Walking the Aisles

I love grocery shopping. Maybe it’s the foraging for new and interesting things to cook and eat that I find appealing. Or maybe it’s that I can spend 150 bucks and feel really good about it. Probably both.

I don’t usually make a list, because if I’m only looking for things on my list, I might miss something new and interesting. A list is good if you’re in a hurry, but I like to take my time. I’ve starting going grocery shopping early Sunday mornings because I have lots of time then and also because there’s almost no one else in the store then.

A lot of people hate grocery shopping.

There’s a great business opportunity for those of us who like it. There are already grocery shopping services, but the market is wide open —  from the basic service where the customer goes online and makes their grocery list and the service just picks the stuff up and delivers; to the full-service service where they create weekly meal plans, do the grocery shopping, do all the preparatory work for the meals, (chopping veggies, dicing meats, peeling spuds, etc.) and then drop everything off in handy little boxes with instructions on how to prepare the dishes.

Anyway, I can’t say I blame people for not wanting to do their own grocery shopping. The stores certainly go out of their way to make the experience as unpleasant as possible.

But I like grocery shopping so much that I can overlook the snarky teenaged cashiers because I reckon they’d rather be anywhere than at work at 7:00 am on a Sunday. And I can deal with the grocery aisles being interrupted by half a dozen aisles of housewares, furniture, electronics and clothing. Because sometimes when you’ve just stocked up on those bags of coffee they had on sale and you realize you don’t have a cappuccino maker, it’s handy that you can pick one up right there in your grocery store. Or maybe you want to get the extra Airmiles for buying 20 bags of dog food and you don’t yet have a dog. Or you’ve been thinking about getting a new sofa anyway and there’s still room in your cart.[1]

And I can deal with people blocking the aisles while they chat about the verities of life. And while I do get irritated standing in a 20-person queue when there are only 2 cash registers open, I get around that now by shopping at odd hours. And I can even happily deal with them charging 5 cents for grocery bags.[2]

What I absolutely cannot deal with, however, is when grocery stores renege on the one small, simple thing I ask of them and that is that they actually stock GROCERIES.

Oh, I know they’re too busy trying to be all things to all people and I don’t expect much.[3] But when I’ve planned on making lasagna for lunch and they have no lasagna pasta, I get really pissed off. Of course asking one of the young, gangly stockboys gets you either the dismissive, “If it’s not on the shelf we don’t have any.” Or, he might actually walk over to the empty shelf, look at it and then say, “Naw, I don’t think we have any.”

If you ask a manager, he will offer to call another store “because they might have some”. I want to tell him, “No thank you. I’m quite sure there are other grocery stores all over the place that have something as basic as lasagna pasta, but I’ve actually been foolish enough to choose this grocery store to shop in today. I will endeavor not to make the same mistake in the future.”

I can never manage anything quite that concise, though, so I usually just mumble something about how convenient that would be and change my lunch menu.

Seriously, on any given grocery shopping excursion I end up leaving without at least 30% of the stuff I need because the items are “out-of-stock” or “back-ordered” or whatever. It’s a freakin’ GROCERY store, why the hell can’t they plan ahead well enough to keep GROCERIES on their shelves?  Have I ever walked into Chapters and been told they’re all out of non-fiction today?

I think not.

[1] And that’s not even impossible given the size of the grocery carts in some stores. You need a boom and hoist to get down there to retrieve your groceries sometimes.
 [2] Even though I’m not at all convinced that stores are doing this for the benefit of mother earth, I’ve been bringing my own bags for a long time anyway. Although I have read that the cotton bags are actually more environmentally unfriendly than the plastic bags because they’re made overseas, which means cotton has to be shipped over, the bags have to be shipped back and then they’re not recyclable in this country whereas the plastic bags are made here and recycled here.
[3] Yes, I have some unusual grocery needs, but I’m happy to go to natural food stores or other specialty shops for things like that. I only go to grocery stores for staples anyway.

36 responses to “Walking the Aisles

  1. HA HA HA you shouldn’t go to a regular grocery store for something as exotic as lasagna. You need to go to a specialty Italian store for that.
    And for goodness sakes go to Office Depot or Staples for staples.
    Sheesh some people.

  2. Interesting blog. I was amused by the ‘stocking’ of the shelves. At my 5 grocery stores, ( I love to compare prices and products) I am forever saying to the staff stocking shelves that feel they should move out of my way, not to bother as “I may just need that item sometime”!

  3. Friend of mine went to Swiss Chalet last week and upon being seated were informed that they had run out of chicken.
    No joke.
    How’s THAT for a stocking problem?

  4. Bandobras – I no longer know where to go for radios now that Radio Shack has disappeared.

    Kathryn – I kind of wish those shelf stockers would do that at a time when the store isn’t full of customers. I always feel like apologizing for being in their way and they kind of look at me like I am.

