The House Dad Chronicles: I regret to announce the death of the weekly shop
One of the inherited duties of the reluctant house dad is the weekly shop. And truth be told, I love it.
For me, it's a game of trying to balance what will keep the kids fed and quenched for as long as possible with buying enough in to keep She Who Brings Home The Bacon (not literally) in dinners that please her enough so that she won't run off with a bloke with a bigger bank balance than me i.e. anyone in trousers.
What I discovered quite early on is that one weekly shop isn't enough. There has to be a couple of weeklies, a smattering of dailies, and quite often a morning and an afternoon sojourn to the local retailers.
Partly this is because as my kids, now aged 10, eight and five, have morphed into locusts. They eat a good breakfast in the morning – cereal, toast and poached eggs – and they tell me they have a decent lunch at school.
But still they come home STARVING. So starving that they dive on the fruit bowl the second they walk in, have their dinner half an hour later, and then are STARVING again an hour before bedtime.
In other words, it's impossible to satisfy their weekly needs with one weekly shop.
It's a different story with my wife: I try to forward-plan the nightly menus well ahead of time, but as often as not, she falls through the door, drops her bag on the floor, and declares: "You know, I could really murder steak/chicken/fish/whatever."
Which is usually the thing I don't have in – and so off I pop to the local mini-mart to buy the culinary object of her desire.
After two years, though, I've become quite good at this juggling act and I enjoy not just the sheer satisfaction that comes with keeping my family fed and healthy, but also the noble feeling of spreading my wife's hard-earned income around different retailers.
My top tip is to alternate between different supermarkets when shopping online: if you only use them once a month, they start to panic, fearing they've lost your custom – then send you money-off voucher codes by email. I saved £25 on this week's shopping using this very method.
Anyway, according to some latest research I'm part of a trend of 'busy mums' who now make 19 'dashes' to the supermarket every month.
The study, by milk&more, found that hectic schedules, unannounced guests and hungry kids mean it is impossible for mums (I think they mean dads, too, but let's not be too PC) to limit their shopping to one trip a week.
The study found that while typical mums now carry out three 'big' supermarket shops each month, mums also have to make nine mad dashes to the shops to replenish the food cupboards.
The average mum (there they go again) also visits a convenience store or corner shop a further seven times a month in order to top up and keep family life ticking along.
It also emerged almost nine in 10 mums (and again) even admitted there are some weeks where they have to go shopping for food items EVERY day.
Andrew Kendall, Marketing and Buying Director for milk&more, said: "The survey shows that mum is very much the head of the household..." (this is true in our household, even if she doesn't do the shopping) "...and that trying to plan what the family eats over a month requires a big amount of preparation.
No matter how efficient a mum (he means dad, too) may be, the study proves that life always throws in the unexpected, but the sheer number of trips they are having to make only adds to their hectic schedules.
"Mums (this is getting a bit tiresome now) don't only have to make added trips which take a lot of time and energy, but they are also feeling the pinch financially as a result of unexpected or unplanned purchases in-store".
The study of 2,000 mums (but no dads? Come on, now, I'm getting a complex) revealed nearly half have to make extra trips to the shops because they simply forget to buy certain items, while 68 per cent said they always run out of their daily essentials, with milk, fruit and bread the items most likely to need replenishing before the next 'big' shop.
It seems the regular trips to the supermarket can bring added temptation to the table (that's what the press release says), with eight in 10 mums saying they often end up buying things they had never planned to purchase – spending an average of £11 extra during each trip.
Researchers also found the average mum visits two different supermarkets to do their main food shop because they are keen on certain items from different supermarkets.
Just a third of mums rely on one single supermarket for all their food needs – with 44 per cent admitting they are often forced to go elsewhere to account for items being out of stock, and 48 per cent are keen to take advantage of a wider range of deals.
A third of organised mums (we dads are chaotic in such matters) always prepare a shopping list ahead of a supermarket trip and know exactly what they're after, but the average mum (average? All mums are superior beings, surely?) still manages to spend a 'whopping' £28.73 each week in the supermarket as a result of buying things that weren't originally on her shopping list.
Riveting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Anyway, must dash, I'm off to the supermarket. There's a BOGOF on sex changes this week!