Diary of a Marriage: To Market, To Market

How to grocery shop like a man.

Photo by Noel Hendrickson, courtesy of ThinkStock.com.

It’s well-known fact that I’m forbidden to accompany J. on his weekly grocery shopping trips. He swears that, alone, he can do it “in half the time and with half the money.”

Though I balked when he first said this, he’s probably right, and truthfully, I’ve no desire to steer an unwieldy cart down crammed, narrow aisles. In our marriage, it’s shaken out to this: J. is in charge of the edibles, and I reign over wearables. (I much prefer laundry to cooking.) Plus, I think J. actually enjoys his food shopping trips. In true, uber-competitive guy fashion, he’s made them timed personal competitions, after which he returns home victorious—arms raised in glory as he proclaims his time a “world record”—or downcast, blaming a lady with a stroller for blocking aisle six, or grumbling about the guy in the express checkout line who had more than 15 items. J.’s record for a “short run” (just the essentials) is 13 minutes. For a “long run” (a complete cupboard stock-up), it’s 19. For J., grocery shopping isn’t just a weekly errand. It’s an event.

J. has grocery shopping down to a science. He knows the aisles like the back of his hand, and he can weave through them with ease, maneuvering his cart through knots of people and zoning in with laser-like vision on just the necessities. He remains undistracted by colorful packaging and marketing ploys. He bears his little plastic “Value Card” key fob like a badge of honor (“You just swipe it, and instantly, it’s $11 off your bill!” he says). Grocery shopping is an art, J. says, and he’s mastered it.

He’s in good company. Each week, J. shares his grocery shopping expedition with scores of moms, kids in tow driving those little plastic cars, and middle-aged men blankly staring at their shopping lists.

“They’re trying to help out their wives, but they look lost,” J. explains to me matter-of-factly when I ask him about these men. He looks thoughtful, and then offers a nugget of wisdom: “It’s like dribbling a basketball. You don’t look down when you dribble; you look ahead. So you can’t constantly stare down at your list. You need to look around.” Then he says conspiratorially, “Well, all you really need to do is read, because the signs tell you what’s in each aisle. Don’t wander. Read.”

I stare at him open-mouthed. I didn’t realize he had a complete grocery shopping methodology. It was impressive, though I started to wonder if he was taking his grocery shopping just a bit too seriously. What if, God forbid, he knocks some old woman out of the way in order to beat his 13-minute record? And what was preventing him from turning into one of those extreme couponers? It’s a slippery slope from Value Cards to stockpiles of instant pudding.

Granted, it’s a small snippet of our life, J.’s grocery shopping, but it’s one of those colorful, happily ordinary ones. He hasn’t started to obsessively clip coupons yet, so I think we’re okay. And there’s nothing better than the post-shopping “kitchen tours” he gives me, in which he walks me through all our newly stocked cupboards, pointing out the different Lean Cuisines he got for my lunches, the new brand of granola bars we’re trying, or the new roll-less toilet paper he scored (“It was a promotional deal!” he explained excitedly).

But, a word to the wise: If you see a man wearing a Villanova basketball tee-shirt hustling down a grocery store aisle, Supermarket Sweep-style, cart filled with Lean Cuisines and roll-less toilet paper, get out of his way. He’s setting a world record.

Is there any chore your husband or fiance takes care of that you’re glad to let him have? How will you guys figure out who does what when it comes to running the house?


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