Saturday, November 17, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Timing the Thanksgiving Shopping Trip

by Peggy Robin

The Thanksgiving grocery shopping madness is underway. This means that anytime between now and November 22 it will be hard to find a time to go grocery shopping when the aisles are not mobbed and the checkout lines are not snaking around the store. Shopping on the Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving is only asking for trouble, as I knew perfectly well going into it. On the other hand, if I wait until Monday or Tuesday, or even more foolishly, hold off until Wednesday, there's a good chance I will find the store shelves bare of some crucial ingredient, which means I will have to try again somewhere else. And that means yet more item searching, and probably even longer line-waiting.

I suppose I should have considered the timing more carefully. It's not as if I didn't know what the stores would be like right around now. People shop for the holiday as they do when a blizzard is predicted, except that they're making runs on Libby's canned pumpkin puree instead of toilet paper, and this particular "storm" always falls on the fourth Thursday in November. Even if I had thought to do my shopping earlier, there are always some ingredients that I like to buy relatively fresh, which means I can't avoid the crowds altogether.  Apples, for instance. Every year I make an apple pie, but I don't want to buy the apples a more than a week in advance. Mainly because people will just eat them, and then I will have to go out and buy more, defeating the whole point of getting the shopping done early. Okay, I could buy twice as many apples as I need, but by some mysterious workings of the cosmos, that all but guarantees that either (a) the apples will all become mushy and/or (b) people in my family will decide not to touch the apples and I will end up with an oversupply.

So, online friends, I'm sure many of you are now thinking that I should simply avail myself of an online grocery service, such as Peapod. Well, I have tried that solution --given it more than its fair share of chances, in fact—- and have sworn it off for good. Here's the problem with online shopping: They're always out of at least one thing that you really, really need. If you're physically present and staring at an empty shelf where that item is supposed to be, you can decide on the spot whether to accept some other item as a fair substitute. You can read the label on the substitute and judge for yourself whether it will do. But with online shopping, you need to pre-authorize the store to substitute or not.  I've done it both ways, and been unhappy either way. You don't find out what's not there, or has been replaced by the store's idea of its equivalent, until you are unpacking the groceries that the delivery person has left on your doorstep.

Which brings me to another thing I hate about delivery of online groceries: the two-hour delivery window. When you do your own grocery shopping, you do it when you have mapped out the time to shop, drive home, and put everything away. When Peapod rings the bell --as they quite reliably do within the two hour time span allotted, I'll grant them that-- you still have to drop what you are doing to put the milks in the fridge and the frozen things in the freezer. You can't say to the nice man in the truck, "Give me just 10 minutes to finish up this next section of my project and then I'll be right with you."

So here I am in the final few days before Thanksgiving, going on about how annoying it is to get the Thanksgiving grocery shopping done, when I know full well that on Thanksgiving day I will be seated at a bountiful table with a dozen family members, some of whom have come from England and France to be together, enjoying both the courses and the company, with enormous appreciation of how lucky we all are and how little we have to complain about. In fact, I'm well aware of that right now, and consequently withdraw all of the above complaining.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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