Monday, September 14, 2009

Grocery Packing 101

To say that I am particular about how I do things would be an understatement. I am very much an orderly person who keeps a tidy house with neat cupboards. I'm not obsessive - labels can be faced backwards or sideways in the food pantry but the items are organized in a practical way and when we run out I will buy more and put them in the exact same spot. It's just easier that way.

As with all domestic chores my mother taught me how to shop. During the week she kept a list on a dry erase board in the kitchen, as items ran out, we were trained to add the item to the board. Before shopping she would comb the cupboards and the cold storage then sit down to write a list. She flipped through the grocery store flyer's looking for sales, she clipped coupons, pulled ingredients out of new recipes all the while adding to her list. Mom worked in cash with a budget tallying the items she added to the cart along her way through the store. She rarely went over she was good like that. At cash out, she arranged the items in such a way that the bags would be packed so as not to squish anything or leak all over other packages. She also scanned her bill thoroughly if she were double charged for an item or not given the sale price she would rectify this before leaving the store. She grocery shopped with the cooler in the back of the car. When she got to the car she removed any cold items and placed them in the cooler to keep them from going off on the way home. We usually made a few stops on grocery day and it could take half a day to get the grocery shopping done.

Method to mom's madness goes like this:

Up first: Heavy cold refrigerated items, Milk, OJ, yogurt, sour cream, butter, meats from deli counter and butchery, cheese, canned goods, boxed goods like cereal, coffee, and then fruits and veggies followed by bread and chips. Heaviest to lightest and most fragile. Large items like cases of soft drinks and bulk paper towels she would leave in the cart to be scanned last.

As a total aside: On one occasion while we waited our turn to check out mom was flipping through a magazine and I was standing ready to push the cart I was about 10 years old. There was a 5lb bag of potatoes sitting up on the child seat part of the cart. I decided to drop a butt bomb you know the old silent but deadly assuming no one would notice. All of a sudden my mother turned back to the cart and started smelling the potatoes. Phew! She said. These are rotten, Shell can you please run and pick out a fresh bag of potatoes. I didn't tell her it was me and ran to get her another bag. I still giggle to myself in the produce section when I see the bags of potatoes.

Mom liked paper bags except for cold items that would soak the bag through - those items went in plastic as did cleaning products. You would not want them to leak on your food - she told me. Same rule applied for meats packed in plastic wrap the exception being meat from the butcher packed in red paper rarely leaked. If she were around now she would no doubt be using her own cloth bags. (Which are expected in major grocery stores in Ontario Canada - you must pay for plastic bags should you arrive without your own - yay green minded Ontario!)

My first job was as a cashier at the local Super Save. I wore a green polyester pantsuit with the legs pinned so they weren't bell bottoms and my penny loafers. When we went into training the first thing we were taught was how to pack groceries properly. I was a whiz at this as my mother had already shown me the ropes. And it was an eye opener to me to find that my mother's way was not just my mother's anal way of doing things, there is a skill to ensuring the customer's loaf of bread is still recognizable when they get it home.

All of this formula to grocery shopping was inbred in me. I too organize a list, make my way around the outside of the grocery store and then arrange the items at check out in just the same way my mother did. I provide my own cloth bags although where I am living this seems to be unusual still. The cashiers are always looking to scan my bags and I have to explain they are mine, please pack them with the groceries. Still some cashiers add my groceries to plastic and then into my cloth bags, which I promptly put a stop to.


I digress, the whole point of this post is to say OMG is drives me completely insane to watch people pack my groceries!!!

The cashiers scanning the items on the belt just randomly reaching for items out of the order I have placed them in and then mixing the groceries up tossing them into any old bag. I often stand watching the scanner throw up prices while reorganizing my bags so the bunch of bananas do not remain trapped under the container of yogurt. I might be a pain in the ass at the check-out but at least I am polite and I do manage to get most items home in one piece without too many bumps and bruises.

I haven't seen the regular cashiers roll there eyeballs at me as they see me line up either. I am pretty sure they probably don't even notice the little dance I am performing with my groceries and bags. I am pretty sure I am the only one who cares. But, I do care about the food I eat, where it comes from and how it arrives to me. And I care about the ritual and common sense approach I have to packing my grocery bags. Somewhere in the universe my mother is smiling down on me knowing she has taught me the value of a dollar and she's having her little chuckle watching me take the time to sort my groceries in just such a way, a way she taught me. I am sure it pleases her to no end.


Twwly said...

Scott teases me about my grocery packing. Same system. I always pack my own bags, or I wind up repacking everything the clerks do.

lucky said...

love this post!

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Janell said...

I loved this post. I don't know that I'm as systematic as you, but I pretty much try to go heaviest/most durable to lightest/most fragile when loading my groceries. Two days ago I had an awesome bagger who was very conscientious about which bags everything went into, and he even consulted me twice about how I wanted things. It made me happy. Why can't that be the norm?? Oh yeah. Because most baggers are 1)boys and 2)teenagers. Oh well!

Kathy B! said...

Nothing worse than squashed bread as a result of being mishandled by the teenage bagger. Grrr.