That time when Dad began to ‘help’ Mom grocery shop

I passed an older couple in the paper towel aisle of the grocery store today. That’s not unusual but the elderly man was slightly stooped and was wearing a full set of Dickies. I experienced a pang of grief as I thought about my Dad, whose standard outfit was Dickies for as long as I can remember.

Dad wearing his Dickies

And seeing this Dad figure shopping with his wife brought a flood of memories of that time when Dad began to ‘help’ Mom grocery shop, much to her chagrin.

Now that I’ve learned more about introverts from reading the book “Quiet” I know that my mother was a true introvert. She treasured her time alone and she enjoyed shopping unaccompanied whenever she could.

When I was a kid, Mom had to schlep me along on her weekly trip to the A&P. We’d check off the items on her list, gather up the S&H green stamps, go home and paste them in books, thumbing through the catalog dreaming of future redemption. One of the best things she purchased with green stamps was a slick set of TV trays, giving us the freedom to eat in front of the TV on Sunday night while we watched The Wonderful World of Disney.

Mom’s reign of the grocery store lasted most of her married life, but when Dad retired in his 80’s he announced he was going to help her grocery shop. Knowing my mother’s penchant for alone time, and how little she had now that Dad was home 24/7, I knew this was not going to go well.

Dad had no concept of the cost of food, and he vowed he was going to lower the grocery bill, something he found essential now that he was no longer working. I think I heard Mom sigh all the way to my home 175 miles away and apparently her eye roll was of epic proportion.

It wasn’t long before Mom’s sputtering about Dad’s ‘help’ also included her dismay about the grocery tally. Once Dad started perusing the aisles and saw all the options, he was tossing items into the cart Mom would never consider buying.

I imagined this conversation:

Dad: Wow! I didn’t know they made mac and cheese you can microwave.
Mom: That’s not on the list.
Dad: Beef jerky. I haven’t had any of this for years.
Mom: That’s not on the list.
Dad: Look at the size of this bag of oranges. And the unit price makes it so much cheaper than buying them individually.
Mom: We’ll never eat all those oranges before they spoil. There are only two of us you know.

Needless to say, Dad impacted the grocery budget, but not in the way he thought he would and he never mentioned reducing it again as he reveled in buying in bulk and trying out expensive convenience foods.

And eventually, Mom adjusted as she did so many times during their 70-year marriage.

Thankfully Dad never sparked an interest in shopping for clothing, preserving Mom’s solo excursions to J.C. Penney while he stayed home puttering around the house in his Dickies.

What’s your preference? Do you like to shop alone or with your partner? Do you think your relationship and your budget could survive having your partner suddenly ‘help’ with grocery shopping?


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33 thoughts on “That time when Dad began to ‘help’ Mom grocery shop

  1. Thankfully, with a chef for a husband, I do not have to grocery shop. If I did, it would all be microwave dinners. My mother also had a chef for a husband and never had to grocery shop until after he died. There are a few things that I like less than grocery shopping, but I can’t quite seem to name them right now.

    • I actually kind of like to grocery shop, Jennifer, but for a time Patrick did it and I can’t say I missed it much. We shop together most of the time now and when I went by myself a couple of weeks ago it took me twice as long. Having a husband who is a shopping chef is a sweet deal!

  2. Haha! When I was 15 or 16, in one of the school holidays, my mum took my sister to visit my Grandma for a few days, but I stayed behind with my dad as I had big exams after the holiday to study for, and my dad was working. So my dad was in charge of the shopping and the meals. My dad got me a load of chinese and indian microwave meals, coke, snacks, and branded items. I thought it was the best thing ever. My mum thought my dad had a nerve ever having complained about the cost of the shopping when she did it!

    • What a great memory, Lucy. We all should ‘go crazy’ and do that kind of shopping from time to time. We don’t eat many convenience foods or take out at our house due to the health factor, but if it was only a week once in a while it probably wouldn’t result in obesity, hypertension and diabetes, would it?

  3. Tony does the grocery shopping in our house, but we work together to make the meal plan and I’m the one in charge of our budgets. It’s a happy balance. 🙂

    • Patrick did our shopping for a while when he was working part-time and I loved it! Like you and Tony we plan the menu together and make the list. We go together most of the time now, but I did enjoy the luxury of a part-time house husband when he had time to do the shopping.

  4. Shopping with my ex was like this—annoying to say the least. But my husband now is a saint and actually makes my life easier!! Well, and it doesn’t hurt that he makes it fun!! But he doesn’t help the budget…that’s for sure!!

