By Jill Pertler
The Journal Express
---- — As chief dietary consultant and food preparation specialist in my domicile, I am responsible for the procurement of foodstuffs and other assorted provisions to ensure continuous familial sustenance within our humble abode.
In other words, I do the grocery shopping.
I’ve been at my post for decades, rising from the ranks of grocery greenhorn to that of food aficionado. They don’t give PhDs for grocery shopping proficiency, but if they did, I’d practically have my bachelor’s degree.
Years of experience have fostered finesse in the aisles – a necessity when one is attempting to traverse the narrow passageways on a Saturday afternoon. The space becomes a virtual obstacle course as responsible and competent shoppers are forced to dodge errant children, navigate around the free sample lady and make evasive maneuvers in order to steer clear of the cute newlywed couple arguing about crunchy or smooth in the peanut butter aisle.
The underlying problem stems from inexperience. Many of the cart-wielding folks loitering near the Hamburger Helper display are unfamiliar with the universal grocery aisle rules of etiquette. They are rookies intermingling with a league of professional shoppers, and they are holding things up.
Conquering the produce section and beyond can be a frustrating drain of one’s time and energy, so in hopes of helping everyone get home a little sooner on Saturday afternoons, I have put together five basic rules to help streamline the shopping process. Those of us who have been there, done that, understand it is important to be there, do this. So, please do.
1. Become one with the cart.
Your cart is nothing more than a large metal obstruction on wheels, capable of blocking access to produce and product, causing undue irritation to any and all super shoppers in your vicinity. Think of this steel box as an appendage of you, young grasshopper. When you separate from your cart – even for the briefest of moments – you double the space consumed within an aisle. Never abandon your cart, and by all means do not leave your cart on the right side of the aisle while you cross over to retrieve a box of macaroni and cheese on the left. This serves the purpose of blocking an entire aisle. Blocking the aisle is beyond a shopping faux pas – sort of like crossing over to Vader’s dark side, and we all know how that little reunion turned out.
2. Fly solo.
Be brave. You do not need a second opinion about which flavor of Ramen noodles to purchase or whether your toilet paper should be mega strong or mega soft. If shopping was meant to be a team sport, there would be more than one handle on the cart. Besides, it’s an undisputed fact that two people take up twice as much space in an aisle as a solo shopper and are more likely to commit the crime of aisle blockage. They also purchase significantly more product. Want to save money? Leave the family at home.
3. When you have no choice but to bring them…
If you have kids (and who doesn’t) there will be times when you are forced to include the little munchkins in your grocery pursuits. Whenever possible, physically restrain them. Most carts are even equipped with locking belts for this very purpose. A child who is unable to run in a zigzag pattern throughout the frozen foods section is 24 percent less likely to convince you into an unneeded ice cream purchase and 57 percent less likely to throw a temper tantrum in the candy aisle.
4. Don’t lollygag.
Shopping is not a passive sport. Pausing, stopping, daydreaming, dawdling or lingering in the cereal aisle is frowned upon by those of us trying to get the job done. This is not the time to plan tonight’s dinner or stop and wonder if you are out of pickles. Do the prep work pre-store – at home, where dawdling over a cup of coffee is not only tolerated, but sometimes even endorsed.
5. Do the parade wave.
It’s pleasant to run into familiar faces in the produce section, but let’s not take it to the extreme. Greet friends with a wink and a wave; catch up on family gossip with Great Aunt Tilly later at a funeral or other family gathering. This is not a brunch or happy hour. This is the grocery store. Shop now. Chitchat later. On the phone. On Facebook. At work. At a bar. Anywhere but in front of the chocolate milk, because we are out at my house and if you block my access I will be far away from my happy place.
Grocery shopping is unavoidable for those who find it necessary to eat. This includes most of the people I know. Since food is something we all need, why not enhance the acquisition experience by making it as brief as possible? Life is too short to spend it dawdling in the condiment aisle – even if you really, truly love ketchup.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” You can read more columns at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.