Living 500 yards from a fabulous whole foods style grocery story kind of puts a crimp in our grocery shopping habits. We visit the store almost daily, usually having no planned purchases in mind. We sniff around and often grab foodstuffs on impulse. Of course, we consciously go to get the staples (for my husband that would be beer, bagels, and bananas), and when we need milk. But thoughtful lists of grocery items are rare in our household, and what we ultimately come home with is more often than not a crapshoot. I’m not so sure this habit is in the best interest of home economics– or is it?
In the early years of our marriage when we lived more rurally, we made lengthy shopping lists and traveled to the big grocery together. We divided and conquered and discussed label choices. Each excursion was a satisfying venture in finding the right products, and then once home, we created the pre-planned menu over the following two weeks. We weren’t counting our pennies really, but we had the good sense to think ahead about what to keep in our cupboards and fridge for the sake of efficiency and avoiding wasted time and food.
The cute magnetic “Shopping List” pad I got in my Christmas stocking this year is stuck to the front of the fridge. It is empty. Ignored. I tell myself that shopping on the fly is just like living in Europe, where the little specialty food shops offer patrons something fresh each day. I rationalize that I am like Parisians who live off the Rue Cler , or like the villagers in a small Italian town. How romantic.
Shopping in this manner, I say, keeps bought items to a minimum. Because I am walking to the store, I am loathe to lug home heavy bags. I enter the food emporium as though I were at a museum. Navigating the stormy sea of produce, I see other shoppers clinging to their carts, checking lists and crossing them out; they are distracted and on a serious military mission with their maps and marching orders. They backtrack and desperately ask for help from the stock people, and then they take off on their wild goose chases for that one particular product. Me? I’m floating through the stacks of a great library of foodstuffs and browsing. I’m shopping with the right side of my brain. This is a creative endeavor.
On the other hand, as a personal cook, I make highly organized shopping lists for my clients’ orders. When I shop for them, I go all out. I get into conversations with the butcher and the cheese people and the cashiers. I enter another realm, and I take such food shopping seriously, carefully avoiding waste or inferior goods. But when it comes to my own habits, I let the formality slip and go on a shopping adventure– destination unknown.
How do you shop? Are you a list-maker? Do you go to different stores to hunt down particular products? Or do you “dowse” when you enter the market?
Is there an advantage to just grazing one’s way through the grocery, or do you think it is probably fraught with danger?