    • My husband is also a great help when it comes to shopping and I call him St. Patrick so he is a lot like your husband, Jodie. I went shopping last weekend by myself and had to make another trip to the store to get the items I forgot. He is definitely going with me this week! As for the budget, we agree that we don’t scrimp on food to balance the check book.

  5. I’m just like your Mother – I love the time alone but have adjusted to my husband wanting the time together. He also didn’t understand why his items didn’t magically get marked down after I had spent hours pouring over coupons and sale flyers. Great post!

    • Patrick and I have had periods where we’ve shopped alone and now we do most of it together. As far as coupons and sale flyers, I’ve given up on them! I’m sure I’m throwing money away but it is either going to be spent on food (without coupons) or therapy (using coupons). Thanks for stopping by Sheri.

  6. My hubby and me love grocery shopping together, but clothes and homeware is a solitary task (and will hopefully stay that way lol ?)

  7. All I can say, as somebody who dislikes going to the shops, is thank goodness for online shopping, Molly. Your dad sounded like a kid in a candy store on that first shopping trip. Your mum must have had so much patience.

  8. 70 years marriage! My oh my. In my experience, shopping as a couple is a recipe for disaster. Mind you, having said that, my parents are married nearly 70 years and have always done the shopping together. P.S. What are Dickies?

    • Congratulations on your parents’ long marriage. My mother was 17 and Dad was 23 when they were married and they celebrated their 70th anniversary 5 months before Mom died. My husband and I shop together quite a bit but Mom and Dad only did so for big items like cars and recliners. Except Dad did buy a car once without Mom and she was NOT happy about it. She always hated that car. Dickies are work clothes for men with matching shirt and pants. Dad had green, tan and blue ones and is pictured in his favorites in the blog which were blue. Very inexpensive and durable. That was the criteria for Dad when he (Mom) bought his clothes. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  9. Love this, Molly! When hubby and I go to Costco (egads!), or just the grocery store, he lingers forever in the meat and alcohol aisles, while I get the rest of the groceries. I prefer to shop alone, too.

    • When I have a lot of time on my hands (never at this point in my life) I like to shop alone. But for that weekly trip during these busy days Patrick and I go together and we are like a well oiled machine. We can fly through two stores in record time and I must say it’s a big help to each other.

  10. I’m sorry my mom was in the hospital, but having my dad do the grocery shopping was like an extra Christmas! He bought all kinds of “exotic’ stuff that would have never gotten past my mom. I remember he bought fresh blueberries right in the middle of winter, imagine! Unheard of extravagance in the early 1960s in our house! 🙂

    • Blueberries in the winter! Oh my! I was grown and flown before my Dad started to stretch the grocery limits. How lucky you were to experience these treats as a youngster. All I got to do was pick blueberries under the disciplined eye of my mother. 🙂

  11. Since Hubs retired and I continue to work, he’s taken on grocery shopping duties. On the rare occasion I go with him now, he gets very territorial if I try to “contribute” or disagree with his selections. We had a spat at the seafood counter recently that had us both cracking up…and the clerk looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Great post, Molly!

    • I chuckled at the thought of you two having controversy with iced salmon and trout offering blank stares. I think I would relinquish control if Patrick was able to take on the grocery duties. In fact, I did for a while when he worked part time. How I miss those days….

  12. Love the post. Been married 54 years this coming May and we have always looked forward to grocery shopping together. As a matter-of-fact, we basically do almost everything together and would probably be lost without the other. I do so enjoy your posts.

    • My husband and I grocery shop together too, most of the time. We make it into a date night on Friday. After work we go out to eat, then get our groceries so we don’t have to do it on Saturday. I’m looking forward to retirement when we don’t have to cram it into an evening and have the luxury of going out in the light of day. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’ve just checked out your blog and look forward to reading your material. Congratulations on being married 54 years!

  13. Whether I prefer to shop alone or with my husband depends on what day it is, how busy I am, and my current mood. With both of us working and active kids at home, a trip to the local grocery store together can be considered a date night when too many days have gone by without seeing each other for more than two minutes. The parenting style of “divide and conquer” does not promote strong marriage relationships.

    If my husband and I are seen together at the grocery store, chances are good that we’re either giddy with delight at just being in the same place at the same time or multitasking a week’s worth of conversation with gathering food. It gives new meaning to the word “shoptalk.”

    • I’ve had times in my life when I looked forward to shopping alone, but even though we are childfree now, we are so busy that grocery shopping is part of our dating scene. Clipboard in hand, we scout the aisles squeezing melons and debating brands after we’ve had a quick bite to eat on a Friday night. Big times. I love your rendition of shopping and your ‘shoptalk.’ Always fun to have you comment my doppelgänger. 😉

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