    Trashee – That’s pretty damn ridiculous. What did they do – have everyone sucking on Toblerones?

  5. Well, I wrote about this last week. I’m not a fan of grocery shopping, well, I don’t mind the shopping it’s the freaking customer service that kills me. (yes, and lack of stock.)

    On the bags, I read the plastic bag makers are trying to launch a comeback campaign… where are the plastic bags made?

  6. Nat – Ya, as I was writing this I remembered someone else complaining about grocery stores recently. (How could you not?). There are biodegradable plastic bags being used by some stores – I don’t know where they get them, but there are plenty of manufacturers all over North America. People have gotten used to using the left-over plastic bags for all sorts of things from lunches to dog poop to garbage, so now they just have to go and buy garbage bags and dog poop bags. Which I guess is okay if those bags are biodegradable. There’s no reason why we need regular polypropylene plastic when oxo-biodegradable and hydro-biodegradables are available and, I understand can be manufactured at the normal poly. plastic plants.

  7. I love grocery shopping too. In fact I am sad enough that one of the things I like to do on holiday is wander round a local grocery store looking at all the strange and different stuff for sale. Nova Scotia supermarkets sell live lobsters! And HUGE packets of breakfast cereal at least three times the size of anything you get in the UK. And the one supermarket I managed to hit in Geneva last year did not sell any biscuits without milk in them, but the ones they did have looked gorgeous. Oh, and in Safeway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, you used to be able to buy six packs of frozen lambs’ testicles in little boxes like egg cartons. I’m going to stop talking now.

  8. Huh. I know what you mean by not stocking things.

    Basically, Mr. Cheezy Mart’s got a monopoly, and he knows it. He doesn’t give a shit…and it shows.

    Yesterday I had a craving for a McCains Deep n’ Delicious Cake.

    And of course they were out of THAT. Figures.

    The also routinely run out of bread, hot dog and hamburger buns, bananas, mustard, chicken breasts, you name it.

    I mean…HOW can you run out of MUSTARD? .

    Oh, and you can’t just walk in and buy a roasted deli chicken. They only make “so many”, and you have to phone hours ahead and RESERVE one.

    And talk about the 1000-mile diet. During peak strawberry season, they never sold local strawberries this year. They came from California.

    (I had to buy my local berries from the back of a guy’s truck, a few hundred meters away).

    We USED to have another A&P in town. But Mr Cheesy-Mart bought it out, and shut it down.

    (I pray for the day they bring a Loblaws to this place..I just pray..).

  9. Lordy how I loathe grocery shopping. If I need apples and milk, I’ll go to the fruit section get my apples and speed on to the dairy section get my milk and get the hell out. Mr Jazz on the other hand will go through every aisle to get from apples to milk. Drives me insane.

    In the interest of sanity and because of the high cost of divorce we rarely shop for food together.

  10. My wife brings her own bags when she goes shopping, but I always get the plastic. In my situation, they’re much more environmentally friendly, and even at a nickel a pop, they’re cheaper than the alternative.


    Because with the little plastic bags, I don’t have to buy “kitchen catcher” bags for the bin under the sink, the compost container on the counter, the bathroom bins, etc.

    If I had to buy bags for those little bins, that would mean some manufacturing (wether they’re paper or plastic), packaging, and shipping, all polluting the environment PLUS it would cost more than 5 cents a bag. In effect, if both my wife and I brought our own cloth bags, it would actually cost more and save the environment less.

  11. this is effing funny. no idea why i find it to be effin funny but it is. to. me. this is just the shit that PISSES ME OFF all. the. time. so there.

  12. I hate the grocery store with a passion. Mine is more of an anxiety insane thing with the lighting and size and whatnot. I’m okay if I can wear my shades but Saturday I had to go without shades because it was raining and had a horrid experience. At least my grocery store has lots of groceries and no couches. And beer.

  13. Ugh! I hate grocery shopping! Its not so bad if the stores are actually grocery stores, but the ‘Walmart sized monstrosities’ that take you an hour to find basic food items drive me nuts!

  14. I love grocery shopping too. I’m always amazed to find how much time has passed while I’ve been mousing up and down the aisles daydreaming about meals that I might make.

    Loth, did you buy any lamb’s testicles? Did you eat them on toast? (LOL)

  15. Loth – That’s not sad at all. I do the same thing. I love exploring a new grocery store. It’s much more fun than doing the tourist shops. If you enjoy the huge packets of cereal, you’ll adore Costco where everything comes in gigantic packets. You’ll feel like you’ve entered the land of the giants. Really, how did you miss Costco when you were in NS? Next time, put it at the top of your list. It’s a horror show as far as grocery stores go, but it’s worth it just to see all the really large jars, boxes and bags of food products.

