Friday, August 8, 2008

Grocery Shopping Woes

I have to go grocery shopping today. Does anybody else shudder at that phrase, or is it just me? I'm not sure I know anyone that enjoys grocery shopping, although most everyone I know enjoys eating. There's so much involved in this if you're going to do it right that it seems like a monumental task every week.
First there's making a list. I am completely lost without one. Plus, we have a budget so it's almost impossible to stay within our set amount if I don't plan this out first. I'll sit down and make a list of everything that I know we'll need for the upcoming week. I try to grocery shop only once a week and get everything we'll need then, because extra stops at the store are time-consuming and expensive. Somehow we always end up snagging a few extra things and then I'm stunned when I add up what I spent in groceries for the week. So I check cabinets and pantry, bathrooms and laundry room in order to see what needs to be replenished and restocked.
Then I have to plan menus for the week. Breakfasts and lunches are easy. Pick up the staples and everyone can fix for themselves. I try to plan dinners, and then I have to check recipe books, refrigerator, pantry and cabinets again to see if I have all the ingredients. Those that are missing go on the list as well.
I do most of my grocery shopping at Walmart because I can't beat their prices. I would prefer to shop at Publix, with their excellent customer service. What ends up happening, though, is that I'm paying extra for someone to be nice to me. And Publix doesn't have a lot of the economy-size stuff which is absolutely essential for a family of our size. So I go to Walmart where I am occasionally treated like an annoyance by their employees, but I can buy toilet paper in huge bundles. The sacrifices I make for my family!
By the time I finish buying groceries for a week for a family of eight, my cart is overflowing. I've got stuff crammed onto the bottom rack as well. I learned years ago to pay attention to how I put things in the cart. No tossing it in for me. Everything fits together like a jigsaw puzzle so that I can get it all in. I try to go grocery shopping by myself because I'm also focusing on costs the entire time. I usually add the groceries in my head, and I come within $2-5 of the actual cost. I tried using a calculator, but I end up losing it, or accidentally hitting the wrong button and cancelling the whole amount out and then I'm lost. If I add it in my head, I'm forced to focus on it and remember. Plus I occasionally jot down a running total on my grocery list.
The part of shopping I hate the most is checking out. I have more groceries than will fit on the moving belt. I usually group my stuff together: meats, frozen foods and cold stuff, canned goods, boxes, etc. I want it bagged together properly. I don't want a package of cheese bagged up with a skein of yarn. Ewww! I don't want my bathroom cleaner in the same bag as my milk. (Even when I shopped in Uganda they tried to keep cleaning products separated from food.) Another problem I have is with the whole bagging system. Seriously, recycling maybe the responsible thing to do (debatable), but when the bags are paper thin, it's time to start with new ones. Plus, all the cashiers here in Florida seem to focus on cramming as many items into a bag as possible. They rip quite a few of these flimsy bags up the side as they try to cram a fourth and a fifth cereal box into one bag. (I am NOT exaggerating!) Then they double-bag it to keep it all together. Okay, if you're having to double bag almost every single time, you're not saving bags by cramming things into them. Plus, the fuller bags won't fit back into my cart in the same jigsaw way that they did before. Results? I can't fit everything back into the cart. Sometimes I even end up having to push one cart while pulling another one to get out of the store. Very annoying. As I'm pulling the full grocery bags off the stand and loading them back into the cart (no friendly, helpful baggers here!) I sometimes end up snagging an extra bag off the rack and repacking a few things. I know this probably annoys the cashier, but at this point I don't care. Even then I end up carrying a bag or two that just won't fit with the rest.
Another thing I hate about checking out are the comments.
"Wow! You've got a lot of groceries there!"
"Six kids."
"You're kidding me! Six? I guess you need a lot of food, then. Say, how much do you actually spend a week in groceries? We have a family of four and I spend at least $200 a week. I'm just wondering how much it costs for a family your size."
Yes, I'm reporting an actual conversation with the woman behind me in line at the grocery store. As a rule, I do not share my grocery budget with anyone because I don't believe it's their business. (You notice I didn't share it with you, either.) I will say that I think that woman spends an awful lot on groceries for four people. Neither would I ever dream of commenting on the items in other people's carts. If I did, the conversation might go something like this:
"Do you really drink that much alcohol?"
"Who're you kidding with all those fat-free items. They're not working, honey!"
"Sure, give into the screaming kid. That'll teach him to do it again."
"Sweetie, those magazines never tell the truth anyway. Quit reading fake stories about the "stars" and get a life of your own!"
Needless to say, I'm not usually in the kindest of moods once I get to the checkout line.
Once I've finished with the ordeal, I pack all the groceries into my car. I have two words for that process: Florida summer. I'm as drenched as if I had an hour's workout by the time I actually finish. I used to grocery shop while the kids were at school, but then I had to haul all those groceries in by myself and put them away. Now the kids are home when I go and I have lots of hands to help carry everything into the house. I also have lots of hands to help put it all away. It's a family thing. When I finish this 4+ hour process, we have bulging pantry, refrigerator and cabinets for a week. But by this time next Friday, they'll all be empty again. It's a vicious, never-ending cycle. Maybe I should check into grocery shopping online.


  1. I must say, I am totally impressed with your grocery shopping ways!! Talk about organization!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!

  2. That's not organization. That's survival!


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