Monday, March 3, 2014

The Grocery Store aka "The List"

LUCY BURDETTE:  I do realize that this is what we call a "first-world problem" but that said, here it is. When we are in Connecticut, John doesn't go to the grocery store. (I tease him about whether he needs directions on the few occasions that he does go.) I like to take my time (except for the deli counter--I loathe the deli counter), choose the right kind of milk, and cheese, and produce--oh, and cereal. Even if I gave him a list, I could never be sure what might come back in those bags.

But in Key West, there is a lot of construction and hordes of tourists carrying beers and pedicabs and conch tour trains between us and the store. It's not a fun drive. And then we live in a third floor apartment, which involves schlepping and lugging. So we go together, sometimes only every two or three weeks. But John has mentioned that he thinks I'm controlling in the supermarket. (Moi? Controlling?) He complains that I dole out one item at a time for him to shop for.

John with his list
Finally, it occurred to me that we needed individual lists. A breakthrough! Life-changing, says John, this could save our marriage.

So who shops in your family?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Hilariously,this is one of the things we always do together. We actually have fun, and it never takes too long. I get to say "What would you like for dinner" and Jonathan gets to say "You decide" and I get to say "I ALWAYS decide" and it goes on like that.  

The key is to--pssssst--send him away on a mission. "Go get some light bulbs,, okay?" I say. Then he's gone forever. Seriously, we have a good time and it's not a chore.

LUCY: Hmmm, Jonathan must be more pliable than my John, Hank. It was the sending him off on a one-item mission that started this lament:).

HALLIE EPHRON: My husband shops for groceries when I'm sick. And then only out of guilt. I also hog the kitchen.

If he comes to the store with me, it's because he's beside himself with boredom. He always disappears into something like the exotic foods section and emerges with something like a six-pack of something like guava juice. Or wander off into the natural foods and emerge with some new kind of granola.

Also I like to do my meal planning on the hoof -- I wander around waiting for ingredients to 'speak to me.' After ten minutes he's lost interest and is waiting in the car. (Never shop a sale at Macy's with the man.)

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Fresh Direct (the online grocery delivery service, see became available right around the time my son was born in 2005 and has been a lifesaver, especially for us in NYC without a car. I sort of feel like Joan Jetson, using my computer to shop, but overall, the experience has been a good one. (Around the same time, our local supermarket started to charge for previously free delivery — so it seemed like a good deal, as well.) Of course, I still like to get my fresh fruits and veggies at the farmers' market!

RHYS BOWEN: Never shop a sale at Macy's with a man--so true, Hallie. Did it last week. He sat by the entrance and pouted. And checked his watch. But he loves to grocery shop. When he first retired he'd study the specials for the week, drive all over town to find the best produce and bring it home in triumph like a cave man lugging in a mammoth. He'd put it all on the kitchen table. "Guess how much?" he'd say. In my head I'd calculated 59$ but I'd say $75. "Wrong!" he'd exclaim in triumph. "Only $59".
Hey, if I haven't learned to outsmart a man by now, what have I learned? So now he does all the grocery shopping and it's bliss.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rick only goes to the grocery store if I am sick, crippled, or out of town. (I shudder to think what he buys--and eats--when I'm not here. In fact, I try not to think about it at all...) Well, that's not quite fair. He will go get ice, or a bagged salad, or dog food is specifically requested. But he wants a bar code for each item so that he can put it in his phone. He doesn't understand why I don't want a bar-coded list in MY phone. (I use a small spiral notebook, and make very organized shopping lists.) But I KNOW what brand of pasta sauce or salad dressing and I don't need a BAR CODE!

Did I hear someone out there say I was controlling????

LUCY: Okay Reds, we've told you all our secrets now, so your turn to dish: who shops in your house?

And tomorrow--big drum roll--Rhy's new book will be out and she's telling us all about it and giving away a copy! Come back and bring your friends!


  1. We shop together . . . John always takes me so I don’t have to drive. When we get to the store, I fill up the cart that he pushes. I never seem to get very far with “What would you like to eat?” questions, so I end up picking out most of the things we buy . . . but I know what he likes, so it all works out. If cold cereal is on the list, though, he picks whatever it is that he wants to eat because I never, ever, ever touch the stuff . . . .

  2. Well, we both currently shop, but in the best possible way, in different states. My husband's job requires him to live in another state, and he quite enjoys grocery shopping and telling me what he fixes. I, in turn, grocery shop for myself without any interference from my know-what-you-want-before-you-go-in-and-don't-linger husband. Yes, I definitely am controlling, but I want the option of looking at items not on a list or that appeal to me unexpectedly. Is that so wrong? LOL! About the only time we grocery shop together when he is home is when we stop on the way back from somewhere else and he stays in the car while I run in. The together part comes in when I'm taking too long, and he commences a search and rescue mission. You would think the man would learn after 30 some years that when I say I'm going in after 2 or 3 items that I'm lying to him. Oh, and as far as sending him to the grocery for something. Forget it. I have written down exactly what I want or need, and he still deviates from it. Last time it was cream of mushroom soup. I wrote down Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, and he returned with Campbell's Roasted Garlic Cream of Mushroom Soup. I didn't say anything, as it was really my fault for not warning him about the different varieties of cream of mushroom soup he would encounter. So, I admire those of you who grocery shop with your significant other and enjoy it. Maybe someday I'll be able to do it, but I'm not betting on it. I do wonder what will happen when he retires and we both live in the same house again. As it is now, when he is home, he leaves it up to me, but he might want to exert his own expertise in a permanent situation. Oh, my.

