Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Grocery shopping list for March 2020

This post is the fifteenth in a series. 

2 March

On the way home from the tailor’s and the pharmacy went to Coles and bought beef sausages, shortcut bacon, barramundi fillets, a smoked cod fillet, milk, Tim Tams, Schweppes flavoured drink (no-sugar), and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

3 March

At about 11.07am had a call from Neville from Feather and Bone Butchery, who said he was downstairs in the driveway. I was expecting his call sometime during the day, so picked up my keys and phone and went down in the lift to meet him. This time around, he had a blue singlet bag and he put the sausages, steak and lamb chops into it, saying, “Saves me coming upstairs.” I told him I’d bring down my own bag next time, which he acknowledged by saying, “Thanks.” Then I turned around and went back inside – I hadn’t closed the street door next to the garage door, and had held it open while receiving the meat – while Neville went back to his van on the street.

Upstairs, I bagged the produce, finishing the job by about 11.25am when everything was put away in the freezer apart from some sausages for the next morning and some chops for the evening meal, both of which went in the fridge. Later, I went to the convenience store and bought eggs and a bottle of no-sugar lemonade.

5 March

Despite the rain I went out and on the way home from the tailor’s I stopped at Woolworths and bought shortcut bacon, coleslaw, lentil salad, eggs, a cos lettuce, Edam cheese, sultana butter cake, bread, Calbee “Harvest Snaps”, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

7 March

Got in the car in the middle of the afternoon and drove to Campsie, parking on the street before entering Woolworths. I bought Cheddar cheese, sliced chicken, sliced soppressata, sliced ham, taramosalata, olive oil spread, Tim Tams, Jatz crackers, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar). When I went to the checkout the young man behind the counter made a comment about my backpack (which I always use for shopping). Behind me in the queue was an old man with one unseeing eye who bought two items, one of which was a can of Spam. After carrying everything of mine back to the car I popped into a Nepalese supermarket and bought bamboo pickle, bitter gourd pickle, and cucumber pickle. Then I drove home through Leichhardt.

8 March

Went to the bottle shop and bought two six-packs of Carlton Zero beer. Next door, at the Jordanian’s convenience store they had no toilet paper so I went to the other one, near the light rail station, and bought two packs from the man there. He stood at the counter and spoke good English and I mentioned at the end of the transaction that all the supermarkets had sold out of toilet paper. I observed that people were panic buying because they thought they might not be able to go outside, and he replied, “It’s not going to happen here.” He meant to refer to a quarantine, not to whether or not there would be a supply of toilet paper in the shop. The owner of the store is Chinese.

10 March

On the way home from the post office and the tailor’s I walked to Woolworths and bought shortcut bacon, coleslaw, bean salad, sundried tomatoes, eggs, banana cake, Tim Tams, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), Schweppes flavoured drink (no-sugar), and toilet paper. 

The woman at the deli counter put each of the containers of salad into a plastic bag before taping it closed neatly with a price sticker. This was done to make sure their contents didn’t leak out and spoil other items in my totes. At the checkout, the woman at the register was careful about how she packed my purchases putting, at my suggestion, most of the bottles in the backpack so that everything would be easy to carry home and, in the second tote bag, putting the eggs on top.

12 March

On the way home from the tailor’s I stopped at Woolworths. They had started putting coin-operated locks on the trolleys as, the woman at the service counter told me when I asked, people had been stealing them. She changed $5 from my wallet so I could unlock a trolley. Then I went and got some soup (one container of minestrone, and one of chicken and vegetable), lentil salad, canola oil, milk, cos lettuce, bread, Tim Tams, Calbee “Harvest Snaps”, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), mouthwash, and toilet paper. When I got home I washed my hands in the bathroom.

14 March

Went to the Feather and Bone Butchery website and ordered sirloin steak, lamb chump chops, lamb merguez sausages, and “Lambaaaada” sausages (lamb mince, pepper, garlic, salt, and spices including roasted cumin and coriander seeds). 

Delivery was due on the 17th of the month but I checked my calendar after I had completed the order and saw I had a clash, so at around 9am I called the butcher’s and asked if I could change the delivery date. It would be fine to do so, the woman said, and we made it for Wednesday the 18th instead. A confirmation email arrived at 9.10am from a butchery employee to mark the change of date.

In my browser, a tweet appeared with a photo showing empty supermarket shelves, and a comment about panic buying. It looked like it wasn’t just toilet paper anymore, so despite the rain that threatened to fall I went out, visiting Woolworths. It was 16 degrees Celsius and I had a jacket on, but some young men were in shorts and T-shirts. The weather had only just started to show signs of autumn. I felt old and decrepit. In the supermarket I had to find change – once again – to unleash a trolley, and managed to get hold of the needed “gold” coins (what in Australia we call $1 and $2 coins) by handing over a $5 bill at the service counter. 

