See Pop Shop

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    Jar-of-pickles-001My sister married her high school sweetheart. My cousin found the love of his life in sixth-grade English class. Not so for me. By the time I met and married the man who would, as they say, complete me, I was in my late twenties and a work in progress. For what it’s worth, he was pretty darn complete.

    In fact, having lived on his own for longer than I care to say because you’ll figure out he’s no spring chicken, my groom was the complete package: he owned his own home; he cleaned it like a pro; and he cooked like a gourmet – especially when he was trying to woo the woman who would one day refer to herself, while suppressing huge guffaws and dodging projectiles, as his trophy wife.

    So, while some couples start their journey at square one, roll the dice, and learn how to play house together, my husband Scott (whom I absolutely adore!) had already passed go. Except when it came to one thing. Grocery shopping.

    “I just want to find more dog food for less money,” is what he said one day, condensing every shopper’s ambition into one succinct statement. A week prior to that, the vet had told us that the only living thing we were responsible for at the time, our lab-mix Rosco, had sensitive skin; so sensitive that he required a special (read: very expensive) lamb-and-rice formula dog food. The stuff on aisle nine wasn’t going to cut it.

    It seemed my husband, who early in our courtship had proudly proclaimed he could do all his shopping at 7-Eleven, was – how should I say this so as not to offend? – not very good at shopping. Or at least, shopping the way I envisioned it. The man had no qualms about buying an entire pie when he knew full-well half of it would go uneaten. He not only collected those little travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner when he was out of town on business, he actually used them when he got home. If he had been one or the other – thrifty or extravagant – I may have been able to handle it, but as far as I could tell, there was no method to his shopping madness. His consumer habits were about as erratic as the woman you see buying pants in three different sizes at Target because she doesn’t have time to try them on. Oh wait, that’s me.

    Anyway, as the years passed and our family grew, it didn’t matter. As the primary homemaker, I took the lead on the quest to find more for less. With two major grocery stores within a mile of our house, it was a matter of unrestricted access. I can see now that this wasn’t such a good thing. In the beginning, I went shopping every two weeks, a model of organization. I even had a fairly successful stint as a coupon clipper until we cancelled the newspaper. But as the kids got older and hungrier, my system quickly disintegrated. I found myself wandering the aisles once a week, literally listless. Soon I was making daily trips. I knew all of the clerks by name. I needed help.

    That’s when Scott went to Sam’s Club. He had been there before, of course, and on more than one occasion. Once he came home with a bag of pancake mix larger than our toddler daughter. Another time, he bought a jar of jalapeños clearly intended for taco night at the Duggar house. Maybe it was just too soon. Back then, the man had three little girls who did not require a case of butterscotch pudding, even if it was in single-serve portion cups. He had a wife who had no patience for transferring cling peaches from industrial-size drums to more manageable plastic containers, even if it did save us $4.68.

    But this time, something was different. His commitment to the quest had intensified. Must break wife’s bad shopping habits. Must find more dog food for less money. Well, we don’t have Rosco anymore, but there are trunk-loads of other things he can buy at Sam’s Club to fulfill his mission. And fulfill it he does. When I ask my husband, “Are you comfortable with this new role of family shopper?” His short answer is perfect. “Completely.”

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    Karen Schwartzkopf
    Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family: husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director, and their daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey. You can read Karen’s take on parenting in the Editor’s Voice.