Hump Day: Grocery shopping experience has changed over the years

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Like many of you, I’ve been shopping for groceries most of my adult life. When I was a kid, I’d also accompany my parents on trips to the grocery store. If I was lucky, I’d be able to finagle a treat or two out of them.

Most of the time, we shopped at the old Deware’s on Elmwood Drive. I remember the old cash registers that were loud and required the cashiers to practically hammer in the amounts because the keys were so stiff. With the rising cost of food, I also clearly remember my humiliation when my father insisted on having everything rung back in because he couldn’t believe how expensive our order was.

My humiliation as a child, though, became understanding as an adult. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money! You couldn’t buy groceries with credit cards back then and there was no such thing as a debit card. My father could afford what was in his pocket. Period. Quite often, things had to be left behind. Fearing a tantrum, my treat was not often one of them, but I’m sure it was at some point or another. (I always chose the pack of suckers that looked like a bouquet of flowers. The black ones were my favourite! Second choice: a Pep peppermint bar.)

We always had our groceries carried out to the car by one of the “bag boys” – many of whom seemed so old to me back then, even though they were likely just teenagers. We’d all sit in the back seat as the large paper bags filled with that week’s goodies were piled in back with us. More often than not, there was often a 50-pound bag of potatoes to go along with it. They’re hard to even find now because families just don’t buy them anymore.

These days, it seems like I drop by the grocery store several times per week for this or for that. If I run out of something, I’ll drop by “for a minute” and “just for that one thing.” Sure. By the time I get back to my car, I’ve spent $50 and have several bags of groceries to show for it.

Back then, I don’t remember there ever being best-before dates on food. I’m sure there were on some things — such as milk — but it’s not something I remember seeing. If you smelled it and you didn’t get sick, you ate it. These days, tons of perfectly good food are discarded every day because of some often-artificial best-before date. Other than bagged fresh vegetables, meat, fish and milk, I don’t put much credence in those dates, but I have to admit that I won’t buy something if it’s past due.

I realize these dates are for public safety reasons — and likely legal liability reasons, as well — but if I’m at home and find something that’s past due, I just do the smell test, as mentioned above. If I don’t recoil in horror, it’s good to go!

I seem to remember wide aisles at Deware’s with lots of room to manoeuvre around. The same goes for the old Dominion store in Champlain Place which was more or less where the food court is now.

These days, every inch of a store seems to be jam-packed with stuff, even the middle of the aisles. The dairy and frozen foods section of one store I shop at quite often is usually so chock-full of stuff for sale that it’s difficult for customers to get around. If you stop and look at any of the stuff shoved in the middle of the aisle, you can barely look at it for five seconds anyway before someone starts giving you a dirty look because they need to get by.

I’m not loyal to any one grocery store. I shop around, although I never really check out the sales flyers. I glance at the front pages quickly to see what the major sales are, but I only buy for me, so it’s not as if I buy a freezer full of stuff when it’s on sale. Besides, anything that goes into my large deep freezer downstairs ends up staying there. I might as well send it to a graveyard. Once it goes in the deep freezer, it usually never comes out. I don’t even want to know what’s in there now. Whatever it is, the freezer burn done it in a long time ago.

There are many specialty shops around Greater Moncton that are great alternatives to the traditional grocery stores if you’re looking for some unique items. I’ve recently started shopping at a few of them and really enjoy the unique offerings of local products, especially locally grown meat and eggs from free-range chickens that aren’t caged up in huge commercial laying coops.

With time, I’m starting to be really conscious of where my food comes from. More often than not, I’ll choose local over factory farms. I like meeting the farmers. I like knowing that the animals had fresh air and could roam around a bit. As I grow older, I’m getting more conscious about how the animals I eat were treated. Do I really want to eat a chicken that never even saw sunlight? The answer is no.

I’ve said this before, I’ll eat meat without hesitation, but I just don’t want to meet my meat, if you know what I mean. Despite that, I still want the critters — large and small — to be treated well. We’re all connected in nature, so by doing my little part by purchasing as much locally produced farm-raised meat and eggs as I can, I hope I’m at least making a small difference.

The world has certainly changed from those long-ago days at Deware’s holding my pack of suckers as my father forced the cashier to recalculate our grocery order. I didn’t have much control over where my food came from back then, but I do now. I hope that somewhere, somehow, I can make a difference.

One Response to Hump Day: Grocery shopping experience has changed over the years

  1. Congratulations on the honour you received from Kings! Nice company you keep.

    Also, love the grocery store commentary. Things have changed indeed.