Thought Catalog

On Grocery Shopping

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For me, grocery shopping is the epitome of grown-up-edness. This summer marks the first time I’ve had my own kitchen/normal-sized refrigerator and the first time I’ve had to do my own grocery shopping—it’s a daunting task. When I was little (whatever, until I was nineteen), I kind of assumed that groceries were just always there. I rarely made toast only to discover we were out of butter. I never poured a bowl of cereal only to find that the milk had gone bad. I was under the impression that certain things were inexhaustible resources, permanent and self-replenishing presences in our fridge and pantry. When I moved into an apartment, I found out this was not, in fact, the case, and the first time I rolled out of bed and came to the bleary-eyed realization that I was out of coffee, I decided that I needed to make grocery shopping a more regular part of my schedule.

When I lived at home, my mother made grocery lists like it was her job: illegible documents full of arrows, crossed-out words, circles, and indecipherable abbreviations. Planning ahead is not my strong suit, so I decided I would grocery shop without a list, like the free (read: lazy) spirit that I am, and construct sophisticated and varied meals from my vast mental cookbook. I soon came to several important realizations. One: I really don’t know how to cook. Two: the substantial list of recipes I had imagined I knew consists mainly of variations of scrambled eggs and grilled cheese.

On my first solo and list-less expedition into the grocery store,  I ended up with, like, 8 boxes of bowtie pasta, kale (what is it and who even knows how to cook it?), and Hot Pockets. Grocery shopping without a list also necessitates my returning to the grocery store at least four times a week to pick up items that I inevitably forget: this week it was—so far—strawberries, deodorant, and Ben and Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream.

Every time I go grocery shopping, I’m overwhelmed by the fluorescent lights, the high ceilings, and the moms in yoga pants who power-walk through the store while simultaneously throwing Slim-Fast into their carts and quieting the seven screaming toddlers who trail behind them.  I awkwardly manhandle an unnecessarily large cart—always the squeaky one with the broken wheel—while I try not to run into the towering pyramids of tomatoes and microwaveable bacon. I suspect that the entire store gets rearranged between my shopping trips: I go to Aisle 8 for whole-grain white bread but I find pickles and soup, which I swear were in Aisle 11 last week. I break into a cold sweat while I ponder the apparently infinite varieties of frozen pizza—do I want a pepperoni DiGiorno, or the spinach one from California Pizza Kitchen, or the organic one in the cool-looking box?

Speaking of organic foods and cool-looking boxes, I am every brand’s favorite kind of consumer because I am a complete sucker for any kind of advertising whatsoever. Buy three jars of mustard, get two free? Sign me up. Juice that promises to eliminate your appetite while accelerating your metabolism while perfecting your complexion? Check. Cereal with a hilarious cartoon character on the box? Put it on my tab. I also have a deep and conflicting desire to be the kind of person who buys local produce and tofu burgers and organic bread and puts it all in environmentally friendly canvas totes (conflicting, because in reality I have an innate love for processed foods, I am a voracious carnivore, and I always use plastic bags). These two tendencies result in a cart full of products I will never use and a total that is always at least fifty dollars more than I intended to spend.

When I exit the store, dazed and squinting and physically exhausted, I fling my groceries into the backseat and drive back to my apartment. I schlep the bags up three flights of stairs, the weight of the plastic handles cutting into my arms because I am disinclined to make more than one trip, and drop them on my kitchen floor. I put away the collection I have accrued—pretzels and bologna and pesto and a baguette and Fruit Roll-Ups and five different celebrity gossip magazines that all have the same story on the cover, among other things—catalog the items I have forgotten, and find that I have absolutely nothing with which to make even an adequate dinner. Falling back onto my couch with a sigh, I call in an order to the sushi place down the street—one shrimp tempura roll, one California roll, and edamame, please and thank you—and think that I am nowhere near grown-up-edness. TC mark

image – TheeErin

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    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Megan-Shafer/1169280047 Megan Shafer

      we might be the same person.

    • http://twitter.com/simbelsim simbel

      Reminded me of this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html

      Also, perhaps keep a piece of paper stuck to the fridge and write down things as you run out of them? Will help only if you bring that piece with you next time shopping.

      • Abby

        That link is SO funny. Dying of laughter at my desk and thinking that I will probably never be an actual grown-up. Do actual grown-ups even think they’re grown-ups? I bet they don’t.

