browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Grocery Shopping for the Faint of Heart

Posted by on November 19, 2012

I once confessed to my friend Joanna that I am often near tears every time I reach the cash register at the grocery store. My compassionate friend quickly told me that I was immediately disqualified from being part of her Post-Apocalypse Repopulating Earth Plan. (“If you cry at the check-out you’re not emotionally stable enough. And we might won’t want your genes, either”. Clearly, she’s a fountain of empathy). But seriously, does anyone else find grocery shopping to be a bit stressful?

If you’re furrowing your brow in confusion, let me illuminate for you the three reasons that I do not like grocery shopping:

1. Too many choices, too many options. So much yummy food. Must stick to budget.

2. I hate dropping $80-$100 in one place.

3. I follow a complicated algorithm of healthy/cheap/local/organic/fair trade and usually get a bit lost in my own head. (It’s something like this. If it’s fresh, it should be local or organic. Less packaging is better. Pick the cheapest option that we love the most. If it’s canned, meat or eggs, it should be produced fairly. It should be low-salt. It should be lean. It should low-fat. Pick the cheapest. I know, I feel dizzy too).

I usually come home thinking I’m ‘broke’,ย  confused about whether my purchases reinforced child slavery or cruel treatment of farm animals, and feeling hungry for double-stuffed Oreos and huge salads with feta and red peppers. Perhaps Joanna is right, I may not be your best post-apocalypse wing-man. Anyway. To combat my grocery shopping issue, I have a few coping mechanisms:

1. We shop at the Farmer’s market. This makes the fresh/local/organic choices easier. And it’s fun. And I get to pay in cash so I think we’re only spending $20 on vegetables and $10 on meat, not a whopping $30!

1.5. Fair Trade Hot Chocolate from Red Hill Coffee at the farmer’s market. I blame my Mom for this one. As a kid she would always get me a free slice of American Cheese from the deli counter while we shopped. I’ve been conditioned that if I’m a good girl while buying groceries I can have a snack.

2. Varun almost always comes with. We team-shop: he carries the bulging green bags, fishes in his pockets for spare toonies and offers me free therapy.

3. I make careful meal plans which yield a clear list. From there I just go shopping and don’t deviate. No surprise items, no going over budget. And by budget I mean my list, not a number I actually stick to (that would be too organized).

In case you’re not yet convinced that I’m a little high strung and a little crazy, I’m going to tell you that I meal plan. Until 7 days ago, it didn’t really occur to me that this was unusual. However, thanks to another friend, I was told that this is a bit odd. Listen, buddies. I don’t meal plan because I’m an organized Super Wife. I meal plan because it didn’t occur to me not to.

Here’s how it happens. At some point in the week, I sit down with my cookbooks and recipes I’ve found online and pick 4. Usually 1 is super easy (read: ravioli or pizza), 1 has meat, 1 is Indian. I tend toward things that are flavour-filled or spicy, vegetarian, high in protein, filled with veggies, and easy to cook in bulk. I put these 4 meals on a piece of paper that also lists breakfast options and snack options. I then create a shopping list.

To me, it’s pretty simple. However, my friends found this pretty amusing. They’re trying to convince me that lots of people just go to the grocery store…and then what? Anyway. The whole thing has been baffling me for the past week. So now I’m curious: what do you do? Do you plan your meals? How often do you buy groceries? Does going grocery shopping stress you out? What foods do you splurge on?

