April Moments

Maybe, just maybe, telling the story is just as important as the story itself

How it came to be that my husband does the grocery shopping

Last winter my husband Mike and I read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Originally published in 1992, the book’s subtitle is “How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” I had heard of the book before, but I thought it would be useful for Mike and me to dig into it together because we are always interested in growing and learning.

The premise of the book is simple. According to Chapman, the five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Everyone has a primary language and can have multiple secondaries.

After reading the book, we identified that my primary love language is acts of service; Mike’s is physical touch. We also did the online assessment on Chapman’s website. Quality time was a close second for Mike. Acts of service was my primary by a lot. It is also interesting to note that physical touch was last for me. Opposites attract, or something like that.

Anyway, a big change that came as a direct result of reading “The Five Love Languages,” as you may have gathered from the title, is that Mike does the grocery shopping. Now, I know some of you may be thinking, So what, April? Men are perfectly capable of grocery shopping. Obviously, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

However, in my experience, when I mention to people that my husband does nearly all of the grocery shopping – and I’m talking the big grocery shopping trips, not just the stop-on-the-way-home-from-work-to-get-a-couple-things trips, although he does those, too – they are usually surprised. Not always, but folks often respond with something along the lines of, “Really? How did you manage that?”

Before I go on, allow me to give you Chapman’s definition of acts of service: “things you know your spouse would like you to do.” Like I wrote above, pretty simple, right? He goes on: “You seek to please her by serving her, to express your love for her by doing things for her.”

Chapman explains that each of us has an “emotional love tank.” Keeping that “tank full is as important to a marriage as maintaining the proper oil level is to an automobile,” Chapman writes. He even goes so far as to offer a warning: “Understanding the five love languages and learning to speak the primary love language of your spouse may radically affect his or her behavior. People behave differently when their emotional love tanks are full.”

I don’t mean to imply that my love tank was perpetually empty back when I was responsible for the grocery shopping. But the act of grocery shopping – with both children in tow, when it seemed like the rest of the world was also navigating the aisles on a Saturday, with coupons that said things like, “Buy 300 cans of soup, get a box of crackers for free” – brought my attitude, and my sanity, pretty close to zero every time. And the wretched car cart at Kroger? Please, for the love of all things, let’s not even go there. Not this blog. I could seriously write an entire post on just the car cart.

I know there are many of you out there in cyber land who are scoffing because I complained about going grocery shopping with “both children,” meaning only two. Yes, I recognize there are others who somehow successfully grocery shop with three, four, five or more children.

Anyway, the point is that I loathe grocery shopping, even if the kids are not with me for the event. I mean, how many times is it really necessary to move all those darn groceries? I take them from the shelf. I put them in the cart. I take them out of the cart and onto the conveyor. The lovely people at Kroger scan them, bag them and put them back into my cart. Then, I have to remove them from the cart AGAIN and load them into the car. As if that were not enough, someone has to unload them from the car and carry them inside the house. In bags. Which sit on the kitchen floor. Because, really? Now I have to move these groceries again? Into the refrigerator and freezer and cupboards. It is just ridiculous when I think about it. That is entirely too many moves.

In this season in our lives, I work full time during the day outside the home. Mike has the world’s craziest schedule because he is a restaurant manager – some day shifts, evenings, weekends. There are a lot of negatives to this scenario, but, of course, there are positives, too. One is that my husband can do the grocery shopping on a weekday, alone, without children, if he chooses. I had mentioned this possibility to him several times over the years, but it was not until we read “The Five Love Languages” that Mike began to see how much it would mean to me if he took on the grocery shopping.

Despite my hatred for grocery shopping, I had to let go of some things.

  1. While I was never anywhere close to being an extreme couponer, it was previously part of my grocery list-making routine to spend a little bit of time looking through the coupons Kroger sent in the mail and browse the e-coupons on their website. When Mike took over the grocery shopping, I knew I’d have to let him develop his own system. I do still occasionally look at the coupons and Mike will use coupons if I hand them to him, but I don’t devote much time to this at all anymore.
  2. I used to be very particular about some products and certain brands. Not anymore. Every once in a while, I might jot down something I’d like and reference a specific brand. But, in the grand scheme of things, brand loyalty is not important.
  3. We eat lots of healthy foods in our house, but sometimes Mike buys items I would never have bought. Like Cookie Crisp cereal. Ew, it’s gross. Or Kool-Aid. Anyway, I have to make like Elsa and “Let It Go.” Sing it with me.

Aside from the actual in-store shopping, many things are the same. Mike and I both still write down items for the grocery list if we notice we’re running low or if we’re out. We both talk about meal planning. Truth be told, meal planning mostly consists of Mike choosing what he’ll cook on the nights he’s home and me reminding Mike to buy extra breakfast foods if I have to cook. (In case you don’t know, Mike is a way better cook than me, so that’s just another reason it totally makes sense that he does the grocery shopping. Plus, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?) We also still discuss our grocery budget and how we’re doing for the month on that.

A few weeks after Mike had taken over the grocery shopping reins, he told me that he actually enjoys it. Why? Besides the fact that it makes his wife happy? Because it has given him a sense purpose on his days off work. After almost a year of this wonderful system that involves groceries magically appearing in the refrigerator and freezer and cupboards, I have to say that it is just about the best thing ever.

And, get this – Mike doesn’t mind taking the kids grocery shopping with him. Because C.C. is only 3 and not yet in school, she has become quite the experienced shopping helper. Mike is exponentially more patient than me, and he approaches the grocery shopping experience completely differently than I did. He embraces it. He sees it as an opportunity – to spend time with his daughter, to meet people at the store and, I suppose, to contribute to his wife’s love tank.

And, for all those things, I am truly grateful. It works for our family.*

*Please understand that my explaining what works for our family is not a judgment of what works for your family. Every family is different, and that is OK. I think “The Five Love Languages” can be helpful for all families. There is even a version to help parents (or grandparents or teachers or anyone) determine children’s love languages, aptly titled “The Five Love Languages of Children.”

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