Freak Out in Aisle 9

I so totally hate grocery shopping. I can handle it okay if I don't have to purchase the items myself, but when I have to debate every item down to the last calorie AND the last penny, it's a nice easy way to drive myself totally nuts.

Totally and completely nuts.

I usually enter the store with a list, containing the items currently on sale that I would like to purchase, along with other necessities (such as milk, bread) that I need but don't appear to be on sale. So I have my cute little list and my cute little shopping cart, and I do the produce section with very few problems. It's an apple, a banana, a potato. Other than not selecting the produce that looks like rejects from a batting cage, it's not all that difficult.

On the other hand, the aisles are much more difficult to deal with. There's never one kind of bread that goes on sale. There's white and wheat, butter topped or oat bran. Not only that, but there's a good possibility that more than one brand is on sale. Furthermore, a brand that isn't on sale may actually be cheaper than the varieties that are on sale.

Then. Then, kids, we have to deal with the "Nutrition Facts" labels. I know- I shouldn't read them, I should buy what I want, what tastes good, price and labels be damned.

Nice try. Hasn't happened yet, and the immediate future isn't really looking all that promising, either.

Picking out breakfast cereal is the worst. The varieties are almost endless. Bread is just as bad. There are even about 7 different varieties of one brand of canned refried beans. How many calories? How many fat grams? How much sodium? How much fiber? Usually, one or two varieties can be tossed out from the get go. I'm not going to buy Special K if I can eat sawdust for free. But then you have to go through and determine the trade offs. Is 10 extra calories per serving worth paying 50 cents less? Is saving 10 calories per serving worth a 50 cent price increase?

And so on.

Hence my grocery store nightmare yesterday.

I did get out in one piece. I did get everything that I desperately needed. So in a sense, it was a success. I've walked out of grocery stores in a panic before, with no food, because I had a major panic attack in the freezer aisle.

I will admit that I'm making progress. I go to grocery stores. I buy food besides sugar free yogurt and lettuce. But oh, the road is long.

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Laura Collins said...

I'm the same exact way. (I'm sure this caused my daughter's eating disorder, right?)

It is the omnivore's dilemma, no?

It is also a very new human experience - I wonder if in time we'll reject all this choice and go back to tradition. But whose?

Anonymous said...

Here are some suggestions:

(1) Buy what tastes good.
(2) Don't think that you have to buy what is cheapest. What is cheapest for you may not be best for the earth or the farmer.
(3) Join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm. Then, at least in the summer, you don't have to worry about picking or picking out anything. The boxes are prepacked by the farmers.
(4) Don't read the labels, unless you have food allergies.

samsi77 said...

Hey does this fall into the category of "Effectiveness requires more then just intellectual smarts?" I am with you on this, I hate grocery shopping as well but heres to enhancing effectiveness!

carrie said...


There has been some interesting research done that says it's much easier to be satisfied with a purchase if you have less to choose from. Why? You're not ruminating over everything. Kind of like "paper or plastic"- I make my choice and get one with it.


Oh, to be so blissfully ignorant about eating disorders...

Your suggestions are good, no doubt, and if it were that simple, I would no doubt have enacted them. FWIW, I have thought about a CSA box for the coming summer; part of that will depend on if I have something besides a mini fridge/freezer to hold everything. And I do enjoy the local farmer's market as well.

My anorexia is very tied into anxiety. Say you have a sinking feeling you left your wallet in a taxi. And you had that feeling and your friend was saying "Don't look, just keep moving." Only you could swear your wallet is in that cab and then disaster will strike because the driver has cash, ID, credit cards, etc. And the longer you go without patting your pants/purse for your wallet, the more anxiety you will feel. It sounds odd, but that's the same kind of fear that grocery shopping strikes in me. If I don't check the labels, I feel the world will come to an end.

I will find something to obsess about- that's the way my brain works. I also have obsessive-compulsive disorder, which explains a lot. I'm a work in progress. Though I really do thank you for your kind words.


I try to be more effective in the grocery store, but I'm not quite sure how. A topic for the CCL (crazy cat lady) tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Carrie. I'm the "anonymous." I wish that I were blissfully ignorant of eating disorders. In fact, I'm a 46-year-old, underweight, wife and mother of two who suffered from anorexia for many years while I was a teenager. I've come to my theories and practices of grocery shopping through lots of agony and hard work. I didn't mean to come across as being dismissive of your grocery anxieties. Instead, I wanted to give you hope for the future!

carrie said...


Ahhh...sorry about my assumptions there. And sorry about your previous and current struggles, too. Hopefully we'll all figure it out someday.

maddog said...

Carrie, I keep writing faster than I think. I actually don't wish that I were blissfully unaware of eating disorders. One of the obsessive aspects of my personality is that I insist on always being aware of and prepared for all the terrible things that can happen in life. And anorexia is definitely one of those things. I never want to say anything that shows lack of compassion and awareness for people with EDs and other problems.