15 Responses to Grocery Shopping for the Faint of Heart

  1. Colin Toffelmire

    We meal plan, and have for years. Honestly, not meal planning is one of those things that to me just seems like an opportunity to waste a lot of money and food for no reason. We do basically what you do, and have basically the same shopping standards, and it works just fine. (though I will say I’m not entirely sure why you find it so stressful, but we’re all odd ducks really, so whatever)

  2. Beth (@bethaf)

    a. grocery shopping stresses me out immensely.

    b. I’m relieved to hear that my thinking is exactly the same as yours re: cheap/local/organic conundrums (conundras?). For me, I look at my grocery ethics as a journey. I know that I’m far from perfect, and frankly, sometimes the “best” option isn’t clear. But when I look at the past 5 years, I can see progress. And I trust I’ll keep heading on that trajectory. (In an ideal world, I live close to a trusted independent grocer and I simply shop at their store. I also make slightly more $ than I do now, so my food budget is slightly higher.)

    c. because I’m not married, I get away with being a bit more fluid in my meal planning and therefore shopping…if I wind up eating a dinner of cherry tomatoes and a bowl of cereal, who cares!? I don’t. And I’m the only one I’m feeding. HOWEVER if/when I get married, I may need to find better coping strategies than mere avoidance.

    • Amelia

      Wahoo! glad i’m not the only one ๐Ÿ™‚

      if i can ever convince you to move here, there’s an amazing new grocery store coming, the Mustard Seed.

      And you’re probably right, if I were single, I might not feel as much like I need to make actual meals. Although I’m sure hubs would be more than happy with frozen pizza for life….

      • Beth (@bethaf)

        I’ve heard of this grocery store! And I have a problem with wanting to live in multiple places at once… it’s unfortunately unfeasible. But feel free to plead your case for me to move your way in the spring ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Gayle

    I learned to love grocery shopping when it became my ‘me’ time away from the kids (who stayed at home with their dad, whom I would NEVER take grocery shopping if I had the choice!). I have a running list in my head, and I know pretty much what we are going to eat, although perhaps not the particular night we will eat it!

    I prefer organic, free trade goods as well, and less packaging is better. I am concerned about BPA in packaging and in canned goods, and don’t purchase as many of those.

    I stop for fresh greens (salads) every couple of days, and if I see a good deal, I stock up! And purchase in bulk (TP) and clip coupons!

    (PS – I love to shop, I hate to bring it home and put it away! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  4. matty schumplings

    I find grocery shopping/meal planning a challenge for different reasons, Amelia. When I was a student, I would make healthy meals that would last me the week . . . but that would mean eating chilli for an entire week. When Joash and I got married, I found this more difficult because he likes more variety. The great thing is, he likes to cook – but not always the most healthy. (A dinner for him is one plate of meat: no veggies, and no other healthy fibre). Additionally, he usually cooks one-offs, so we end up with little or no leftovers for lunch the next day.

    Now that we have a toddler, it’s even harder. Coram is SO picky, I can hardly get him to eat anything but fruit and hot dogs (yeah, I know it’s gross, but I do buy him the $6 ones with no chemical preservatives) So, the challenge now is planning meals that require at least 5 points of consideration: 1) a meal that will yield for plenty of leftovers; 2) meals that are tasty; 3) healthy; 4) affordable; 5) AND kid-friendly.

    I have tried to sit down to create a weekly/monthly meal plan, but I haven’t been able to stay on it due to the craziness of being pregnant and trying to cook with a frequently uncooperative toddler around. Sigh!

  5. Zhu

    I’m lucky to live within walking distance (1-2 km) to three supermarkets: Loblaws, Food Basic and Walmart. Great chance to exercise (walking to the stores) and I can’t buy too much since I have to carry groceries back home!

    I shop every other days for produce and once a week for large items. Works for us!

  6. melissa

    I use a weekly plan…I plan 6 dinners (Matt wings it on Sundays), write down the ingredients I need and then throw in stuff we usually always need for lunches and snack for three little boys. I tend to buy some of the more used stuff in bulk at Costco (so that can last a month or more -like quinoa and rice). I vary the meat and try to have one to two vegetarian meals a week.
    I do sometime have to make a run for extra milk or apples (my kids eat a lot of apples!).

    • melissa

      If forgot to say that I use a little white board divided into seven day and plan on there. Also, Matt always eats the leftovers for lunch, so I don’t get the option of having leftover dinners.

