Jeannie grinned and whispered, “Jackpot.”
The “store” was actually a barebones warehouse that was divided up into four sections. There was an area of large-sized products like you would have for a restaurant or cafeteria; that section was broken down into canned products, soft-sided products, and a freezer area. There was an area that had all sorts of restaurant equipment set up on racks, from menu holders to cooking equipment. On the other side of the warehouse was a bulk food section set up with barrels of items that you scooped into bags which you then took to be weighed and tagged before heading to a cashier line. In that area was also a fancy meat and cheese set up like you might find in some specialty sandwich café or like some personal chef or caterer would order from. The last section was the smallest and it was basically clearance items and scratch-n-dent cans or boxes that had been taped up.
I tried to head for the clearance section first but Jeannie stopped me. “We’ll go there but let’s look like we are serious shoppers first and not just scavengers looking for a deal.”
I tried to not take offense at what Jeannie said because I don’t think she really meant anything bad by it; but, when Linda squeezed my hand and rolled her eyes with a grin I knew she’d caught it too but was letting it slide. Jeannie has developed an earthy streak and the more pregnant she gets the more her mouth sometimes gets away from her. Linda and I had noticed it before and figures it is at least a little in reaction to her family still not talking to her. If her family is going to be snobby and snooty then Jeannie seems to have decided to go in the other direction and get … well like I said, earthy.
First Jeannie walked up and down the aisles of the first section and then she went over to the bulk food area and was jotting down prices and stuff on her list. Then and only then did they let me give a quick look over in the clearance area but then hauled me back with them to the other three sections.
We were doing fine pulling things out here and there until the store manage comes over and tries to act like he is making nice but we could tell he was actually feeling us out to see if we were just fooling around or not. I hadn’t come prepared for that kind of scrutiny but apparently Jeannie had.
“Hello, is there something I could help you … uh … ladies out with?”
Jeannie nodded briskly and professionally like she dealt with this kind of thing every day. “As you can see we will be filling more than one flatbed. Is there some place we can place them as we fill them up? And will it be possible to have someone help us load it in the delivery truck?”
“Oh … uh … you plan on a large purchase?”
“Yes, and we are in a hurry as we need to get around to pick up some of the other donations for the food pantry. Since we don’t have an account our organization agreed to pay the bill in cash rather than use a purchase order but we’ll need a detailed receipt for accounting. I assume there’s no problem with that?”
“Oh … no. But if you have a …”
Jeannie interrupted him. “We aren’t using our tax ID for this purchase as we are in the middle of a shuffle in the board and don’t know how it will affect our charter. It’s not worth any tax implications at the end of the year to risk a snafu.”
“Then everything should be fine,” the manager said with a relieved smile. It was obvious he wanted to make the sale and didn’t want to lose it over some paperwork rules.
I quietly texted Sawyer and told him where we were at and that I’d seen some good deals and was wondering just how much I could spend since he’d been working the numbers.
“Spend the whole envelope if you need to,” he texted. “I got a couple of extra jobs lined up. Burt called me about an hour ago with his head on fire asking if I could do him a favor. He’d lined up some work for Mason with an important client of his and Mason got VOP’d this morning. Tell you the details when I get home but it’s going to be good pay. Don’t forget the razors. This dang beard is driving me crazy.”
Somewhat relieved I pulled out my scratch tablet and started adding numbers as I got my own flatbed and started putting things on it. First thing I did was grab three big packages of toilet paper. We use washable napkins at our meals and I found a ton of good quality handkerchiefs in the old clothes and chests of stuff in the attic that we are slowly emptying so that sort of thing we didn’t need paper goods for. I have plenty of trash can liners and swabs and cotton balls left over from the medical supplies too. Feeling a little guilty I started to put named brand zip bags on my flatbed until Jeannie looked at me and shook her head. I didn’t know what that meant but I put them back and then tried to keep up.
Linda and Jeannie were looking over the fresh cheeses – something Sawyer and I didn’t really need as we were still working on the giant bag of grated cheese from the Mennonite order that we kept in the chest freezer – so I just sort of hung out since I didn’t have room in the frig or freezer for anything new.
Jeannie keep glancing my way and then sent Linda over to ask me what the sitch was. “It’s all right,” I told her quietly. “I just don’t need any of this stuff, and even if I did we don’t have the room for it.”
“You sure that’s all it is? Gramps will want to know if … you know …”
“I told you that Sawyer and I are doing ok. Don’t say anything to Gramps … or to anyone else. If someone says anything about anything it’s Sawyer’s place to do it but he’s already got it covered. I just txt’d him and he said he’d picked up a couple of jobs. Something about Mason getting VOP’d and Burt asking if he’d take some jobs Mason was supposed to do. Please don’t get me in hot water for telling Sawyer’s business.”
“You swear Sawyer said he got a job?”
I showed her the texts even though I thought she should have taken my word for it and she seemed relieved. It made me feel funny when it shouldn’t have. I know Linda doesn’t mean anything bad and is just concerned for me as a friend but she and Jeannie don’t have much tact sometimes and I didn’t want to upset Sawyer who I learned could be touchy about things like money.
