October 13, 2009

I Heart the Grocery Store!

I just returned from a power-shop at Festival Foods.  Yes, for those of you outside the N.E. Wisconsin area, we have a grocery store called Festival.  I imagine that the owners wanted to create a carnival-like atmosphere whilst shopping for your pork roast.

Works for me!  I LOVE the grocery store!  Who's with me?  I may be in a very small minority, but I truly enjoy slowly (but not so slowly that I enrage those around me) perusing the aisles in search of tasty meal ideas.  And oh my Lord, there are so many choices!!  I would love to find out the number of new products that come out every year, and how many fail.  Wouldn't that be the coolest museum ever?  One of my Flickr friends has an awesome collection of old packaging, mainly from cereals and snack foods.  If you're interested, take a look:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/25692985@N07/

My fondness for the grocery store goes back a looong way.  When I was a kid, every payday my mom, dad, Jen and I would all go McDonald's for dinner, and then the grocery store.  Sure-Way was a great one for looking through all of the great mags like Tiger Beat and "16" and the fun cheap toys that were made in Japan.  But the best shopping trips were the ones we took about once a month, to Copp's Warehouse.  In my 5th grade world, that place was HUGE (in reality, it was probably much smaller than a typical regular grocery store today.  In 1979, though, it probably was huge).  But it was big enough that we would take our walkie-talkies and hide behind all of the stacks of food  and play hide-and-seek (it was a true warehouse, where you had to mark your own groceries with a grease pencil).  A couple of times, we ran into our friends from down the block and had a BLAST!  It's actually one of my favorite childhood memories.

I've even had a collection of play food nearly my whole life.  When I was 8, in the summer of '77, my great-grandpa died (he was a wonderful man - my mom's maternal grandfather).  He had this huge 6-bedroom Victorian house in Hoopeston, IL and my Mom, my Grammie and her sisters, plus all of my mom's brothers helped clean it for the estate sale.  There were TONS of toys that Jen and I got to bring home, and one of them was a play grocery store complete with play boxes of food from the 30's (these were my Grammie's and great-aunts' toys)!!  I adored this set and when we cleaned my Grammie's house when she went into assisted living a year ago and it was still there, I was ecstatic.  It got a little rusty, unfortutnately, but miraculously the food boxes survived.  I've attached photos for you to see.

When I started doing ATCs about three years ago, I realized the potential of making some fun art with grocery store-related items, and started collecting even more.  I currently have a set of cardboard foods that are fairly tiny, some of which I've used in my cards.  I also have some vintage tiny foods from 1965, and some vintage French and German versions of play food as well. Here are some photos of those as well!

As with most collections, it didn't end there.  I started thinking about all of the arcane objects associated with grocery stores of the past - the cha-chink stamper used to price cans; old plastic signage that's been replaced with LCD screens around the store; old labels, stickers, price tags, etc.  that the price scanner took care of 20 years ago.  If you search Ebay you can find some of these items very cheaply, but people are starting to catch on that the way we shopped years ago is in danger of becoming totally extinct, so they're buying up all of this vintage stuff.  I'm probably partially to blame for increasing the value of it all!

I hope I always find the fun in food shopping, instead of the chore that most people feel it is.  Granted, I don't have kids, so I can afford to be leisurely.  I'll be one of those 90 year-olds, mowing down people in my motor scooter, too stubborn to stop driving, just so I can get my weekly grocery store visit in.  Hell, it'll surely be the highlight of my day.


  1. Ok, I admit, grocery shopping is a chore for me, and I tend to get overwhelmed by the number of brands so I stand in the aisle staring at the shelves (which is why my husband won't go shopping with me) but yes I love that retro packaging :D

  2. Carolyn - there's a great book called "The Paradox of Choice - Why Less is More" that I think would be a fun read (it's in my giant queue of books that someday I will get to). I mean, do we REALLY need 10,000 different kinds of toothpaste and pasta sauce?!?

    I think the retro packaging is SO much cooler!!