  7. American Punjaban

    I get pretty tense while grocery shopping too. While I’m not overwhelmed by choices anymore I remember what that was like. I used to read labels and all that stuff. Now I’m too tired to care lol. I get more stressed out now by the idiots that block whole aisles (sorry…I’m sort of stuck with Wal-Mart here and for some reason people tend to lose their mind and morals once they get within a mile of the parking lot) and cut in front of you as if the store is going to disappear if they don’t get to that aisle first, etc. I prefer to go alone. Other people in tow distract me and I can’t get in and out as fast as possible lol.

  8. Sarah S

    I LOVE grocery shopping. It is the one area in my life I feel I can splurge. I love fresh produce and cheese is probably my area of indulgence. We often have feta, goat, european gouda, cream cheese and old standby’s like cheddar and mozzarella in the fridge. I always go to the store with a list of items that I must buy–they are sale items or things we have run out of. I also stock pile a lot of food….meat (in the freezer), pasta, rice, broth, and some canned goods. I also can in the summer so have a stock pile of homemade items always available. I never meal plan. Unfortunatly I need to “feel” like certain foods to be able to eat them which means I need to have a lot of variety around for a last minute decision. I have often pulled out ground beef with intentions of making X for supper and get home and decide I don’t feel like it and land up making Y. I read labels and care about where my food comes from but I also have the opportunity to buy free range eggs and chicken from my parents. We eat little processed foods. I make my own bread and baked goods (I never buy cookies) and grow as much as I can in my city farm garden. I am still figuring out how to maxamize my food from there. Otherwise we love farmers markets although rarely go in the winter.

  9. Spops

    Hahaha I also recall you trying to convince me that your skill-set as a counselor would be beneficial for our inevitable PTSD, but you may need to first prove you will be able to handle the stress ๐Ÿ™‚ Varun on the other hand – carries the bulging bags and offers “free” therapy? He’s still invited to be a part of our plan! On another note, remember when we were 16 and loved going to grocery store without our moms? We could actually drive ourselves to buy food – how mature and grown up we were!

  10. Karen

    I love the planning. I want to pet your list… how pretty and organized.

  11. Lindsay

    Interesting!! We are so different, Amelia!
    I loooove grocery shopping. I love the freedom to choose what to eat each week. Honestly, this is a privilege! We have so much variety when it comes to food.

    The other fun part of it is feeling good about the things that I buy: (mostly) healthy, delicious, organic (when it’s important), fairtrade (certain items – coffee, chocolate, etc), local when it’s possible. If I’m not able to follow my rules for buying something organic/fairtrade/local, sometimes I still buy the item. I think it’s ok! If I buy it organic 100 times, and buy it non-organic once, it’s not the end of the world.

    I’m sorry that you find it so stressful! Give yourself some grace my friend!!

    Sometimes I plan meals, then shop with a list like you. Most of the time I don’t meal-plan… maybe that’s why I end up eating peanut butter sandwiches so often? ๐Ÿ˜›
    But seriously, I always have a variety of ingredients on hand, and even if I haven’t planned a meal, I can almost always throw something together with what’s in my pantry. (Pasta, a curry dish, tacos, etc.)

    Actually, lately I’m kind of enjoying the challenge of using what I have. Like the other night, I wanted to use up some black beans. I found a black bean taco recipe online, for which I had most of the ingredients (onion, green pepper, spices, cornmeal, salsa, black beans). I also had some tomatoes and lettuce, and the taco shells, and threw together a meal last minute. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. miranda

    We are so much alike, seriously,. Although I don’t find shopping too stressful. Although my algorithm is exactly like yours, I follow mine with my heart (ha!). What I find more stressful is meal planning (allergies). We go to the farmers market in the neighborhood on Friday & the grocery store on Tuesday.

    I’m lucky that my kids think of those things as fun outings. Cannon Coffee might have something to do with that.

    Also, splurge items: I allow myself one a week, and it varies greatly from Meyer’s Soap (as you know) to Camino Cocoa.

Thoughts? I love hearing from you!