  3. I'm single, so I pretty much shop by myself.

    How's that for a boring answer?

  4. Oh too bad about the cereal Joan--but John would agree completely!

    Kathy, sounds like you need barcodes for your hub, like Debs!

    Mark, do you give yourself any trouble in the store???

  5. I do all the shopping. I even signed up for Amazon Fresh, and my husband couldn't manage to shop online. Even when I'm out of town, he doesn't shop (there's some story about the bossy checkout women who tyrannize him over his lack of a club card).

    However, he does most of the cooking, so I can live with it.

  6. So funny.

    My husband is fully capable of shopping, as long as I don't need something unusual. He eats cold cereal and I don't (too much cleaning of mushed-up Cheerios from high chair trays in my life), so he shops for his own. Unless I'm forced to it. The cereal aisle is bewildering! I detest trying to choose from all that variety.

    He's much better at choosing meat than I am, I have to say. And since he spends more time at our farm (an hour away) than I do, he often stops at a grocery store on the way. I never know what will be in the fridge down there when I go.

  7. In our house, I do most of the cooking (my husband's repertoire included canned soup, hot dogs, scrambled eggs)but he LOVES to shop. It is all about the sales. As a result, I have stockpiles of tp, paper towels, olive oil, bottled water, laundry detergent.
    He goes to the store several times a week, but almost never buys vegetable or any fruit other than bananas (for his cheerios).
    We are such a mismatch when it comes to food!
    I go to the small market and buy produce to go with the meat he gets.
    He is away, and I am living on baby bok choy and sweet potatoes and dates.

  8. Denise Ann, that is quite a diet!

    When I am out of town, Jonathan just will NOT go to the grocery. He eats whatever is in the house. He says his specialty is expired pasta.

    I got to meet Noel and Mattie in Orlando! CUTEST morst adorable family ever... I was on a panel iwth Susan, and My favorite part was how their faces lit up with joy when they walked into the room and saw Susan sitting there. Sheer delight and pride.

  9. When I was still working (have I mentioned how much I love being a retired person?), Donald and I rode to work together,so we would stop at the grocery store on our way home and shop together.

    Now though, I do the shopping, and it's usually right after I leave the gym seeing as how the grocery store is right next door to my gym. And I hate it. Grocery shopping to me is just not fun.

    When Donald does do the shopping (I'm sick - near death at the very least) he comes home with ice cream, cookies (LOTS of cookies), donuts - like that. And I help him eat up every bit of it.

  10. Kathy, I am HOWLING with laughter about the different mushroom soups. The bafflement on their faces..!

  11. For years, Mr. Right's been working twice a week in our town and twice a week in another town across the valley, so it made sense for him to make the occasional Costco shopping trips, while I did most of the weekly shopping in our town. LOVED that arrangement -- although as one of you said, very list dependent! He is this week consolidating into one clinic -- in our home -- so change is coming!

    A few times a year, we will shop together for a special meal or event, and it's fun. But we're both focused on the holiday brunch, or beouf bourgignon, or whatever, and choosing the beef and the right wine is a fun part of the whole experience.

  12. Two words for couples with shopping dysfunction: Cell phones.

    They are a godsend for figuring out which brand/variety/whatever the other spouse meant/needs/wants.

  13. Karen in Ohio: Cell phones, YES! Also a godsend when you're trying to find each other. I hate it that my local supermarket is now the size of Rhode Island.

  14. oh yes, losing one another is definitely a problem. John accuses me of hiding the cart.

    This happens more it should: I am searching for him, walking perpendicular to the aisles. I see him at the other end, looking for me, walking parallel, an intense look on his face, searching for me, but he doesn't look right down the aisle...I'm running to the next aisle and the next...a cell phone would be so handy. If we had bars in the Publix:)

  15. Karen, with you on the huge supermarkets. We have new store here in McKinney, WinCo. It's like a super-sized version of CostCo merged with the biggest supermarket I've ever seen. I tried it for the first time on Saturday night when everyone was shopping for the Sunday ice storm. Not smart! I will say they have a fantastic produce section, and more bulk foods than I've ever seen. Otherwise, overwhelming. I tend to go into panic mode.

  16. Rhys, if you go shopping at Nordstrom's, they have piano and nice chairs so your husband can listen to music while you shop :-)

    Susan, I wondered which is easier with a new baby? shopping at farmer's market or shopping at a small grocery store or a big chain grocery store?

