November 18, 2005

Life Lesson: Grocery Shopping

In an effort to slowly pass my vast knowledge on all things irrelevant to my kids, I have decided I will start putting down these little nuggets of wisdom for TheMonk and Swee’Pea to have at their fingertips in their adult years. Never let it be said I wasn’t looking out for my kids.

So, our first lesson is the art of grocery shopping. Because I don’t want my children to rely on Carl’s Jr. (“If it wasn’t for us, some guys would starve”) for their nutritional needs, I have put together a little primer, if you will, on how to get the most out of your grocery shopping experience. Kids, pay attention.

Buy in Bulk
Now, at first glance, you may ask yourself “Why do I possibly need 42 rolls of toilet paper?” The answer to this, kids, is we will always have a butt to wipe (and judging by your diapers, you’ll have more of a need than others) and the more you buy, the cheaper that roll becomes. Of course, storing these rolls of toilet paper may become a challenge but just think of all the things you can do with a roll of toilet paper. For example, instead of those annoying little spring things that keep doors from putting holes in your walls, just slip a roll of TP behind each door in the house. Now you’re not only frugal, you’re resourceful! And, if you’re buying bulk in diapers, you can save as much as 10 cents per diaper. Over the course of a year, that could be $250 to $300 in savings! That’s 250 to 300 more lottery tickets, boys and girls! Anyway, buy in bulk. Simple economics. Buy more, pay less.

Make a List
This goes along with the old adage “never shop while hungry.” Believe me, if you don’t have a list you’ll walk out of the grocery store with two cans of Spam, a box of Twinkies and a bag of Teriyaki beef jerkey that you’ll have to explain to your significant other. Believe me, make a list and stick to it.

Beware of Bananas
When buying bananas you should always stick to the B = (t-1) equation where B=bananas and t=amount you think you’ll eat. Always buy one less banana than you think you will eat. Inevitably that last banana will rot on your kitchen counter and while your kitchen may smell like banana bread for a few days, the site of a blackened, petrified banana is never a pretty sight.

Know Your Meats

Rump roast, Chuck roast, Top Round roast, Beef Loin Tri Tip roast… Let’s just say there are a lot of cuts of meat. When your significant other asks you to pick up a roast on the way home, how the heck is one supposed to pick the right roast? Now, you can do what your father has been known to do (pick up one of each and let your Mommy decide) or you can learn your cuts of meat. You decide.

Buy Generic

Don’t get sucked into the marketing of a product. The box of cereal with the Sugar-Pushing Leprechaun does not taste any better than the bag marked “Marshmallow Treaties”. In fact it will give your kids the same sugar rush at half the cost. There are some exceptions to this. For example, don’t ever buy beer that is marked “BEER”. There are just some lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Don't buy generic beer

Old Stuff in Front, Fresh Stuff in Back

When it comes to perishable items never choose anything that’s directly in front of you. That’s where the store clerks put the items they wouldn’t eat on an episode of Fear Factor. They’re hoping you’ll bring that tomato that was picked last April home to serve to your unsuspecting family. Dig around in the back of the pile for the freshest fruit/vegetable. The same goes for dairy products. You might have to remove 8 to 10 cartons of milk that expire in the next 4 days to get to the milk that expires in two weeks and the stock clerk might give you dirty looks as you pile cartons on the floor around you, but do it anyway. Or ask the clerk if he’d like to come over for some home-made ice cream next week.

Express Checkout – An Oxymoron

Finally, once you have gathered all of your items on the list (of course, you stopped in the frozen food aisle last, right?) you head to the front of the store to pay. Choosing the right checkout line is the single most crucial decision you will make while shopping. The wrong experience at the checkout can ruin an entire outing. Here are some things to look for:

