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Shabbos Shopping

By Mordechai Schmutter

You know what I noticed? I noticed that the checkout guy at the grocery doesn’t say “Good Shabbos” to me anymore. He says, “See you in an hour.” Because he knows.

I should know too. I don’t know why I can’t tell that I missed some things on my wife’s list when I get to the belt and see that most of what I’ve put out is Shabbos party. I think I need a new Shabbos-shopping strategy.

I used to do my Shabbos shopping on Wednesdays, which allowed me plenty of time to return and get the things I forgot the first time. But then I realized that we never plan that far in advance. Usually, on Wednesdays we’re not sure if we’re having company, or even necessarily if we’ll be home for Shabbos. (We’re usually home, but by Wednesday, we’re not committed about it.)

Also, in general, I like my Shabbos food to be as fresh as possible, and by “fresh,” I mean “made in a mad panic five minutes before Shabbos.” And apparently, this includes actually buying the foods as close to Shabbos as is humanly possible. This is why I live a block from the store. So I go to the kosher supermarket on Thursday nights, and navigate a sea of husbands on cell phones saying, “Put mommy on the phone,” while kids roam the candy aisle making tough decisions and women run into each other and say, “Wow, I haven’t seen you since this morning! So tell me about everything that happened, ever.” Last Thursday night I came in, and apparently it was double stroller night.

Sure, I’m aware that the food I buy on Thursday might not technically be any fresher than the food I would otherwise buy on Wednesday. Chances are, the store gets them at the same time. But if I don’t know for sure, it’s fresher to me. It doesn’t start going bad until I bring it home.

So I sometimes forget things that we need. But to make up for it, I come home with several things that we don’t.

“What’s this?” my wife wants to know.

“I’m not really sure,” I say. “It was on sale.”

Yes, I understand that whatever money you spend for Shabbos you get paid back. But I always overbuy and, after a certain point, you’re really paying for leftovers. Also, if I had to pick from everything in the store every week, I might as well pick some of the things that are on sale, because just because someone else is paying for something doesn’t mean you can go crazy. Also, I’m laying out the money.

I usually choose what I buy for Shabbos based on a combination of what we need, what I’m in the mood to eat, and what’s on sale. And by “what we need,” I mean “what my wife wants me to buy.”

She doesn’t ask me to buy much, specifically. She goes to the treif store earlier in the week, and she trusts me to remember most of what’s left. I rarely come home without meat, for example. But she does remind me of a few things from time to time.

Like challah bags. This is a special bag that is long enough to hold a challah so the kids don’t get into it before we wake up on Shabbos morning. Apparently, there is no need for challah bags in the Goyishe world. Their bags are all square. Do they make nothing long and skinny that they need to put in a bag like that? Does no one make a loaf of bread? It doesn’t have to be lumpy.

The other kind of bag that my wife sends me for is cholent bags. These are special bags that you put in the Crock-Pot so you don’t have to scrape it out after Shabbos or risk having last week’s cholent in next week’s cholent. And there’s nothing more appetizing than a big bag of cholent. You can just grab the bag out of the Crock-Pot, go out for lunch, and present it to your hosts like that. (“It’s hot. Hold it by the top.”) You can also cut a hole in the corner and decorate a cake with it. We actually use two of those a week, because we also put our kishke in a cholent bag in the cholent. It’s basically a whole pot of cooked plastic.

My wife also asks for something called “Shabbos tissues,” and I’ve been married for over ten years and I’m still not entirely sure what she means. I think they’re tissues that don’t come attached together, so you don’t have to blow your nose on the whole package. I don’t think she means those tiny glueless Post-Its they have in shul bathrooms that blow all over the place.

Hey, you know what I just noticed? None of those things are foods. Apparently, when I go food shopping, I have a tendency to forget things that aren’t food. Even when I go shopping on a fast day and buy out the whole store, I generally don’t buy anything that’s not edible.

Sure, I occasionally forget some kind of food. But I always remember Shabbos party, for example. Of course, it’s not really a party. It’s not like we invite our whole extended mishpachah and give out party hats, and people have to RSVP. It’s basically me giving my kids candy they didn’t have to earn first.

But my kids are no help. They always want to come to the store with me, so they can help pick out the candy. And they say that they’ll also help carry things home, but usually they just fight over carrying the bag of candy, and leave me to schlep everything else. They don’t actually care if the chicken makes it home. The chicken can walk.

Even though they come, my kids don’t actually help me remember things. They’re too busy asking if they can have everything. They stand in the way of other people’s carts, and they make my cart harder to push, because they all hang onto the sides. You would think that the average shopping cart is built to hold one kid. There are two leg holes, and someone decided early on that the best place for your kid is right over the groceries, and that kids love traveling backwards so that all they can see is your stomach. And of course chew on the handle.

Backwards? Is this a safety thing, like with car seats? How fast are you pushing the cart?

But in actuality, between the seat, the cart, and kids hanging off the sides, the average shopping cart can hold about 5-6 kids. But no groceries. You need a separate cart for that. You might have a kid willing to push it, but chances are he’ll bang it into everything. This is the same kid who’s gonna beg me for a license before I’m ready.

Great, you’re ready to drive? I’m not ready to sit in the passenger seat!

And we wonder why the carts have one bad wheel.

So most of what I buy is based on what I’m in the mood for, and I have to decide what I’ll be in the mood to eat on Friday night based on how I feel after eating Thursday night’s supper, which is usually some sort of pizza.

The hardest is shopping for Shabbos right after a yom tov, because there’s really nothing you’re in the mood for. You go through the entire store, saying, “I feel like we just had this.”

I used to use grocery lists. People swear up and down by grocery lists, but you can just as easily forget to put something on a list. Especially since when you write it, you’re not in a huge store full of food; you’re on a couch. I used to make grocery lists, but found that every time I do, I accidentally leave it at home. I sit down, make the list, then realize that because of that, I’m running late, and then I leave. Without the list. Or my phone. Luckily, I live close enough that I can keep running back.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this topic. Although there’s probably something I’m forgetting to mention. See you in an hour. v

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to

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Posted by on October 4, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.