I finally started grocery shopping at stores again, and this is what happened.

73 days have now passed, or 10 weeks, or 2 1/2 months, since we decided to help flatten the curve. How have you been?

This month, I had my 45th birthday “party” on my front lawn. Not the likeliest of celebratory scenarios that danced through my party planning mind when the year began. To uplift my spirit, my sister dropped off a gift basket. Every body deserves to be spoiled on their birthday, right?! Practicing social distancing, we sat on a couple of beach blankets on the grass to catch up, eating snacks, while our kids chatted and played Animal Crossing, at least 6-feet apart. Our neighbors looked on as they passed us by. Thank goodness the weather cooperated, though the wind felt like it was on the brim of a storm.

I was happy and yet sad that my 45th birthday came and went without much-ado. 45 years seem like a milestone to be celebrated, especially since I’m passed the halfway mark of life expectancy rate – at 78.9 years. Every birthday should be celebrated, regardless of age by the way. It doesn’t feel right to celebrate my birthday weeks, or months, later either. Perhaps, I’ll have my party when I turn 50 – the golden age. I want my life back!

Regaining life back pieces at a time

As our city reopens businesses, and people form new daily routines, I too have started to reform mine. After strictly online grocery shopping for 2 months, I am now personally doing my own shopping, at a very minimal collection of stores, for now. This is a big step for me. I was more of an unwilling companion at first, to be perfectly honest; but, I didn’t want my teen to shop on her own, so I came with.

Mindful of practicing social distancing, mask on, I braved the Target aisles on my birthday (of all days!) to get butter for my birthday cake, which my teen creatively made for me from scratch. (See pic below.) I didn’t want to go shopping on my birthday but I can sense the frustration in my teen’s voice not being able to finish her surprise for me. She couldn’t shop for a gift, so she wanted to handcraft something for me. What is a mother to do to boost morale?!

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Since I was already there, I bought a bunch of vegan-friendly food too. Now, that my teen has decided to switch to a plant-based diet, I needed easy to grab food, so she can be more independent in her experimental stages of veganism. She’s doing well, by the way, nearly a month in. 

Shopping is helping but it’s scary. What’s it like out there?

Since my initial reintroduction to shopping for essentials, I have been to a few more stores. It’s scary but life has to restart at some point, shutting every thing down is not an long-term solution. Food comforts me and being able to find and pick the ingredients for my meals is definitely aiding in lifting my spirit these days.

However, as much as I prefer to practice the 6-feet rule of social distancing, not everyone is practicing it. For example, at Target, there are one-way arrows on the floor to direct the flow of traffic. You really can’t miss it! Some don’t pay attention to it though and I ended up side by side with someone, or a couple with no masks shopping together, every so often as I move along the aisles. There’s a guy who actually reached across me to grab a cranberry juice bottle, while I look for the specific one I wanted. Way close! (PS. The guy was not wearing a mask. *Sigh*)

At Oceana Commissary, the flow of traffic is still two-way. There were not as many shoppers there when we went early in the morning. Masks are required to shop here.

At Krogers, the aisles are two ways as well. There were a lot of people shopping during the time we went mid-morning. There are 6-feet markers on the checkout lines, but you just have to be proactive in keeping your distance from other shoppers because it gets tight at certain shopping areas. I had an issue with an item, and the cashier had to help me too. We were way close, though I was trying to keep at a reasonable distance while fixing the issue.

At Farmers International, there were plenty of shoppers, and plenty with no masks who are also not respecting the 6-ft social distancing rule. I just turned myself the other way as they passed me by, hoping that it’s enough to protect me. A lot of my food cravings are asian-infused food, and so this is a necessary store for me. I just wish more of the shoppers were mindful and respectful of others.

And lastly, I’ve been to Angie’s bakery. The first time we went, there was no one in there, but the second time, I had to wait outside to practice social distancing. Only 5 customers allowed at a time inside the bakery. That was around noon. Masks are required. Tip: Go just when they open. Or better yet, call ahead of time to make a pick up order. In and out is the best way to go. (P.S. Pan de sal and roasted red bell pepper hummus is one of my favorite food to snack on. It reminds me of my childhood, when we used to make cheese pimiento sandwiches for Flores de Mayo in our town. Yes, comfort food!) 

Commonality among the stores

There were all out of paper towels, toilet papers, lysol/clorox spray/wipes. I’m glad that detergent and dish soap were still bountiful. I’m on my last paper towel pack, which will be a pain to do without but can be remedied with old t-shirts or some sort, if it comes down to it. I have tried shopping online for paper towels but my order keeps getting cancelled. I have plenty of toilet paper though, gifted by a couple of family members.

In terms of ready-made vegan-friendly food, I found a lot of options at Oceana Commissary. However, Farmer’s International offered more fresh produce variety. I was really craving Chao cheese to go with my pan de sal; but, I was not able to find it so far. I just toast the pan de sal in the oven with a cheese slice wedge in, to the point of meltedness. Have you tried it together? It’s so good. 

Shopping is therapeutic

While I still have my memberships to a couple of food delivery options, still very good options- read about them here, I am thinking of canceling my paid subscriptions. I need some semblance of my life back, which is why I’m now opting to do my own grocery shopping. Studies have shown that shopping is therapeutic; but, I don’t need to quote years of studies to know that shopping is a stress relief method for me.

Shopping for even just the essentials gives me something to look forward to in the week, just like our weekly Thursday family movie night, fusing familiar pieces of my life, and replacing the sadness with happier, worthier memories. We all have to do our part in maintaining our health. While it’s scary to expose ourselves to the newness of COVID_19, weigh the pros and cons, and decide. No need to go out if it stresses you out more than staying in.

Final words

My husband is a first responder, and every day he goes to work, he is exposed to COVID-19. And every day he is exposed, we, his family, are also exposed. So we stay in place to break the chain of contamination, as much as we can afford. I would have had no issue paying extra for food delivery, had it been more readily available for me. However, I am on a special diet, which make it extra trying to find the food I eat. One can only eat so much beans and lettuce tomato salads. At some point, I’m going to need more variety. See my Insta page for my food photos.

Realistically, life has to restart at some point. As we move into the future, we just have to figure out a way to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Our city is talking about not reopening for the 2020-2021 school year and I get that because it’s going to be hard keep the 6-feet personal space in check in the school bus alone.

However long it takes to outsmart this virus, at some point life has to restart anew. I am only going out for essentials, and for now it is enough. I’m not ready for other social gatherings at this point. Please be vigilant about protecting yourself wherever you go. As you read about my grocery adventures this month, others may not be looking out for you. Be responsible. Be kind. Help in however way you can – mask yourself whenever out and around people, for one. Please, please, please.

I hope you are well and keeping safe.

Until next time.

Mabuhay!

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