Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekend 3-Way: Groceries

The other day I went grocery shopping with my friend Owen and I was absolutely chagrined when he went to the produce aisle first and started filling his empty bucket with carrots and green beans and lettuce. “No no no no no no no, that’s not how you do it!” I protested, to absolutely no avail. “That’s how I do it,” he replied. “You don’t put the produce in an empty bucket; it’ll get squished by all the heavy items in the other aisles,” I cried.

He didn’t listen to me; no one ever does.

But the experience does beg the question. How do you grocery shop? Which aisle to you start in? Do you go up and down every aisle? Or are you crash and grab?

And if you have any interesting, unique or curious grocery store anecdotes, please, for the love of mercy, share them with the group.


Ooooh, that Owen is a naughty one! No, no, of course that’s not how you do it. (Ellie, remember when we went to that guy’s loft in Minneapolis and convinced him that his cupboards were all wrong? Who was that guy?)

I have definite methods to my grocery shopping. Of course, it depends on the purpose of the trip; is it a stock up at the big boy? A quick run to TJs for dinner ingredients? A strategic run to Costco? Each of these outings has its own procedure. I should mention that I am almost always sweaty and smelly and starved at the grocery store, because I only ever seem to go straight from the gym.

I am a machine in Trader Joe’s, I can be in and out of there in minutes because I have such a regular list. My only trouble comes when they dare to move shit around. Then I spent several minutes frowning at where the Joe-Joe’s were before I can move on to discover where they now are. I do start with produce there, but that’s usually the bulk of my bounty so in this instance, it would be correct.

Costco is an anomaly because there are always like 5 things I need (coffee, tequila, potstickers, camapri tomatoes, tortillas), but I am a complete sucker for the free samples and gimmicky sales pitches, so there is no telling which direction I might turn to next, and I always spend hundreds of damn dollars there. I try not to go there too much. One time my girl asked to go to Costco because she wanted some compliments. I said “huh?”, and she corrected herself “I mean examples.”

And then there’s the big store, which I frequent at least every other week for the rest of the crap that fills everyone’s lunchbox and gullet. In these places, I have a route that includes almost every aisle (why bother with pets, babies, or greeting cards?). I start with booze and end with produce, with the frozen aisles carefully planned in accordance with their prevalence on that day’s list. I do have those most awesome insulated bags from Trader Joe’s that I put the frozen things into right inside my cart, much to the chagrin of the ill equipped cashier. Every once in a while though, a cashier will appreciate my special form of dementia genius and demonstrate her appreciation for my diligence by emptying, scanning, and then reloading the insulated bag with my frozen goods. More often the stuff gets unceremoniously dumped and then distributed among the bottoms of all my other, regular canvas bags, with the insulted treasures relegated to the common fate of housing random shit like toilet paper and granola bars.

Who knew I’d have so much to say about grocery shopping? And with such passion! Ellie, thanks for posting your intro during my early Friday happy hour while I’m hiding from very weird 10 year old boys.

Well, you're welcome, Jacquie. And thank you for chiming in so vociferously!

Now where was I? Ah, yes, in the produce aisle....

I used to go to the Zazz aisle first, which is Connecticut for seltzer. But then I realized I put the 12-packs of cans on the lower shelf of my rolling bucket anyway, so why start smack in the middle of the store? I am a constantly changing, learning, growing, evolving grocery buyer, so now I start at the far end where the frozen foods (broccoli, peas, pizza) and paper products (PT, TP) are, and work my way through the store, up and down most aisles. Like Jacquie, I skip pets. And housewares and pens. Unless I need a pen. And I finish in produce.

When we're on the road we spend a lot of time in grocery stores. We keep our food in a big green cooler (called, naturally, Big Green), and try hard to use everything and not waste anything, so we really have to plan wisely and well. I am intimately familiar with the Winn-Dixie in Big Pine Key, Florida. And the Vons in San Diego. And the Ingles in Asheville. Total home-field advantage in those far-flung and awesome grocery stores where you can buy booze along with your tortillas and bananas. Unlike some states I know. One-stop shopping.

Another thing about being on the road? We eat a lot of snacks.

A lot. (I, however, would never put four safety pins on one bag of chips. That's just silly. Mistah Schleckah must really have been worried about the crispy state of those tortilla chips.)

