THE SUPER BOWL OF GROCERY SHOPPING – Garry Armstrong

Men can shop. I shop. Moreover, I am a highly competitive shopper. This is Guy Shopping, in three scenarios.

Scenario #1

I’m one of those guys who, if shopping “solo,” can zip through the aisles, getting everything on the shopping list. Sometimes I time myself. It’s like a “Wide, Wide World of Sports” event for me.

As I exit the supermarket, my cart full of groceries, I look at my watch. A big smug — almost “45-ish” smile on my face. I quietly proclaim in a “Howard Cosell-Marv Albert” style, “Yesssss!!

Scenario#2

I’m on my game as I begin shopping. First stop, produce.

As I check over the tomatoes, a cougar lady in stilettos, low-cut tank top, and stretch jeans — strike up a conversation about how nice it is to see a man knows how to handle tomatoes. I switch into my TV guy mode, wrap the chat, and move on. Next aisle, it’s the “groupies.” Folks who grew up watching me on TV. They’re blocking access to the pasta sauce and other canned goods. I do two or three minutes of my greatest hits and move on.

The deli section is always difficult. There are inevitably two or three people buying a quarter pound of everything. They must taste a piece of each item to make sure it’s quality stuff. Oy!!

Now, I’m trying to make up ground. Taking short cuts through various aisles and BAM — elderly people, crying kids, and a Mr. Know- It-All, blocking access. I silently curse their birthrights and smile my TV guy smile.

Finally, finally, I’m at the checkout counter.

Groceries bags are lined up in front of my stuff on the counter. The “hot and cold” bags are clearly open to be used for frozen food, meat, and so on. I slowly and clearly explain how the bags should be used. You know — perishables into the “hot and cold” bags. Please pack evenly.

I always bring extra shopping bags so I don’t have to lug overloaded bags up two flights of stairs.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

What was I thinking? It’s like I was speaking Klingon. Outside, I repack stuff at the car, loudly cursing the gods. The drive home is slow. Very slow.

The slow drivers who are always waiting for me are blocking the lane. Probably the same folks who blocked the supermarket aisles.

Scenario#3

I enter the supermarket and eyeball the “self check out” section. Do I have what it takes? I promise myself to try. Someday.

I can do it.

Fast forward. I approach the checkout counters, eyeball the “self check out” counter. No! I don’t have it. No true grit. Maybe next time.


Note: I omitted the folks who still ask why I don’t have “my people” shop for me. They are of the opinion that we are too rich to shop for ourselves. Yeah!

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

50 thoughts on “THE SUPER BOWL OF GROCERY SHOPPING – Garry Armstrong”

      1. He didn’t volunteer, but I really couldn’t do it anymore. My back simply wouldn’t take the lifting and hauling. And actually, they WILL help you, if you ask — or even if you look like you need help. Overall, Hannaford must be doing something right because their employees look happy.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Leslie, I regard it as a challenge. I’m also not afraid to ask for help. Women are always happy to lend a hand to a guy trying his best. It’s stupid NOT to ask.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Well done. When .mr. Swiss comes with me I always have stiff in the trolly that wasn’t on the list. The only famous person I might see is the weather lady from the Swiss TV station shopping with her kids, she lives in our town. I never do self check out because I need all the help I can get from the person at the cash desk.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mrs. Swiss, one of the biggest hurdles for me is avoiding stuff that isn’t on the list. I’m always tempted by stuff at the salad bar and other places. However, I know we have a very lean budget and even one or two “extras” will add up. But it’s so darn tempting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been remiss in reading my neighbors posts here so I’m glad that I decided to read yours today. Hahaha! Do you really do this? “I slowly and clearly explain how the bags should be Used. You know — perishables into the “hot and cold” bags. Please pack evenly”. Too funny.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Elva, I also explain to the packers – the “how and why”. Slowly and very clearly, I repeat the instructions. Usually, my attention is diverted by the clerk ringing up my groceries or another shopper telling me how nice it is to see me – the former TV celeb – doing his own shopping. By the time I return my attention to the packed groceries, it’s usually “why did I bother instructing them”? I flash a painful smile, thanking everyone and head out to the car where I repack much of the groceries.
      One thing I am ALWAYS careful about — the eggs. Surely, everyone knows the eggs are packed on top or in a separate bag. Surely, the packers — even newbies – know this cardinal rule of packing. Surely! Yes — and don’t call me Shirley.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. A true “superman” allows others to shine at what they do best. It’s a bird, It’s a plane, it’s…, well you know, able to zip through supermarket isles at the speed of light? Pots are a waitin’ “wonder woman.”

