If there were any lingering doubts regarding my unfitness for independent living, a quick survey of my monthly grocery bill should quickly put them to rest. Of course, one can’t really review my bill because I don’t keep receipts and am still unfamiliar with the whole “budget” thing, but you could always look at the selections in my cart if you happen to bump into me at the grocery. That being unlikely, as I only go grocery shopping three times every fiscal year, I’ll just tell you about it.
My main problem with grocery shopping is that I never received any formal training on how it should be done. The education establishment apparently assumed I would figure it out by watching my mom or through some innate evolutionary hunter/gatherer impulse. Unfortunately, I – like most young boys – spent my trips to the store with mom whining, throwing tantrums in the snack aisle, and trying to sneak boxes of Gushers into the cart when she wasn’t looking. This being the case, the art of grocery shopping has taken on a mysterious, almost mythical nature. I am aware that my mother was able to routinely fill her cart with food that kept me alive, but I wasn’t taking notes on which items she selected. As a result, I typically find myself wondering the store for several hours before filling my cart with Kraft Mac and Cheese (It’s the cheesiest!) and calling it a day.
There are two primary hazards with my approach to grocery shopping: (1) I am exceptionally cheap and lazy and (2) I am still getting back at my parents for my excessively nutritious upbringing. Shopping hazard number one immediately disqualifies any items that cannot be cooked in a microwave or cannot be eaten in the container they come in. It also rules out any food with the words organic, fresh, All-Natural, or quality on the label. Some people mistakenly assume from this that I do not eat fruits or vegetables. This is only partly true. While I have technically never been to the produce section, I have had Campbell’s Chunky Soup (The Official Soup and Chili sponsor of the NFL) and occasionally they will sneak in a few vegetables. Also, my Hungry Man Salisbury Steak dinner last week featured a delightful apple strudel as it’s dessert, which I’m almost certain contained a few pieces of fruit.
Even more disastrous is the second hazard, my nutritious childhood. The ruling parents of the Woodyard home held many backward and draconian beliefs regarding food. Example: A baggie of Oreos, some Go-gurt, and a can of Coke do not a school lunch make. Entire cans of Cool Whip should not be consumed in a single sitting. Donuts should not be eaten after 8pm. Cookie Crisp is not actually a cereal. Fruit Roll-ups are not an acceptable substitute for apples, even if you eat eight of them. As you can see, my childhood was one of near constant deprivation and disappointment.
That being the case, my trips to the grocery these days become avenues to the fulfillment of all my childhood dreams. I wander the aisles looking for all the things mom wouldn’t let me have. I eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch three times a day. I have whole meals of Doritos, Dunkaroos, and Dr Pepper, known in some circles as an Oklahoma Thanksgiving. Three brands of chocolate milk, industrial-sized tubs of animal crackers, gigantic bags of cheese puffs, and a veritable buffet of Hostess products fill my shelves. It’s beautiful, it’s delicious, it’s exhausting. There are reasons why children, especially 23 year-old children, should not be allowed in grocery stores unsupervised; namely, our complete lack of self-control and common sense. I’ll admit it, there are times when I don’t want 15 powdered donuts for breakfast, but I eat them anyway just because I’m so thankful to live in a country where I can. I can’t help myself.
This creates a bizarre paradox wherein the food I’m eating may actually kill me quicker than simple starvation. Want more evidence? Last week I had boxed macaroni for 5 out of 6 dinners. Also last week, I made an effort at healthy living and bought a carton of eggs. Unfortunately, they never made it into the fridge and had to be thrown away the next morning. I once purchased an entire weeks worth of groceries for under $15.00. My chemical dependence on Goldfish crackers has escalated to the point that I am now consuming 38 oz cartons at the rate of one per week (at $8.50 a pop, this also constitutes about 90% of my monthly food expenditures). The list goes on.
Nobody told me it would be like this. When systematically freaking out about the cold realities of post-collegiate life, I somehow forgot about food. I figured it would just arrive before me in the form of home-cooked casseroles and mass-produced cafeteria cuisine as it always had before. I was wrong. I need to be trained. I need classes, seminars, and Power Points. I need a mentor to help me navigate the perils of the dairy section and that wall of vegetables with the sprinklers on it. This much is owed to me. It was society that transformed me from the club-wielding barbarian high atop the food chain to the incompetent omnivore I am today, and it is society that should bear the burden of caring for me in my weakened condition. Whatever happens, something must be done soon. At my current pace, it won’t be long before I start pouring that chocolate milk over those cheese puffs and calling it breakfast. Trust me, no one wants to see that.
(This discussion brings up another, vaguely related point. I have an ongoing debate with a friend about the difference between going to the “grocery” and going to the “grocery store”. I am of the conviction that the word “store” is implicit in the word grocery – as every grocery is necessarily a store – and is therefore understood and unnecessary. She holds that the word grocery is a modifier and is incomplete and nonsensical when not coupled with a concrete noun (i.e. store). We are at an impasse and I would appreciate your help in resolving this quandry. You may do so in the section labeled “comments” below.)