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It’s an opportunity too good to pass up. With the drag time everyone is experiencing this morning with the beginning of daylight savings, the 10:00am rush may be a tad sluggish. Only the really hard core will be there jockeying for the prime spots in the parking structure – the ones that don’t require you to labor for what feels like miles pushing an imbalanced, over-laden cart back to the car. (Not sure why, but slogging back to the car always seems worse in the urban structure than it does on the wide, asphalt prairie of the Novato or South San Francisco stores.) I will set out for Costco, determined to get out of there with fewer than 10 items and in under 30 minutes. It can be done. If only I can keep my blinders on.

Here’s my problem: I have become spoiled so that I can only deal with doing Costco if I do it under these get-there-when-it-opens conditions because that place will just zap the life force right out of me if I don’t have the best of shopping circumstances to contend with.  In fact, I now find all grocery shopping done on weekends pretty scary, but as I am looking for a 9-5 type of job these days, I’ll just have to hope for the best when I no longer have the ‘luxury’ of shopping during the week.

My list:

  • Sliced sandwich bread (2 big loaves)
  • Milk (Lactaid, 2 ½ gallons)
  • 1 cooked Rotisserie Chicken
  • pork shoulder package
  • bonne bell round red cheese (goes in young lady’s lunches)
  • 2 cases Pellegrino (1 ltr bottles)
  • peanut butter

Drive time: R/T 45 minutes

Shop/checkout time:  40 minutes

Okay, roughly ninety minutes later and I’m back and unpacked. How did I do? Not bad on the whole. My minimal haul costs me slightly less than $100 dollars. I got all the stuff on my list and resisted getting the $7 pack of a dozen croissants my daughter loves, or the hand dipped shortbreads ($9) and turned a blind eye to the $9.99 girls speedo swimsuits. I was only seduced by one extra item – a 3 pack of fresh mozzarella – and this is probably a personal best for me in the will power department. And once you start straying off your list another half hour can easily pass and then that life force sapping thing starts to take effect.

I do get annoyed by the big amounts of everything and that ongoing debate around how much of this pack of cold cuts or cheese or that delicious looking cake would I wind up throwing away? I know for a lot of people it’s this high-volume thing that keeps them out of the warehouse stores. And I hate to waste food because we just don’t get to it. Sometimes the products are just too heavy for an older person, like one today I helped by hauling a double pack of soy milk from the refrigerator case for her. The fear of getting buried under an avalanche of 1 gallon plastic tubs of sour cream is palpable.  Of course, the bargain aspect gets tossed out with the trash when you chuck food away. I have lately mastered, though, effectively using all of a 4-1/2 pound packages of meat like a loin pork roast. As a family of three who doesn’t eat particularly big portions of meat at a setting, I can easily get 5-6 meals out of a $13.00 roast like this by immediately freezing half of it for later and cooking the fresh half as scallopini with mushrooms or as a pot roast one day and making carnitas from the leftovers.

People seemed weary and a little sad today but generally they were polite, even in the parking lot where there is the typical jam up of cars, hovering to take over my space as I inelegantly heft cases of Pelly into my trunk. On my last trip to Costco, the competition for a space in my aisle was so intense I was pretty sure someone was going to get shot. And I wasn’t able to pull my car out for almost 10 minutes, and neither time was I even parked in the 1st two ranks closest to the door! I know I’ve mentioned in a previous post (Shop til you Drop) that it can be pretty difficult to do big box store shopping or run basic errands in San Francisco. It’s in the parking lots that you can sense the frustration of people.

Is it worth it? For me, at this place and time, I have to say yeah. When I cling to every dollar like a live-action version of Mr Krabs, I will go out of my way to get a case of Pellegrino (zero sodium!) at about a buck a bottle or a bag of the round cheese for about 35 cents a piece, when it’s more like 60 cents everywhere else. On the drive home through the streets of SF’s civic center neighborhood, where the gilded city hall dome and the opera house that line Van Ness Ave dominate the landscape, the rotisserie chicken – my little treat for putting up with the whole warehouse scene – had the place of honor in the passenger seat next to me, offering up its delicious aroma and letting me know that tonight’s dinner and my daughter’s lunch the next day was all set. At $4.99 a bird, it is hard to argue with that.

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