Monday, June 4, 2012

I don't even like this store.

I have more patience than I know what to do with. You have to with kids, because everything they do is a test of patience. You'll never know how long you can sit in one place with a spoonful of something till you have kids, and for the record, it's a pretty long time. Like...a stupid amount of time. However, when it comes to other people, I find it hard to just take my deep breaths and go to my happy place. There is no place that I find it tested more, than the grocery store.

I used to drive a Honda CR-V. I loved it. When I got it there was 2 miles on the gauge, and when I sold it last December there was about 150,000. I was told by a salesman once (who had no idea what I was driving) that people don't really keep vehicles long enough to make a full purchase worth it. It's "so much better to lease." I find that if the decision is all mine, I'm happy to drive my vehicle till it just can't be driven anymore. As I've mentioned before, one of the major reasons for getting the ManVan and not staying a one car family, was just being able to get out during the day, and grocery shopping has become our most regular outing.

It's interesting that when I tell my friends with kids, especially the stay at home parents, that I take the boys grocery shopping, the reaction is so often the same. "You what? How? Why? Love the blog! Even though I keep forgetting to share the page, I promise I will tonight." I have only minor magical powers, and my technique is nothing I keep secret. So here's how I grocery all it's glory.

First, you can't be prepared without preparation. That's deep stuff right there. So I pick a day. It has everything to do with maximizing the amount of stuff purchased. What this means is my grocery bills are quite high, but I shop much less often than I used to. I try to go weekly and in that week to week I want certain items to almost deplete fully. I want the need to go to the store to be at its absolute peak. Which is where the list comes in. Before we had the boys, Melissa and I had very general lists. There was stuff we always needed like milk or soda or bread or WD-40, but we left the specifics to whatever struck us in the moment of seeing it on the shelf. For a young couple without a care, it was a great way to shop. Not so much a safe system for the kids. That's why our lists now are terribly specific. We don't say "oatmeal" when we mean "2 boxes of oatmeal." That's way too much of a difference. We even do our best to meal plan. I cook on average 3 times a week during the work week, so everything needed to make those meals must make it to the list, because emergency trips to the store just don't work well for us and our schedule. The other two nights are YOYO nights (Term we learned from our friends Dave and Andy - You're On Your Own), which still need a certain level of planning. You can't eat cereal, if it isn't in the house.

Second, you must know your store. I'm talking where anything you might need is located by exact isle. Melissa is way better at this than I am, but I'm getting there. Wandering up and down each isle is a great use of time and certainly a great way to see the world, but when I'm alone with the kids in the store, it's like a timer is set the moment we walk in the door. Number of minutes on the timer? I haven't the slightest clue, but if they start to get antsy, it's already too late. So you must shave off time where ever you can. Skipping the isle with the toilet paper cause the week before you bought the 72 pack (a purchase I would have needed to explain 15 years ago, damn...old) is a big deal.

Third, commit! Grocery day means I need to wake up and get dressed in clothes that I feel okay to wear in a public setting. I'm fine to wear my soccer shorts with the hole in the crotch to go on our daily walks, heck, that's why I get so many smiles from the ladies (Hey there ladies), but Wal Mart is far too classy for such attire. That carries over to the kiddos. I get them in their outfits and get socks and shoes on right with the morning's diaper changes. I find that when we're all in that state of being completely ready, I'm less likely to get sucked in to the morning's episode of Octonauts (I had never heard of the Spookfish before seeing it on the Octonauts. Look it up and enjoy the crazy deep water sea life). If needed I'll play some, "GET PUMPED" music on youtube during breakfast, which based on my song selection process almost always ends in The Carpenters or like...Lionel Richie. You need to figure out the time of day that works best for the kids pre-lunch. Why pre-lunch? Because the 9-5 work day is a myth. There are always people going to work and going home from work. So there are always going to be people in the store. In movies when they show grocery stores, you'll get those scenes where two characters are walking down an isle completely alone. Yeah, that just doesn't happen in real life. I really hope you have all seen "My Blue Heaven" with Steve Martin and Rick (Please Rick, come back to movies) Moranis. There's a scene where he meets a girl in the frozen food section, and there's no one even remotely around. Yeah, he happened to time it at the one moment where people stopped wanting frozen pizzas and ice cream. Well done, Todd Wilkinson. Point: you can cut down the amount of people in the store by going early in the day.

Fourth, stuff your pockets. Extra toys, goldfish crackers or whatever your kid likes, sippy cup of whatever they drink, a picture of Mommy (or Daddy for you lady types), Carter is entertained by the car keys from time to time. Always have a back up plan. Never assume the toy they can't live without when you leave the house is going to be the toy they can't live without when they're being pushed around the store.

Last, GO GO GO! There's a reason so many stores have the double seat carts that look like race cars. Speed is the name of the game. Like I said, I feel like the timer starts when I enter the door. So everything needs to be set to 11. Motorcycle trick! Keep your head up! You can better plan your route around obstacles (people) if you see them ahead of time. Stick to your list, and bring out the pocket crap as necessary to avoid boredom. Don't indulge the old women shopping who want to gush over your kids, the fact that her children don't bring the grandkids over enough is not your fault. "Yes, my kids are cute, nope they didn't get Daddy's red hair, yes it is too time lady!" Tick tick goes the clock. Now, when you've got the items on your list you can get in line, check out and go home. Try your best to not get stuck behind the coupon folks....SIDE RANT!

I don't hate people who are currently taking after this trend of super savings, where they walk around the store with their failure folder of coupons kept in those baseball card protector sleeves like it's a clever new use for them (!!!!),  buying 40 boxes of Cheerios and 5,000 feet of duct tape. Honestly, I kind of like Cheerios and duct tape has so many different uses that it's almost suspicious. Go nuts I guess, but I really think they should all get together, agree on a day that they'll all go shopping, and let the rest of us know so we can schedule our own trips around that day. You want me to believe that you're saving money by getting 200 things of Oreos, you bet I will. I believe you real bad, but just like you have the right to give me that look of, "Can't you shut your kid up? I'm only on hour 2 of checking out here!" I have the right to give you the look of, "Nope. I love that this is bothering you. In fact, I might take William's rock away (I'd give it right back) just to annoy you even more! *air kiss*"

So there it is, and it looks pretty darn simple typed out. Maybe it is. I'll say this for my own experience, and again I'm dealing with a 3 year old and a 1 year old. It's not easy and it will always be a bit of a headache, but taking a day off of our walk (yes we cancel our walk on grocery day) to get this done really gives us time elsewhere as a family. If you're on the fence about trying to tackle the outside world with just you and your kids, do it! Know that it's gonna suck at least a little bit and embrace it. Over time is does get better, of course over time your kids also grow up and can get with the program a little better. Don't sweat the looks from other people. Those looks come from people who's kids are too old for them to remember those times or people who don't have kids and think that would never happen with them and their children. It's fun to grow up and be wrong!

Get out there, and good luck.

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