Today's topic is Shopping in Israel. It is dedicated to my Tired friend who, during a discussion about food shopping, said, "You know, this is a total blog post." Sometimes you need a friend to point out the blogginess in your everyday life.
Now, I had the luxury of not doing the food shopping for the first many years of our marriage. Donny did it for a long time, and then when he started working out in Nowheresville, Long Island and had to stop, I became very good friends with Peapod. However, since moving to Israel, I have been solely in charge of this dreaded task. I have had ample time - because I always pick the wrong line - to ponder and reflect on the nature of food purchasing.
I do my main food shopping at either Supersol or Rami Levi, depending how Israeli I am feeling.
(Rami Levi = very Israeli.)
1. Best food shopping day: Monday morning at opening time. It's early in the week, shelves are stocked, cashiers are just sitting there waiting for you, lines are empty. It's a beautiful thing.
2. However, do NOT go Sunday morning at opening time. No lines, true, but also no food. The stores are just getting in their deliveries on Sundays, so until they figure out how to display the food, you're stuck with a lot of last week's leftovers. I have been shopping on Sundays and seen the chicken counter completely empty. Or the cheese guy tell me he hasn't set up shop yet.
Digression; an actual wondering: I know my mother used to go early Sunday morning to the kosher supermarket in Baltimore. They should have had the same problem, since they hadn't gotten deliveries since Friday. Yet, it didn't seem to be a problem. They had food. Milk, meat, chicken, even cheese. Maybe it's a mentality thing. Here, if the store opens at 7:30, then at 7:30 - and not a moment before - the workers start to stumble in, clean the floors, unpack the food, and toss it onto the shelves. (The cucumber toss is my favorite.)
3. Avoid Rami Levi at all costs in the immediate days before a chag. For some reason, RL shoppers are insane. We're talking lines for carts, stalking people to their car to claim their spot, fistfights over leeks. I'll admit it's invigorating, but if you are in need of some invigoration, it's safer to sniff some Vick's VapoRub.
4. There is a wonderful store here that delivers produce. You call them up, tell them what you want, and they bring it to your door. You don't even have to be home when they come. This is a beautiful thing. Of all the things I have to buy at the store, produce is the worst. Elbowing people for a spot at the cucumbers, sifting through peaches to find the good ones - it's very overwhelming and time-consuming. So cutting that entire section out - it's a good feeling.
5. Speaking of produce, when choosing a line, you do not want to be behind Mr. or Mrs. Bags 'O Veggies. Produce takes the longest time to scan, because it has to be weighed, then a code must be entered in ("Hey," shouts the cashier, in no rush, "Can someone tell me the code for beets? No, not meats, beets! Cleats? Do we even sell that? I said BEETS! Oh, okay. But what was that? 0542? No? 0642? I can't hear you. Ok, I'm getting up and coming over." At that point, once the cashier has upped and left, you are done for. Get out a book and construct a seat out of the little gum boxes, because it's going to be a while.
6. More about lines. Do be behind men - they tend to be fast and efficient baggers. Now, perhaps when they get home, their wives complain that they put the laundry detergent on top of the flimsy yogurt containers, causing the yogurt to squelch out and now there is a strawberry mess all over the bags, and why didn't they pay attention when they bagged, but remember - this is not YOUR problem. Men are fast. The end.
7. If you can, avoid getting in line behind people doing a delivery. Now, I admit that it is hard to know ahead of time who is getting a delivery, and it may be too late, because you've already put half your items on the belt when you see them start to write out their address on a slip of paper, and they like to write v-e-e-e-e-ry slowly and clearly, and people who weren't alive when you entered the store have been born, gone to school, finished college, got a Master's degree, toured Romania, got married, had some kids, and are now finishing bagging their groceries in the line next to you.
8. There is a certain segment of the population that is notorious for line-holding-up. Not wanting to make sweeping generalizations, of course, I will not name this segment, only say that DADZ is now a proud member.
They tend to come equipped with coupons and argue over the price of oil ("The sign said it was buy two, get one free." Then the mistrustful cashier has to call one of the store lackeys over to go to the aisle and check it out for himself. The lackey saunters - it's the only way he knows how - and wanders up and down the aisles till he finds the one that says "Oil." Then he saunters back and there is a heated discussion because the sign was supposed to have been taken down today, because the sale was over last week, but it wasn't, and both sides are very angry at each other until the manager has to be pulled from his coffee break and he saunters over and the argument continues and your gum-box chair is starting to become very uncomfortable.)
Naturally, this population also likes to pay in cash. Preferably coins. If you see someone whipping out a change purse (well, "slowly retrieving" would be a better description) run the other way.
9. Mivtza'ei kupah. These are special "sale" items that are only available as you are checking out, and you need to make a snap decision about whether you want them and how many you want. For the sake of your sanity and the sanity of those behind you, JUST SAY NO! (This applies to sale items at the pharmacy also.) Once you start engaging in a conversation about these items ("Today we have soy sauce, bathroom tissue, and carrots!"), it's years before you can extricate yourself. There are specific rules about how many and in what combination you can get these items, and if they don't have the item handy at the counter, then you have to run around the store finding them, fending off evil glares from the people behind you on their gum chairs. Or, worse yet, the Lackey is sent to saunter off in search of your tissues. Just say no.
10. In Israel, your most breakable item is not your eggs - it's your bags of milk. They are easily punctured, so make sure they are not put under or next to anything sharp or heavy, or you will end up with a trunk full of spilled milk, and trust me, you will cry.