Guidelines for efficient and effective food selection

While reviewing Pat Hoglund’s Have I Got a Story for You, I was impressed by how similar Ms. Hoglund and I are in our approach to grocery shopping. We both want to get in and out of the store as soon as possible.

For several years, I’ve been compiling a list of grocery shopping guidelines. I offer them here for your edification.

How to Shop for Groceries

1.0      Produce

1.1      If you have to examine every single green bean before selection, you should not be buying green beans. Wait until a fresh crop comes in. See section 6.1.

1.2      There is no such thing as a perfect apple, orange, tangerine, tomato, lemon, onion, potato…I could go on ad infinitum. Unless it’s markedly discolored or mushy to the touch, take it and move along. See section 6.1.

2.0      Everything else

2.1      It doesn’t matter whether you get the potato chips or the Doritos. If they don’t like them, let them eat broccoli. Put something in your basket and move along. See section 6.1.

2.2      Section 2.1 applies to just about everything else the store sells.

3.0      Cottage cheese

3.1      When buying cottage cheese in a plastic carton, take off the lid and check the seal underneath before putting the carton in your cart. People will look at you funny but any embarrassment you experience will shrink in reverse proportion to the disgust you’ll feel when you remove the lid at home and curds schloop down the side.

3.2      If you find the seal broken, do not replace the carton in the dairy case for someone else to buy. Other people don’t want it either. Hand it to a store employee with an explanation.

4.0      Cell phones

4.1      Do not use your cell phone while shopping.

4.2     In an emergency, calling home to ask a grocery-related question is marginally acceptable, but step out of the flow of traffic until the conference has concluded, and do not block shelves. See section 6.1.

4.3      When observing section 4.2, do not look directly at me, because that makes me think you’re talking to me, and I’m tired of feeling foolish for answering the questions you aim at me.

5.0      MP3 players

5.1      If you insist on walking through the store with those little buttons jammed in your ears, at least turn down the volume so other shoppers don’t have to listen to the bop-bop-bop.

5.2      Pay attention to your surroundings. The littlest of blue-haired ladies will exhibit aisle rage when stepped on by a person one-third her age.

6.0      Physical activity

6.1      When a shopper with a determined glint in her eye comes charging down the aisle toward you, do not just stand there mulling over Campbell’s versus Progresso. Get out of the way. Some people get most of their physical activity between the celery and the tortillas, and slowing down to avoid hitting you also slows their heart rate. Some people just want to get home. Furthermore, unless you’re making green bean casserole, buy the Progresso. The tomato basil kind is good.

7.0      Children

7.1      Corral your children. See section 6.1.

8.0      Socializing

8.1      When you meet the best friend you haven’t seen since last Friday, repair to the coffee shop for a tete-a-tete. See section 6.1.

9.0      Checkout

9.1      At the checkout, do not line up behind a woman* with children. Women with children are too distracted to have their cash, check, or credit card ready when it’s time to pay. It’s also possible they’ve sent one of the children back to the aisles to find something they forgot, in which case they probably chose the least obedient, the most distractible, or the one with the lowest reading level.

*The term woman is intended to be inclusive. Seeing a man in charge of children at the grocery store is so rare, at least in my experience, that I consider woman the more acceptable term.

9.2      At checkout, do not line up behind anyone who smokes.** The smoker will ask for a pack of cigarettes, and the cashier will have to either open the little safe above her head or walk the length of the store to access the vault where tobacco products are stored.

**I have no idea how to identify people who smoke. Just do your best.

9.3      At checkout, do not line up behind anyone holding a cell phone. This rule is self-explanatory.

9.4      At checkout, do line up behind men. Unless they smoke, men pay and leave quickly.

9.5     At checkout, do line up behind older people, even those who look like they will be here forever. You’ll get there yourself someday.

9.6      Have cash, check, or credit card ready as soon as possible after your order is rung up.

9.7      Smile at the cashier and the sacker. They’ve been on their feet all day waiting for people to get out their cash, checks, and credit cards.

10.0   Parking lot

10.1   Leave the shopping cart in the cart return.

10.2   If heat index is above 85 degrees, feel free to ignore section 10.1.

10.3   In observing section 10.2, secure cart so it cannot run amok.

10.4   When leaving the parking lot, turn right. Do not attempt to turn left across traffic. Going around the block is faster than waiting for an opportunity to avoid being broadsided.

Although the above list is extensive, it is by no means exhaustive. I will post further suggestions as they occur to me. I would also be happy to hear from any readers who care to add guidelines I’ve not included. Feel free to post them in the comments section following this post.

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