This morning I went grocery shopping. Not noteworthy enough to write about you might say, yet to me grocery shopping is worth mentioning. Rheumatoid arthritis has affected my hands, feet, wrists, shoulders so all parts of life are challenging; grocery shopping being just one. My mum or my husband usually help, but for a few weeks both were out of action, so I had to figure out my own system. This required several visits to the shops rather than one big shop. Lucky for me, we live near North Orange Woolworth’s, which offers the accessibility I need.
Not able to walk far I need to locate a car park that is reasonably close. Despite my disability sticker, this is not always possible. Ramps are useful, IF you are not trying to push a loaded trolley up or down them. This is hard even if you don’t have arthritis. Then I require a smaller trolley, not the deep type, one because it is lighter to push and steer, and two, I can actually place things in and out of it. North Orange suits me as it has flat access, smaller trolleys and easier car parking.
My husband was still able to carry the bags into the house in small loads and I needed to be careful how much I purchased; if the trolley was too full, I wouldn’t be able to push it. Things were planned throughout the week – I’d get some one day and others a few days later. After a few trips I knew my limits, particularly after one ambitious trip when I overdid it and hurt my shoulders.
There were constant challenges – getting things off shelves, high, low, in between – some products are quite difficult to access due to their shape, size or weight. For instance a 2 litre milk bottle is heavy for my hands. I can’t grab it in one hand, I need two. Even then being slippery and damp it is hard to remove as the bottles are stacked close in the fridge. Usually I nudge the trolley close to the door, then I wriggle the milk from its tight space, rest it on the ledge until I can get a second hand under it, and heave it into the trolley. Getting it out again means another jiggle and roll.
My hands are uncoordinated, so small objects like beans present hurdles. I can only pick up a few beans at a time, so filling a bag takes time. Big round things are appalling as my fingers struggle to hold them. Larger packages are cheaper but I had to settle for smaller, thereby paying more for staples like washing powder. I always ask for help for higher shelves as I’m also quite short, as well as having poor shoulder lift. Most people are happy to assist and I thank them for that.
Delis are difficult because of the height of the shelf. My reach is limited so often I can’t get the parcel. I rarely use the deli, finding the fridge or other sections simpler, although here items like margarine or juice are weighty and a challenge to manoeuvre. The back shelves are almost impossible to access.
Once I choose the groceries it is then a challenge to get them out onto the conveyor belt, back in the trolley and out again at the car. I always ask the checkout person to only half fill my bags, as I need them lighter. Some of the checkout people even load my trolley for me. I use my elbows a lot, for they are stronger than my hands. Bags are hooked over one elbow and the other hand guides the bag into and out of the trolley; nothing is done with one hand, except picking up maybe a bag of chips or similar light object.
By the time I finish I’m exhausted, even if it’s a few items. I go home and collapse, physically tired, but as I rest with a cup of coffee, I feel like I’ve achieved something, a job well done until next time.
Yes for me grocery shopping is worth writing about, for only then can others understand the every day difficulties for someone with a disability such as mine. Maybe then when you see us struggling in the supermarket, feel free to offer a hand, even if it’s just to lift that milk from the fridge. You’ll make my day!