And finally? Because you already think I'm demented, I'll show you one of my most treasured Westy collections from ours years on the road:

Grocery store savings cards.

And a whole lot of 'em. I save huge amounts of money in grocery stores all over this fair land. I know, I know. I rock.

I'm a persnickety shopper. I really hate to shop in large, union-run grocery stores like Ralphs and Vons and Safeway and the like. Although these superchains have introduced their own organic brands, and do stock some other healthy fresh foods, the bulk of these stores are still full of shit. And, I find them to be incredibly expensive, even with Ellie's grocery store savings card. In fact, we should just stay away from that whole topic as grocery savings cards are such a racket to begin with! (Just give me the best price mother f-ers! Don't make me fill out some form and carry around some little plastic card, all so that you can make shady deals with your suppliers and conduct better marketing research! Well, I told you not to get me started.)

Ahem, where was I? Oh yes, in smaller stores with better food, like Trader Joes, and Barrons, and OB Peoples Food Co-op, and the like. These three stores actually place the produce right inside the door, so I do tend to shop like Owen. (I know, Ellie!) Although you do have a point about crushing said produce. I guess I could break away and shop backwards, although at TJ's at least, you may well get trampled.

If shopping without children, which I make it my habit to do, I like to take my time and peruse. I definitely do have a typical route, but am easily distracted by new products and completely non-essential items. And I'm completely with you, Jacquie, regarding Costco (which I also dislike, but go to a few times a year), that place drains the wallet and I often have indigestion by the time I exit :-)


Me, You, or Ellie said...

My Droid has an application that will scan all of my store "membership" cards so I can just hand them the image to scan! Isn't that awesome? And Beth, although I agree that it's a racket, (just like the 20% off coupons at bed, bath, and beyond) you totally do not have to fill out the form if you don't want to. They'll still give you a card.

Fascinating stuff, peeps! I'm off to Trader Joe's right now, I'll be thinking of you.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

It *is* fascinating.

And although it may well be a racket. I still really love the plastic cards. They're so pretty! And I have such a good collection!

Thanks, you two. Happy Grocering.


Kathi D said...

Oh, how I loathe, dread, hate, detest, despise and generally do not like grocery shopping! I go as infrequently as possible, generally only when I run out of Diet Coke. Everything else I can live without, but lack of Diet Coke constitutes an emergency. If Rick is in residence, I send him otherwise. If I absolutely have to go, I go to the smallest market that's handy, I always forget my list, should I have one, which I usually don't, and I wander up and down the aisles randomly picking up one thing and another, none of which makes any sense, it takes me hours, I get home with $342 worth of food, whine about having to put it all away, and still there's nothing in the house to make a proper meal with.

Mom C said...

I should have dad comment since he has taken over the grocery shopping - I did it for the first 45 years - and he still loves the novelty of it all. I only run in when I need 1 or 2 items - love the express line...xoxo mom

Anonymous said...

I love grocery shopping. I could do it as a career. I start with whatever the store presents me with. Most have produce right up front, so I start there. I just put it in the front of my cart and the heavy stuff in the back. Nothing gets squished (what are these "buckets" you speak of?) I skip most of the middle of the store and just shop around the edges anyway. Also I go to at least 3 different stores every week.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Sorry, XUP. I call everything a bucket. Including the grocery store cart. I love grocery shopping, too, and I too mostly shop the perimeter. Except for toidy papes. And pretzels. And seltzer.

Mom, I love looking at the results of Dad's shopping. No one -- no one -- has more tuna fish, cannellini beans, or canned tomatoes than you two do.

And Kathi D, that is the worst thing after a grocery store run: nothing to eat. It happens to Mistah and me when we shop for parties or holidays.

Mistah has his own entire philosophy of grocery shopping, too. I just may have to revisit this topic......


ChrsitineE said...

Remember "Senior Citizen Discount Day" at Shop Rite? I think it was every Tuesday. It was always best to avoid shopping on Tuesdays at Shop Rite unless you had a ton of both patience and time.

Tami said...

HATE to grocery shop so my options are:
Peapod by Stop & Shop ($4.95 delivery fee and all of my previous orders are saved so I just click away!)
Randy going to Stews
Megan or Carrie going to Trader Joe's, though that's one of the few places I find tolerable.