I like to cook and having a fully stocked pantry and fridge gives me a feeling of security. I think this is an inheritance from Depression era parents. No longer having a vehicle in which to carry home loads of fully laden grocery bags, I’ve had to learn some new techniques.
The first adjustment was the acquisition of a wheelie cart. Not just any wheelie cart, but an insulated wheelie cart. It’s a shopping bag on wheels. I always considered these to be the dominion of old ladies, but, no matter that my children consider me an old lady, I’ve seen young men here pulling a cart behind them. This invention allows you to purchase more than you could comfortably juggle in bags slung over your shoulder, on the bus or hiking up and down the hilly streets.
In the U.S., I found myself purchasing most of the week’s comestibles from the Saturday farmers market, then making many side trips to various stores to fill in the gaps. I went to the health food store for raw milk and a particular brand of coconut oil with no guar gum. Whole Foods sold the laundry soap and peanut butter I liked, and Smith’s had cat food and toilet paper. Again, with a car that’s all easy. My only concern was with combining trips to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the spewing into the air of more exhaust fumes.
Here in Sydney, I also find that foodstuffs I’m in search of are spread out across the map. I can get milk just up the street a couple blocks, at the quaint and diminutive Italian market run by sweet old Joe. He has a nice selection of olive oils, delicious dried beans, and an assortment of imported pastas and semolina flour.
Another kilometer up the road is the butcher who specializes in organic, free range meats, and the fish market with fresh daily catch. A thirty minute bus ride will take me to the big shopping center and a market where I can find reasonably priced organic produce and most anything I might need to cook dinner. There are some things like raw milk, and almond meal that costs less than $8 a quarter cup, I have yet to locate.
While most everything I need is here in the city, getting it to my kitchen requires some puzzle piecing. To completely stock an empty kitchen can’t be done with a single wheelie bag or one trip to the market.
As I plan menus and shopping excursions I try to think through all the variables. This is not always one of my strong suits. I’ve mostly had to limit my purchases to no more than a couple of days worth at a time, as a good portion of the wheelie bag gets filled with staples and those kitchen tools I am having to replace. The thinking it through part means planning shopping lists that include the staples I need to replace, things like olive oil, red wine vinegar, flour – mostly things in heavy bags and glass bottles – and meals that require only those few staples I can get in one trip. Invariably, I get part way through dinner preparations and realize I don’t have a necessary ingredient, like salt, or a bowl to mix it in. Or a spoon to stir it with.
Another element of planning centers on the excursion itself: where am I going and how will I get there? While I am trying my best to get my walking legs in shape, I admit that too often I jump on the bus across the street and ride to the top of the hill. From there I work my way down. If I’m really organized and still have room in the wheelie cart, I can take the bus to the shopping center, and on the way back get off at the top of the hill and continue shopping on the walk down. OK, I haven’t really done that yet. I’ve just thought about it.
As I write this, I’m considering this afternoon’s shopping trip and trying to convince my tired feet that a walk up the hill would be good for them. I haven’t thought any of it through, farther than I need milk to make kefir, and I already have eggs and bits of this and that, that will become dinner. I haven’t made a shopping list or taken any of my own advice. I don’t think I’ll even take the wheelie cart. Just for today, I’ll live on the edge.