Monday, December 03, 2012

An Engineer's Guide to the Grocery Store

Here's the method of grocery shopping which I learned from my parents:

If there was something we were out of, something we needed or wanted, one of them would say (sometimes with a tinge of impatience) "Put it on the list!" There was always a grocery list, and it was usually posted, quite logically, on the refrigerator door.

We were also encouraged to make note of the item desired by adding it to more or less the right part of the list, which was composed in "grocery store order." You see, as long as the produce items were listed before dairy and meat, or frozen foods before bread, the shopper can proceed through the store in a smooth and orderly way.

And of course, one would never want to show up at Thriftway without the shopping list in hand. Certainly, you wouldn't just drop in because you were hungry!

Hubs laughed when I tried to explain this system to him. Can you imagine? "Sounds like something a couple of engineers would come up with!" he said.

OK, yes, I do come from a family of engineers and mathematicians. Maybe that's where I get my skills in research, copy-editing, fact checking, code-cracking and puzzle-solving. Not that I always use those skills, but I can pull them out when needed.

There's a strong streak of creativity in my family, too. Sometimes we do make things up as we go. And by nature I think I'm less systematic than some of my kin. That is to say, I like to develop systems and processes, but I constantly tweak them and sometimes mix things up just for fun.

You know, go into the grocery store and turn right instead of left. Do my shopping clockwise one week, and counter-clockwise the next!

Q: Do you shop more systematically or more impulsively?


Megan Noel said...

most grocery stores i shop at put the produce last.. or what will be last if you start by going right, which our culture has taught us to do. safeway is an exception. anyway something i read recently suggested going left when you come in rather than right. if you hit the produce 1st you are more likely to buy more and fill up your cart or basket on healthy foods.

Marti said...

The funny thing is, even after shopping primarily at Safeway, ocassionally at Target, for more than 15 years, the move to Eugene has dimmed my memory of what is "normal" - to the point I wasn't sure how to describe it in this post. Now I go back and forth between four different stores from one week to another, and none of them generally have all I want at the prices I expect (or in the same places). So it's getting harder to make my list.

shantjoy2 said...

This is the only way that makes sense to me.
And I think you are supposed to end in frozen foods so your product doesn't thaw.

If you have a smartphone, Grocery IQ is an amazing way to keep a list by store & it sorts according to category (produce, dairy, frozen) automatically.

Marti said...

Yes, it does make complete sense. I like what you say about ending in frozen food. I don't use a smart phone but I bet there are some good apps for this sort of thing!