The basket from … (Darlena Cunha)

I have been grocery shopping all wrong. I know all you savvy shoppers will be rolling your eyes at this, but I found out the other week that I make every rookie mistake in the buying-your-food book.

First of all, and this one I knew was wrong, I put my bananas and my eggs in the bottom of my cart. Why would anyone do such a stupid thing, you might ask. In my case, it’s because I go through the grocery store in one way only, and the bread is all the way across the store. So I had to choose at the beginning which delicate food items had to fend for themselves. Each time I go in, I play a game called “if you aren’t tough enough to make it out of the grocery store unscathed, screw you, delicates.” And hem and haw as one might, the eggs and bananas have never succumbed to the pressures of gravity or smooshitude. I don’t know how. Maybe my cart is magic.

Anyway, I was informed that the little basket up front is for those items. I never use that basket for anything that’s not in a sealed container though. Do you know why? Baby butts, that’s why. I really don’t fancy yesterday’s poo-splosion on my fruit, if you know what I mean. Then I was informed that stores have sanitary wipes these days. So, I suppose I’ll consider scouting those out and using the basket from now on. Maybe.

My second problem was my meats. I don’t put them in bags. I’m told because of this I’m one of the reasons grocery stores have started carrying sanitary wipes. I get it. I mean who wants raw meat juice up in their marshmallows? On the other hand, it’s not like there are magic meat bags just hanging out in the butcher section. There are no bags there at all. I was informed that I could ask for a bag, or walk the horrid eight feet to the produce section and use those. It makes sense; I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense. I just had never thought of it before. My whole life I’ve seen the meats, which are already wrapped in five layers of plastic sheeting, tossed carelessly into the shopping carriage (I grew up in New England) wherever they may land. It should be safe. It is wrapped after all. But why take a chance on should? And I have to admit, I’ve had more than one package of pork chops leak gross raw meat juice in my fridge. So, bags it is.

The third problem is how much I buy. My cart, every week, is packed to the brim. I have a freezer stocked full of food we’ve yet to eat, and full cabinets, and a retooled hutch in the garage I use as a pantry. It is also full. Why so much food? Honestly, it’s a throw back from when we couldn’t really afford anything.

[Related: This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps]

If I have the budget one week to afford extra potatoes, 2-for-1 frozen broccoli and shelf-stable cookies that are on sale, I will buy those things, whether or not they are on the list. Who knows when we’ll need them? Better safe than sorry. During times when we are on a tighter budget, I found the list really helps me. I make it throughout the week as we run out of items, and if I stick religiously to only what is on the list, I can cut my grocery spending in half. Step away from the buy two get one free potato chips that no one in the family needs.

Fourth, and a grievous sin as far as many of my friends are concerned, I do not use coupons. This, I’m sure, costs me a lot of money. The cashiers ask when they tally up my total if I have any of these glorious scraps of paper that are basically like grocery VIP. I never do. Each time I feel foolish about it. How lazy do you have to be not to look up coupons for stuff you need? However lazy it is, that;s how lazy I am because I just can’t ever find time to do it.

I’m sure, looking at my lopsided, Tetris-fail cart, you’ll be able to find a host of other errors I’m making. For now, though, I pledge to stick to the list, use the front basket, put my meat in magic, germless meat bags that I find in produce, and attempt to at least do a cursory search in the store flier for coupons.
Grocery shopping. How hard can it be?

Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer. She blogs at Parentwin and can be reached on Twitter @parentwin.

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