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Shopping daily, shopping light

June 9, 2008 - Eric Paddock
I’ve parked my SUV, resolved to move it no more than two or three times a week.

By most SUV standards, it doesn’t get bad mileage, but with gas at $4 a gallon, it will sit in my driveway as much as possible.

The experience has given me a new outlook on my family’s lifestyle, and that includes how we shop for food.

Up until our bow to petroleum-induced poverty, we would trundle off to one or more of the four supermarkets in and around Warren two or three times a week, burning a lot of gas, but not many calories.

Here’s my plan.

We live downtown, a couple blocks from Thorne’s BiLo (easy walking distance), less than a mile from Shurfine on the East Side, maybe a mile from Wal-Mart in North Warren, a little farther to ALDI. Thanks to the Bike Hike Trail, which was installed a few years ago by some urban planners who anticipated my need to ride a bike to North Warren, I am able to visit both markets north of my home without having to negotiate dangerous traffic. The ride to Shurfine is another fairly leisurely ride along tree-lined streets in quiet neighborhoods.

I considered the options for schlepping stuff back to the house. Afterall, a bicycle alone isn’t designed for carting much cargo.

And, I refuse to take shopping carts home. It’s not so much the fact that you’re not supposed to do that, as the fear that passersby will think me homeless or adlepated.

I could probably buy one of those trail-along carts for my bike, but that would cost about as much as I’m saving on gas.

So, I have enlisted the aid of my backpack. I have one of those serious backpacks that might be seen on the backs of serious backpackers. Without the camping stuff, there is a whole lot of room for groceries. Plus, riding around with a “serious” backpack on your back causes on-lookers to think -- “Hm, a man on a long journey, relying on only his wits and what he can carry on his back. A Voyageur of the open road.”

Nope, just a guy too cheap to drive his car.

There are other benefits of this plan.

First, it forces you to plan meals ahead, and planning ahead tends to foster better cooking.

Next, it promotes the concept of pack-light-eat-light. You’re less likely to buy that extra large bag of Dorritos (takes up too much room in the pack) and more likely to choose a baguette and a hunk of cheese.

Also, it forces you to “shop” ahead. If you have to walk or peddle your sore butt around town, there better be a good deal at the other end. Those supermarket inserts become just as important as the sports page.

Along the way I have toyed with the whole concept of the Voyageur thing.

The other evening, having stopped at Thorne’s on my hike home from work, I entered my house armed with my baguette and a hunk of cheese and in butchered French proclaimed, “Bonjour, mon amour! Je suis d'origine!”

To which my long-suffering spouse responded, “You’re an idiot.”

Next: The Recession Series begins — cheap meat. Not that we’re in a recession, mind you.

P.S. -- It was nice to hear from Jeanette Walter about burgers. I will definitely give McNutter’s a try. Likewise to Tim at the Wildwood. It may take more cholesterol meds to get me through it, but I promise I will sample all of them.


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