Monday, September 13, 2010

Groceries and Reminiscing


At our house, Sunday is Grocery Shopping Day.

We start with our standard grocery list we print out. I figure out the dinners for the week, circling the items we will need. My husband gathers the coupons, and off we go!

Our journey usually lasts about 2 hours, as we visit up to 7 stores. Our first stop is Jewel. It's only about a block from our house. It's a large supermarket, popular in the Chicago area.

Jewel Osco


Back in my youth there was the A&P, Jewel Tea and National Tea. These were the big chains. We only had one family car, and my dad took that to work. So my mom & us kids would walk to the grocery store. Some ladies used their own shopping carts to take their groceries home. My mom used the buggy, even after my youngest brother had outgrown it.

Ideal Pastry sign

Old Butcher Shop

On our outings with my mom, we would often make a stop at the butcher shop, the bakery or the drug store.

Next comes Eurofresh, where we buy our produce. It caters to a lot of immigrants who can buy foods imported from their native lands.

Eurofresh Market

Growing up in my neighborhood, there was a little corner store every few blocks. We used to walk to Ann's Groceries, which was probably 20' x 20'. The old man behind the counter used a grabber to reach things off the tall back shelves. No cash register was in sight. He would take a stubby pencil and tally your list on the back of the paper bag. He'd also weigh the bulk items for you. I loved Hostess Cupcakes wrapped in cellophane. I'd take the frosting off and eat that first, then lick the cream out of the center—yum!

A&P 1931

Next is Wal-Mart. We only stop there once in awhile.


Whole Foods is next on our route. We buy our eggs there because they are free range. They also have a lot of vegetarian choices we don't find in the other stores.

Whole Foods Market

I remember when Wanzer's milk was delivered to our house, and Terry remembers a bread truck. My little brother wanted to be a milk truck when he grew up (not the driver... the truck). And who could forget the Good Humor truck! Sometimes, I still run outside when the ice cream truck comes. My grandfather worked with his older brother on an ice truck as a youth (horse & buggy), delivering ice door-to-door.

Trader Joe's

Our last stop is Trader Joe's. This is my favorite store! Their prices are great, and they have simple ingredients in most of their packaged foods.

General Store

In my lifetime, supermarkets have tried to become one-stop-shops for groceries, drugs, liquor, meat, bakery items, health care, restaurants, toys, automotive... you name it.

Meanwhile, we've tended to begin going back to a simpler form of shopping. We make more stops at specialty stores to pick up various items. We sometimes stop at Farmers' Markets to pick up fresh local produce. We always bring our cloth bags when grocery shopping, eschewing the paper-or-plastic offered. Sure, we waste a bit more gas because these store take us on a 16-mile round trip journey, but we save overall. No more waxed fruits & veggies. The dented ones are more organic. No pesticides, no preservatives, no added coloring when we can avoid those things. We buy fresh food and cook from scratch as often as feasibly possible with our busy schedules.

Canvas Grocery Bags

How did people get their groceries in the 19th century?

The term "grocery" developed in the 19th century. It primarily meant "liquor store." Country and general stores were all over the US. Rural people made regular journeys to nearby towns to pick up things they didn't produce themselves. City folk could visit butchers, bakeries and dry goods stores. Open-air markets existed from ancient times to the present, and large public indoor markets were common on the East coast.

Fresh local food was available seasonally, and for winter, food could be dried, salted, smoked or pickled. Root cellars kept root vegetables cold and preserved. Canning wasn't invented until 1810. Street vendors peddled many types of food in the cities.

Country Store

I have some great memories of old-fashioned street vendors. I've lived through good times! We had a scissors grinder who would push his cart down our street and sharpen knives and scissors. There was a distinctive bell that would let you know he was coming. My mom remembers the rags-old-iron man coming around. But I digress...

Remember these?

Remember These

Back from our grocery shopping excursion, it's time to put away all our goods. What a wonderful country we live in, full of abundance. Now there's a Walmart nearly everywhere. Which is good. But it's sad to think of all the mom-and-pop stores that will never return.

Shopping Bags

Some fun links:
Pleasant Family Shopping - a lot of Chicago-based stores included


Blogger Sea Witch said...

Love this post. I grew up with the milk man making deliveries and the bread man stopping by each Tuesday and Friday. Oh, how I miss shopping like that. Miss the Jewel/Osco from when I lived out west. One of my sister and my favorite things to do is visit supermarkets in different countries. We can spend hours walking through them and trying out different foods. Sea Witch

September 15, 2010 at 6:19 AM  
Blogger The Dusty Victorian said...

Hello Pam,
Very interesting post. Since we moved to the country, like you, we have changed our lifestyle habits. It takes a little more time and planning, but it's well worth it. It's not always possible to avoid the big box stores, who doesn't want/need to save money. But we often succeed in tipping the balance towards local produce and artisans and neighborhood shops and markets.

September 15, 2010 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Katie@LeBeauPaonVictorien said...

