Being an adult is 40 per cent food shopping, and normally I resent it. It's the ugly stepsister of the eating experience. But since Melbourne entered stage four lockdown at the start of August, feeding a family of two adults, two kids, and a scruffy dog has a new aura of unpredictability. Plus, it's one of the few legitimate excuses to leave the house.
My shopping trolley now has constants that would make a dietician blush. White square bread, sugary cereals, sweet yoghurt, popcorn multipacks. There seems to be no end to how much of this my two children will eat and then staying in makes them just as hungry as adults.
Whereas before my husband or I would concoct a meal plan for the week based on what we want the kids to eat, now we look for easy wins. My faith has been shattered from a couple of occasions wandering around the fruit and veg section, zombie-like because there was almost no fruit or vegetables there.
I'd text my husband:
"Love, there's no potatoes here.
And all the avocados are rocks and the bananas look like no-one wants to dance with them."
He replied: "Pizza?"
My 5-year-old and 2-year-old were speechless when I told them we couldn't have mashed potato that night. I'm not sure they believed my story about the almost empty supermarket shelves.
The truth is, walking around the supermarket right now is an eerie experience. It's not until the music is switched off that I realise just how silent it is, or how empty. Each shopper is alone and focused on getting the most out of each aisle. We are all moving much slower than before as if we can only absorb this routine errand through our eyes. There is nothing to overhear, no conversations between shoppers, no children with their parents, no-one calling their best mate while picking up a few things on a lunch break.
The truth is, walking around the supermarket right now is an eerie experience.
I say "hello" to the guys unpacking the dairy aisle, who seem to be there every time, ensuring we've got haloumi and parmesan and the sweet yoghurt that my kids love. I'm so grateful for their quick "hello" back, and relieved that my family's high dairy needs are unchallenged.
Later on, my husband and I batch cook like Italian grandparents. We'll dice carrots and onions and bacon, add mincemeat and the large cans of chopped tomatoes I'm always happy to see in my cupboard.
While the Bolognese sauce is simmering, we'll write up our meal plan for the next few days. Grilled fish that the kids won't eat (so add pasta). Quiche (because it's never sold out). Pasta salad with cherry tomato, feta, and olives. Sandwiches and fruit for lunch, leftovers if we remember where we put them.
The dog looks annoyed – this used to be her time. Post-kiddie bedtime, one of us would walk her and maybe pick up some extra milk on the way. The 8pm curfew means her social life is on hiatus and she's unimpressed.
It's very quiet at home as I spoon out the pasta sauce into containers for freezing. I write 'Bolognese' on each plastic lid, and the date, just so there's never any excuse not to have a quick bowl of Italian comfort food on the table after a busy day at home.
We've tried out the supermarket version, and the homemade one. Our slow-cooked, home-peeled, parent-prepped Bolognese sauce wins every time. It's a revelation, as is coming home from the supermarket feeling calm from its tranquillity.