Another aspect of my personality (surprise, surprise!) is that I'm a control freak. And when I go into the grocery store, I don't like feeling as though I'm buying things because some huge food conglomerate has decided that it knows better than me what I want to or should eat. I freely confess that I'm not a totally intuitive eater, but I do try to eat only things that taste good to me, and I try not to get swayed by manufacturers' health claims for their products.

Dreaming again said...

I hate grocery stores choices ...

it's all rather overwhelming.

I can manage if I'm doing a months worth of shopping at a time. My husband thinks that's nuts. But there are 2 things about that ...

1 I was raised in the mountains where prices were sky high. Once a month, we drove down into the city to do our shopping.

2 I don't do menues, I buy so many pounds of meat, and so many cans of veggies, bags of frozen veggies, and so many side dishes, and such. I don't make decisions of what goes with what, I just get it. Then, I don't feel the pressure of having to make food choices there in the store. Toooo overwhelming.

For me, it works ... convincing my husband that it works is another story. (you'd think that when I've done it and saved us $50 bucks each month I've done it he'd like it just becuase of that!!)

He's a planner ..he wants to know a week ahead what we're eating and to buy the groceries by the menu, and don't vary ...but then I feel like I'm boxed in. Stuck ...and I don't respond well to being stuck. Especially with food.

mary said...

You've done well to come this far Carrie.
I try to be mindful of cost too so buying something at a regular price means I NEED it now. I prefer whole grains and will always buy the BOGO's but use the freezer and I generally stick with the brands I like. I love bread so I am quite impressed with the diverse selection and our opportunity to choose. Yummmm Besides PB&J is better on one kind than another. So, for me, keeping a "lucky us" perspective helps to let me change products and experiment. Counting calories is a waste of energy when you did it the week before. Trust your memory. Again, baby steps in facing fears but I know you can do this. Try buying a loaf of uncut bread and ripping it off in the car...can be messy : ) and eat a chunk knowing that the calories are irrelevant but that it's very good. Sometimes when we know we are starving we make a point of doing this. It can be a cheap loaf of Italian or whatever from the bakery. And YES Carrie, even single people can do this.
Being single is much more of a challenge for you, I'm sure.
You will begin to know what foods you want and which ones you want to try. You've been so brave. Maybe someday you'll be able to forget the numbers and look for what you savor. On occasion I've been known to buy oreos and I'll still grab a bag of chips every week to share with everyone and I am still standing. I'm an animal that likes a stash/pantry and I'm still adjusting to less people in the house. I stock up well! I always cook for a group and if it's not eaten we can eat it for 2 days.
I'm kinda wondering how you buy ONE potato and ONE apple though....even selecting my own I'd want a few. Maybe you can try buying more apples next can't be a set number. Surprise yourself and see whether you can change, one small thing at a time. /******

A:) said...

I'm pretty crazy when it comes to grocery shopping. . .

I do the same flipping labels thing and analysis. Often I walk around with stuff in the cart and then put it back after some second thoughts. . .

I swear, grocery stores are fascinating for me. I will walk around in a daze and just look at everything.Imagining what it would be like to eat it or just put it in the cart, but afraid to try it.

There. Is. So. Much. Food.

And I thought all this stuff was supposed to go away after weight restoration. . . :S


Sarah said...

oh, I related SO MUCH to this post. So often I'm not even thinking about what I might like to eat. It's all about the labels -- nutrition and price.

We'll get there.

I tried something the other day. I went to a grocery store that serves a lot of people from -- let's just say elsewhere and not get into documentation. There was so much cool produce there! I looked at everything, picked things up, smelled new things, and it became more of an interesting experience than a scary one.


carrie said...


Oh, I agree with you. Some of the health claims are hilarious to downright ludicrous. And then there's the problem of defining "nutritious" and "healthy" and "good for you"- which is further complicated by whether or not it can and should be defined.


Part of my problem with stocking up is that in a small studio, there's not many places to put it. And with one person, things tend to go bad. But I do keep basics on hand and well-stocked.


If you ever want to kidnap me, stake out the grocery store. I am so distracted there. Even just tortillas, there are about 20 varities. There's something to be said for choice, but still.

And yeah, they told me this would get better, too, but I think we both need some more time. Le sigh.


When I lived in Atlanta for an internship, I would to go the DeKalb County Farmer's Market. It was a permanent gig- a converted warehouse the size of a basic WalMart. No really. I couldn't find things that I would expect to dig up from my garden, but I could find fresh produce from all over, fish, tea, chocolate, etc. It was great.

Tiptoe said...

I can definitely relate to the grocery store woes. These days I tend to flip flop between aimlessly wandering the grocery store aisles looking at every label, checking all the sales, number crunching in my head and other days completely zipping out with just what I want to buy. I prefer the latter, so I don't have to think so much.

I live alone as well, and something that's just helped me in general in terms of cost and making food last is to freeze certain items. Produce and sandwich type bread is hard to, but baked bread works well. I just slice and freeze and pull it out when I want it.

Remember small changes are good and can go a long way.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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