        • http://twitter.com/simbelsim simbel

          It’s the funniest blog on the internet; I’ve read every single post by Allie.

    • http://twitter.com/simbelsim simbel

      Reminded me of this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html

      Also, perhaps keep a piece of paper stuck to the fridge and write down things as you run out of them? Will help only if you bring that piece with you next time shopping.

    • http://twitter.com/simbelsim simbel

      Reminded me of this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-is-why-ill-never-be-adult.html

      Also, perhaps keep a piece of paper stuck to the fridge and write down things as you run out of them? Will help only if you bring that piece with you next time shopping.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tarynn.law Tarynn Law

      I just went grocery shopping by myself for the first time last week, and this is the exact experience I had. It was pretty intense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

      Girl, you don’t know how to cook kale?  What you need is  a Portuguese mother in your life.  Every dish has kale in it.  You can borrow mine for a few days, if you’d like, but I do want her back.    

      • Abby

        I don’t! And now I feel that my life is lacking a Portuguese mother. Teach me how to make kale!

        • Hannah

          kale is the best! all you need is garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. mince the garlic, saute it in olive oil, tear the kale up (don’t use the hard stem it’s really difficult to eat) and then throw it in the pan until it looks tasty to you. sometimes i like mine more well done and sometimes i dont. that shit is so cheap, learn to love it.

    • http://twitter.com/sufjansaves zet

      This is exactly how my three months of independent living in LA were like.

    • Grant Sorenson

      But seriously, WHY do you always squint coming out of a grocery store? I’ve noticed that before too.

    • Dorryfp

      What an amazing piece! I feel like this is the story of my life. I keep wondering when the moment will come when I will actually be “grown-up-edness”

    • Noelle

      Haha, I love this. I think, maybe, grown-up-edness also occurs when you don’t buy the same exact things every time you go shopping– especially when those things are frozen chicken patties, hamburger buns, and gogurt. One of these days I’ll grow up.

    • Nixter_doodle

      This will be me next year in my first apartment, I swear

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

      i have an iphone, which allows me to keep my grocery list organized, constantly updateable, and extremely assessable.  also, i know how to cook, and am not female.

      • Good

        we’re proud/jealous of you

      • HipsterKitty

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

          white stripes just came out with a secret album btw

        • ipone

      • http://www.facebook.com/anniehighleysmith Annie Highley-Smith

        idk, you just made a pretty good case against yourself, alex.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

      i have an iphone, which allows me to keep my grocery list organized, constantly updateable, and extremely assessable.  also, i know how to cook, and am not female.

    • JEN

      I absolutely love Ben and Jerry’s mint chocolate cookie ice cream.

    • JEN

      I absolutely love Ben and Jerry’s mint chocolate cookie ice cream.

    • Anonymous

      This is my life.

    • http://mannaarie.tumblr.com/ Manna Arie

      I can totally relate to the overwhelmed feeling. Last shopping trip with my roommate I was just looking for pita in the bread aisle and was so overwhelmed by the selection that I felt like the 20 different kinds of pita had joined forces to attack me so I grabbed my roommate and ran down the aisle screaming LET’S GTFO!!!!!

    • Mr Shankly

      What doesn’t help is the fact that I’m sure the security guard is following me around the store, and that the other customers might just be plain clothes security who are judging me for what I’m buying. Man.

    • Anonymous

      THIS. I used to spend 70 Euros every four days on everything, and absolutely nothing. 

    • Anonymous

      ta.gg/4vh

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=688670900 Heather Anne

      i’ve been having a pretty rough week and when i read this i laughed so hard that i cried, loved it. I thought i was the only one who somehow always got the cart with that one squeaky wheel. 
      nothing better than good writing.

      • Abby

        Thank you very much! I’m glad it made you laugh. Hope this week is better!

    • http://www.facebook.com/seikel Steve Seikel

      How will you people raise children?  I mean, I’M not going to raise any, but, you know, you might.

      • Abby

        Well, I am only twenty, so I plan on having lots of years in which I learn how to grocery shop and do other grown-up things before I (maybe) have kids.

    • Anonymous

      ta.gg/4vh

    • Chloe

      You should make kale chips, they are pretty much the best thing ever. 

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