Grocery Shopping During a Pandemic

I keep recommendations about keeping a journal during the COVID-19 pandemic. I haven’t done that, although the topic does come up in many of the things about which I write, but today I thought I would look at one of the biggest impacts this event has had on my life: grocery shopping, something that I have to do tomorrow.

I have always enjoyed grocery shopping. As shopping services have become more and more popular, I have continued to go the store myself. I actually like taking my time to select produce and cuts of meat, and I like doing a bit of impulse shopping here and there, picking up a new item or something that looks interesting or that I think my family will really enjoy. In the past, I would go to the store once a week and buy most the items we’d need, but I always left the door open to the possibility of running out to the store to pick up something I forgot, or even buy the ingredients for a whole new meal I decided I wanted to make.

But now, everything has changed. Because we are trying to limit our exposure to the outside world, I now go grocery shopping once every two weeks. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to shop for enough food to last a family of seven two full weeks? Writing a list that long is exhausting in itself, and I usually start on it a full week in advance, in an attempt to not forget anything, but the actual grocery shopping process is something else altogether. It involves two carts, (and blisters on my hand when I’m through from pulling them both…I wonder what the total weight of two overflowing carts is?!?), which is a neat trick when you’re shopping alone (although a helpful Walmart employee who is my new hero showed me how to hook two carts together like a little train last month, and that is a lifesaving technique!). And those two carts are always completely full by the time I hit the checkout.

It takes about two hours to complete a shopping trip that large, and that’s with me being in line outside the store when they open. I usually buy six gallons of milk, and about 25-30 pounds of various meats. I’m sure that other shoppers think I’m a hoarder (and I have actually seen people laugh at my antics!), but there are SEVEN of us at home, four of whom are teenagers. This is simply the food we need to last two weeks! I haven’t run into purchase limits on food yet, but I fear that’s coming…three packages of meat or two gallons of milk certainly won’t last our family very long!

I’ve started buying a lot of extra produce, partly because I’m afraid that eventually, the supply line for fruits and vegetables will break, and I want to make sure we’re eating them while we can, and partly because I want to make sure we get all the extra vitamins we can right now. And I spend extra time in each aisle, making sure I can’t think of anything I forgot to add to my list while I peruse the shelves. I imagine this is also annoying to people, but I’m beyond caring.

Once I get home, it takes me at least another hour to put everything away. If you think fitting enough food for all of us into the carts is an impossible task, imagine trying to find room for it all at home!. I have perfected my refrigerator and freezer Tetris game, (although I’m still working on my pantry Jenga game!), but something is still likely to leap out and attack whoever has the nerve to open the doors. And while I’m thankful that our pantry is well-stocked, it is a complete disaster, because it’s just not big enough for everything I try to cram in it!

Sometimes I dream about the day I can go to the store and buy only what I need for one week. Without having to wear a mask and deal with my glasses fogging up. Or just run to the store to pick up that missing spice, or the ingredients to bake something. Or even to bring a helper with me to push one of the carts, because even with the train technique, pulling two fully loaded carts is hard on the shoulder by the end of the shopping trip! But I also wonder if I’ll ever really feel comfortable shopping again, if I’ll ever really enjoy the process of grocery shopping like I used to. I know there will be a new normal, but I’m having a hard time imagining what that will look like at the grocery store!

Tasty Tuesday–Cooking Through a Pandemic, the Second Month

So it’s been almost two full months since we got the call that Moose’s school was moving to distance learning. I figure that’s about the time our period of isolation began, even though it wasn’t fully official until a week or so later. Anyway, I’ve continued to do a lot of cooking, and I’ve continued to try to make some family favorites as well as some new things. Most of what I’ve made so far has been pretty popular (although the pork chops weren’t a huge hit), and we’ve repeated a few meals that were especially enjoyed (cheese and chorizo quesadillas are a new favorite!).

Baking has also been a favorite pastime…we bake cookies almost every Sunday afternoon. I also made a loaf of bread (not really from scratch, because I used frozen bread dough, but there was some effort!), plus a chocoflan for Cinco de Mayo, and a cake for Ladybug’s birthday.

