With the natural world becoming less predictable by the year, it's good to know that supermarkets, like the ancient astronomers, are still keeping the calendar in order. Lemon juice on every shelf? It must be Pancake day. Pumpkins in the aisles? It must be Hallowe'en. From New Year to Easter, and from Father's Day to bonfire night, if we follow the prompts, we'll never feel left out.
A glance at my Safeway magazine tells me "It's that time again!" when we "pack kids off with the right gear for the new term". In-store, we will find pens and pencils ("for writing and drawing"), A4 refill pads ("for writing on") and sets of maths instruments (for, erI). OK, Safeway isn't going to get rich on stationery, even if its marker pens are "really wicked".
But lunch - that's different. Eating has got to be "stacks of fun" (most of the world may be starving, but our children find food a bore). So what better to give them than branded, packaged, highly processed, expensively advertised food that's rich in sugar, fat and salt?
The magazine suggests filling Safeway's "super-cool" lunchboxes with Mini Jammie Dodgers, Walkers' Spicy Monster Munch, Ambrosia Vanilla Splat, Bob the Builder yoghurt or fromage frais, and Maryland Choc Chip Mini Cookies.
For a treat, it recommends something from the Dairylea Lunchables range (these packs, containing crackers, cheesy gunk and "formed" roundels of meat gloop, have been marketed on the internet and are now worth pound;25 million a year to their makers, Kraft).
Bread can be disguised with Princes' pastes and sandwich fillers (one variety has no fewer than 26 ingredients) to save "time and hassle", and washed down with Robinsons Orange and Peach Fruit Shoot (what I take to be a veiled reference to "shooting up" must refer to the sugar-fuelled energy rush).
Ah, you say. Safeway may have its eye on our calendar, but does it have its finger on our healthy pulse? Of course it does. Each "must-have" lunchbox contains "a Cape Golden Delicious or Cape Granny Smith".
So what's does the future have in store? Oh yes, it's Christmas already.