  • Avoid the Express checkout. Why? Well first, what the hell are you doing in the grocery store when you only need ten items or less? You didn’t use a list (see above) last time did you? Well, too bad. Just eat your Spam and forget about setting foot in a grocery store when you only need a few items. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, little old ladies go through the express line. They buy their food one day at a time because they never know when they will die. And all that extra food in their pantry would just be a waste, wouldn’t it? Old ladies don’t use cash and they don’t use ATM cards. No, they use the written check or a sock full of pennies. Either way, you’re not getting home anytime soon.
  • Choose the line with the current issue of Cosmo. Swee’Pea, you’ll enjoy perusing it while you wait. TheMonk, you can stare at the hot chick in the gold lame’ bikini. Time will fly by for both.
  • Choose a line with a mother with kids. Trust me, that mother wants to get out of the store faster than anyone. She will also have bought many of the same items so the checkout goes quicker. Before you know it, she’ll have her cards swiped, pushing her grocery cart in hand, one kid on her hip and talking on her cell phone to set up her next play date with little Oscar. Don’t, on the other hand, get in line with anyone who looks like they don’t regularly shop (anyone in a business suit or a college student, for example) as they will inevitably forget something or ask if the store takes American Express.
  • And don’t you hold up the line, either. Never, ever, ever leave the line to go get something. If you were dumb enough not to get it in the cart the first time around, don’t compound your stupidity by making everyone wait. Didn’t get the beef sirloin you needed? Well, that bag of teriyaki beef jerkey will come in handy now, won’t it? Also, pay with your Debit Card. Don’t pay cash and don’t ever write a check. There’s just no excuse for that kind of behavior.
  • Well, that’s about it on the Grocery Shopping Experience. I hope this little primer will serve you well over your many years. Of course, you could always skip the whole store and order your groceries on-line. But then, you know you’re getting last April’s tomatoes.


    1. “Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, little old ladies go through the express line. They buy their food one day at a time because they never know when they will die.”


      Comment by amy — November 18, 2005 @ 7:29 pm

    2. mmmmmmm….Teriyaki Beef Jerky Spam with a Twinkie chaser. Let the good times ROLL!

      Oh, Line tip #5 – Avoid lines with kindly little old ladies in them. The kind that like to pay for their groceries with EXACT change, right down to the penny, which they have to dig out from their change bag, buried deep in the bottom of their purse…which they never start to dig out until the checkout person has completed the entire checkout process and told them the total.

      Comment by Clint — November 18, 2005 @ 7:31 pm

    3. Don’t shop in any of the politically correct stores either because the cashiers were all raised in communes and all that hemp and sprouts has Sloooowed them dooooowwwnnnn.
      However, Trader Joe’s is not all that PC; it’s okay to shop there and don’t forget your LLBean canvas bags. Hey, and what’s that crack about LOL’s.

      Comment by Grandmother — November 18, 2005 @ 7:35 pm

    4. Excellent advice. Also, watch out for the cashiers with colds or badges that say anything remotely like “in training.”

      Bad news. Oh, and grandmother is hilarious.

      Comment by ieatcrayonz — November 19, 2005 @ 6:56 am

    5. Genius! You need to write a book on the subject!

      And stay away from the self-checkout line. You’ll end up spending more time searching for the UPC codes on the products than you would standing behind forty grandmothers with their change purses.

      Comment by Chag — November 19, 2005 @ 7:20 am

    6. Mmmm. Beer.

      Great advice, well written, and funny.

      Comment by Kari — November 19, 2005 @ 8:19 am

    7. We just came from the grocery store and I concur with your lessons. I would also add, although cautiously, to get in a line with a female bagger. It’s my experience that women do better at deciding what belongs with what in a bag. Men, especially young men, seems more bent on fitting as much in each bag whatever casualities result!

      Comment by Meredith — November 19, 2005 @ 9:30 pm

    8. You’re damn right that getting in the line behind the busy mom is the right way to go– not only will she be quick, but she will have ALREADY scoped out the lines before you did, so you will know that your cashier is a regular, and if the bagging is not going well, you’ll hear about it.

      Who ARE these people still writing checks at the grocery when I just want to pay for 5 packs of Go-gurt and everything else and get the hell home!?

      Comment by Anne Glamore — November 20, 2005 @ 6:43 pm

    9. Why are all of you getting in line behind me? (“busy mom”. get it? Eh, nevermind.)

      Comment by Busy Mom — November 21, 2005 @ 6:47 am

    10. Perfect! I like the part about the Cosmo, I occasionally pick a long line so I can read it without paying $5 for last year’s articles in a new form.

      Comment by Katie — November 21, 2005 @ 10:08 am

    11. Childs Play’s Grocery Shopping Life’s Lessons

      What kind of infinite wisdom do I have here? Not much according to my own statistics, but Matt over at Childs Play x2 has a brilliant observation of the lessons to be taught to your children while grocery shopping – other than the basic rhetoric you ne…

      Trackback by The Parental Olympian — November 21, 2005 @ 10:13 am

    12. This goes along with the common quotes heard by us parents at the store like:

      “no you cannot have that candy bar”,
      “put that back”, or
      “where did you get that from?”

      Comment by The Parental Olympian — November 21, 2005 @ 10:18 am

    13. Genius but I already knew all those tips. I concur with the advice to avoid the self-checkout lines. No matter how fast I can scan food, the checkers are WAY faster.

      Comment by Mainline Mom — November 22, 2005 @ 9:03 am

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