7 Aug 2007


After so many years abroad, I was bound to forget certain things about my ancestral land. So here's a newsflash - Canadian supermarkets spoil us. We drive into the parking lot, grab a cart, either from the stand outside or, in the event of inclement weather, from inside the store (after all, no one wants a wet cart) proceed to pick out our groceries and head to the checkout counter to pay. Then we wait for the cashier to hand us our bagged goodies. Back into the cart they go, out to the car we go. Voila. One shopping trip completed. Just like that. I never thought about it before; I just took it for granted. Occasionally, I have even been slightly annoyed with a cashier who did not bag according to my preferences - no meats with fruit, and please double bag those cartons of juice. I promise to change my ways when I return.

My eyes have been opened.

First off, getting a shopping cart, wet or not, is no piece of cake in Norway. If you do not have a 10kr. coin, you are out of luck. No cart for you. They have a system where all carts are chained together, and will only be released by inserting a 10kr. coin into the slot on the handle of the cart. You do get your coin back upon return of the cart, but what good is that if you have no 10kr. coin to begin with?

Of course, you could try the basket approach. Baskets require no coins. However, if you have ever tried to do a major shop with a basket, you already know that it is not feasible. Not only are baskets designed to be as uncomfortable as possible, perhaps to avoid theft (because I for one am dying to get my hands on the latest basket), but they are also totally impractical when buying anything heavy. Rule no. 1 when using a cart is "Thou Must Balance Thy Load". Thus, you cannot buy one liter of milk. You must buy two 1l cartons, and place one liter on either side of the basket. If not, your basket will tip and your groceries will hit the floor! Speaking from experience here. Then there is the obvious issue of size. After two liters of milk, you have no space left to do any other shopping that day. Your basket is now full. Depending on your dexterity, you could, of course, try "multiple basket" shopping, but I do not recommend it. Again, I am speaking from experience.

But let's say that you found a 10kr coin, got your cart and were able to shop to your heart's desire. You might still be in for a bit of a surprise when you try to pay for your groceries. Because not only do you have to bag your own groceries...you also have to pay for the bags to do so. This drives Mike absolutely crazy. Every time we go shopping, he kicks himself for having forgotten to bring bags from home. To be fair, the bags are not expensive - about 15 cents at current exchange rates - and they are of much better quality than the flimsy bags we use in Canada. So in that sense, this is probably more environmentally friendly, as we use less than half the number of bags for an average grocery run.

However, it is the stress of actually having to bag them yourself that gets to me. Who knew that bagging groceries would be a race to the finish? The cashier just slides the groceries down into the bagging area, and they have an interesting divider that lets the last person finish bagging theirs, while yours are being rung up. Then you are on the clock to get yours bagged before the cashier starts sending another customer's groceries down to your side of the bagging area. Thus, it is a two person job to go to the supermarket. One person needs to be bagging, while the other one pays.

Mike and I are starting to get with the program, and I am sure we will be expert baggers by the time we head back to the other side of the Atlantic. In fact, I can see this developing into something of a competition. Who can bag the fastest, and with the fewest bags? Who will be the Bagging Champion?

I will keep you posted on our progress, but I for one will REALLY appreciate the next time a cashier hands me bags of groceries. :)


Karen MEG said...

Hilarious Heidi! I know, we are totally spoiled here. I've tried to do my part and purchased those cute reusable bags from Loblaws, and they do a great job, especially sitting in my laundry room while I'm at the checkout! I've always been super-stressed trying to do the self-checkout and bag myself, hoping that i'm spared public humiliation by asking for assistance.
I'm sure you and Mike will be pros soon enough!

linda-sands.com said...

I like packing my own bags because I know how my pantry and fridge are arranged and I can bag for better debagging at home. So, do they call them "carts" in Norway? When I lived in NH, they called them CARRIAGES and here in GA they call them BUGGIES.strange.

morag said...

I like the way you and Mike can make even something like bagging groceries into a competion. I'm sure if you take HY with you she'll have you all organized for your next shopping adventure. I'll now next time I'm at the supermarket I'll be more thankfull to have my goods bagged.

Family Adventure said...

Hi Karen: I know, the humiliation is the worst! You can see everyone looking at you with pity in their eyes... "amateurs!". :)
Linda: I wish I had your organizational skills when bagging and debagging (good word there, btw!). Good point about the carts/buggies - maybe we should have a survey of how different words are used for the same thing throughout the UK, Canada and the US. I am sure we'd unveil som hilarious differences...!
Morag: You'd be right in there with the competition. I know you'd be planning ahead of time, just to get a head start on the rest of us. But you are right, HY is very helpful. That's what she does, after all :)

Sanu said...

Hi Heidi,
I've been reading your blogs but being totally new to this, couldn't figure out how to add my two cents. After lunching with the girls, they gave detailed instructions but it still took me a few days to figure it out.
Anyway, just wanted to say I'm enjoying reading about your life in Norway....
When you come back, you'll have to visit a No Frills grocery store where you can put your expert bagging skills to use!

morag said...

Heidi, you know me too well. I think we should have a little competition at No Frills when you get back with Sanu as the judge.

Family Adventure said...

Sanu: Thanks for posting! It is great to hear from you :) I heard all about the lunch - I am planning a blog with lots of spelling mistakes. Perhaps you can figure out why?! Anyway, I love to hear from you guys!
Morag: You are on. You've got no chance! Hugs...