How To Grocery Shop Like A Woman

Rita and I split up our household five years ago. It was fine with me. We’d grown bored with our life together long before we finally verified it with a legal procedure. Not that we didn’t have good times together and not that she didn’t do everything she could to make a good home and not that I didn’t do everything I could to provide security for her and the kids. It’s just that time ran out on the two of us.

Rita adapted very well to the life of a divorcee. She got a comfortable settlement from me and I guess she needs a little more activity in her life than just being a perpetual babysitter for the grandkids because she has gone back to college. Heaven knows when she’ll graduate, since she can’t decide on a major, but, maybe that’s not too important. She’s happy, and that is important.

Me, I didn’t adapt well at first to being on my own. I really thought I would, but it was the simple little things that tripped me up – the things Rita always did to keep the household running smoothly. The simple things like grocery shopping, laundry, and routine house maintenance. How do women learn these things? Is there a college course… Wife 101? What?!?

Grocery shopping, how hard can it be? You go into the store, grab one of those handy carts at the front, get the groceries you need, pick the short check-out line, pay for everything and pack it in the car. Simple.

What you learn after a couple times is to find a grocery cart that doesn’t have a defective wheel on it. A cart so equipped will either squeek LOUDLY as you move through the store, causing heads to turn as you pass by, or it will pull to one side, usually causing you to drive into the display of canned peas stacked in aisle three, also causing heads to turn.

Once you’ve got a functioning cart, start at the side of the store opposite the frozen foods. If you start with the frozen foods, they probably won’t be by the time you get them home and you’ll have to eat them all right then. Another reason not to start with the frozen stuff is that when you start stacking other things on top, the melting stuff on the bottom kind of ‘leaks up,’ if you know what I mean.

Absolutely never go without a list! The most important thing I needed on my first trip to the market, along with a couple dozen other items of slightly lesser importance, was deodorant. Listless, I relied on my memory and bought a sufficient stock of other items even duplicating and triplicating items already in supply in my apartment, and took home not the first thing resembling deodorant. And I missed a few more items as well.

Absolutely stick to the list you’ve brought! Having learned to write a list and take it, it took several times of going severely over budget before I learned to essentially ‘grab and walk’ through the store, list in hand.

Not that there aren’t other items that end up in the grocery cart. Believe me, there are marketing professionals making those items on the shelves look as enticing as possible. It’s the name of the game! They’ve got just a few seconds to grab your attention and hope you grab their product. And you will! At least be certain the essentials that brought you to the store go home with you.

The fact that you clip coupons does not mean you have to redeem them. Coupons can be a nice little savings if they’re for items you’d normally purchase. If you weren’t going to buy it, why buy it now just to save ten cents? You’ll end up spending two dollars to save ten cents, a loss of a dollar ninety in any ledger.

Sometimes a grocery store will have redemption dollars – you get a couple dollars back for buying a minimum amount of purchases. Now that is a savings!

I used to get annoyed with Rita for taking so much time at the grocery store and she’d calmly tell me that it took time to shop properly. What she meant was, it takes time to comparison shop to see what’s the best deal for the money.

Compare the prices of olive oil, for example. If you look at the slips at the front of the shelf you’ll see that you can buy olive oil for fifteen cents an ounce or twenty cents an ounce or maybe even thirty-two cents an ounce. Some of that has to do with whether it’s light, regular, virgin or extra virgin and whether it’s the cold press and what country it comes from.

Some of the cost comes from the packaging — a fancy bottle with a fancy label so your friends will know you know your olive oils. I’m not a connosieur of olive oil so I take the regular stuff and buy a big can for the least amount per ounce. Once I get it home I can refill the fancy bottle I’ve been using for a couple years.

The same goes for things like paper towels, toilet paper, napkins and so forth. Check to see how many sheets per penny or whatever the measure is. This ‘penny saved is a penny earned’ process is worth the effort.

Don’t stop your reading with the prices, get down to the labels and see how many calories you’re putting into your cart. High sodium content can be a killer, too. You can keep yourself healthy by not bringing home some of the nutritionally deficient foods so temptingly arrayed on the shelves.

Frozen foods may be quick but the wrong ones can quickly stack on the pounds! Check the calorie count, the calories from fat, the sodium content, etc. The plus from spending so much time in front of the frozen food display is that you might spot some good looking woman to ask her opinion about the best brand to buy. You might get some unexpected dinner invitations! (I did!)

Once you’ve got everything on your list it’s time to check out. A few pointers are appropriate here for you guys who haven’t gone grocery shopping on your own before. They’re best told by Dave, a recently divorced buddy of mine.

“I stopped for groceries after work, loaded the cart, and got in the shortest line. The checker takes one look at my cart, puffs up like a wet hen, points her finger at me and says in a booming voice ‘You can’t come through here!’ I looked around to see if she was talking to someone else but everyone’s looking at me. She repeats herself and then points upward to the little sign over her register. I’d broken the law of the grocery lines! I was in the express line with over 10 items!”

“I felt pretty conspicuous as I backed out of the line and took my proper place in one of the longer, slower lines. Fifteen or so minutes later my groceries had been rung up and I flipped my AmEx card across the counter to pay for them. I’d like to say that since that time I’ve met some pleasant checkers but this time I got the second checker from hell!”

“I knew something was very wrong when she took a look at my charge card, screwed up her face, and boomed ‘You can’t pay with that!’ The fact was, I was used to not always having AmEx accepted by everyone I dealt with, so I flipped one card and then another and another at her asking if any of these would do instead. I quickly learned none of the charge cards would work – she wanted cash! Luckily I had enough on me at the time. It was a long time before I ventured into a supermarket again. And I’ve never gone back to that particular one!”

Unfortunately, this is not a solitary experience by one misguided male, it happens fairly frequently because we men are used to paying with credit card and the other conveniences made necessary by our business persona. Frankly, I believe the supermarkets could better train their cashiers to work with single men when they venture out into this new land for the first time.

Tip number one: If you’ve got 10 items or less and are paying cash (no personal, business or travelers checks) you can go through the Express lane.

Tip number two: Not all supermarkets accept charge or debit cards. You’ll have to ask.

Tip number three: Single women go to supermarkets. They’re not just looking for groceries, either. Need I say more?

© Pat Gaudette