The Budget Supermarket lies on the outskirts of the nearest town, where slack-mouthed youths swim around a gene pool so small there are no room for outsiders. We haven’t been before, but the decision to become a better parent by switching careers has not come without sacrifices. We’ve abandoned the luxuries (raincoats, days out, school shoes) in favour of essentials (Pinot Grigot, bikini waxes, a new netbook) but still there are more savings to be made.
I scan my list optimistically and give each child something to look out for. Even my son looks dubious as he begins searching the shelves for bulgar wheat. Stacked haphazardly on the floor, in amongst trays of cleaning products labelled in a language I can’t recognise, are boxes of copycat cereal with names like ‘Wheat Bix’ and ‘Corned Flakes’. “Delicious!” I enthuse, hurling a box of “Cheery’s Os” into my trolley.
We weave through the supermarket, barely ticking off a quarter of my list. I stop a sallow youth in a lurid yellow polo shirt. “Excuse me, where will I find the gnocci?” He doesn’t know. Nor does he know when they’ll be getting any manuka honey in. I do, however, discover a veritable smorgasbord of continental meats and some discounted cheese which makes my trolley smell like a Frenchman.
At the till, I’m caught in a frenzy of activity, with shoppers lobbing their goods on the conveyor belt like they’re on the Generation Game. Used to a gentle chat with Enid in Waitrose (day shift every Saturday and twice in the week – gives her something to do now the bridge club’s folded) I’m not sure how to handle this level of professionalism. I step forward uncertainly for my turn. Budget Supermarkets clearly don’t run to badges – the checkout girl has her name written on her shirt in thick felt tip. “Hello Kayleigh,” I smile warmly. “How are you?”
“Trolley in there.” Kayleigh commands, gesturing to a specially shaped section on the check out, in which my trolley fits neatly. With a speed which belies her expression of total disinterest, she hurls my goods unceremoniously across the scanner and back into the empty trolley, ignoring my carefully laid out reusable shopping bags. I glance across to the other tills, all of which contain checkout ninjas moving at the same extraordinary pace. I grudgingly accept that Enid could learn a thing or two from our Kayleigh, who begins whipping through the next customer’s shopping while I’m still taking my card out of the machine.
Back home I unpack my meagre haul as my husband gets home from work. “Oh great, you’ve done the shop. What’s for supper?”
“Um…” I peer into the fridge with some consternation. I don’t appear to have actually bought anything which could be made into a meal. “Salami.” I say firmly.
“Salami? Are we having it with anything?”
“I’ll pop out to Sainsbury’s, shall I?”
“Good idea. Can you get some gnocci while you’re there? Oh, and some manuka honey. In fact, I’ll write you a list…”
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