New this month: We were actually able to support a few businesses, as well! We did carryout from two local favorites (The Wine Tap and Beast Craft BBQ), plus mail order from two others (Portillo’s and Eli’s Cheesecake). It was nice to have a small break from cooking on those occasions, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop for the last two months!

I’m going grocery shopping on Thursday, and I have a whole new lineup of meals that I hope we’ll all enjoy!

Mother’s Day, Isolation Style

Like everything else lately, Mother’s Day this year looked a little bit different from our normal celebration. I still took a picture with the Fab Five, and I even wore my Mary Blair mother and child print dress from Pinup Girl Clothing, but we had to take the picture at home instead of at church…not being able to go to church was probably the biggest disappointment of the day for me!

In the end, dinner ended up being a lot more special than usual on Mother’s Day. We never go out, because I just don’t have the patience for it, and I often end up cooking…something that I enjoy, but usually something pretty simple. This year, I decided to splurge. Since we can’t go to Chicago in a few weeks as we had planned, and won’t be stopping for lunch at Portillo’s on the way home, I decided to bring Portillo’s to us, with their mail order service. I thought the price was very reasonable, especially given how much meat they included, it wasn’t hard to heat up, and I’m not kidding when I say it tasted almost as good as if we had been dining in the restaurant!

Dessert was another splurge…as long as we were already having a Chicago day with dinner and the movies we watched (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, While You Were Sleeping, and Save the Last Dance, plus catching up on a few episodes of the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance), I decided to order an Eli’s Cheesecake. It was also delicious, and again, almost as good as having it in Chicago!

These are strange times to be living, but I think we’ve been doing a good job of adapting and creating new special memories!

Thirteenth Birthday, Isolation Style

Today is Ladybug’s 13th birthday! We now have FOUR teenagers in the house!!!

We started the day with cinnamon rolls, per her request. They weren’t homemade, but honestly, the ones that come in the can are pretty good!

Present-opening was up next…I think she was happy with the gifts she received!

We spent the afternoon watching some of Ladybug’s favorite movies (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Spies in Disguise, and Tron: Legacy), while she worked on her new Lego set. We also had a socially-distant visit from our pastor, which really brightened her day, especially since she couldn’t have her grandparents visit or go anywhere interesting.

Speaking of not going anywhere, since we couldn’t go out to the Bosnian restaurant Ladybug had originally been planning to visit for her birthday dinner, I attempted making cabbage rolls for the first time. I think they turned out ok!

Ladybug asked for a guitar cake, and I think it also turned out pretty well. The strings were even straighter than I usually manage! As always, I was tickled that the words “Happy Birthday” have exactly 13 letters, which makes for the perfect candle arrangement on a 13th birthday cake!

This was our third birthday celebration in the time of COVID-19, and at this point, I’m guessing it won’t be our last. I think we’ve managed to find fun ways to celebrate, even if it’s not the way we would usually do things!

2019-20 School Year–Week Thirty-Four

We have reached the penultimate week of the 2019-20 school year!

Turkey and Bunny finished their health curriculum this week. They’re also finished with physics, other than the last test. They analyzed several of John Donne’s works, including Meditation XVII, which I thought was very felicitous in this time of isolation. They also learned about the Great Depression in US history, which may have been a bit too felicitous…

Ladybug read about the brain and nervous system in science. She started a section of review in pre-algebra, in anticipation of the big final exam next week. In history we read about the Alamo and the Mexican-American War, as well as the colonization of New Zealand. We also reviewed United States geography this week.

Chickadee learned a little bit about measuring volume in math. She read about Pluto, and all of the reasons it is no longer considered a planet, in science. She finished all but the final review lesson in her Explode the Code books for this year. We’re almost done with My Father’s Dragon, and she has really enjoyed the story!

One more week to go, and then I don’t know what we’re going to do with ourselves!

Tasty Tuesday–Taco Tuesday!

It’s the rare Taco Tuesday that falls on Cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, I made beer-battered fish tacos with a spicy sauce from scratch. Now, it might not be the most elegant-looking member of the taco family, but it certainly was delicious!