Grocery Shopping

Within five minutes of going anywhere with my dad, he is eyebrow ridge deep in a conversation with some stranger. Said stranger may or may not be a willing participant in this dialogue. If unwilling, does that just make it a logue? Or maybe an undialogue (nondialogue?), since there are still two people, but only one is talking? Regardless, I am amazed that my dad and I are related, because outside of the school day (nights and weekends), I don’t want to talk with anyone, except my family, but sometimes not even my family.

What exemplifies this most is my grocery shopping routine.

Every Saturday morning I get to Harris Teeter at 7am. I would get there earlier, but any earlier and there is a good chance that no one is working the checkout line. If no one is working checkout, I have to self-checkout, which seems like a positive for someone who does not want to interact with people, but when you’re shopping for a family of five, it’s a real pain to scan a cartful of groceries. Also, there’s a good chance with self-checkout that something messes up (you took your bag too soon, which is somehow a problem), and someone has to come help you. Now, not only am I having to interact with a human being, but I also look like an idiot. I don’t like looking like an idiot.

Like most normal people, I start with produce and work my way down to the frozen aisles. I am well aware of supermarket psychology and the store believing that if I fill my cart with healthy food first, I am more likely to purchase unnecessary junk later. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like looking like an idiot, so even though my shopping path aligns with mental marketing, I will NOT be lured into fruitless (nailed it) purchases.

My phone is now open to my Google Grocery List Sheet. Nothing too fancy. I’ve arranged the aisles by columns so that as I progress through the store from left to right, I mimic that with my Sheet. My staples (weekly recurring purchases) remain in the top rows. Anything different (recipe ingredients, ran out of something, etc.) sit in bottom rows.

Usually, I see the same grocer restocking the produce section each week. I’m okay with a head nod or even a good morning. Anything more than that is pushing it. He is aware of my communication expectations, and either respects them or holds similar values.

As I make my way down the aisles checking my grocery list, I’m always on the lookout for unexpected discounts on typically purchased items. Even if I don’t need it now, if it’s something I regularly buy, and the price is right, I may throw it in the cart. However, I am cognitive of my propensity to change my diet, and therefore understand that even though an item is in my regular rotation it may get the boot when Huberman Labs posts new information on what I need to eat to live to be 150.

One of the drawbacks to early morning grocery shopping is the increased likelihood that aisles are being stocked in preparation for the day. This conundrum is two-fold. I might have to exchange pleasantries with an additional person and the shelf-stocking could block my cart path.

An Aside

Double backing in a grocery store is a rookie move. It’s inefficient, wasteful, disrespectful, and inconsiderate to veteran shoppers. Unfortunately, if stocking interferes with my ability to get to an item, it forces me return to that aisle. I try to use body language and facial expressions to convey to seasoned shoppers, “This isn’t my fault” as I make this walk of shame. But how does one contort their mouth and position their eyebrows in a manner that says, “I’m not an idiot”? I don’t like looking like an idiot.

Let’s say it is my fault, and I simply forgot an item. I won’t go back. Recipes will change for the week. “Sorry boys, I know I said we were going to have root beer floats tonight, but they only had diet cream soda.” Because even if people think i’m doubling back because of stocker interference, I’ll know the truth, and I’m better than that.

Of course the main reason for grocery shopping so early is that there are no other shoppers. Which is wonderful, because other people don’t know how to shop. An aisle is two carts wide. So why do people insist on either parking it in a manner that blocks traffic on both sides or park their cart on one side and place themselves for an extended period of time on the other side.

As I round the frozen food aisle headed to checkout, I begin scanning for the cashier. It’s typically a skeleton crew in the wee hours of the morning. Therefore, the cashier may have multiple responsibilities and won’t solely be stationed at checkout lane one. Most mornings I’m able to locate him or her and make eye contact which signals I’m ready.

Most cashiers are trained to interact with customers like my dad. There’s probably a handbook with conversation starters:

  1. “Oooooo, what are we cooking this week?”
  2. “You’ll have to let me know how these taste.”
  3. “I saw that sale too. Definitely going to pick some up when I clock out.”
  4. “Big weekend plans?”
  5. “Wow, the way you look, you’re definitely going to live to 150.”

I try not to be rude, but after the initial greetings exchange, I quickly make my way to the newspaper rack. I couldn’t care less about the news but hopefully the cashier takes this time to quickly finish checking me out or understands that there is no need to force a conversation with me when I return from my perusing.

And that is how I grocery shop. That is how everyone should grocery shop. Everything except shopping at 7am. That’s far too early.

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