Linda practically skipped back over to Jeannie and I saw them put their heads together. I don’t know what’s up but I know something is. Warning Sawyer is not going to be fun. To get my mind off Linda and Jeannie and the high prices of the stuff in the freezer cases I pushed the flatbed down the aisle and over to the non-refrigerated area. I needed more sugar, flour, oatmeal, rice, and cornmeal and was able to get fifty pounds of each and twenty pound bags of grits and cream of wheat onto the flatbed before Linda came around the corner and had a fit.
“Kay-Lee! You shouldn’t lift that stuff!”
“Lift it here or the pantry, what’s the difference?”
Linda just rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t do it again. You want to make Jeannie heave? She swears she will if you don’t stop.”
Since those were the only big, heavy items that I intended to buy I gave in and stuck to smaller items. I picked up three containers of yeast and then put two of them back since I planned on making a sourdough starter like we had in culinary class. I’d already begun a batch of Amish Bread starter anyway and had copied a freak ton of recipes from the internet that used that starter as the base. I also picked up commercial buckets of baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, and a bunch of boxes of salt.
I turned the corner and hit the next aisle and that’s where I picked up some wet items. The acids came first; lemon juice, lime juice, cider vinegar, white vinegar, malt vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and then more powdered ascorbic acid all of which replaced what I’d been using way faster than I had ever dreamed possible. After that was the salty and sweets like soy sauce and grenadine and a few other wet ingredients. Next came some of the most important, the oils and shortening. Olive oil was my favorite but was the most expensive. Peanut oil was good too but it didn’t seem to want to be much cheaper.
Linda tapped me and whispered, “Tommy said we’ll get some lard when it is butchering time.”
“That’s months off,” I whispered back. “Since I cook everything from scratch I can’t afford to run out now.”
She nodded thoughtfully then went off to whisper with Jeannie again making me really wonder what they were talking about.
To keep myself from asking I just kept plowing ahead and adding numbers. I put a flat of cans of both evaporated milk and condensed milk on the end of the flatbed and then grabbed a couple of packages of shelf-stable milk for if the power went out. That also made me think to grab a couple of large buckets of whole dried milk. I was getting close to the limit that I had set myself but couldn’t turn down large packages of bouillon; or some seasonings like meat tenderizer, poultry seasoning, dry mustard, powdered cocoa, pepper, and garlic. I also carefully stacked several boxes of salt where they wouldn’t fall off. There were a lot of things that wanted to climb onto the flatbed after that but I was determined to show Sawyer I could be responsible with the money and stick with getting only what we absolutely needed.
I just closed my eyes in the bulk food section when Jeannie called me over … at least until Linda told me there were dates and flaked coconut. After getting some of those two items I resolutely refused to look at anything else in there and instead went over to the clearance section. Part of me wishes I hadn’t. I got a giant jar of parmesan cheese that was marked way down because it had aged and gotten a little darker than the other bottles on the shelf. There was a stray bottle of olives that still had a lot of shelf life left but was apparently the last of a brand that went on close out. There was a big … like 10-gallon big … container of Kool-Aid drink mix in a flavor I’d never seen before; green apple. A large container of reduced-sugar Tang whose label was a little sun bleached but that was all. Some dented cans of pie filling but I only got the ones I couldn’t make myself; pineapple pie filling, lemon pie filling, banana cream pie filling, and key lime pie filling. I got a commercial package of unflavored gelatin too because it had a huge dent collapse one end of the box. I finished off with some baker’s chocolate squares in a brand I’d never heard of, marshmallow and meringue powder in some bakery package with some of those disposable piping bags, malted milk powder that I couldn’t figure out why it was marked down except maybe it didn’t sell, and some off brand lemon powder. The very last thing I grabbed were some large containers of chopped candied fruit and citron like you use for fruit cake and some large tubs of the red and green candied cherries to go along with my out of season purchase.
I struggled to keep everything balanced while I navigated the flatbed to stand in line behind Linda and Jeannie and then wanted to stamp my foot in frustration. Linda must have felt my mood because she looked and asked, “Everything ok?”
“I forgot something.”
“Don’t worry about it. Going to have enough trouble …”
“What already,” she said giving me a look like I was being bad on purpose.
“Elbow macaroni and egg noodles.”
“Oh is that all. Jeannie didn’t like the prices of what they had in stock here. We’ll get it at the next stop.”
“But you have all that cold stuff.”
“And we’ve got all those coolers. Let’s just get out of here and get gone. I think Jeannie is getting tired.”
Jeannie wasn’t the only one getting tired. I missed having Sawyer to help move things into the back of the truck and if I thought that I had bought a bunch of stuff Linda and Jeannie bought enough to stock a decent sized restaurant for a couple of weeks. I don’t know where all the money is coming from and I wasn’t going to ask. It is enough for me to know that Sawyer and I don’t have it and have to find another way.