An Ode to Supermarkets

Barring early pregnancy and newborn baby days when being simultaneously in a vertical state and dressed was often a challenge, and I gave myself a break (see also ‘15 self care ideas that don’t involve a bubble bath or a face mask’), going to the supermarket with the kids was always a staple and favourite activity of ours.

I say “was” because in these Coronavirus times, going to the supermarket is no longer a fun and frivolous and ever so slightly too warm a place to take the kids, learn some stuff and have a natter with a friend you happen to bump in to. These days, it is a place fraught with anxiety. A member of staff stands at the door, checking for masks and gesturing towards an almost empty hand sanitiser station. People scurry around, eyes down, mask firmly on. It is a place to get in and out of, as quickly as possible, and to remain healthy at the end of it all.

As I watch the cashier cautiously and dutifully scan all the items – typically I would have been stationed somewhere around the til, directing the kids to unload the trolley whilst searching for my Sainsburys loyalty card which I’d have sworn I threw into my bag as we left the house but which seems to be lost amongst the toy cars and crumbs – I am reminded that the supermarket workforce truly are the unsung heros of the pandemic, and that jees, the world has turned upside down this year, hasn’t it.

Yes going food shopping with the kids was a whole THING that took up a morning, but it was a thing of chaos and joy and mornings spent at the supermarket were always happy ones. (The pain au chocolats at the end of it may have had something to do with that, too). So yes, it’s weird and it’s silly and I should stress how futile my woe is but here we are. Some people miss their family, others miss the gym. I miss the supermarket. There, I said it.

Some people miss their family, others miss the gym. I miss the supermarket. There, I said it.

Our trips always began at home, gathering various vessels: cotton bags, washed-out ice cream containers and hummus pots, canvas bags, beeswax wraps, scratched plastic tupperware containers. Whilst we are not a plastic-free household (this term does baffle me more and more, even though I cringe at having used it myself – we all have plastic in our homes folks!), I do my damnedest to make ours as low waste as possible which involves buying as much food as I can either in recyclable packaging or in reusable containers.

We’re fortunate to live walking distance to a supermarket so once we’ve gathered all our bits, we’re ready to go. I grab the buggy and check the hooks are in place. Sometimes as I’m walking, I glance at the two small, black hooks, loaded to the max with stuff and marvel how something so small can be so helpful. I majorly digress but buggy hooks are EVERYTHING.

We arrive at the supermarket and enter, always chaotically but enthusiastically. Forget screens, what more stimulation can a kid need than a gigantic, brightly lit room, lined with colourful items of all sizes and textures in every direction. We say hello to the security guard and sometimes have to politely ask him to watch our scooter because if there’s one scenario I’m not up for, it’s scooter *and* supermarket. We start slowly, browsing the aisles, talking as we go.

We discuss miso paste and rollmop herrings and wonder how cheese gets holes in it. I say “sorry, no guys” to sugary cereals (and explain why) and encourage them to fill their bags with loose fruit and veg, the wonkier the better. We work out how many carrots we need for dinner that night (we have recently just paused our Riverford box) and we help an elderly lady with her basket. There are moments of mild mayhem, and with the riot of colour from the loose aubergine and courgette and peppers lolling around the trolley, I do fleetingly question why I don’t do this alone. Then I chuck an (unpaid at the time of eating) apple everyone’s way and we are good to go again.

There are moments of mild mayhem, and with the riot of colour from the loose aubergine and courgette and peppers lolling around the trolley, I do fleetingly question why I don’t do this alone.

We pay, we smile and apologise to the people behind us for taking what feels a little like a lifetime to load the buggy up, we leave, swerving the bubblegum machines and dropping a tin of something into the food bank box. Sometimes, I’ll have mild sweat patches under my arms.

If I can tick a job off my to do list with the kids, happy, in tow, then I see that as a win. This extends to chores at home which I try to get the kids involved in as much as possible because yes, even though to you and me walking up and down supermarket aisles is sort of dull, to a little person, I reckon it’s actually quite fun. As is pairing up odd socks to find their long lost partner, or picking out only blue clothes to put in the washing machine before hitting the ever elusive triangle button. I firmly believe that these are all huge learning opportunities, and yes everything takes longer but when we’re making up pockets of time doing the precise chores we might be doing when a little one is napping / in childcare, we are also claiming back some of our free time for *us* rather than for mopping a Weetabix encrusted floor.

I often come back to the quote by Maria Montessori that “the education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life”, and as I watch my kids carefully place the eggs onto the moving conveyor belt or count out five beautifully shaped potatoes, I know that it is these small “boring” acts of domesticity – whether food shopping or sock pairing – that will ultimately shape them, teach them and ground them for life. And if we get sh*t done in the process, I am ALL IN.

I often come back to the quote by Maria Montessori that “the education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life”.

What are your thoughts, do you take your kids food shopping? Do you get them involved in chores?

Emma xxx

P.S Spend More Time…Doing Less and Come Plastic Free Food Shopping with Me

7 Comments

  1. Natalie
    January 12, 2021 / 11:14 am

    I totally miss taking the kids out grocery shopping! We live in a hard hit area in Canada so taking the kids out anywhere in the community feels like a big risk. Its strange how something so normal as grocery shopping with the kids has become something I yearn for. In lockdown I was starting to feel overwhelmed by just how lived in our house looked by the end of the day, toys and uneaten snacks everywhere! So now we all clean up as a family before we move on to the next thing and by the end of the day the house is in a very manageable state that my husband and I can do without feeling crazy. Especially now where we are all home together ALL THE TIME it’s important for the kids to really be active caretakers of our home.

  2. Jenn
    December 17, 2020 / 2:30 pm

    I still take my 3 kids with me every week. It’s not so bad. The market I go to isn’t busy so we can take our time. They won’t bag for me in my own bags so I have to do it on the ground and by that point it’s a little chaotic but it’s worth not having plastic bags. My friends are astonished I don’t do grocery delivery but I just can’t ever see myself doing that.

  3. December 16, 2020 / 11:55 pm

    I miss zero-waste food shopping so so much! I typically carry a basket while allowing my toddler to push a mini cart (baby in the carrier happily sleeping or reaching for things). I miss explaining to the deli counter that I’d like my container filled and bringing my bread bag to the bakery. I hate that the store is now quick and miserable and my kids aren’t really welcomed anymore. If they come at all they’re not to touch anything to wander too close to anyone 🙁 I love letting my kids be involved! Sometimes we’d crash a cart or make a mad dash down an isle or need to eat something immediately… but this is life! What we are doing now feels like somewhat less than living.

  4. Tuti
    December 16, 2020 / 10:30 pm

    What a great point of view. I do take my kids to the supermarket with me, they love it. But i do fined it difficult to envolve them in chores like empty the dishwasher, cleaning tasks, folding clothes… its too messy and tyering i think .. Thank you for lovely post .. as always

  5. Katherine
    December 16, 2020 / 8:09 pm

    What a wonderful post ! Being a mum of twin toddlers, I totally agree with what your saying here … it’s so important to get the kids involved in domestic activities rather than doing it by ourselves because it would be ‘easier’. Chaos, learning and fun all moulds together with kids and that’s the joy of it ! I hope to take my twins supermarket shopping in the future and I know they will love it !
    Thank you for another thoughtful and insightful post Emma 🙂

  6. Amy
    December 15, 2020 / 9:01 pm

    Excellent post never saw a trip to the supermarket like this before great take on things definitely going to get my littles involved

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