grocery shopping in the time of corona

Brian Lin
2 min readAug 3, 2020


NYC summer 2017 | olympus pen f + kodak 400tx

Despite growing up in a family of watermelon slappers, I’ve moved on to the yellow spot technique. Last Wednesday I was royally rewarded with one of my best melons so far — the highlight of my week.

A year ago, I was going on weekend trips two or three times a month. Driving down to Durham or bussing to DC and New York, I gave myself routine injections of friend visits, movement, and liberal restaurant spending — anything to take me away from the Richmond suburbs where The Mall was a ten minute walk from my apartment, and there were seven grocery stores within a five mile radius: Kroger, Publix, and Wegmans, Lidl and Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

I always make Kroger my first stop. Tinned tomatoes and scallions, pork shoulder and onions, a box of Rice-a-Roni and of course, that perfect watermelon. Thou shalt not buy goodies, liquor, or a completely unnecessary jar of non-pareil capers to use for salmon once and then let loiter on the fridge door forever.

That’s what Trader Joe’s is for. I contain all legitimate grocery shopping to Kroger, but as soon as I leave its doors, I welcome back my most basest of desires. Build your own six packs of beer, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, mango cream bars, extra spicy Tunisian harissa paste which, like my capers, I will do my best to use but once.

Triple cream brie, peppercorn salami, table water crackers, bottom shelf and on special occasions second-to-the-bottom shelf bottles of wine — anything to help me role-play my cancelled Europe trip within the confines of my home.

Still within my Euro mindset, I make my way to Whole Foods. Or, Whole Paycheck Foods as Joan from my since-cancelled pottery class calls it. Fresh squeezed organic orange juice — so expensive, but so so good. Raisin challah that Michelle and I will go through in two days. Oat milk to make fake lattes with the spaghetti sauce jar of cold brew in my fridge.

And then finally there is Costco. Last week I saw this gigantic pack of Kerrygold butter on sale, and truly no one other than a French family really needs two pounds of gourmet butter all at once. Yet even though Michelle and my last wisps of sensibility are saying don’t do it, I still do it anyways, because I’m saving three whole dollars and just maybe this will get me back into baking.

Of course, I don’t get back into baking, and instead get a $1.49 rustic baguette on the way home at Lidl, but it’s okay because tonight we will feast on our glorious haul of groceries and watermelon, one perfectly ripe slice at a time.



Brian Lin

Brian Lin is a writer, runner, and stray cat lover. A recent Duke grad in CS and English, he is a software engineer by day and a typewriter poet by night.