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Design: Tina Tiller
Design: Tina Tiller

PoliticsDecember 27, 2023

Thank you for doing the shopping, Sam Uffindell

Design: Tina Tiller
Design: Tina Tiller

Summer reissue: The MP for Tauranga recently revealed that he sometimes does the supermarket shopping to ‘give his wife a break’. Fellow grocery shopper Tara Ward thanks him for his service.

First published on August 8, 2023.

Sam Uffindell is a man who loves supermarkets. He knows where they are, and sometimes, he even goes inside them. That’s why in June this year, the National MP for Tauranga was pleased to speak in parliament in support of the Grocery Industry Competition Bill, a piece of legislation that aims to make the supermarket industry more competitive. Usually, talking about groceries in public does not open a portal to your soul, but for Uffindell – who has already had a highly controversial political career – this was his moment to shine.

At the start of his eight-minute speech, Uffindell reminisced about how he once lived in Sydney, a city bursting with supermarkets and affordable cheese. “Down the road, there was a Woollies, and it had a fantastic cheese room,” he recalled wistfully, before comparing it to New Zealand, a bad cheese dream. “I looked at a block of cheese the other day,” Uffindell said. “I was stupid enough to pick up the Tasty from Mainland, the one kilo block – it’s a great cheese, yes, it is – but the price of $20 really smacked me.”

“It’s a great cheese, yes it is”

What smacked me was what followed from Uffindell: an unexpected story of bravery and selflessness that begs further analysis. What came next were the musings of a politician who occasionally takes an intrepid voyage into an alarming world filled with everyday people, commonly known as “doing the shopping”.

You walk into a New Zealand supermarket and you get a bit of a shock, which is what I try and do at least once a month,” Uffindell began, opening up to a near-empty house of representatives. Uffindell feels the fear and goes grocery shopping anyway, at least 12 times a year.

“I get out there and take the shopping list off my wife and go out there and fill up the trolley,” he confessed, as both trolleys and wives around the nation squeaked their wheels in admiration. 

And why not? Carrying those shopping lists can get heavy for our lady arms, given that women today do twice as much domestic labour and childcare as their male partners and the division of labour remains gendered in most New Zealand households. Raise your cheese fingers in salute to Uffindell, especially when his wife has already checked the cupboards and done the meal planning and prepared a comprehensive inventory just for him.

No cheese allowed

As if preparing to receive a vision from his Sydney cheese room, Uffindell then put his hands on his desk and leaned forward. It was like he was pushing his beloved trolley, and was about to take a metaphorical stroll down the aisle of equality, past the bulk bins of authenticity and straight to relatability check out. Presumably feeling sharper than a set of New World Smeg steak knives, Uffindell continued.

“Not only is it an excellent way to get a bit of publicity with a National Party jacket on my back, looking like the everyday man…” he said, before steeling himself for the final push, “…it gives my wife a break, and I get to understand what the current prices are.”

And then a hero comes along

Ladies, gentlemen and little baby cheeses, it seems likely that whenever Sam Uffindell walks into a supermarket, ‘Hero’ by Mariah Carey automatically comes over the loudspeaker. “Giving your wife a break” may well be the fifth point in Uffindell’s delightful anecdote (it’s always good to know where women sit on a cheesemonger’s power ranking), but what will us wives do with all that free time we get on the fourth Sunday of each month between 5-5.30pm? We made you a medal out of cheese, Mr Uffindell, and it only smells a little bit. 

After all, if there’s one thing people love to see when they’re worrying about whether they can afford fresh fruit and vegetables, it’s an MP using the cost of living crisis for their own political gain. What luck that once every 30 days (at least), Uffindell chooses to step inside a supermarket and pretend he’s just like the rest of us. 

The super shopper circled his trolley back to the fascinating world of Sydney supermarkets (“you had your Coles, you had your Woollies, you had your Aldis,”), but these ears could hear no more. Once the applause for Uffindell’s service to womankind dies away, you too might find yourself bewildered by his words. But calm down, ladies. Sometimes Sam Uffindell goes to the supermarket, and sometimes, doing the bare minimum deserves an extra cheesy pat on the back.

Keep going!