Summer barbecues have changed through the years. It used to be that the women were always in the house talking about children and food and the men were outside lying and talking sports, or lying about sports. Now, most barbecues I attend, the women are all indoors talking about movies and wine and the men are outside, snacking on partially cooked meat pilfered directly off the barbecue and talking about … shopping.
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Of course, they still talk about golf and other sports and there is some lying, but if any of the men happen to be retired, they will also be talking about amazing bargains they’ve scored at the supermarket.
In these days of relative equality, many men retire or work a shorter work week while their wives are still doing the 9-to-5 routine. Someone has to do the grocery shopping and men with more available time have stepped up.
Being the hunters they are, men have taken the drudgery of grocery shopping and man-style, turned it into a competitive event.
“I got these Johnsonville brats,” gestures the man with barbecue tongs in his hands, “at Safeway in the discounted meat section for only $2 a package. I bought 11 packages.”
“That’s OK, these are good,” says another man, stuffing his cheeks full of sausage and sucking in air so his mouth doesn’t melt, “but I bought a $20 beef tenderloin for only $5 and two packages of salmon for only $1.50 each.”
It’s become a sport, this shopping for bargains, requiring a cunning mind, quick reflexes and a lot of mileage. There are unwritten, manly rules for this game: Using a coupon to score a bargain is almost a penalty, unless the coupon is used on an already discounted item which scores double points. Buy one, get one free scores highly, but getting a free carton of eggs or a half-gallon of orange juice for buying $25 worth of groceries is akin to a touchdown, even if you don’t drink the orange juice. Driving to five different stores to save a quarter is not an issue — it’s the bargain that counts.
Wives who have been spared from the weekly shopping chore for years except to pick up something quick for a potluck, have sticker shock when circumstances force them to visit the grocery store.
“Have you seen the price of mayonnaise?”cries one wife to a fellow non shopper. “Holy cats, what about a box of cereal?” moans the other.
The people who used to do all the grocery shopping after a full work day now face tough scrutiny when they have to shop. Arriving home laden with grocery bags, women are greeted with an inspection.
“How much did you pay for that detergent?” the Shopper of the House demands. “What? You paid full price? I had a coupon.”
The head shaking says it all — women just don’t play the game correctly.
I appreciate the bargain hunter in my house, but if men really want to see how the game is played, they should go along on a clothes shopping expedition with their women. Not only are we talking full-on, unrelenting bargain hunting, but she who can do it with the most efficient route and lowest mileage scores the most points.
Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.