Unfortunately, to survive, we need food and drink, and unless you have a massive garden where you can grow all your favourite food, then you have to go to the supermarket for food. Of course, you could go to your local store or food market, but people there are notorious for being chatty. Generally, in a supermarket, you can be anonymous.
That doesn’t mean that as you trek your way through the aisles that your patience will not be tested. The reason for that is the same reason why your patience is tested every other day of the year – other people.
To avoid people you could choose to visit your local 24-hour supermarket in the middle of the night. However, that’s when you find your route is often blocked by restocking staff, and you’re in the presence of potential serial killers. So, you have to weigh up the pros and cons.
The only reasonable alternative is buying your weekly shop online. However, as you’ll discover later on, this isn’t without its issues either.
So seeing as there is no way of avoiding it, here’s my guide to food shopping…
In concept, trolleys are a great idea. You can choose half a ton of food, transport it around the shop and eventually to your car, without any real sweat. Except, in reality, you often have to find a £1 coin before collecting a trolley which has four wheels all trying to travel in different directions. You often start to wonder that it would be easier to just pick the trolley up.
But if there is one thing more annoying than your trolley, it’s the trolleys of other people.
They’re abandoned everywhere. These are in front of the item you’re wanting to reach or just left in the middle of an aisle. And when the shop is busy, bottlenecking in the meat aisle can quickly lead to tailbacks past the bakery.
And I’m not being dramatic. People generally do just abandon their trolley. You can tell the difference between a parked car and an abandoned car by the angle. If it’s parallel to the curb, it’s parked. If it’s at a 45° angle, then it’s abandoned. And those same rules apply to supermarket trolleys.
It takes less than a second to park a trolley, yet people just forget about their trolley to look at the yoghurts.
Food shopping is boring. It’s a fact. As adults, we’d rather being something else, so in their defence, children must find it deadly boring. URHG!
BUT, that’s no excuse. I find it boring, but I don’t walk around crying, whine about being hungry, or just run around the aisles making racing car noises. I have to behave myself regardless of what everyone else is doing.
I’m not suggesting that children should be seen and not heard because when they’re making no noise, it’s usually because they’re investigating their nose. And no-one wants to see a soggy boggy drooling into a child’s mouth when you’re trying to decide your meals for the week.
Seeing a mum or dad drag three children around a supermarket by themselves feels me with sympathy, but again, that’s no excuse either…
The biggest problem is that the supermarket is full of people. Different types of people. Some are considerate and lovely people. Others are arrogant with places to be. Some are so large they block the chocolate aisle. Many are ditherers who can’t decide between Cathedral City, Pilgrim’s Choice or own-brand cheese. And others are just so slow; the sort of people you don’t want to be driving down a busy and narrow A-road behind.
Customers are everywhere with their smells, loud voices, big bags, lack of space perception, and general obnoxiousness. They’re even at the tills when you’ve decided you’ve had enough and want to just leave.
So, you pick a queue for the till, which even though is the shortest seems to take the longest, and load up your purchases waiting for it be your turn.
Sometimes, the checkout staff are perfect. No desire to make small chat, just getting on with the job at hand. My kind of person, and the sort of person I tried to be in my days of working in a shop. I would never start a friendly conversation, but I’d willingly have a friendly interaction if the customer began one.
However, there is the other type of checkout staff who are just too friendly. They ask about your day, what you’re doing in the evening, how is the weather outside, and commenting on your purchases. “Oh, this looks good”. “I know, that’s why I’m buying it”.
When the exchange of conversation and money is complete, and it’s time to finally retreat, I’m never sure what to say. Is it fair to say “Have a good day” when you know they’ll be working for the rest of it?
The only saving grace is the self-service checkout, whether it’s scanning items as you go around the shop, or scanning yourself at the end. This cuts one of the necessary exchanged with another human, and potentially means you could do a shop without needing to talk to anyone else or even look at someone’s face… Unless, of course, the machine you’re using screams for assistance like they do every single time.
Ordering Food Shopping Online
The other alternative is to have your shopping delivered. This allows you to put items in the virtual shopping trolley from your sofa. This is less time consuming, stops your blood pressure rising too high, and allows you check the cupboards.
But, when it comes to delivery, it means you have to let a stranger into your home who seems to always have muddy boots. In a one-on-one situation, awkwardness raises, and you have to resort to your best workman chatter, such as “Been busy?” and “When do you finish?” Luckily, it’s over quickly, but you’re often left without your favourite food anyway.
We once had a note saying that ‘No suitable alternative could be found’ for a pack of eight sausages. This must only mean they were completely sold out of sausages, which is very hard to believe.
The Misanthrope’s Advice
Unfortunately, I don’t have the magical answer to your queries. If you need to buy food then you’re going to have to deal with people on some level. The only advice I can offer, which works for me, is to complete the food shopping online and have it delivered when you’re not at home so your partner is always the one dealing with it.
From my perspective, I choose the food and the next day it magically appears in our cupboards, fridge and freezer. It’s also my secret for relationship bliss as, from her perspective at least, it prevents her having to cope with fewer bad moods.