I’m a bit of a weirdo. I actually enjoy grocery shopping. I like to wander the aisles for recipe ideas, get drawn in by pretty packages, and fill my cart with new finds. I am my father’s daughter when it comes to this. We are both store aisle wanderers.
Cowboy, on the other hand, is all about efficiency and says it is decidedly cheaper and faster when he goes it alone. The man sticks to the list (can you imagine???), and well it’s hard to argue when someone volunteers to do a chore.
But grocery shopping has changed in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve only left the farm twice in as many or more weeks. The first time, Cowboy and I went to get provisions to ensure our critters and parents were well fed. I’m glad I wasn’t alone, because I was incredibly distracted by the surreal nature of it all. Shelves half stocked, favorite items nowhere to be found, and busy stockers putting things out as fast as they were flying off of the shelves.
I walked through the big box store wide eyed and holding my breath. I’m pretty sure I didn’t observe all of the social distancing rules, not because I wasn’t trying, but because I was simply in awe. In all of my forty plus years, I’ve been lucky enough to go to the grocery store and buy whatever I needed, and 99 percent of the time, whatever I wanted. That this is a privilege is not lost on me.
The second trip out was to our small town grocer, and was planned for this weekend. To prep for the store, I sat at the kitchen table surrounded by my recipes and cookbooks, and made a menu. I looked for things that could make use of what we already had in the freezer and could also be repurposed for multiple meals. Could a cooked ham on Sunday mean ham and potato soup or a ham salad later in the week? Most definitely. I needed to use the resources we had wisely, not just for me but for everyone else, too. We are all sharing these precious resources, and the old phrase, “waste not, want not” kept surfacing in my mind.
Come Saturday morning, off to the store I went, just me, myself and the list. (Cowboy and I wanted to limit the number of people in the store for everyone’s health and safety.) And while I was a bit more prepared for what I might see, I found myself with thoughts that had never occurred to me before: how quickly can I get in and out, do I wipe down all of the cart or just the handles, what path should I take through the store, should I start with things like eggs or canned goods, what time does the store open for the general public?
Wipe in hand, I diligently went up and down the aisles. Stopping to allow someone to pass. Standing back and waiting my turn to choose veggies or go down a particular aisle. Glancing and smiling at my fellow store goers as we all had tentative looks on our faces, unsure exactly how to behave in these unprecedented times, our deeply rooted southern hospitality at odds with this strange reality. Making sure to adhere to store management requests to limit critical items like soups, breads, meats, dairy, and leaving those things that I did not need for others who may need them. I even chuckled to myself when a lone box of plant butter stood on the shelf that normally housed dozens of butter options. I guess even a pandemic can’t make some things palatable.
I filled up my cart with more than enough to take care of my family for two plus weeks.
I stood on the black X on the floor, six feet away from the next person in line, waiting to check out. As I stood there, I was awash in sheer gratitude. Cowboy and I still have our jobs. We can still get what we need. The farm critters, our families and dear friends, are all safe and well.
And then I got to the cashier. Behind newly installed plexiglass, we chatted away. He was friendly and jovial. He talked about his new baby on the way. About how many hours he’d been working, and what he’d do if he ended up as the only one in his household who could work. My emotions welled up, as I thanked him for all he was doing. He shrugged it off as no big deal.
The grocery manager, who I’ve seen dozens of times often over the years, greeted me with a tired smile. I asked how he was and he shared he’s worked 190 hours over the last two weeks. I have no idea how that feels. More thanks came tumbling out of me.
I paid, grateful to these workers who were doing so much for me, for my family. I pushed my cart to the car, and the teenage bag-boy rushed over to help me load (social distance style, of course) and take the cart back in the store (because yes, we still do that in small towns). He, too, was tired but smiling. Sharing how he had been given official papers that would allow him to go back and forth to work in the case that things continued to shut down even more. I could not utter enough thank yous. Like the clerk, he shrugged it off, more worried about people being able to be tested and protecting his grandparents.
Humbled. Simply humbled.
On the way home, I dropped off a few things on my parents’ porch. I stood back as we blew air kisses and gave ourselves virtual hugs. And then I talked about the grocery workers, and I stood there and cried. Tears streaming down my face as I was overcome with gratitude. For the people who are getting up every day and doing their jobs so that life can go on. People who still have time to share a story, lend a hand, offer a smile. To every single one of them, thank you!
Grocery shopping has never been sweeter.
P.S. Thank yous matter. When you have to venture out for necessities, please pass along oodles of gratitude. Beautifully, gratitude and kindness are unlimited resources.
Featured image (grocery cart) © Have a nice day – stock.adobe.com. Standard license.