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As One: Shopping for several

As One: Shopping for several - (02-04-2022)

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PHOTO: Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Lynn Marie D'Souza, OSB (right) helps to unload groceries from her weekly shopping trip for the monastery.

Grocery shopping is one of those chores many people don’t necessarily look forward to.

Doing so during a pandemic makes things that much tougher.

Doing so for dozens of people at a time? Even tougher.

One of the many aspects of living in a religious community deals with the division of tasks, and that includes keeping the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration's monastery stocked with food and supplies for the many Sisters who call it home.

The numbers don’t lie.

Toilet paper? Ninety rolls will generally last about six weeks. They buy chicken in 40-pound cases, and use 50 pounds of flour each month. The same goes for sugar. They generally use 25 pounds of bananas and 15 dozen eggs. Each week.

Sister Lynn Marie D’Souza, OSB, is one of the members who helps coordinate shopping for the community, and the task isn’t one she takes lightly.

“We try very hard not to waste food, so calculating the quantities for cooking can be tricky,” she said. “Obviously there needs to be enough but not so much that we have leftovers for days.”

Sister Lynn Marie and others help with the shopping for the main house, while two Sisters shop for the community’s health care facility, Our Lady of Rickenbach. They keep track of the items on hand and purchase replacements as needed. In some cases, a Sister can report the need for a personal item, and it’s added to the shopping list. 

“If it costs more than $20, she has to get permission for the purchase,” Subprioress Sister Pat Nyquist, OSB said. “We shop a variety of places, such as local grocery stores, wholesalers, online vendors and from commercial outlets like Sysco. We use coupons and take advantage of sales, buy generic brands when we can and purchase in bulk to help keep costs down.”

The process begins simply enough with department heads who spearhead the shopping. For instance, there are two clipboards in the kitchen - one for a local grocery store and one for a commercial supplier - that Sister Lynn Marie monitors weekly.

“The Sisters add items to the lists,” she said. “Our cooks, who are lay employees, meet with me to add items we need to restock or to use in upcoming meals.”

The summer months mean the Sisters can enjoy food from their garden, and they also purchase fruit, vegetables and meat from local farmers.

When COVID hit, the Sisters began doing what many shoppers did: moved their shopping online. It came with a couple of added benefits.

“We’ve been doing curbside pick up for a while now, and that has reduced the amount of time we spend shopping,” Sister Lynn Marie said. “It also cut down our impulse purchases considerably.”

She drives about 20 minutes from the monastery in Clyde to the grocery store in nearby Maryville, Missouri, to pick up the Sisters’ online orders.

“It is super easy and convenient,” she said. “God bless the clerks who do our shopping!”

Supply chain issues can mean some items are trickier to find, but Sister Lynn Marie said the Sisters haven’t been too inconvenienced. Some Sisters purchase items such as vitamins online, and others order ethnic foods that aren’t available in local stores. 

“Some people hate meal planning and grocery shopping, but I love it, “Sister Lynn Marie said. “I take my job seriously in that the Sisters, for the most part, eat what is served, so I feel obligated to make sure what is served is healthy and tasty, but I also want to be frugal where I can. We incorporate leftovers often and get fancier on Sundays and feast days when appropriate.”