The joy of grocery shopping with your dad
You’re good to your dad – always looking for ways to get him out, to spend time with him, and to make sure his pantry is stocked. Taking him to the grocery store is the ideal way to check all of these boxes at once.
Here are nine pro tips to maximize your shopping experience with him, from someone who has the sincere privilege of shopping with our parents’ generation a few times every week.
1. Check your “obligation” mindset at the door. Don’t think of this outing as a weekly nutritional imperative. With the right attitude, it can be the buddy movie you never got around to making: “Dad and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
2. Walk in his shoes. Would you rather enter the town square grocery store behind a walker or shopping cart? Your first car-to-walker-to-cart transition at the store’s entrance is indeed a significant leap of faith. Once mastered, it’ll be a point of pride for each of you every week.
3. Establish a routine. Start by making sure Dad has a list. Over the past several months, my trips with a 95-year-old superman get faster every week because he’s constantly fine-tuning it, and I’m learning his preferences.
4. Be there when you’re needed. And hang back when you’re not. Remember: constant vigilance, but proper distance. Dad’s stepping out, and treating him like an old man takes the fun out of it. Dignity first, always. (Except in the automated checkout line. Ask him to step aside for a minute.)
5. Make yourself useful. If Dad can be alone, take some short solo missions to pick up distant or heavy items like laundry detergent or beverages, and bring them back to the cart. Upper- and ground-level shelves also are entirely your domain.
6. Respect his choices, especially when you disagree. Even if he’s watching his pennies, you need to know he’s better off with: easy-open packaging; smaller sizes he’ll be able to handle and eat while fresh; and expiration dates that line up with his personal meal schedule.
7. Let him roam. Don’t overlook the “outing” and “social” elements of this exercise. It’s likely he was protected from the grocery arena when your mom was around. Now it’s his turn to enjoy the serendipitous meetings of old neighbors and church friends. If he sees a former golf partner four aisles away, make sure they connect, and keep your distance.
8. Have some fun. Get your money’s worth at the sample stands. Joke about the 27 mustard varieties. And for God’s sake make sure there’s some pie or chocolate or Cabernet in his cart. Your ideal high-fiber, all-green diet for Dad won’t necessarily extend his life ... it will only seem longer to him.
9. Finish the job. Putting his groceries away is a favor and a wellness check-in. The road to rotting fruit is paved with good intentions in the produce section. Last week I warned a client his electric bill would triple if he didn’t start working on that Ensure fortress in his fridge. Make sure he eats what he buys, and remember: Dad cannot live on bread alone.
Finally, before you wave goodbye, do not suppress the urge to flash back a half-century when you were the one barely managing the cart on your big day with Dad. Then get out your calendar, and make a date for next week.
Mike Nock is the founder of Thrive Westshore (www.thrivewestshore.com), which enhances the lives of retirees. Previously he was founding director of an entrepreneurship program at Baldwin-Wallace University, and co-founder of Nock Inc, which for 23 years published customized nightly newsletters for institutional portfolio managers. Mr. Nock is a graduate of Williams College and St. Ignatius High School, and lives in Bay Village with his wife and two teens.