19th Nervous Breakdown (in the grocery store); Thirty-Five Weeks In

The province announced what I am going to call a very mini-shutdown on Friday the 13th, and it called to mind the last Friday the 13th, eight months ago, when the very mini-shutdown led to the total big shutdown. It’s enough to make a person turn superstitious. I’ve been oscillating between despair that a mini-shutdown is going to do anything at all, sadness that there is really no way to police what seems to be the real driver, large private gatherings and that people are just going to keep partying, slight hope that two weeks might make a difference, and a what can you do other than recite the Serenity Prayer over and over kind of feeling. I’ve been refreshing the news all weekend but so far, still a very mini-shutdown, also still the depths of despair about a looming full-scale one. Well, today I feel calm and zen about the whole thing, it’s like I’ve been constantly preparing for the possibility of a full-scale shutdown. My house is stocked, my pantry is full, my Christmas shopping is complete and I have two cases of wine in the basement.

What more could a girl need?

Two of my favourite bloggers, Suzanne and Swistle (HI SUZANNE HI SWISTLE) have been regularly writing about grocery store shortages, and I find it endlessly fascinating, the things that are available and unavailable in other parts of the continent. Forget continent, there are variances in our province. My mother, who lives two hours north of me, couldn’t obtain a ten-kilogram bag of flour, whereas in my grocery stores, flour is plentiful. In fact, last week Superstore had the ten-kilogram bags on sale for $8.98. EIGHT DOLLARS AND NINETY-EIGHT CENTS. For ten kilograms of flour. Of course I picked one up, even though I had two bags at home, which leads me to my next point.

My brain has completely changed in the past eight months; I used to be able to calmly think oh, I have flour at home, I can get some when I need it, but not anymore. NOT ANYMORE. Suzanne referred to this as Grocery Store Pathology, this panicked feeling that if you do not seize the moment and buy the things that are available to you, they may not be there next time.

Here’s the thing: circling back to the grocery store shortages, I have not really noticed anything in short supply over the past few months. There has been talk about aluminum shortages, but I bought soda water in cans last week and there certainly didn’t seem to be any shortage of that. Flour – as mentioned – pasta, rice, frozen vegetables, toilet paper and paper towel, all of those things are plentiful right now. The one thing I’ve noticed – and this probably isn’t a pandemic thing, it’s more like a weird Superstore thing – is that I haven’t been able to get my favourite kind of peanut butter, Just Nuts Crunchy.

All the other Just Nuts peanut butters are available: creamy, sea salt, honey, but the crunchy hasn’t been there for weeks, and I was starting to get into my one backup jar, so I was feeling a bit desperate. I mean, I only eat peanut butter on toast once or twice a week, so the situation was not DIRE, but it felt like it was. I took a leap of faith and bought the store brand natural crunchy peanut butter, although I was somewhat irritated to discover that it was a dollar more expensive than the name brand for the exact same size. The store brand! More expensive! This is an outrage, I want to talk to the manager.

Anyway, as I was in Superstore last week I was feeling so serene about everything – it’s fine, everything’s fine, if the worst thing that happens is I eat store brand peanut butter, well, I am better off than pretty much everyone – until I got to the baking aisle. I needed a carton of molasses with which to make my annual gingersnaps. I had finished my last carton making gingerbread a few weeks ago. I pushed my cart, humming along to the music, and then, puzzled, retraced my steps. I looked again. People, there was no molasses. I stared at the empty shelf for a solid minute and then felt like I might have an actual breakdown right there in the baking aisle, next to the dried fruit, shredded coconut, and shortening. CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED, THERE ARE NO GINGERSNAPS. It was a 180 degree flip, from calm and serene to everything is terrible. On the outside, I’m sure I seemed perfectly fine and put together, but it’s like when your sock starts sliding off into your boot: I was not fine. I smiled at people through my mask, I chatted with the cashier, I gestured to the elderly man who had literally a loaf of bread and a package of sausages to go in front of me, but on the inside, I was like the Sadness character from Inside Out.

I made it to the parking lot, and it had not been plowed. I immediately regretted the soda water and the ten kilograms of flour, as my cart became immovably stuck in the snow. What even is the point of all this flour. I cannot make gingersnaps. Is there even a molasses substitute. All is ashes.

Literally, I could not move the cart, using all my strength and momentum. I stared up the aisle of the parking lot, seeing my car in the distance. There was nothing for it but to abandon my cart and carry each bin, one by one, to my car as fast as I could. By the time I had gotten down to the last bin, a very kind woman stopped and helped me move the cart to a packed-down part of the parking lot, and from there I was able to maneuver it to my car, the whole time wondering how many calories I was burning during this shopping trip. Her kindness perked me up, and I decided to stop at the Co-Op on the way home. I don’t like doing two grocery shops in a week but I thought I would just pop in and pop out, to see if they had molasses. People, they did, they had shelves of it, and I bought TWO, which is much more than I need but hey. Grocery store pathology. I can always use it next year.

