17 December

Shop till you stop

Embrace the warmth and light of the summer morning and hit the supermarket early. Take your list and your green bags, and make sure you have a cool bag and some freezer bricks too.[1]

Ship-shape shopping.

William and I met in the mall this afternoon[2] and went to the crystal section of the best department store. The moment we were within flailing distance of displays of china, William put his hands into his pockets and refused to take them out again.

“I’m not touching anything,” he said. “I can afford one vase but I can’t afford breakages.”

We found a vase I’m sure Jill will love but William wouldn’t handle it so I carried it to the service desk for him. And he wouldn’t even take his hands out of his pockets to liberate his wallet, so I paid for it too. (He transferred the cost to my bank account as soon as we left the shop and bumped into a shopper as he did so, so I understand his strategy.)

[1] In case the warmth of the summer morning is too warm.

[2] Which was Hell. Unless you’re lonesome for the peak-hour crowds of Tokyo, you should be glad you’ve finished your Christmas shopping.


28 November

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice

Your grocery shopping list won’t just be one shopping list, it will be several for several different dates and it will depend on when you need the actual ingredients and how long they keep (so you might as well get the golden syrup for the gingerbread in your next weekly shop but you’ll be wanting to get the lettuce for the Christmas Day salads on Christmas Eve[1]), so:

  • If you shop weekly on Saturdays and you’re making speculas for Sinterklaas on Monday the 5th, set up a list for Saturday the 3rd and write the ingredients on it.[2]
  • If you do just-in-time shopping and you’re doing vegie kebabs for a barbecue on the 10th, set up a shopping list for the 10th and write the vegetables on it.[3]
  • Also set up lists for the stuff you need to buy on Christmas Eve (typically the fruit and veg and other perishables), the stuff you need to buy on the weekly shopping day before Christmas (butter and so forth) and the stuff you could buy now (flour, nuts).[4]


It’s funny how much of the shopping doesn’t scale down when your guest list reduces to four. I still have to go to the same number of shops to buy almost the same list of ingredients.[5] The only big difference is that I won’t have such a heavy load to trundle back to the car.[6]

[1] My cousin Russell specialised in a bean salad in his bachelor days (this was the other recipe in his cookbook) which he made from several varieties of canned legumes, frozen chopped onion, oil and vinegar, and he could whip it up at a minute’s notice even if he hadn’t been shopping for months (and sometimes he hadn’t, because his staple diet back then was baked beans and frozen pizza).

[2] My friend Fiona says that her utility companies keep pestering her to move from paper bills to electronic bills but she refuses because the envelopes are so handy for shopping lists.

[3] My brother Matthew once wrote a shopping list on an unopened envelope and then went back to the shops the next day to buy a memo pad because he lost the list somewhere between the supermarket and the car and had to waste time on phone calls the next day to ensure that he didn’t miss an electricity payment.

[4] And chocolate pretzels. Jeremy loves these and he writes then on every shopping list I make right through December.

[5] But if I can’t find a way to rationalise the cherry tarts, I’ll be ditching the mascarpone.

[6] And I’ll be able to fit everything into my existing green bags – my Christmas present to myself is usually a new supermarket bag because I can’t fit everything into the ones I have already.

20 November

On impulse


Just the thing for white Christmas?[1]
The shops are starting to fill up with things like these Christmas patty cases, so there you are in the supermarket and you think, “How cute! And only three dollars! I’ll get some!” But resist impulse buying, ask yourself if you’d really use them and sleep on it.[2] Three dollars isn’t much by itself, but three dollars every day from now until Christmas is over a hundred dollars and that’s enough to buy something a whole lot better than patty cases.[3]


I went to the craft market today where I bought Gertruda’s lace collar a few months back and was tempted to ask them if I could return it! But that would be unchristian of me (yes, I’m an atheist but I have Christian values) so I resisted.

[1] Wendy is vehement in her dislike of white Christmas so Emma cooked a batch every year to tease her. Emma upped the ante each time by adding increasingly delicious ingredients but ceded defeat once she’d reached slivered almonds, flaked coconut and rum-soaked dried apricots. “If that didn’t tempt her, nothing will,” Emma told me. Wendy said if she was going to be bribed to eat copha, it would take at least a sports car.

[2] Carol has both a positive and a negative section in her shopping list: the left column is must-haves like flour and nutmeg, and the right column is must-not-haves like decorations and chocolate.

[3] You could get a kilo of pom poms, a butterfly net and a pogo stick, for example (which could make for a very interesting Christmas Eve).