    Interesting to read about different shopping styles. For me, I prefer to shop where the visuality is the best like if there are mirrors overhead so you see if there are other shoppers coming around from the next aisle.


  17. Shopping together is fun but takes a really long time, since my husband acts as if it's his first visit to a grocery store and it's the most fascinating place he's ever seen - every time. "I've never seen THAT before."

    Before his health made it impractical he used to do most of the grocery shopping. I gave him a typed list, roughly arranged the way the store is arranged and with brands/sizes if necessary (ok, yes, controlling), but had to amend the list to add a line on top: 'If you can't find it, a substitute or skipping it altogether is fine' when I realized he would stay there all day looking for the exact thing he thought I wanted and that he would not be THAT guy who would call home from the grocery store.

    Would have thought after 45 years he would have noticed what is usually in the pantry . . . guess not. But he is happy with anything I prepare.

    Kaye - I am 4 days from retirement. Almost giddy with anticipation. I just shake my head at people who ask "Won't you be bored?"

  18. I recognize by the aisle signs that you shop in Publix while in Key West. I keep a scribble list on the fridge for stuff I run out of, check the weekly ad (on-line now) and transfer my items to a basic list I keep on Excel in store aisle order.

  19. Getting my own shopping list definitely saved our marriage. What a sense of liberation!

    The old Miller Lite commercial pretty well sums up the male attitude towards shopping. It is the one where the guy ducks under a clothing display only to find other guys in there drinking Miller Lite while waiting for the gals to finish shopping. Ah, the relief!

  20. Grandma Cootie - You will love it! My advice to people who get bored? "Well, DO something!"

  21. My husband shops and I avoid it at all costs. Supermarkets make me catatonic and he likes to take his time. I was the one ending up waiting in the car, until I gave it up all together.

    My father used to say that he didn't shop, but he "picked up things," which seemed to imply a list with ten items or less.

  22. Any guy that still goes shopping with his wife deserves whatever he gets. Ever heard of masochism, dude?

  23. Grandma Cootie--congratulations! More time for reading!

    Jack, careful there, that dude is my husband:). Just duck under the tarp and he'll give you a beer...

  24. I hate shopping and would be glad to pay someone to do it for me!! When I was recuperating from surgery, a couple of friends did the shopping for me. They were always worried if they couldn't find something on the list. I'm pretty relaxed about that, though: if you can't find it, then just cross it off! Don't spend time looking for a replacement. I sure don't do that!I just want to get out of the place!

  25. My husband started doing all the grocery shopping when our kids were small (he would take them with him). Now, either he does it or our HS senior goes. He still enjoys it, but doesn't understand that when you put something specific on the list (eg, Blue Bell ice cream), if you can't find it, don't get a substitute (the brand is on the list for a reason). This has been annoying our daughter, so she does most of the shopping. I pick up the occasional item (and get teased about remembering what a grocery is) and an occasional Sams Club run. Bill sometimes complains because our list is in no order, so he ends up criss crossing the store. And, he does not care whether or not something is organic, which is important to both my daughter and me. I'm not looking forward to next year, with an empty nest!

  26. I gave up major grocery shopping years ago because my husband is the food-control freak in our house. When I used to venture out and bring home suspicious bags, he'd be on to them like a hawk? "We already have this." (yeah, but it expired three years ago, I want to say). "You paid full price for that!" (I'm too lazy, he infers, to go to three stores to do the shopping.) "That has too much salt in it." (oh, goodness, this is hard). So if and when we happen to be in the same car and we happen to be "shopping," I take out my book and sit in the car reading until he has it all under, ummm, control. I will confess, but just to you guys, that I sometimes sneak into a grocery store and sneak special items into our house. I have a small kitchen next to my office and that's where I store my goodies.

  27. I have to say that I love to grocery shop. But hate super big stores. Love small markets. Farmer's markets. Love browsing, seeing what's new, what might spark a new idea. Love to read food magazines for new recipes, then go grocery shopping--making substitutions if I can't find exactly what's called for--it's an adventure. But I organize my list, so even with browsing, I can get in and out fairly quickly--unless, like Deborah, you end up at the store when everyone is in panic mode--weather, holidays, etc.

  28. Steve shops between the times I shop. He always brings home bags of junk and only a few things I had on the list. He gets sidetracked by tortilla chips on his way to chicken. Then he gets caught by Häagen-Dazs on his way to the fresh carrots. I can't send him to the deli counter. There is no room to discuss that here.

    Lucy, I hate the deli counter, too. I'm not sure why. I suspect I feel rushed and spend too much money there on food I don't want. And I often don't know what I am buying—no labels. Steve digs in. "Yes! I would like three kinds of fried chicken stew with plantain peanut butter fritters on deep-fried chocolate white bread!" Later at home, "It was on sale for $67 a pound!"

    I have Safeway deliver when it's my turn. I started doing that after our neighbors were shot and killed there. By the time I was ready to go back I realized I'd been saving a lot of money and avoiding a lot of junk by selecting my groceries online. Once in a while I shop in person. It's good to see the people who still work there. I want to support them more, but for now this is working very well for me.