Grocery Day… by JoAnn

A girl holding an apple in her hand.

When I was growing up in the 70s, my family did a lot of simple things together as a family unit.  My sister and I rarely stayed home alone while our parents went out.  Wherever Mama & Daddy went, we tagged along, and we never complained.  Back then, there were no video games or cell phones to keep us entertained.  So the chance to get out of the house for a little while, was well received.

One family outing was written in stone.  Every Friday after school was grocery time.  We all piled into the car, Mama with her well thought out shopping list, and Daddy with his freshly cashed paycheck, and we headed uptown to the closest supermarket.  

Farm Fresh wasn’t the largest grocery store in town, but it was just big enough for my parents to still feel comfortable and not overwhelmed.  In 1973, we had moved from a small town in East Tennessee, to a much larger city in Virginia.  Neither of my parents felt comfortable in crowded places.  They stuck to the smaller, older stores and businesses that most reminded them of back home.  

Mama was a hard-core grocery shopper.  She knew exactly what she wanted, what brand, size, and the amount she planned to pay for it.  She already had a menu made up in her mind of what she would prepare for meals the following week.  We all knew to just let her be as she shopped, and not to bother her while she was in her zone.  Daddy had already been given his orders as to what his job would be.  Usually he would pick out all the produce.  Having been a wonderful farmer in Tennessee, he was well equipped for this job.  I don’t remember walking with my sister, so she must’ve had a chore helping Mama.  

The only thing I remember doing is wondering around the store.  Maybe picking up an item or two that I needed for school, or a sweet that I could talk my mama into buying.  Sometimes I was allowed to bring a friend with me.  At least then I had someone to talk to my own age.  We could walk through the store people watching and make fun of weird hair styles or clothes.  Typical tween stuff I guess.  At least until we became bona fide teenagers!

As teenagers, a trip to the supermarket meant a chance to check out the bag & stock boys.  We would dress in what we thought were our cutest, most flattering outfits and prance around in hopes of getting a look our way.  Yes, we were very silly.  But we didn’t know that at the time.  We were too silly with our boy craziness to realize these young men, who were much older than us, had a job to do.  A job that I am sure they wanted to keep.  We just knew that one Friday, one of those cute boys would come up and talk to us.  Maybe even ask us for our phone number.  That of course never happened.  But we entertained ourselves quite well none the less.  

However, one of those stock boys did notice me one day much later.  But not in the store.  He was introduced to me by his mother and later he became, not only my first real boyfriend, but my husband Rusty.  He had been one of the stock boys that never even gave me a glance.  He was a hard worker then and remained a hard worker all his life.  

After our long trips (they seemed to take an eternity to a kid) to Farm Fresh, we would go home with our bounty that would sustain us for another week.  Almost every Friday’s dinner would be chili dogs and French fries or potato chips.  Mama would be too tired to cook, so Friday was the one day out of the week that she would make something fast.  Every other day we would have a plate full of the basic food groups, served hot and on time at exactly 5 pm.  Yes, we were very lucky ducks to have my mama cooking for us every day!

When Rusty and I married in 1983, I of course thought every Friday would be grocery day, and it was.  I took after my mama and learned quickly how to plan a menu for the following week.  Money would be tight for several years, and I learned not only how to make things stretch, but how to make our meals healthy and tasty.  I had it down to each individual portion.  I have told my daughters that I even calculated every bite that would be taken.  No joke!  I had the best teacher in the world, and I appreciated my mama more with every meal I cooked.

I like to believe that I passed on some of the knowledge I learned from my mama to my three daughters.  They have each certainly impressed me from time to time.  My youngest daughter now orders her groceries on her phone and drives up to the Walmart and has them placed in her car.  She never has to step foot in the store!  That amazes me!.  If that service had been available to me at her age, I don’t know whether I would have used it or not.  I am happy for the people who can benefit from it now though, and I have seriously thought of trying it myself.  The thought of someone else picking out my food for me, well haven’t quite grasped that one yet.  I still prefer to pick out my own items, check those sell-by dates, bargains, and what have you.  I’m still very much my mama’s daughter on grocery day.