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When Dad Goes Grocery Shopping

Proof that some people aren't great grocery shoppers.

I’m good at many things. At least I like to believe I am. Grocery shopping, however, is not one of them.

As far as I’m concerned, grocery shopping is an activity best left to professionals. So, it came as a surprise that my wife and grocery shopping professional extraordinaire wanted me to take over the grocery shopping last weekend.

“I can’t believe you want me to go grocery shopping,” I said to my wife. “Can’t it wait until you return?”

“Normally, that is exactly what I would do, but I don’t have a choice,” my wife said.

My wife had a $25 off coupon (when you spend $50 or more) from Safeway. Because the coupon expired before she returned from a business trip she had no choice but to allow me to shop.   

I don’t want to give the impression I’m a novice shopper. I’m not. I go to Trader Joe’s every week to buy items such as bananas, spinach, eggs, red peppers, and frozen vegetables. I also go to Costco a couple times a month. If you need paper products, a 44-pack of canned tuna, or a 5 gallon jar of peanut butter, then I’m your man.

But Safeway, where my wife spends the bulk of our food dollars, is a place where there are far too many variables at play for me to enjoy (or master) the shopping experience. After all, this is a place that has many brands of peanut butter and they all come in jars so small you can lift them without getting a hernia. Where’s the fun in that?

When I asked my wife for a grocery list to ensure I did a decent job, she said that’s not the proper way to shop at Safeway.

“You have to be flexible when shopping at Safeway. What I buy depends on their sales and the coupons I have at my disposal. I never know exactly what I’m going to get until I get there,” she said.

My wife made shopping at Safeway sound like a box of chocolates.  

As my wife handed me her coupon organizer, she left me with a few “simple” rules.

“Milk is the only item you can buy without a coupon or a sale,” she said. “When it comes to bread, the kids aren’t picky, so buy a brand that’s on sale.”

She told me fruits and vegetables are bought only when they are on sale. Everything else had to be on sale and I had to have a coupon as well.

On the drive to Safeway, my 11-year-old, who sometimes goes to the grocery store with my wife, began telling me how great my wife is as a shopper.

“Mom always saves, like, $200 when she shops,” he bragged. “Think you can do better?”

“We’ll see,” I said.

I quickly realized my 11-year-old wasn’t going to make it easy on me. We weren’t in Safeway 2 minutes before he turned to me and asked, “Can I get a donut?”

“I’m trying to save money,” I said.

“Mom can save money and still get me a donut,” he assured me. “So, can I have a donut?”

“No donut for you!” I shouted, doing my best Soup Nazi impersonation. I hoped a laugh might soothe his pain. It didn’t.

It did, however, make him more determined than ever to wreck my trip. Of course, that could just be my interpretation of the facts.

In any case, every time he saw a snack food on sale, he asked if we had a coupon for the item.

“I don’t think so,” I said, still wanting to prove I could be just as frugal a shopper as my wife.

But he didn’t need me to search for coupons. My daughter was his ally and friend. She took over the coupon organizer and began pulling out coupons. Thanks to her, I bought several snack crackers that they like. The boxes seemed a little pricey to me, but they were on sale and I did have coupons (high-value ones) for them.

By the end of the trip, I felt I did a commendable job, if not exactly professional, as a Safeway shopper.

I was so proud of myself that I tossed a take and bake pizza into the cart. It wasn’t on sale and I didn’t have a coupon.

But that’s what you get when you send an amateur to do a professional’s job.

Read some of Vince's other columns:

Watching "Brave" on Family Movie Night

A Teeth Cleaning to Remember

Why We Quote Movies

Real Men Don't Use Shower Poufs

Joan S. Dentler December 08, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Great column Vince.....here's what my husband comes home with when he goes to the grocery store: canned creamed herring, bizarre single servings of green tea in bottles, and a cigar.
Cliff Greenberg December 10, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Since my wife & I are co-chefs at home we also share the shopping. I think that being involved in producing the end product influences one's interest and knowledge in the raw materials. I like Lunardi's butchers so I can get professional advice when needed and admit to being Trader Joe's-dependant.

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