Love this post!!! I feel sad that everything is a chain now and that the mom-n-pop stores are disappearing. I'm old enough to remember when we still used to get milk delivery at our house...the Golden Guernsey Dairy truck used to come several times a week. I don't think it used to come every day, at least not to the rural area where I grew up. I was still in grade school when that stopped; abut the mid 1970s.

September 15, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Sea Witch-

I've been to Canada, where it's fun to grocery shop, but when we went to Europe a few years ago, we had a blast in the grocery stores!


September 15, 2010 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Anyes-

I agree with you, it's good to have both local and big box options when you shop. We're still very urban out in the Chicago suburbs, but the rural options are not far away either... the best of both worlds!


September 15, 2010 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Katie-

I know you're in Wisconsin now, and I bet the Dairy State was the last bastion of the milk delivery industry! But I think our milk delivery stopped in the 70's too. It makes me feel SO OLD when I think about how much has changed in my own lifetime!


September 15, 2010 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Rose ~Victorian Rose ~ said...

Pam, tell me again what neighborhood you grew up in.
If you remember I was born and raised in Chicago too.
I lived in the old Irving Park area..mostly German famlies, right near Milwaukee & Addison Ave's.
My mother had to walk to the grocery story every we had a large family..and a very small refrigerator..and the freezer in it... was no bigger than a small breadbox.
I would often go with her and help carry groceeries....for her. Although it was more of a "social" thing for mom and every neighbor within earshot she would stop and talk too...I was so bored during that part...had NO interest in what they were talking about most of the time...(* and was not allowed to interrupt of course )
I just wanted to get going.
Mom cooked everthing from scratch too...she was not a very good cook...but she sure could brew up a LOT of it for a meal for anywhere from 9 to 11 of us. And we ate in "shifts", as our kitchen table was rather small. ( To this day...I eat like a house on fire ! )
Somehow I was always in on the cleanup end of it to...I wanted to wash dishes...she wanted me to dry that's the way it was.

Yes, neighborhood stores supplied all our needs...lucky for us MOST of the stores were all in a one block area...about 6 blocks from our house. And we could get our groceries and meat, etc. there.
I am glad you clarified the "old rags and iron" man...I was not clear on what he was saying, when he drove his horse and cart thru or alley...yelling that out.

Also "olde Joe" the vegetable man whould do the same thing, once a week I think he came thru with his fruits and veggies and mom would go out and make her choices.
Ok...there is a whole chapter of my own....sorry.


September 16, 2010 at 4:16 AM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Rose-

I love hearing about your memories of Chicago! I grew up in the Jefferson Park neighborhood at Milwaukee & Foster. When you describe your refrigerator, it reminded me of how everyone used to defrost their fridge... making sure they ate everything in the freezer first, then unplugging and letting all the built up ice melt into the tray beneath! And those metal ice cube trays were a pain in the neck too!


September 16, 2010 at 6:53 AM  
Blogger Mrs. D said...

Hi Pam,

Reading your post is like sitting down to a great lunch--I always get the full buffet. Its carefully prepared, and made with love. Lots of variety, visually stimulating, and very satisfying. Thanks for sharing your memories and making me smile.

Your friend,
Linda (Mrs. D)

September 18, 2010 at 2:58 AM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Linda-

What a sweet comment! I love your lunch analogy! You are so clever. You know by now that I adore your 1893 Victorian Farmhouse blog and all the wonderful things you're doing to the house. Can't wait to see your new art studio done and in use! :-)


September 18, 2010 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Jeff K said...

That's a trip down memory lane. We use to have a National in Deerfield. The building is still there, I think!

September 19, 2010 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Jeff-

When our National closed, it became another grocery store for awhile, then it was torn down to make way for a strip mall. It's weird to think how much has changed. At the time, we took it all for granted.


September 19, 2010 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your blog... love your post about Mom & Pop stores! I have a lot of country store antiques in our home, old bean counter, country store coffee grinder, scale, etc. etc. I think my passion for County Stores stems back to my childhood and the fond memories I have of going to Renck’s County Store in Bright, Indiana with my Grandpa. I loved the smell, the ambience and the excitement of meeting and talking to all the local folks that gathered there on Saturday’s to “chew the fat”. I remember buying penny candy and getting big fat pickles out of the pickle barrel. Those days and memories still resonate with me!!! Country Stores were so vital in providing goods and services to sparse populations and I think so cool because they were really a popular place to meet, socialize and get caught up on the latest news! I think it was such an important way of life… but sadly an institution that has vanished. No thanks to
those big box stores (mass merchandisers) making it impossibly difficult for the small Country Stores to survive.

I enjoyed the links and love your blog... I will visit again!


September 29, 2010 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Eastlake Victorian said...

Hi Karlee-

Welcome! You have such great memories of that old country store in Indiana! It's cool that you collect country store items for your home. I agree, there's something nostalgic about an old country store that's lacking today. I'd like to time-travel back and "chew the fat" at one of those stores! :-)


October 1, 2010 at 7:22 AM  

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