Raising Richmond: Grocery stories

A change in weekly grocery stores doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’ve somehow made grocery shopping the center of my life.

Recently I made a change in my weekly grocery store, and all I wanted to do was talk about it. I understood the topic to be one of the most boring, so I spared everyone.

Then I read the reactions to Wegmans coming to the Richmond area, and I realized that all of you nerds are just as passionate about grocery store experiences. It made me feel less alone. Let’s get the Wegmans’ business out of the way: I am in the “THAT’S NOT IN RICHMOND” camp, therefore, if I go there it will be during my quarterly visit to the Short Pump area after I have made preparations to make the trip, including hiring a local to get me through the worst parking lots ever designed.1 Basically having something in Short Pump feels as convenient as it being in Fredericksburg, even though it’s not that far away. All other errands I run are within a few miles of my house, so driving more than that seems pointless. The Midlothian one wouldn’t be far from me, either, but I would drive by seven grocery stores just to get to it. I’m happy for everyone else, though.

Back to where I do end up going. A change in weekly grocery stores doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I’ve somehow made grocery shopping the center of my life. I think about food (eating and cooking it) all week long, and what I get on my Saturday morning shopping trip sets up the rest of the week. It is up to me to get the food that we’ll eat for our meals together and our meals apart, in addition to little treats. I actually like grocery shopping. I stick to a list and typically cook from scratch, but I might go wild and buy an off-list tub of ice cream or bag of chips. I like getting new food stuffs in the house. It makes me feel like a more whole person to have good food to eat and to know that my family has some nice snacks and meals coming their way.2

I didn’t realize that my choice of grocery store wasn’t meeting my needs, but for the last couple of weeks, inevitably I would hear someone in the long line behind me say something like “Why do I keep coming here?” I thought of a list of bad things about that store, like how I didn’t like getting prepared food there because they always got the order wrong; the red peppers are often rotten; the guy at the seafood counter loudly told a story in front of my daughter and me that included a slur against gay people; and so on.

I decided to try a new place. With the exception of a few things, like some holes in its produce sections, I like the new store. The first week I went, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to go the following week. Then I felt weird about how happy the change made me. I told the friend who recommended the store to me that I had gone there, but otherwise I had my daughter as my equally enthusiastic partner in the new life event (she likes the lights in the freezer sections that turn on when we walk by, and I like that the cereal I buy is $1.50 cheaper there).

There is something else that makes me love grocery shopping so much, and I didn’t realize it until recently. I almost always take my daughter, and I like having that time with her. A year ago I would have said that I’d prefer to shop alone, but there was a stretch of Saturdays that I needed to take her along, and then it became a given that she’d go with me. When I’ve gone to the store without her, I miss her. She’s good company. She likes to talk about what we’re buying, likes to sing loudly or tell me all her favorite things she sees on balloons, and especially likes it when I buy her a fancy bottled juice to drink at the store.

I was a little sad about leaving the other grocery store because it would mean no longer seeing our regular Saturday morning cashier. Sometimes I chose to be in her lane, but mostly I ended up there because the store doesn’t ever have more than one lane open. She and my daughter had a rapport. The woman called her “the talking baby”, and they’d give high fives and things like that. It was cute. I like the idea of my daughter growing up knowing the people at the places we go to. But then as I waited in line that was three-deep at the new grocery store, the manager immediately pulled me out of line and opened another register for me. I forgot all about learning the names and stories of all the employees; I realized I just wanted to get out of there and get my Saturday started.

One reasons that it’s so easy to take my daughter to the grocery store is that she still sits in the cart. She’s (finger’s crossed) over a phase of hardcore tantruming when faced with leaving anywhere, but she never was like that at the grocery store. It is a very mama-controlled experience and, after lots of parenting fails in public, I need it to stay that way. She’s been eyeballing those carts with the cars on them, and when she asked a few weeks ago, I told her she can’t ride them until she’s four. When she sees other kids in them she shouts “They’re four! They’re older,” although they are clearly way younger than she is. I just don’t want to face what those trips would be like when she’s roaming free in the aisles. Letting her be out of cart in other places has made a simple trip take half a day, so I imagine that if I am at my patient best, grocery store trips will take seven hours. I know she can’t be in the cart forever, and she also won’t want to to go to the store with me anymore eventually.

Until those things change, I will enjoy those mornings chatting with my best girl and taking her down the aisles with motion-detector lights that she thinks we turn on because we’re magic.

I could go on about grocery stores. Let me know if you want me to, and I will drop this parenting business and muse exclusively on grocery shopping.

Photo by: katerha

  1. My theory about all the townhomes in Short Pump is that it was easier to abandon a car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot and move in than figure out how to get back to Broad Street, although it’s RIGHT THERE. 
  2. That being said, if that’s a luxury that you also enjoy, have you given to the food bank lately? 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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