one man's ceiling
Sunday, January 28, 2007
  shopping etiquette: use some common sense, kids

because i am the primary cook in the house i am also the primary food shopper. it just makes sense. I like to look at the foods i'm getting and if i need to make adjustments in recipes better at the store than after someone else has done the shopping.

i like going to market and i don't like it. i like watching the produce come and go as the seasons change, picking the ripest and freshest items and spotting when to avoid items that have seen better days and freshness. i like knowing the store's aisle and being able to move about in an orderly fashion, having my little places where i can leave my cart safely for five minutes at a time while i trek in and out of alcoves and crannies for the smaller items, avoiding shopping cart jams.

what i don't like is the time it takes. it doesn't matter how crowded the store (unless i'm in a hurry) i'd always rather be done before i get there. i like cooking the food, not the ordeal of hunting and gathering. if these were neanderthal times i'd be the one who made sure things tasted good to get a dispensation from going on the hunt. picking fresh herbs is about the extent of what i like.

what i really don't like is idiots who can't be bothered to learn how to shop. and i'm talking primarily about college kids who haven't got a clue.

today there was a foursome of college kids. they didn't have a shopping list, they couldn't agree on what they wanted, and they were drifting through the store in the opposite direction of the rest of the traffic flow. i encountered them about half way through my shopping mulling near the meat counter wondering what to buy.

"should we get some lamb?" "uh, okay, sure." "do you know a recipe?" "how hard can it be?" "how much do we need?" "do we want a leg?" "what do you eat with lamb?" "i wonder how long it takes to cook."

and so on. all four of them talking, none of them really listening to one another, all in a clump blocking the walkway and not really giving a damn about other people trying to maneuver around them.

okay, so not everyone goes to the store with a list like i do. fine. i used to wing it a couple times a week and was fine. or so i thought. i sat down and figured out how much i was spending when i winged it and then made the effort to shop once a week with a list and a planned menu.

my spending almost cut to half. suddenly i wasn't prey to building menus around enticing (and expensive) items and was focused on what i could really use, suddenly i had staples, and spices began to get more frequent use. shopping made sense once i had a list, and i didn't mind having the extra jack in my bank account.

still, i understand the freedom of letting what looks good be a determining factor, and i'm fine with that. what i'm not fine with is taking an entire party of people shopping. call it the too many chef's syndrome, but when you don't have a list and everyone's got an idea or opinion you're exponentially increasing your shopping time, your costs, and probably the final result of you meal.

to wit, i got in line and loaded up the belt with my meals for the next four days. quite a haul, feeding four people, but it was easily 2/3 produce and the only processed foods were bagels and buns for sloppy joes. right behind me, the college foursome, unloading a hand basket of items for their meal with individual items each of them had impulsively picked up along the way -- a container of dried fruit, a bottled tea, and so on. i dropped nearly $150. i watched as their total came nearly to $95. i couldn't see that they were going to enjoy that meal very much, but maybe they had some staples at home to bolster their purchases.

maybe i'm being a schmuck about this, but let's lay down some ground rules for shopping. all based on experiences i've had this past month or so:
on that note i'm sure there are other pet peeves people have. feel free to add to the list in the comments. or call me out of you think i'm dead wrong.

and to those college kids, whose dinner probably took several hours longer than it should have, i say better luck next time.

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