“Is that a box of cereal in your bag?”
I shuffled my bag underneath my chair. We were sitting in a uni lecture at 3pm in the afternoon. I was ashamed of my cereal loot that I’d picked up during the lunch break. I was a deviant. I was an addict. I was hunched over my box of cereal like it was the last one in the whole world. But actually, what’s there to be ashamed of? I freaking love grocery shopping.
It wasn’t always this way. What five year old kid likes to go grocery shopping? They like the part where they get a sweet Kinder egg and unveil the shitty toy inside. They like the part where they can fully embrace their ability to annoy every adult within a 10m radius. But the actual shopping part with the waiting and the laborious trolleys that never seem to have their wheels aligned. What part of that is interesting?
To a child, nothing. It’s mundane. It’s a means to an end (survival). But to my 24 year old self? Grocery shopping is an adventure. I love to trawl the aisles. I love to find the brochures in the letterbox like I’m finding presents under the Christmas tree. Newly released products? Orgasmic. It is my sanctuary but also my downfall.
For the last 10 weeks I’ve been living out of home for work. This means fending for myself. This means full autonomy over what I buy at the grocery shop. This means buying whatever I want whenever I want. Not only buying what I want but having the excuse of needing to buy groceries. Am I the only one hyperventilating with desire?
It started off harmlessly. A head of broccoli here, a chocolate bar there. Tin of tuna in the basket. I’d decided I’d literally live the bachelorette life and eat as simply as I could. I’ve eaten more pasta in the last two months than the 23 years prior to that.
Things started to slide down a slippery slope five weeks into my rotation. Chicken breasts on special? Load up. Limited edition Cadbury coated Oreos? Better grab a box. No, better grab two. Wow, chickpea chips? That sounds interesting. Uh oh, they come in two flavours. Which one should I choose?
You know the answer to that by now. Both. It’s always both.
Part of any addiction is shame and shame was what I soon felt. I was grocery shopping on the daily. I would skulk home with my one (two? three?) bags, scared my housemates would be home and judge me.
“What is she even buying?” they would wonder. “All she eats is pasta.”
I knew I had to stop. I didn’t need all this stuff. Chocolate in its many glorious forms starts to taste the same. Cauliflower sales will come and go. But I wanted it all. I couldn’t resist the siren call of a half price bag of Crispy M&Ms (easily the best M&M). My pantry is fully stocked but what about my conscience?
It seems so harmless, so innocent, doesn’t it? It’s grocery shopping, a chore, a suburban drudgery. But for me it’s become both a source of too much joy and the bane of my existence. Alcoholics can swear off alcohol. They can stop going to places that serve it. But how can I stop grocery shopping? I need food to live. It is literally essential for my existence (well, food is. I suppose I could start farming).
I wish I had the answers for you because I am sure there are other people out there with this affliction. This blessing and affliction. I mean, isn’t it kind of beautiful that something so simple, so commonplace can bring me so much joy? Do I really need to give it up? I could be addicted to cocaine. That would be worse.
Anyway, that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.