Before supermarkets there was ‘your family friend and grocer’

Jun 28, 2020
Before supermarkets came to be Aussies bought their groceries from 'your family friend, your grocer'. Source: Facebook/ Australia Remember When

These days a trip to the supermarket to grab the groceries for the week is the norm, with more Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA stores popping up across the country each year. But, getting your food and other necessities was far different in the 1950s and ’60s when Baby Boomers were kids.

Instead of jumping in the car with eco-friendly bags in tow, parents would get their goods from the local greengrocer. For some families the task of delivering the grocery order was given to the kids, who jumped on their bikes, armed with a list, as they headed towards the corner store. Meanwhile, others had a visit from the grocer at their own home, with Mum generally sitting down for a chat to work out what was needed for the week or month ahead.

It made it more personal, and the grocer was more like a friend than a shop assistant. Even today, many Baby Boomers would remember the name of their local grocer and how sometimes, if they were lucky, they’d be given a special treat when they visited the store. This was usually a brown bag of broken biscuits – which doesn’t sound too appealing, but back then it was very much appreciated.

But, it’s not just the way of shopping that has changed. Back then nothing was pre-packaged and instead everything was bought in bulk. In some grocers, shoppers could weigh the amount of flour or other goods they wanted and pop it into a paper bag to take home – plastic bags or wrapping of any sort just didn’t exist.

It’s certainly worlds away from the supermarkets of today where people can pop in to grab a few things any day of the week and in most cases, don’t really know the person who serves them at the checkout. And there certainly aren’t any free biscuits for the little ones, however, they might be able to grab a free apple or banana instead.

These days Baby Boomers still look back on their childhood days with fond memories. And while ‘your family friend and grocer’ isn’t something their grandchildren will be able to experience, at least they can still share their stories.

“[In the] Early to mid ’50s, Mum would give us a list to take to the grocer, he would deliver it, bringing it to the back door, into the kitchen and put the box on the kitchen table,” Kay Appelbee remembered on Facebook. “Also they always kept ‘a book’. All purchases were written in the book and I presume paid weekly!”

“As a child in the ’50s to ’60s in country Victoria, the grocer would call to the house and sit with Mum at the kitchen table and take her grocery order,” Jill Borch said. “He would deliver it in boxes the next day and it was on a monthly account. If we needed anything between his deliveries, we rode our bikes on a gravel road to the store.”

While Gill Collins wrote: “My dead Dad and Mum were country grocers before supermarkets arrived. Many happy hours spent in the shop and going with Dad delivering groceries to the farmers. Wonderful cherished memories.” And Robyn Clark added: “When I was young and we went to the grocer’s he would give me a little brown bag with some broken biscuits in it. All the kids would get the same, oh how times have changed, not sure whether for the better or not.”

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Do you remember the days before big supermarkets? How did you get your groceries delivered as a child?

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