Shoppers are separated by rows of wood pallets to help with physical distancing as they line up to enter a Costco store in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday, April 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Shoppers are separated by rows of wood pallets to help with physical distancing as they line up to enter a Costco store in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday, April 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Mitchell’s Musings: Grocery shopping evolves with the times

Grocery shopping never fun, let alone mid-COVID pandemic

I’ve never really minded shopping for groceries that much. I know some guys hate it and avoid it like the plague (or COVID-19, take your pick) but as long as I can get’er done in 35 minutes or less I’m OK with it.

It used to be a lot easier back in the day. Less brands, less choices — you had Safeway or SuperValu downtown, and I guess IGA and Butcher Boys at the other end of town. All full-service, non-concrete-floor establishments.

Even when I was raising my kids, it was pretty basic living in the Pleasant Valley Road area and alternating between Cooper’s and Butcher Boys, both family-owned and operated. I used to have Mondays off and my two-year-old son and I would hit Cooper’s, where I would shop and he would mostly run up and down the aisles without a care in the world and usually score a lollipop from the staff in return. A mother probably wouldn’t have got away with that but they knew us there and he was pretty cute so….

Things have changed. You can still shop at Safeway but SuperValu gave way to Superstore, which is the size of a football field, offers cheaper prices (especially if you buy five of the same item) and cut down on the frills (like baggers and ambience).

Then there’s Walmart (even bigger and has more stuff that’s not groceries) and just down the road is Costco, which is even bigger and more warehousy and concretey and you can buy a membership to save really big (as long as you buy in big quantities cause that’s all they got). And then there’s Amazon, which is so big no bricks-and-mortar building can hold it. It may take over the world one day, if it hasn’t already, where you save even more but your hard-earned money doesn’t just go to Kelowna and on to Seattle, but rather straight to Seattle without passing Go, or paying taxes, or employing local people, or sponsoring your kids’ hockey team, or buying an ad in your local newspaper or…

Somehow our constant pursuit of lower prices has cost us something, a sense of community perhaps?

Luckily, you can still shop in your own hometown but it’s way more complicated than it used to be, especially these days.

It was tough enough dealing with non-GMO, non-fat, non-calories, non-salt, non-gluten, non-tasting non-food when all you want is something to eat that won’t kill you, or worse, fill you with guilt.

Now, if the politics of shopping in the new millennium don’t get you, the new coronavirus rules surely will.

I go every Friday for my 80-something parents and myself, which is kind of funny cause I’m likely more health-challenged than they are, but them’s the rules.

So there I am trying to guide my antiseptically-approved buggy down what are now one-way aisles, with arrows and everything, while eyeing two separate lists and simultaneously not getting too close to anybody, suddenly realizing I missed the last thing on their list, which is at least three or four rows back and if I follow the rules of the road will take me five minutes and a lot of steps, not to mention I’m getting real close to my 35-minute shopping threshold factor.

So I park the buggy in a safe spot and walk back to get the item in question.

I get the item, quickly return to where I left my buggy, I think, and it’s gone.

But I was almost finished?

It would take forever to redo what I just accomplished? What am I going to tell the folks?

Someone stole my buggy and there was no going back? Why?

I searched and soon stumbled across a man on a cellphone pushing a buggy that contained all of my items, except for a loaf of French bread on top.

I approached him cautiously explaining my dilemma and he quickly and sheepishly grabbed his bread and headed for the abandoned buggy in the bread aisle, all the while talking on the phone to his wife, I assume, about his predicament. He may or may not have been a rookie shopper.

No harm, no foul. Well, except we had just broken a dozen social distancing rules, and when I got to the register and discovered that fancy, deli-style cheese that wasn’t on either of my lists — hope it wasn’t vital to Friday night’s meal.

Just another casualty of the coronavirus.

Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of the Morning Star.