You know what is really difficult? Going grocery shopping for other people. It takes a mind reader to be successful. I don’t care what your disposition is, or how much of a go-with-the-flow sort of person you might be; chances are good that someone else picking your produce will end badly. Unless you are married, you probably have to do all of your grocery shopping yourself. Going halvsies with roommates never ends well. In college, my roommate and I split the
Diet Coke bill (and the Captain Morgan Parrot Bay that we mixed with the Diet Coke, but that is another story). Things were going along swimmingly until she decided to go all cheap on me- which was ridiculous because her parents gave her as much money as she wanted, whenever she wanted it. She came home one day with a case of DIET PEPSI, WHICH IS NOT THE SAME. NOT EVEN CLOSE. (At restaurants, if the server brings me a Diet Pepsi instead of a Diet Coke, I will send it back. Water is always a better choice than that poisonous brew.) She claimed that it was on sale, and that is was the same thing. I took to hiding cases of real Diet Coke under my bed. Yes, it was warm, but it was ‘The Real Thing’ so it didn’t matter!
Many husbands are sent out, armed with lists, to the grocery store. The list, however, does not stop the sixteen phone calls home with questions like “Where is bread?” and “Do we get the kind with the red label or the blue label?” Many a wife wonders what causes such amnesia as the items her husband is calling about are the same items he sees- and has seen- everyday at home for the last ten years.
I would describe myself as discriminating. My husband would possibly use words like fussy, picky, intolerant, and
difficult. (He would be WRONG.) However, I will concede the point that I like what I like, and that I do not do well with substitutions. This makes every shopping trip he embarks on an adventure for him. To his great credit, he does a great job. To my great credit, it is because I set him up for success. For example, say we need deli turkey. When I go to the store, I will write ‘turkey’ on the list. When Thomas goes to the store, I will write ‘Oscar Mayer shaved turkey (Plain. Not smoked, Cajun, or honey.) It comes in a yellow package and is in the deli meat section by the cheese.’ And, with these detailed directions, he does deliver every time. (Here is a hysterical account of why the male brain doesn’t ‘do’ grocery stores.)
The idea for this post came from a conversation I had with my sister Laura. We just spent a long weekend with my family in St Louis. My mother is a wonderful hostess- whom I emulate whenever I have guests- and she always asks for a grocery list prior to our arrival. She is amazing- she searches down every request, particularly when her favorite granddaughter is involved! But, we had several rather tense conversations while she was shopping; the most heated being about bread. My family eats Sara Lee Delightful bread (preferably in Multigrain or 100% Whole Wheat). It used to be called Sara Lee LIGHT and Delightful bread, so that is what I wrote down on my list for my mother. She called in a panic because she could only find SL Delightful bread. Things got a little combative because I just KNEW what the bread was called, and that she was going to try to pass something else off on me. My mother was insistent that she was correct about the name as she was staring at the label and that was what she going to buy. Well, I, being who I am (wonderful, perfect, and a role model) put my foot down! If the bread wasn’t exactly right, I would find something else to eat! I was not going to settle for second best bread! Fine, my mother said. She was off to search for my tortillas. (Super yummy- La Banderita Xtreme Fiber Tortillas!) She was totally vindicated when I visited my grocery later that day and saw the label- SL Delightful bread… I had to ‘eat my words’ on that one.
Last night, we needed iceberg lettuce for salads for dinner. My wonderful husband volunteered to go. (I suspect this might have been a desire to escape the past-dinner-time-toddler-meltdown, but at least I didn’t have to go.) I did not have time to write detailed instructions as I was attempting to head off a meltdown, so I just sent him. A few minutes later, I received a text picture of cabbage with the message “is this right”. Thank God for picture messaging! I was able to talk him through the produce department, and he was ultimately successful.
What I have learned through eight years of sending my husband to the grocery store isn’t rocket science- don’t be afraid to overly explain a grocery list. I have found it is almost impossible to give too many details. Use positive reinforcement- it is a tedious, thankless job after all. And, lastly, remember patience with the shopper, after all, you yourself didn’t have to go to the store. For the shoppers- don’t be afraid to call. Yes, you might sound stupid but sounding stupid is better than making another trip! Best of luck to all the pinch-hitting shoppers out there!