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The Carts

November 12, 2013

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne, PA

I want to live in a world where I don’t need to go to three supermarkets to get my shopping done. I see a megastore where Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Giant can all be together in one space. Like a farmers market or bazaar. It would highlight their best selling items, all peacefully coexisting. All the brands celebrating their differences like the New York City subway – a beautiful potpourri of diversity. Think of all the time we would save. There would be a negotiation process – looking at everyone’s needs and then delving into wants. I could represent the mothers of the world and our needs. Wanting to visit one store, not three.

Stores have vibes and personalities. To me Whole Foods is foodie. Trader Joes feels boho and as if I just stepped into a party while doing my grocery shopping. I like the Hawaiian shirts. And there is always great music playing and the samples are great,  and feel like starters.  And they are really good at small talk. I like to chat in the checkout line. Not an airplane – too much commitment – do we have to talk the entire flight? My rule of thumb is 5 minutes. Trader Joe’s has it down. They must get trained. I bag, we talk, share our favorite Trader Joe products, they give my kids stickers and tell me how cute they are. I say gee thanks, put the bags in the cart, my ticket in for the raffle for bringing my reusable bags and off I go – smiling.


Here is how I shop:

1. I am meticulous about my shopping list. I keep a magnetic list attached to my fridge. Low on ketchup – it makes it to the list. However, I have about a 80% success rate of remembering to take the list with me. So I usually go off memory and have gotten pretty good at it. There is the occasional, I forgot the maple syrup.

2. When I am out of something it is like Armageddon. I ran out of ketchup last week and I started to think the end was near. The mother of all kid condiments and I was out. The kids kept asking, we are out of ketchup? There isn’t any ketchup? Me, bewildered, numb. I am a backup person. As soon as I am getting low on an item, it goes on the shopping list, later into the cart and when home into the cabinet. When something escapes this process, I am beside myself with how my system failed.

3. There are somethings I over buy. Like laundry detergent, and juice boxes. Like napkins. Cute napkins I find at Ikea and Target, and then I get home and remember about all the other napkins. I like to be prepared for unexpected company.

4. I am a sucker for a sale. Yesterday while at Whole Foods their Bell & Evans chicken was buy one get one free. I bought 8 and wanted to get more but a visual of my already packed freezer stopped me. My freezer door should come with a warning – Open at your own risk, and STAND BACK! Frozen items hurling out of a packed freezer hurt.

5. I believe that everyone should help bag. For one, I can categorize – cereals together, cold items, snacks, which helps with unpacking. Two, it makes the line moves faster, and a slow line does something to me deep inside. It hurts. And I feel strange having someone bag for me – unless they are stationed there to do that. And when an attendant goes back to get me an item I forgot – I am a customer for life. At Whole Foods two shopping trips ago I forgot relish (yes, I buy that) and the attendant came back with 3 selections. I am loyal. You are in.

6. Don’t judge – I generally don’t return my cart. I make sure it is secure but to walk allllll the way across the lot to return it is asking a little too much in my opinion. And I have to leave everything in my car, including children, to return it. Close? I am on it. Parking lot on a hill? Yes, of course I return it to avoid bumper carts. Otherwise, I like to think that I am supporting the economy – someone has to be hired to do that. And I am supporting the good supermarket employees of the U S of A. You can thank me personally for your shopping cart job. No problem, honest, it’s nothing really.

7. And finally to the shopping carts. I let my crew each select an item when we go to the store. And they take full advantage – Tastycakes, cookies, “fruit snacks”. And why call them fruit snacks. We all know they aren’t fruit. They are snacks. Candy snacks. It doesn’t help. And they like to push their own carts. When my 8 year old son takes the metal wheel of a shopping cart, something in him shifts and suddenly where aisles once stood he sees the long expanse of the Indy 500. Pedestrians and Christmas displays are like obstacles in one of his video games, earning coins as he breezes past each one at a terrifying clip. He takes corners like a Ferrari or Maserati leaving carnage in his wake. And me, me. If something ever happens to me. If someday I snap and need to go away somewhere, you will know it was the shopping carts. They will say, “Well you heard what happened right? The carts“. And they will nod. And understand.

I have entered stores and left immediately because of carts. Shopping carts bring out every sibling rivalry cell in my children’s small bodies. Who gets to push the cart? So they each get their own and I am herding them through the store like a military caravan, me at the helm. Who gets to go first, them jockeying for position. It is Nascar and there are elderly people and displays piled to the ceiling and they can just see over the front of the handles, and we are racing through Giant. So we take turns, a cart rotation; child 1 gets an item, child 2, child 3. But then there is an item that is their favorite, so it should go in their cart, but it isn’t their turn. And I am negotiating. And my head is pounding, and my vision getting blurry.

And then last week… All the world is a stage and youngest child waits until the scene is set, there is a lull and the actors are poised and ready. We approach the cashier, my cart overflowth, the line is building behind us. And she plops down the Barbie princess movie. “I want that for my pick” she declares boldly.  And then, “no sweetie, this can go on your Christmas list”. And “but I  want it”. And no. And guns are drawn at the border in the ultimate show down between mother and child. And the walls of the Giant, where my oldest thinks everything should be Giant and it is misleading to sell tiny items in a Giant store, are starting to close in on me. And then she spots a kit-kat and I am thanking the shopping angels for this diversion and smiling hand the cashier the movie but thinking “get me out of this insert adjective store”. And now there is one cart. Where there was once three. And we are all pushing it.  And I am thinking about carts. And a store with a play area like Ikea. And carts are optional.

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  1. Heidi Farmer

      on November 12, 2013 4:28 pm

    Love this!!
    Here’s my sanity-saver: MyShopi (a free iPhone app), that keeps track of all my lists: Costco (my love), Trader Joe’s, Super Target, my normal grocery, etc. I can just add as many stores as I need. It also has a SKU reader, so when I’m out of something I just scan the SKU and it adds it to my list. It is WAY cool. And FREE!
    I am also super proud of myself that I’ve started to save stores whilst a kiddo is at practice. Drop kiddo at the rink, tell him to find a nice adult to tie his skates (I’m so mean, but I always make sure to tie 4 pairs of skates when I’m there), and bolt to store with only one kiddo. Love it when I can combine tasks.
    And I hear ya on the carts!


  2. Marykate

      on November 13, 2013 9:32 pm

    Heidi – on it!! Thank you!! And you always have your phone! Brilliant! And I hear you – I do that with birthday parties too – drop then shop!


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