    Friar – Be careful what you wish for. Loblaws is currently at the bottom of my list of stores I want to shop in. I don’t think they ever have local produce and they’re forever running out of things. The one in my neighbourhood is the pits. There are times when their entire frozen food aisle is empty.

    Jazz – Maybe you could hire one of those personal grocery shoppers to do your shopping for you and save your marriage?

    Bandobras – Ah…you’ve been taking your special medicine again, haven’t you?

    Squid – Many shops are now using biodegradable plastic bags anyway, so you may very well be way ahead of the game. I’m not sure that they’ve completely thought through this bag charging strategy. Or maybe they have because I think overall it’s netting the grocery stores a tidy pile of cash what with having to pay for bags and having to buy kitchen catchers and dog poop bags AND whatever they make on selling their reusable bags as well. The bonus is that reusable bags are a pain in the ass for cashiers and whatever will make them more miserable seems to be in the best interests of the corporation.

    Raino – Such language!! But really are we being so unreasonable asking our grocery stores to stock groceries?

    Geewits – See, that’s what we need here in Canada – grocery stores with beer ..and wine. Shoppers would be much happier.

    Ellie – You should open your own business. The haters of grocery shopping outnumber us grocery shopping lovers by a wide margin. There are plenty of people who would be thrilled for you to do their shopping for them and would be delighted to pay you a nice fee for doing it I’ll bet.

    Hannah – Isn’t it fun? Especially when you finally get to the end of the marathon and remember you really need something way back in aisle 2. Then you have to maneuver your enormous cart all the way back there. And then the check-out lines are 20 minutes long in order to encourage you to scan your own groceries so they can get rid of cashiers completely. Except that the scanner almost always screws up and then you have to wait for a service rep to help you out. Wheeeeee!

    Alison – I think lamb’s testicles are best eaten braised in a bit of gravy with a side dish of mashed potatoes and maybe a small salad. Why on earth would you put them on toast? They’d just roll off.

  16. Wow lol. Well I actually like to go grocery shopping, I Walk every aisle. And yes, I do have to maneuver my cart back to aisle 2 quite often. They CHARGE y’all for BAGS? That’s criminal. And I don’t know exactly where you live but I have never gone to the grocery store and noticed they were out of something as common as mustard or hot dog buns! Also, they took all our self scanners out, too many dishonest people.
    P.S. Costco rocks

  17. It’s doubly bad if you’re living by yourself, because not only will you find stores missing essentials (because everyone encounters that), but what you do find is always in ridiculous proportions.

    I remember trying a new Spaghetti Bolognese recipe and everything was four sizes too big (which is actually fine since I can skip cooking later) except I can’t find any chicken livers (which I substituted with extra ground beef). Two weeks later I randomly found them selling at a Metro, and I realized there was no bloody way I could buy a pack of those things just for the sake of this recipe.

    I’m also in a race against time to finish off a bag of pine nuts after buying it to make pesto.

    Long story short, supermarkets are stocked full of things that we don’t really need in huge packages.

    I still love it though. I just bought a pineapple, a half dozen nectarines, and a couple of giant peaches as part of my most recent run, with no clue how to finish all of it in time.

  18. I think all the chain stores are the same wen it comes to local produce. The local Sobey’s is full of USA, Chilean, Brazillian fruit while they sit quite literally on the very edge of one local fruit farm and are practically surrounded by others.
    I was told it is dictated by a central purchasing decision which would rather import fruit from around the world if it is a few cents cheaper than the stuff down the road.
    The local manager has no say in where it comes from.

  19. Charlene – The reason (ostensibly) that they’re charging us for bags now is that they’re trying to be environmentally friendly by encouraging us to use reusable bags so that there’s less plastic in landfills. Of which I’m all in favour. Why not? What’s really criminal is all those plastic bags and all the disposable plastic everything. Anyway, that’s another topic. So far stores seem to be all in favour of the self-scanners. I’ve often wondered how exactly they are able to monitor them aside from the one eagle eyed service person trying to help everyone AND watch everything at the same time.

    Kelvin – Welcome to the blog and thanks for the comment. First, I want to say it’s probably in your best interests not to have found any chicken livers. (blech…people make spaghetti with chicken livers?). As for the pine nuts, they will keep quite a long time in the fridge or even the freezer. Or you could even make a big batch of pesto and freeze it in small batches to use later on. Same with your fruit. Whatever you don’t think you can eat, peel it, slice it up and pop it into one of those handy Ziploc boxes. The freezer is a single person’s second best friend. I always make big batches of soups or stews or curries and freeze them in those Ziploc containers. You don’t even need a deep freeze, the one in your fridge will hold quite a few of these containers if you stack them up. I would advise you to get a bit of masking tape and write the contents and date on each container so you don’t wonder what the heck this is later on and so you don’t keep things in there too long.

