- Food and Cooking
Where Shopping is a Pleasure!
Attention Shoppers: Conversation on Aisle Two!
© B. L. Bierley 2012
No, this isn’t an article about the Publix grocery store chain, although they could do worse with a spokesperson like me! This is about grocery shopping in general. I’m a surprisingly reluctant shopper overall. Yet, I have a strange alter-ego that comes out only when I find myself inside my local grocery store. My grocery alter-ego talks to strangers! Oh, what? You didn't know I was that woman? Yep, I'm the creepy chick in the frozen section commenting to strangers about new products I’ve just discovered or explaining the store layout to the lost and uninformed.
I used to think my daughter DaVelma went with me to try to get more junk food or to see if they really were out of her favorite type of sushi in the seafood section like I often said they were. But then I realized that it was a tactical maneuver to help me get in and out before the family starved to death waiting for me to get finished with my many conversations. Now, I don’t want to come across as a complete wacko. I often only talk quietly to myself when I’m shopping. Usually I’ll discuss the merits of choices as I stand beside the wider selections like popcorn or soda. More than once I’ve seen people giving my buggy (for you northern folk, that’s a shopping cart) a wide berth as they pass me by. Occasionally people will join in my topic discussion. I once got into a debate with a gentleman in the pet section about the pros and cons of the "greener" kitty litter options.
Once in a while I’m the entertainment. Another patron and I got into a discussion about the so-called “vegan” eggs being offered in the dairy section. If they came from a chicken, and you eat them, how can you call them vegan? Is it because the chickens only ate plant material? In that case wouldn’t the chickens be vegan and the eggs’ position still unknown? Personally I subscribe to the definitions given to me by a friend I met while still in high school, “Vegetarians shouldn’t eat anything that ever had a mother! And Vegans never eat anything remotely connected to the mothers or any of their offspring.” If that’s wrong, I apologize. Someone feel free to correct my definition at any time. As it was, this fellow shopper and I held an audience for a good five minutes while we talked about vegan/vegetarian eggs Abbott-and-Costello style.
Smart Shoppers Know!
Any smart shopper knows it pays to have connections at your local grocery store. I have many friends at my grocery store. I am well known by most of the produce guys. I often ask them if the pineapple or watermelon they offer pre-sliced in tubs is fresh or ask them how long it will be before the “good apples” come. I upset their display of grapes every weekend by lifting their carefully placed bags to see how many squished grapes lurk in the bottom of every bag. Cap praises my skill at fruit selection, and I take that very seriously. I got into trouble once with them for encouraging other women to shuck their corn before purchasing it so they would make sure they got ears of the same variety. There is now a trash can near the fresh corn display for you to place your shucks! You’re welcome, ladies!
The meat department is another place where there is usually someone to talk to in the store. The butchers in my grocery store chain are really good at special requests. Recently I got a pound of pork freshly ground from a selection of hand-picked meats when the case was empty of pre-packaged ground pork. And I’ve never been let down when I ask for help in selecting steaks for a get together. The young man was so knowledgeable in his information, I was satisfied before I even got home that the steak was going to be perfect (and it was!).
Sharing Means Caring
I give away a lot of free advice in the grocery store. I’m originally from the Deep South in Small Town, Alabama. Many people might not realize it, but southern women are notorious for having an opinion about household matters. I’ve given help among my grocery store's many aisles about recipe conversion, stain removal products that work and some that aren’t stain removal products at all that work even better at removing stains, I’ve helped people figure out what they might be able to substitute for a product that is currently unavailable. I’ve even given my detailed recipe for preparing sweet tea. My ex-husband Grease used to say my tea was so sweet the spoon would stand up in the middle of the glass from the sheer density of suspended glucose particles. I’ve gotten very few complaints, though.
Sometimes I’ll see people again in my regular store and they’ll tell me how grateful they were for my advice. Sometimes they’ll just raise a hand in hello. That’s another southern thing. Even if we’re not sure we know someone or not, we’ll give a little wave out of common courtesy because our mamas taught us to always be polite. I used to do that in my car, wave a hand off the steering wheel every time I met another vehicle. But when I moved to Big City, Alabama it got to where I could hardly steer because there were so many automobiles on the road. In Small Town, we didn’t have that issue. But anyway, in the grocery store I am forever a friendly face.
