Monday, August 17, 2009

Zen in the Supermarket

I’m being serious! I stroll the aisles, like an afternoon at an empty shoreline, searching the market for my favorite eats and delicious veggies. Pungent cheeses, ripe tomatoes, savory whole grains, I could spend an entire day lost in shopper mode. Grocery shopping mode. So many dread it, treat it like a chore, a hassle. But the thought of an hour at Wegman’s excites me! I tune on my iPod and wander. I. Love. It. When I travel, I seek out new grocery stores, looking for local goods that I can’t buy at home. Even in New Jersey. Something is wrong with me, I know.

I’ve been in love with grocery shopping since the minute I could drive. My mother didn’t love it. A busy woman with a demanding career and four kids, how could she? There was never enough time. Instead, when I was old enough to venture out on my own, she sent me. She would jot down a few essentials, give me a fistful of cash or her credit card, and send me on my way. Freedom! For an introspective 16 year old, those liberating jaunts to the grocery store were my zen. I would take hours, to the point where my mother would ask where I really spent my time. I’m still not sure if she believed me when I told her the grocery store was my only destination. Sure, there were so many places for me to get in trouble, oh and I did, but not when I had a chance to go to the grocery store. I could pick out meals for the entire family. Freedom and POWER! Woo! What a rush! My love of grocery shopping is deep, everlasting.

Nowadays, though YIKES! Mom’s don’t have an endless supply of hours to roam the store. And really, there are so many other things that need to be taken care of in the course of the day. I can see why people think grocery shopping is such a chore. So, I thought I would share some of my methods to keep the zen in the supermarket. They may seem simple or basic, but here goes!

1. Make a list. I know, right? But, there have been times when I go to the store with a mental list and it’s just not the same. I forget the cheese or leave the pasta, and when I get home my stress level climbs because I realize I don’t have what it takes to make meals. Irritating! And I’m not just talking any kind of list. You don’t have to be as ridiculous as me (or my sister *coughlaurencough*) but I make 2 lists. First, I sit down with my favorite cookbooks the night before I shop and after Finn is in bed. Putting post-it notes on the recipes I plan to use for the week, I write down everything I’m going to need for each recipe. That list ends up on my fridge or in the front of the cookbook. Then, I make another list that separates everything into categories: produce, dairy, meats, bulk, frozen, grocery, and miscellaneous. This way, as I’m taking my leisurely stroll through the aisles, I’ll be sure to remember everything in that section and not have to double back to grab the peanut butter after I already passed by on my way to granola. I also make sure to put an * next to any items that might have coupons. Memory aids, good they are. I also keep a note pad attached to the fridge for staples that run out. So, be sure to consult that list before compiling your master list. Wow, my routine sounds so rigid now that I’ve tossed it into the blogosphere, but it really works for me!

2. Stock up. I don’t mean canned goods! Before I go, I grab my reusable bags, a bottle of water, and something to eat. I always, ALWAYS get hungry when I’m shopping. If I bring a cheese stick, granola bar, or piece of fruit, I’m less likely to buy 12 boxes of Oreos (and less likely to eat 6 of said boxes during my stroll.)

3. Fly solo and early. It’s the only thing I insist on being able to do on my own. Grocery stores are quieter in the early hours of the day, say between 7-10 am. That’s my aim. I love going on Monday mornings because everything is freshly stocked at my store on Sunday. There’s a better chance to cut down on return trips and less frustration. Besides, how can one attain a zen-like experience when fighting over the last head of edible red leaf?

4. Pack your bags. At this point, I’m sounding like a total control freak. But, if you know where stuff is, you’re going to have an easier time unpacking it. I put all the refrigerated items together, all the frozen stuff in the same bag, and all the produce is carefully tucked in so that I know my lettuce isn’t wilting and my nectarines aren’t turning to pulp under the weight of Yukon golds. Another benefit to packing your own bags? You know how heavy is too heavy, Teenster McStuffyourbags doesn’t.

5. Take a trip. Plan at least one meal that you haven’t tried yet, something foreign or exciting. Take your time when perusing the ethnic food section of the store and see what catches your eye. Try something new and allow yourself to experiment. On food. Sure, your family may turn up their noses, but give it a shot! Be bold! Be daring! Be brave! Get excited about new foods.

Enjoy your next trip to my Mecca and let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading,



Janna Qualman said...

If I can go on my own, I enjoy it, too. The process of browsing and taking my time, really thinking about what I'm doing, can be therapeutic. Right on!

Nadine said...

Wow, I am impressed! You are so organized!

We only ever shop at Coscto and Walmart - it's the only way we can afford to live on the island. The groceries here are VERY expensive.

But I do miss perusing down the aisles of a regular grocery story. There is just something inspiring about it.

Melanie Avila said...

I've always liked grocery shopping too. When Ibis comes along I have to remember to hurry up or he gets really bored. Or I lose him, lol.

Sara Spock said...

Janna, I don't mind taking Finn when I have to pick up a few things. But I love to browse and he'd go all Ibis on me and wander off if I took too long ;-) LOL.

Nadine, I remember that about my only visit to Hawaii, a million years ago. My uncle made the most amazing Thai oyster stew. He said he rarely made it because the milk was so expensive!

Mel, what do you think about shopping in Mexico? I know there are things you can't get (pickles!) but are there really cool things you'll miss?

Melanie Avila said...

ROFL, "go all Ibis on me." So true.

We have a couple regular grocery stores here so it's not much different from home. I do find it amusing that we have an entire aisle of oil, rice & beans, then another of almost all peppers.

The market is where some of the stranger things are. I will never get used to seeing half a cow on the concrete floor.