boring: soaps, detergents, toothpaste, paper towels and “bathroom tissues” – is there anyone that doesn’t know that’s a euphemism for toilet paper and that every brand brags about being the softest, strongest or both?

Coffees are something I’m fussy about because without it I’m dangerous when cornered! Since I’ve tried all brands, most of which are terrible, I’ve settled on about three or four. But, since I’m not a paid informant, I won’t mention the ones I like.

After completing the items on the list, I pat myself on the back for avoiding the temptation to throw Genoa salami, a key lime pie, jelly doughnuts and mint Oreos into the cart and then wonder how the chocolate ice cream, hot fudge sauce and Reddi-Wip got in there.

When I get my loaded cart to the least busy checkout line, a lady gets behind me with a package of hot dog buns and a bottle of ketchup. So, of course, I let her go ahead of me – before her daughter joins her with a basket full of hot dogs, bratwurst, ribs and 10 ears of corn. They avoid making eye contact while the mom pulls out her wallet and counts out several currency bills then digs in the bottom of her bag for the needed exact change.

My checkout is smooth and uneventful until the clerk checks my dozen free range eggs and finds two that are broken. I hear a man’s voice behind me say, “He should have checked them before he put them in his cart!” Before hearing that, I would have told the clerk to forget the eggs so as not to hold up the line, but I didn’t. It’s amazing how many dirty looks you can get in the time it takes to replace a dozen eggs and grab a sweet tea.

Once in the safety of the parking lot – which is not always a given – I click open the rear gate of my SUV, load my groceries and return my cart – along with the one left unattended – to the rack that is less than ten feet from my car.

The drive home is very peaceful and I hum a favorite tune in between bites of chicken tenders and sips of sweet tea. It takes me a little longer to get home because it’s summer and I will only make a left turn at a traffic light, something I learned while growing a beard waiting to make a left from a blind intersection.

The barking dogs welcome me home as I unpack the groceries, put them away, then assess what I forgot that was on my shopping list and what I bought that wasn’t.

After a cup of coffee and a few bites of an apple fritter, I sit down and try to continue reading a new David Baldacci novel, when the Sandman pays me an unexpected visit and I end up in my hometown of East Rochester, playing baseball in the street.

Gene Gallelli was Associate Superintendent of the Dare County Schools for eight years. He received his Doctor of Education degree from East Carolina University, where he taught and supervised students studying to become school administrators.

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