Aww, Do I Have To?
Contrary to what I’ve already told you, grocery shopping is a chore. I grumble and grouse while I make my list, heaving huge put-upon sighs and playing the belabored mom card. I don’t even want to go until I’m in the store. As soon as those doors whoosh apart, my reluctance melts away as I browse the featured specials and move on to the bakery to see what new confection or petit fours for they’ve dreamed up and offer at 2.49 per piece. I could spend an hour just looking at the various meats and cheeses in the deli. They always give you a sample to taste after you commit to a slice thickness! Occasionally I’ll even get a soda from the fountain to sip on as I shop. And there’s nothing in the world like looking for the newest or most unusual flavor of yogurt! I often wonder if my grousing about the task isn’t a subconscious ruse in order to get away from the rest of my family without them tagging along with me to the store.
Who am I kidding, though? Cap won’t go buy groceries unless I can’t for some documented medical reason. Ziggy never leaves without being dragged to the car kicking and screaming clutching his Nintendo 3DS like it’s his only lifeline. That just leaves DaVelma. She always goes along unless she has something better to do. Believe me, I am counting the days until she has a drivers' license, and then I can send her to do the shopping when she's itching to use the car!
Just Say No!
The only people I can’t bring myself to talk to in the store are the extreme-couponing patrons. They are a fixture in my favorite grocery store every Sunday morning when I shop—usually between ten a.m. and noon. I see them rolling through the store with their specialized photo albums full of pockets to hold coupons for everything from jelly to dishwasher detergent. Their presence is bizarre for one very obvious reason. They aren’t in church! You see, most of the coupon groups in my area hold their meetings at one of our many area churches. So why aren’t these people with the rest of their flock at church? Is there some shopping savvy tip I’ve missed that says Sunday morning is the ideal time to save money? Here in the south, skipping church is only allowed for those who believe in evolution. And I have faith, but I also believe in evolution. I don't often attend church. On occasions when I do go, I keep my opinions to myself. Especially about coupon shopping.
I have never used coupons, not even at Easter or Christmas. I don’t understand how some justify their obsession with money saving when they’ll drive all over, wasting gas and money, just to buy up all the Sunday papers and clip every coupon like mad! Or they buy expensive printers and ink to print dozens upon hundreds of coupons from online sources. And they buy items in bulk knowing they won’t ever be able to use all of it before it spoils. It's insanity. But what is really crazy is the way these people brag! I have two friends who post their triumphant coupon savings on Facebook like it’s the birth of a child, “Congratulate me, y’all! On June 3, 2011 I saved! It was 126 dollars and 52 cents! The shopping trip was four hours long! I’m exhausted, but happy! Here’s a picture of everything I bought! Look how big of a pile it is!”
Okay, I’m not really against coupon usage in general. I just don’t support it as a sport. I heard somewhere that BPA’s are found in many printed receipts and colored papers and that the same toxins can be absorbed (in minuscule amounts only) through the skin. I took great pleasure in telling one couponista that factoid! Of course, I left out the parenthetical data on purpose. Mostly I just tell everyone I’m allergic to coupons!
I am not against saving money. I’d be a fool to say that. However, my issue is usually with impulsive spending rather than indulging in brand names at full price. Watch out for those devils who pose as grocery store clerks giving away free samples. I can’t tell you how many times I’m suckered in by a tasty nibble. I once bought an entire three course meal that wasn’t on my list or in my budget (Steak Diane with sautéed green beans, mashed potatoes, and a quick-bake cobbler, grand total $58.63) and all because of those tricky slicks with their angled overhead mirror and their “it’s-so-easy” preparation skills! In order to avoid falling prey to that one again, I just pretend they’re making something full of black-eyed peas. I hate black-eyed peas, and I have no trouble saying no to anything remotely connected to them. Just mentally substitute your least favorite food as the main ingredient whenever you pass these demonstrations, and you’ll be fine!