Pandemic Reading

Apparently Toxic Masculinity was the unwitting theme of the week. Last week it was Liar’s Poker, this week:

I am unsure if I am recommending this to you or not. I mean. At its core, it’s a story about a family, told from multiple points of view. It’s also a study of toxic masculinity and the rise of supporters of a certain person who wanted to make America great again. So, it might be a wee bit raw. It was well-written. It was well done. It was thoughtful and insightful and very smart. But. I cannot say it was enjoyable.

This was a really wonderful book – by a Canadian author – about being a young woman in a secret relationship with an older, prominent politician. Well, you probably think you know where this is going. But it has turns I did not expect and an ending I did not expect, and it was very well done. It was probably the most brutally honest, yet enjoyable, book about being young and in a toxic relationship. Speaking of toxic masculinity! It’s up there, Steve.

This was the week to pull out the Christmas tea towels, coffee mugs, and music. 70s on 7 has been changed to the Hallmark channel while in the car, and my festive Spotify playlists have been on repeat. We need a little Christmas, right this very minute. Stay safe and healthy, friends. xo


  1. I’m glad you will get to make your gingersnaps. Do I remember right that it’s your grandmother’s recipe?

  2. I had hoped to be done with shortages, but yesterday Coach went to the grocery store and could not get the chicken I buy OR the backup chicken I buy. What in the world?

    Things are shifting back to being closed around here. Some schools are back to full remote. Restaurants are carry out only. Coach believes the health club will shut down again.

    Glad you got your molasses. How odd to have one store totally out and another with it in stock.

  3. Marion Hill says

    I loved this post more than you’ll ever know. I wish I was there to help push your cart.

  4. I mean, obviously I FEEL THIS TO MY CORE.

    I have never read a more relatable sentence than this: “On the outside, I’m sure I seemed perfectly fine and put together, but it’s like when your sock starts sliding off into your boot: I was not fine.”

  5. Favorite part: “On the outside, I’m sure I seemed perfectly fine and put together, but it’s like when your sock starts sliding off into your boot: I was not fine.”

    I get these…brain short-outs, if I can’t get an item and can’t figure out a substitute. I’ve got the more normal speed bumps briskly dealt with by now: they don’t have my usual cheddar, I will pay $2 more for the brand, this is the price of a pandemic and I will just pay it—there, done. But no molasses is the kind of thing that would cause a not-fine moment for me as well. Or, there is one particular ice cream that works with keto AND I find it delightful, and I was SO looking forward to grocery shopping because I was almost out of it—and they had none. NONE, NICOLE. (That is not actually true: they had several sticky cartons of coffee chip, with dried leaks on their sides, and I don’t like the coffee chip anyway. But is it more or less pathetic to include that detail?) I would have wept if I hadn’t been too overwhelmed for that. (I found lots on my next trip and STOCKED THE HELL UP.)

  6. Do you mean you didn’t even have shortages at the first lockdown? That is great, but weird – I figured all major cities were low on toiilet paper, flour and yeast, and hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol. It’s been much better here after the first few weeks. I accidentally had Matt buy a THIRD jar of backup peanut butter yesterday, but I make stir-fry peanut chicken a lot, so it goes well with my dozen cans of coconut milk.
    I haven’t had a grocery store meltdown lately, but the other night at the end of a long day I was trying to open a new thing of tinfoil, and it was being recalcitrant, and the foil was ripping and I was slicing my fingers on the cutting edge and I screamed MOTHERFUCKER and Matt came and took it away and fixed it while eyeing me as if I was about to…do something even worse than screaming motherfucker, I guess.

  7. The shortages here are weird. The Husband has been unable to find Melba Toast and Garlic Powder. The garlic powder I kinda get but Melba Toast? I can also understand the shortage of molasses and other baking supplies with Thanksgiving (American) and Christmas coming up – people are afraid they won’t be able to find what they are looking for when they need them so are planning ahead.

  8. Jeez. For a minute there, I thought you weren’t going to find the molasses. All’s well, ends well 🙂 Happy baking. I may just make your ‘snaps if I can find molasses in my new town!

  9. I’m SO happy you found your molasses; all is well again. I get this shopping pathology thing….I think we all have a bit of PTSD from earlier this year.
    I was at Costco this week buying ingredients for Callie’s dog food and I noticed that almost every cart leaving the store had toilet paper in it. Me thinking: Hmmmm….is it starting AGAIN?!

    Had I been shopping at the same store and same time as you, I would have helped you with your cart. Well, that’s assuming that I know anything about snow or winter too.

    Merry Christmas! 😉

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