Photo courtesy Flickr
The supermarket evolved as a glorious celebration of Fifties’ prosperity. One of the selling points for the personal automobile was that it enabled the housekeeper to drive from store to store in search of bargains. The cost of acquisition was not mentioned.
A good friend raised her family on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, just below the park. When it was time to cook dinner, she would send one of her children to Speedy’s. Bonnie mentioned that prices were higher but the convenience worth it. She was no slouch at the stove, could afford any circumstance she fancied, and I never saw her waste one thing, edible or otherwise. Since we are close to several grocery outlets, I set up a debit card for my son to use for shopping when he was old enough to make the runs.
Merchandising in a dense neighborhood is a different game from a big box suburban operation, and I’m barely qualified to comment. At the turn of the twentieth century in New York City, pushcart vendors hawked tiny quantities to immigrant housekeepers lacking sufficient means, space, or safe food storage to buy more than, say, one egg at a time. Since discarding the family car fifteen years ago out of disgust with Seattle traffic, among other motivators, I have gradually altered my buying habits to take advantage of the dense and clever inventories that stand between the house and the gym where I work out.
The stores are small outlets of big chains, the shelves stocked with especially small containers of staples like laundry detergent and toiletries. I ignored places like this until the nest emptied, when I realized that frankly low-income merchandising with a high cost per unit suited my new life very well.
It’s elegant, gratifying, and convenient to store and handle a small container, and a small matter to refill it from a gallon of something from the big box chain where I shop once or twice a year via a taxi. Commercial containers allow any visitor to pitch into housekeeping without my having to explain what’s where and what’s in it. In the spirit of just in time supply, I let the neighborhood merchants clean, organize, and secure shelves stocked with things I use now and then and enjoy every precious cubic inch of the house for life and work rather than as a stockroom for maybe someday items.
The danger in this system is that it rewards instant gratification rather than planning, but working back and forth with a warehouse store and a food co-op’s organic dry staples gives me what I need to put good food on the table at a good price and keep the house trim for peanuts.
-30-More after the jump.