Melanie LeMay - writer.editor.designer

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Our lives in groceries

In getting ready to go grocery shopping this morning, I'm reminded of how much our food choices and cooking habits reflect the stages of our lives. As a new bride, I planned every meal in advance, posting a week's worth of menus on the refrigerator door and carefully purchasing only the items I needed to support my plans. Young OCDer that I was, there was no room for deviation, even if we didn't feel like chicken casserole on a Thursday night!

When pregnant, I craved only two foods -- chocolate glazed donuts from Krispy Kreme and green olives. I could almost devour a whole dozen donuts on the drive from Huffman to my Southside job each day, and was known to stop at convenience store to buy tall jars of olives to fish out with my fingers as I drove.

With two active toddlers in tow, my preplanned menus went out the window. I was lucky on some days even to get a meal prepared! With the addition of a part-time job, I leaned on my husband to bring home take-out food for us at night. My main goal was to produce enough milk to nurse whichever child was a baby at the time, so I concentrated on drinking lots of fluids and ate a lot of raw fruit and veggies that I didn't have to cook.

With the boys in school, we discovered Happy Meals and pizza and hot dogs, the ideal cuisine for a then-single mom with a full-time job who didn't have time to care what she ate. Even when I did spend the time on a "grown-up" meal, the boys still longed for pizza.

With remarriage came a new emphasis on cooking, but now it seemed like more of a chore. At least I had help shopping and lugging the groceries into the house, and sometimes even help with the cooking itself, but my menus often clashed with step-children who didn't like one food or another. 

Single once more, with my boys on their own, my grocery shopping dwindled to convenience foods, dog food and dog treats. My microwave and I became best friends, and I knew the heating times for every entree offered up by Lean Cuisine. 

When unemployed and without health insurance, my shopping dwindled further to carefully counted-out pennies for the pasta and tomato combination I lived on. For variety, I added a jar of mayonnaise, a combo package of ham and turkey, and bread. 

Today, having learned that living in the present moment is the key to happiness, I am off to purchase cake flour and confectioner's sugar for the from-scratch cupcakes I want to bake. The artist in me has also added acrylic paint to my list, a perfectly reasonable item in this day of grocery and home goods superstores. 

But most important on my list is the one item I never leave off. Yahoo!

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While other see grocery shopping as a chore, I don't. As a mother, it is one of the few tasks that I enjoy the most. With or without children in tow, I always look forward to going to the grocery every week. I don't know if that makes me a freak, but I just don't feel harried or stressed when I am inside surrounded by aisles and aisles of food products. I go when the store is practically to myself, then I can walk the aisles without too many people. I always carry a shopping list but I find myself linger for a few minutes to savor the atmosphere.
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Even when I did spend the time on a "grown-up" meal, the boys still longed for pizza.
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