I couldn’t remember when I had last been in the store at 9.30am on a Saturday, so didn’t know if there were more people than usual, but all of the self-serve checkout machines were occupied when I came to exit. One was freed up quickly and, feeling a bit weak, I used it to pay, then returned the trolley and walked home with shortcut bacon, a Nile perch fillet, a barramundi fillet, pork loin chops, a sultana and butter cake, bean salad, couscous with cauliflower and cranberry, avocado spread, Calbee “Harvest Snaps” (a new flavour: black bean and sour cream), Tim Tams, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar). I had to take off my backpack half-way to get my umbrella out, as the sky started to spit rain.

When I got home I washed my hands with soap at the kitchen sink, then packed the protein in sandwich bags and put it in the freezer. The cake also went in the freezer, as did the bacon, as I still had some of each in the fridge.

On Twitter I saw a tweet from Missouri mother Christa Nausley that went, “Shopping with all the other panic buyers & hoping to store some freezer meals this weekend. Also priorities while I'm stuck at home with 2 small children.” The tweet came with a photo showing a full shopping trolley in a supermarket aisle, its shelves laden with bottles of wine. Then I saw a tweet from Irish footballer Blake Forkan that went, “Just been in Aldi there. Milk gone. Meat gone. Fruit and veg gone. Eggs gone. Flour gone. Biscuits and sweets [aisle] absolutely packed full of stock. Irish people might be absolutely mental but by God we don’t mess with Lent.”

15 March

Saw a tweet from former journalist and anti-gambling advocate Stephen Mayne, timestamped 8.18am, that went, “Just back from the local Woolies – the staff estimate there were 60 people queued up to get in when the store opened at 7am. Maybe it is time Woolies went to 20 hour a day trading, just like 50 of their 78 Victorian pokies venues.” “Pokies” are what Australians colloquially call poker machines.

At just before 10am I went out and had a haircut before going to the pharmacy. The barber said business had been quiet since Tuesday (the 10th) and I could tell he was glad to have my custom. The café next door to his shop had plenty of people dining inside the back courtyard, which had plastic screens over the windows and doors to keep the air out; the temperature was autumnal.

After picking up my medicine, I went into Coles and bought sundried tomatoes, smoked cod fillets, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar). There was plenty of stock on the shelves – things like bread, meat, milk, fruit and veges – and it didn’t seem more crowded than usual for a Sunday. The automated checkout machines were being used steadily but I didn’t have to queue to get access to one. The staffed checkouts had queues of people.

16 March

Went to the bottle shop and bought two six-packs of Carlton Zero. On this day, Woolworths announced that it would close all of its stores for a day starting on Wednesday 18th, and that it would allocate daily shopping hours just for elderly people. Coles announced that it would close all stores from 8pm every day to enable restocking of shelves and cleaning. It also announced it would newly employ 5000 casuals to do restocking.

17 March

On the way home from my psychiatrist’s office I stopped at Woolies and got a trolley to do some shopping. Had to change a $10 note to make coins for its security device. I bought half a kilo of bacon, edamame and mixed grain salad, lentil salad, capsicum and cashew spread, bread, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), and a box of tissues. The clerk at the checkout had to take one of my tissue boxes away because I had brought two to the checkout, and the store has a policy of allowing people to buy only one at each shop.

18 March

Not long after 10am Neville from Feather and Bone Butchery called me on my mobile phone when I was having a conversation with someone else. I interrupted the first call and went downstairs to the garage entrance to meet Neville. He opened his Styrofoam boxes and put the meat and eggs I had ordered into the Ikea bag I had brought downstairs with me. He mentioned in passing that orders from the website had been so heavy that they had closed the shop and were just processing online orders.

Two of the eggs I had to throw out because they were badly broken, and a third egg was slightly cracked; I put it in the rack in the fridge door to use the next day. The meat I unpacked, bagged, and put in the freezer. 

19 March

The following appeared early in the morning on Twitter. Riddell’s Creek is a town in Victoria, Australia, about halfway between the capital city of Melbourne and the town of Castlemain. Sad that things had arrived at this point, but panic-buying had gotten out of hand although my local Woolies had plenty of stock when I visited.

At 8.01am the Sydney Morning Herald’s Stephanie Peatling tweeted, “Chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, blunt about people hoarding and panic buying: ‘It's unfair and it's unnecessary. There's no supply problems. There's a selfishness problem.’”

