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It’s my fault, I admit it. I’d been putting off grocery shopping for about three or more weeks. It’s not like I had a good reason for putting it off, I simply had a busy social schedule, an exchange to make at Target, and the fact that I wanted to clean the house instead (read: clean a little, and then nap).

When “dinner” came down to a choice between a packet of  taco sauce, and a box of raisins, I decided it was finally time to grocery shop. Pay day was the day before, and I was convinced the shelves of my favorite grocery store would be fully restocked from the ransacking the day prior. But here’s the thing. There are numerous military bases in this town, and everyone gets paid on the same day. To make matters worse, pay-day was a Friday, meaning just about anyone employed outside of the military got paid that day, too.

Going to the commissary on pay-day is just about the worse thing ever. It’s like swatting at a bee’s nest while naked, stealing a baby bear from its mama, taunting a rattle snake with a stick. Not a fun experience. Thus, I decided to shop the next day.

I had my list, I checked it twice, I was ready to go. First stop: produce. That is when I knew something was horribly wrong. It seemed that the shelves weren’t restocked over night, or that I had just walked in on the aftermath of a brutal crime. The store was so well picked over, I didn’t know if I’d make it out with anything in my cart. There were no bananas, no grapes, no strawberries, or certain kinds of apples. I picked from what was left: oranges, unwanted apples, and a pineapple.

On to the meat section. I searched for thin-sliced chicken, but all I could find were the thick cuts. I was lucky to find some steak, and a cut of roast, but the selection wasn’t great. The store was low on tuna, coffee, milk, and eggs, had no fat-free yogurt, or cream cheese for my whole-grain bagels.

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Let me make sure you understand something. This is a large grocery store on a military base. I got to the bread aisle, and thought for sure that I missed an Emergency Broadcast message about an upcoming hurricane. Except that it wasn’t hurricane season. A few deserted loaves were huddled together, pleading to be left alone. The bare shelves looked like they had been assaulted all day long, and I had no trouble quickly finding a package of whole wheat bread.

Notice how I bought mostly healthy foods. My husband and I are trying to eat healthier this year, but that didn’t stop me from slipping in a package of cookies. I remember as a little girl, I’d always find a package of  Pepperidge Farm mint Milano cookies hidden under my mom’s bed. It was her secret stash from Dad. I was turning into my mom, standing there thinking I could hide the package of cookies from my husband. Into the cart they went!

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Even with the low selection of food, shopping took over an hour, and I filled the cart more than I ever had before. It’s just me and my husband at home; we have no kids, nor do we have any visitors coming any time soon. It looked as though I was shopping for four. My mom would be very displeased with me if she saw how full my cart was. I secretly hoped that if she was using her mom-vision to see my cart all the way from across the country, that she’d at least be proud I snuck in the Pepperidge Farm cookies. Mom taught me better than to delay grocery shopping. Every Saturday, no matter what, we shopped for food. That’s why there was always a fresh package of cookies to be found under her bed by my sneaking little hands.

At home after my long and sweaty journey, my wonderful husband helped me unload the groceries from the trunk (and the back seat, the floor, and the front passenger seat) and started putting things into the cupboards. Suddenly, I remembered the cookies, coupled with his strict plea not to buy any sweets. I quickly tried to persuade him to put the produce and meat away in the fridge, but it didn’t work. I held my breath, hoping I could hide the bag with the cookies, and put them away later. That didn’t work either. He found them, and then I felt guilty for buying them in the first place. No, I wouldn’t have felt guilty if I hadn’t gotten caught.

The moral of the story, for me, is that I will not wait as long to grocery shop next time. I will plan our meals ahead of time, and ensure they are well-balanced. When my cupboards start to look bare, I will not put off buying groceries to go to Target, or nap.

To those of you working in my favorite grocery store on base, watch out. I’ll be back in a few weeks, one day before pay-day.

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