    Bandobras – That’s what I’ve heard too. But I’ve also heard that if the customers make enough of a stink about it, they WILL get in local produce. Central purchasing only has so much clout. Have a look at grocery stores in ethnic neighbourhoods and you’ll see stuff on the shelves you won’t find in other stores in the same chain. Near universities you’ll find a lot more vegetarian type stuff and ready to eat stuff on the shelves than you would in the burbs for instance. The community the individual store serves does have some say in what appears on the shelves, so get out there and raise some heck.

  20. Alison – I’m sure those in on the original Great Toast Debate got the joke, but really, hot or cold the testicles would still roll off the toast….Unless you mashed them or something, I guess.

  21. You could use those fancy toothpicks with the little frondy bit on the end to secure the testicle to the toast. Or maybe creamed testicles on toast. It could happen.

  22. i love the newspaper on thursday…all those flyers for the coming weeks’ specials. it’s like porn for me. (FarmBoy is the most tasteful – Food Basics is the dirrrrrrtiest)

  23. You forgot to mention how the manager keeps moving things from aisle to aisle so that something you really need is no longer where you expect to find it.
    And those handy freezer bags? I keep getting told that they are degaussing into my food. I use ceramic dishes with plastic tops that keep breaking and having to be replaced.
    Poor old environment.

  24. I am sure you would have enjoyed the Pop and son kind of grocery stores in India. The Pop mostly knows each families menu and know how long they can go. Chicpeas, green yellow lentils, but never garlic.
    So, you hardly run the risk of not getting an ingredient. Even if by some turn of fate some thing is out of stock, Pop will offer to send it to you in an hour or so.
    Sadly, in India also these shops are getting murdered in the altar of big chains

  25. Bandobras – No. Nothing is sacred anymore. Not for those of us not skilled enough to take photos of birds.

    Meanie – What a naughty girl you are! But ya, that wholesome, hearty Farm Boy — whooooo-wheeee!

    Mary – I use the Ziploc containers with the lids. I can’t deal with zip top freezer bags (as I pointed out at great length in a previous blog post).

    RR – Ya, we used to have these too, only ours were less misogynistically called “Mom and Pop” stores. Even the grocery stores of my youth were a lot like this. you went to the same place every week and everything you needed would be there. Of course back then there were only one or two types of everything so that the grocery store was the size of the average convenience store today.

  26. I love grocery shopping too. When I was a teenager my Mom would give me a blank cheque and a list and I would go shopping for her. We both thought it was great.

    I am thinking that the reason you have problems getting all the items you want is that you go on Sunday morning! It’s after the Saturday rush and they haven’t stocked up yet.

  27. I love to grocery shop!

    My biggest pet peeve is when they are low on a product that sits on the higher shelves. As a shorty, I can’t reach the back of the upper shelf and I hate having to jump and try to grab it or use utensils to fling them off the shelf. I cried once when I got so frustrated at a jar of maraschino cherries that just would not cooperate. Yes, I cried. In the grocery store. I have a lot of feelings.

  28. And then there are those stores (Loblaws) that come up with innovative and quite tasty frozen entrees that they sell at ridiculously bargain prices until you get totally addicted to them, then they jack the price up every 3 months, then it suddenly disappears altogether. No warning. No chance to stock up. No apology.
    And, yeah, I know, I should learn to cook…

  29. Skygirl – I bet they wouldn’t let a kid shop with a blank cheque in any store these days, eh? And the lack of stock isn’t just on Sundays. It doesn’t matter when I go. I’ve tried various days of the week.

    Uncouth Heathen – I had no idea you were such a sensitive, delicate flower. Poor you. If I’d been in that store I would have gotten those maraschino cherries down for you, even though I’m not that tall, but I do have long limbs and I’m not above climbing the shelves to get at something I want. I’ve done it for others.

    Violetsky – Well, that has never happened to me with frozen entrees, but it certainly has with many, many, many other products that I’ve grown to love and depend on. Poof! They’re gone. I once hunted a product down to the manufacturer to see what the hell happened to it. Turns out it was the fault of CFIA who had decided that the product wasn’t labeled quite right for Canadian consumers. The company was unwilling to re-label so we will never get it again. You should hunt down something like that some time. It’s loads of fun and you get to find out all sorts of interesting things about the food and grocery industry.

  30. delicate flower. yes. sometimes i wilt under pressure. it was the holidays, there was a lot going on and maybe i snapped. just snapped. in the middle of the canned fruit aisle. it happens. it happens to everyone! sometimes! yes! it does, too! YES IT DOES!

  31. i would go mad if chapters ran out of non fiction. grocery shopping is the only shopping i enjoy best, and i too prefer to go when it’s not crowded with the screaming children.

    in fact, your post here made it sound so relaxing i want to go right now.