Nathan, Anna, and I went to the commissary Thursday. We haven't been since August, which is probably the longest time between trips ever for me! I was going to go in October, but the shutdown happened, and well, there were just no afternoons where I had 4 hours free after that whole thing finished up. I usually keep a really well-stocked pantry, but it got to the point where I realized I could no longer count on there being a can or 2 of chopped green chilies, or another bag of brown sugar or whatever in the pantry, and our 20 pound bag of jasmine rice was almost empty. I knew I absolutely needed to go. Usually I just take 1 helper, but this time I took Anna as a "bonus" helper in training, LOL. She still can't come by herself though, because these carts are incredibly heavy, and there is no way she could actually push one by herself. Jonathan still struggles around corners with these monsters!
Shopping in the commissary is different, for me at least, than shopping in other stores. I start in the produce area, and then I proceed slowly up and down every single aisle. Most people do this, so you sort of move with the same group of shoppers all throughout the store. Awhile back I typed up a master shopping list for me, in the order of the aisles. It's a 3 column list, and the night before I go, I circle everything I need, writing stuff in the margins that I need that isn't typed on the list. Even with all this organization, it still takes about an hour and a half to actually get everything! Now I photocopy my circled list and give the copy to my designated helper. Then he starts in the cereal aisle, which is about halfway through the store, getting that stuff on the list, and he goes through the second half of the store up to the freezer area for me. That helps tremendously! What a change from when I had to bring 7 kids, with 2 riding the cart seats of the 2 carts, another one in either a frontpack or a stroller, 2 pushing the second cart and the stroller, and 2 more sort of orbiting the caravan, trying not to get run over by other people's carts. Then the actual shopping would take more than 2 hours! Nathan was remarking about how it was sad that the girls, Micah, and Drew would never remember or even know of those days. Hmmm . . . well, I'm not sad about it, that's for sure!
There are some benefits to being the designated helper. One (and maybe this is just a benefit for me!), I get to spend quality driving time with whoever it is. I love the discussions in the car! Also, after everything is unloaded onto the conveyer belt (which takes a good 15-20 minutes in and of itself), the helper gets to pick out a candy bar from the checkout display. This is a *very* special treat, and it's always fun to see what the different kids choose. Luke has to be really careful with his braces, since he seems to chew in ways that even soft things knock off brackets. Caleb has to watch out for nuts, and he doesn't really like chocolate, so he always picks skittles or something. I was so surprised when Anna picked gummy bears on Thursday! Me, I always pick a snickers. Hey, I need a reward too, LOL.
I've been shopping in commissaries my entire life! I have actual memories of being in the cart at the Long Beach Naval Base commissary, back when I was 2 or 3ish. I remember the freezer section, and how much I hated going through there. My mom says that I used to sing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of my lungs during commissary trips, but I have no memory of that, LOL. Clearly I repressed such events! There were lots of other commissaries along the way as well. All commissaries sort of have the same look and feel to them, LOL. If you've been in one, you've been in them all!
I was very disturbed to read this article yesterday about talk of a plan to shut down commissaries. Sigh. Pretty soon there will be absolutely no benefits to being in the military, while active duty folks are deploying more and more, there is more and more "political correctness" to tiptoe around, and the general morale is sinking. What happens when no one wants to be in the military anymore? For us, we'll be okay if we have to do all our shopping offbase, even though it will be quite a bit more expensive, especially for meat. Bob has his retirement pay, and he has a good job that the Lord has graciously allowed him to keep for these past 3 years. But for the low-ranking enlisted guys and the elderly retirees, especially those who had the misfortune of retiring in places like D.C. and shop in the Ft. Myer commissary? They will really suffer. And at some bases, people don't just live 3 minutes away from a convenient grocery store. Even at places like the Air Force Academy, it takes a little while to actually get offbase and over to shopping. The commissary there is really important, especially in bad weather, since it is right by the housing areas. I feel like the powers-that-be like to make a big show of "supporting the troops!" but in reality--there's not so much support there. Otherwise I think they'd be looking at other less hurtful ways to trim costs, because there certainly are plenty of areas where the military wastes money, not to mention Congress. Seems like this administration is constantly looking for ways to make it hurt, like shutting down the free open-air monuments like the World War II one during the government shutdown, instead of ways to cut back that are just wasteful. Sigh. So sad, really.