Luckily I recently discovered an App for my iPad that allows me to organize my grocery list by store location using color coordination! I’ve been doing much better at sticking to my budget since I started using it. I even throw in an occasional warning to myself not to look at the jellybean dispensers on aisle nine.
One Last Thing
Before I go, I would like to take an opportunity in this generous forum to extend a hearty thank you to the people of Publix Shopping Centers. On April 27, 2011, tornadoes ripped a massive swath of damage from the central western border to the north eastern corner of Alabama. It was just a portion of the damage our country sustained. Those dreadful tornadoes were reported to have touched the ground for a record-breaking 137 miles straight without letting up. Here in Big City, Alabama (all anonymity aside for one brief moment: it was the Huntsville and Madison, Alabama area stores, y’all), we were without power for well over a week. Now, I can’t say for the rest of our area stores, but I can speak for my beloved Publix! Our local Publix Shopping Centers called in as many of their available personnel from areas less damaged to come and help as they powered up generators and supplied much-needed supplies to people with very little left but their lives. They rationed the ice supply so that everyone who needed it might have a chance to save what they had in their freezers. They allocated their electrical outlets for people to charge cellular phones to contact loved ones and to power medical devices if needed.
These selfless men and women tried to make sure mothers with infants had plenty of sterile water for mixing formula, that diapers were available, and that they could get sunscreen so that their babies would be protected from sunburn in the outdoor shade (the coolest place to be when no air conditioning or electric fans were available). The pharmacy was there to supply medical needs to those with non- life threatening injuries or just those who needed a prescription refilled. They powered meat and dairy cases, the kept their produce as cool as they could to avoid spoilage, and stayed open late and came in early to keep their stock refreshed and available to their customers as soon as the trucks arrived. I could go on and on with how much they did for the people of our community! And I didn’t hear a word of complaint from any of them, just a smile and a request to help if you needed anything. We can never thank you enough. You've got my business every Sunday morning for years to come.
Okay, One More Thing
Just in case you doubted my sincerity for having a recipe for Southern Sweet Tea, I have included the recipe exactly as I make it!
WARNING: IT'S EXTREMELY SWEET!
B's Sweet Tea Recipe
Ingredients and Equipment
- 1 bag Tea, I use Lipton's gallon sized bags
- 2 cups Sugar, if you prefer unsweetened, just skip it.
- 3-6 cups Water
- Glasses with ice, enough for everyone planning to drink tea.
- 1 Gallon-sized pitcher, preferably with a lid.
- 1 Medium-sized pot, That's a saucepan for you northern folks.
- 1 Slotted spoon
- Working stovetop
- Optional: 1-2 Lemons, cut into wedges
- Place your tea bag in a medium sized pot (saucepan).
- Add enough water to nearly fill the pot (saucepan) and set the pan on a stove eye. Turn the heat to high and bring it to a boil.
- While the tea is heating, place your gallon-sized pitcher in the sink. Place 2 cups of sugar in the bottom of the pitcher.
- When the pot (saucepan) comes to a rapid boil, remove it from the heat. If you prefer a stronger tea, let it steep (sit nearby and cool) for two minutes without heat.
- Using a slotted spoon, hold the tea bag to the side of the pot (saucepan) while you pour the brewed tea over the sugar in your pitcher. Squeeze excess moisture from the bag into the pitcher using the spoon and the side of the pot (saucepan) for pressure.
- Stir the tea until all the sugar has dissolved.
- While continuing to stir the pitcher, fill the remaining space in the pitcher with water. If you want to cool the tea quicker, you may use ice instead of water.
- Set the lid on the pitcher (if it has one, otherwise I recommend Saran Wrap or your clingwrap of choice). Allow time for the pitcher contents to cool at least thirty minutes before serving. If you are making the tea in advance, allow time for countertop cooling before you put the tea into the refridgerator so you don't raise the interior temperature for your other refridgerated foods.
- Serve over ice with lemon wedges if desired. ENJOY!
This is a best-guess, y'all.
|Serving size: 1 8oz glass|
|Calories from Fat||0|
|% Daily Value *|
|Sugar 24 g|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|