Child-free Vacation

Or, A Parent's Guide to Grocery Shopping Without Kids.

It all started when this was posted on facebook:

It got me thinking. There is an art to grocery shopping alone when you're a parent - especially if you have plenty of time to do so. Or at least if your partner is taking care of the kids and you fail to mention how much you're shopping for and when you'll return. Here are a few basic steps to follow for a vacationesque trip to the grocery store...

Step 1: Do Not Tell Anyone When You Plan To Return. Vacation is about leisure, not about schedules (ok, if you talk to my grandmother, it's about making the most out of every second of your vacation, but this is not the type of vacation about which we're talking).

Step 2: Listen! ... to NPR or your favorite radio station or catch up on your favorite podcast on the way to the store. The store is only two minutes from you house, you say? Put those two minutes to good use and carry on listening. Don't worry - there's a plan!

Step 2.5 / 5.5: Stay Hydrated. By this, I mean: stop at your favorite purveyor of beverages and treat yourself to one. This can be done on the way to the store, or if there's one located within the store, after you get there. 

Step 3: Shop Around for a Parking Space. Upon arrival at the store, drive around for a while and make sure you carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each available parking space before deciding on one.

Step 4: Park, But Do Not Exit, Your Vehicle. Odds are, the NPR show or podcast to which you are listening is not yet done - or your favorite song may be up next. Sit in relative peace and quiet and enjoy! Perhaps put your feet up on the dash. Sip your beverage if you have it. Knit, read a book, or whatever else you may enjoy doing, until you feel it's time to commence shopping.

Step 5: Enter a New World.Yes, I realize it's just the grocery store, but it's you in a grocery store without kids - enjoy it! Leisurely stroll to the entrance of the store, perhaps grabbing a cart on the way in. Oh, is that a Redbox (movie) machine you see? Check out what movies they have, if it suits your fancy. You don't need to actually rent a movie, but you can catch up on what the most current dvd releases are, since chances are you have no idea what's been in theaters in quite a while, especially if you have very young kids.

Step 5.5: See step 2.5 if necessary.

Step 6: Go Sightseeing. Explore the produce aisles. Discover new fruits and vegetables. Marvel at the colors and textures. 

Step 7: Travel to Foreign Lands. Go from the USA to Mexico to New Zealand just by reading the "produce of" labels on fruits and vegetables. Explore the foreign food aisles. 

Step 8: Meet Strangers. Strange foods, that is. Find spotted dick and a lactic acid bar (yes, those are actual foods) and other strange and interesting foods . 

Step 9: Make Friends. If you're in the mood, chat with fellow shoppers. Grown-up type shoppers. Thank the person stocking shelves. Compliment a parent who is shopping with kids about the amazing job she's doing. 

Step 10: Remember to Buy Groceries.  You'd look fairly silly arriving home an hour or two after you left without anything to show for it, so please remember to buy what you went to the store for in the first place. Unless they happen to be fresh out of (or you forget to look for) everything on your list. If that's the case, you'll need to extend your vacation and make your way to another vacation destination (grocery store). After all, you can hardly be blamed if destination number one's produce wasn't up to snuff, but had a great sale on toilet paper, forcing you to make your way to a place with beautiful produce. Like, say, Florida. 

Step 11: Buy Souvenirs. Remember that person who is taking care of your children? They deserve something special for allowing you such a lavish respite. Chocolate? Flowers? Beer? Whatever it is, pick them up a treat. 

Step 12: Take Time to Reflect. One of the nicest parts of vacation is having time to reminisce about the most joyful and exciting parts of the trip. Trips to the market should be treated no differently. After putting your purchases in your vehicle, sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet...and the chocolate bar you couldn't resist at the checkout. Look up at the sky and watch the clouds. Breathe deeply. 

Step 13:  Go Home. If you are feeling somewhat hesitant about returning home, take the long way. Give yourself time to transition from vacation mode to parent mode.Once you turn into your driveway, the vacation is over. 

Step 14: Give Thanks. Thank your partner / childcare provider profusely for allowing you the opportunity to get the shopping done without children, explaining how wonderful it was to have the time and uninterrupted thought to compare prices, find good deals, discover products with healthier ingredients, and get new ideas for future culinary masterpieces. 


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