20 March

An email arrived at around 6am from Feather and Bone Butchery talking about “rona”, though not using that term. I had seen this name used for the novel coronavirus, or Covid-19, that had earlier in the year begun to spread from Wuhan in China. Their shop would reopen, the email said, and they had gotten on top of the surge in orders (comparable to Christmastime but without any preparation), assuring customers that they had a reliable supply of meat. 
Please be reassured that our short supply chain model based on direct purchasing from farmers remains robust and supply is good. But we urge you to please be considerate and only buy what you need for the short term. There will be plenty to go around and we have every intention of continuing to supply all of you with fresh, traceable, local food.  
Later, I went in the car to Woolworths, parking under the building. I had to get a gold coin (see list entry of 14 March for definition) for the shopping trolley. I bought a sultana butter cake, milk, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), lemonade (no-sugar), dental floss, toilet paper, and a box of tissues. I got everything into the boot of the car and drove away, arriving home just before midday.

22 March

Heard on social media about Woolworths’ priority delivery service. With the service, eligible people (the elderly, people with a disability, and those with compromised immune systems) could be vetted through the use of documentation, and have groceries delivered at certain, scheduled times.

Went for a walk and stopped by Woolies where I got couscous and pumpkin salad, quinoa and tabbouleh salad, chicken soup, Calbee chilli flavoured “Harvest Snaps”, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), and toilet paper. 

23 March

On this day I went to the pharmacy then to Coles, and there bought eggs, coleslaw, sundried tomatoes, taramosalata (in a container labelled “caviar”, which is both accurate and misleading), chocolate biscuits, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), and sandwich bags. 

25 March

Went to Woolies in the car and bought porterhouse steak, bacon, lentil salad, quinoa and tabbouleh salad, bread, sultana butter cake, chicken soup, grilled capsicum, and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar).

26 March

Drove to Woolworths and bought flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), soap, tissues in packs small enough to put in your packet, and toilet paper. The following sign had been put up at the parking garage entrance to the store.

27 March

Got in the car and drove to Lakemba to buy pickles. Got a range of options: left to right in the photo below are chalta (elephant apple), mango, chilli, mango, lime, okra, eggplant. Also bought eggs and chicken sausages. 

The trip took about 90 minutes, including a stop to fill the petrol tank. As I was pulling out from my parking spot on Haldon Street the radio was conveying news about a possible “lockdown”; I had no idea what this was supposed to mean but it sounded appropriately dramatic. I was listening to 2Day FM. One store I had gone into had milk crates set up around the counter and a sign on the counter front telling customers to keep 1.5 metres away from the sales clerk. The counter in the petrol station had a sheet of cling wrap placed over the gap in the Perspex barrier which had been installed, when the shop was set up, to keep potential criminals away from the register.

Coles, it was announced in a news story on this day, had four rules for shoppers visiting its stores, these being: 
  • Maintain social distancing by using a trolley
  • Load groceries at the end of the belt at the checkout until customer ahead is gone
  • Pack your own groceries at the end of the register
  • Pay in a contactless way and avoid handing over cash
28 March

Went down to the bottle shop and bought two six-packs of Carlton Zero. In the lift there was a sign asking people not to get in when others occupied it, but instead to wait until it was empty.

30 March

Drove to Woolies and got a trolley (I remembered to bring gold coins this time), then bought bacon, a smoked hake fillet, salmon fillets, coleslaw, strawberries, milk, bean salad, flavoured mineral water (no-sugar), toilet paper, tissues, and kitchen paper towels. By this Monday, I’d given to people who had run low: two boxes of tissues and four packets of loo paper. 

At the checkout I bagged my purchases, walked down the ramp to the basement, and put everything away in the car’s boot. The carpark wasn’t crowded though other shoppers had arrived just ahead of me.

Network Ten journalist Sandra Sully tweeted on this day: “Woolworths Launches $80 ‘Basic Box’ Of Groceries For Struggling Shoppers.” A linked story on the broadcaster’s website said: 
The supermarket is stepping up its efforts to get food to the elderly and other vulnerable people who are stuck at home as coronavirus spreads. 
Australia Post and other distribution channels will be also used to get orders to isolated people faster. 
The 'basic box' includes meals, snacks and a few essential items, and can't be customised. It can be ordered online from this week in the ACT, NSW and Victoria.
Later, in the early evening, I went across the road to the convenience store and bought Tim Tams.

31 March

The New South Wales government announced there would be fines or jail terms given to people outside their homes without an appropriate reason, such as shopping. The day before they had announced that people outside in groups of more than two would be fined $1000.

In the mid-morning I drove to Woolies and parked, picked something up from the post office, and bought Tim Tams and flavoured mineral water (no-sugar) on the way back to the car. At the entrance they had a desk with hand sanitiser to use before entering the store.

On this day, retailer Coles announced new measures to be followed in its stores after two employees came down with Covid-19. Employees now would have to wash hands regularly. And: 
[A new corporate document] also instructs shoppers [to] disinfect their hands when entering using hand sanitiser that will be provided as well as wipe down trolleys/baskets with antibacterial wipes. You should also maintain distance of at least 1.5 metres at all times [from] other shoppers.

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