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  3. David used to do our big fortnightly grocery shop, a job he took on willingly when I was working and he wasn’t. I was happy to give it up and once he developed his own routine I think he preferred going alone. I would tag along when there was something special I wanted for a recipe or “lady products” because he claimed he didn’t know what to buy. Although David did not have fans to contend with he did like to chat so his progress was often slow. If he went to the local shop in Geeveston he might be an hour buying milk and bread.
    I have never used self-service checkouts. I won’t on principle because I’d rather be served by a human being and keep someone in a job. I don’t think they save you that much time really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I should have to do my own checkout and, as I said, if it weren’t for Hannaford, half the people in Uxbridge would be out of work! I don’t have fans, but I still wind up in long conversations with total strangers. Hannaford is social central in a lot of ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our local shop in Geeveston doesn’t have self service. It’s very small and I don’t think a lot of the older people would deal with it. I could learn I choose not to. The larger store in Huonville does but the majority of people ignore it and use the checkouts. Those people get paid badly enough already now they have lost their weekend penalties, they need the hours.

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      2. Okay, you all, y’all makin’ fun of my “fans”. Hey, decades of daily manure loading the day’s news has given me these folks who (Golly, gee whiz!) still remember me. As I’ve frequently said, it’s an ego massage. Nice — as long as I don’t lose track of what I’m doing, especially when I’m staring down a cougar who is blatantly showing her “assets”.

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        1. “Invasion of the Self Checkout Counters” starring Gary Busey, Mamie Van Doren, Tommy Lee Jones, Pamela Anderson and Jack Nicholson as “The Self Service Department Manager”.
          A Russ Myers Production

          Liked by 1 person

  4. My husband does the self-checkout thing, but then he rarely shops for more than what he needs: beer, maybe bread, crackers, bits and pieces. I’ve seen him in action, and he’s scary. I’d rather go alone, hit the aisles I want, and wait in line (so what’s the rush?) for checkout. I’m with Gary, Self-checkout is tempting, but a bit daunting.

    The first time my husband was on his own in the grocery store I had been sick with pneumonia for about a week, and we needed food. I made him a list, and three hours later he staggered in, exhausted. “What HAPPENED?” I asked, alarmed.

    He said, “I don’t know how you do it. I got the cheese, and then had to go all the way over to the produce, and then back for the milk and then I had to find the canned fruit…”

    I said, ” you mean you took each item in ORDER?” He looked at me. “well, that’s the way you wrote it.” Three hours. The poor man. He can now outshop anyone, and I haven’t been able to stump him in years. He even asks stock boys where things are. Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Garry did things “in order” at the beginning, but he worked it out pretty fast. It was all that work on the road. You had to get places as quickly as possible to cover all the stories. I think he works the supermarket like he worked New England.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Judy, it’s a learning process. When I was a bachelor and earning decent money, I was the cliche guy who buys the famous label stuff, oblivious to prices.
      Marilyn taught me well. In retirement, prices are so important. I even look at contents to be sure I’m not getting stuff that’s “bad” for our digestive systems.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Judy, props for your husband. He has true grit.
      Y’know, once – in another lifetime, I worked as a stockboy in the children’s shoe department of a large department store. I took to it immediately, impressing the heck out of the bosses. All I did was rearrange things in alphabetical and numerical order. It was like I parted the Red Sea! Iconic!

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  5. There are three ‘grocery’ stores in my little town (actually one of them belongs to the neighboring town). I use the more popular, chain store (Smiths aka Kroger) for most of my shopping or I DID. Today when I went I was astonished to note there were NO bananas. Now since I don’t watch the news, I don’t know what happened, but I recall vaguely someone mentioning something about some banana crisis? Smiths is losing my business because they’ve stopped stocking most brands and only stock Kroger brand. The shelves are more and more empty.

    The second is the local guy. This store has three locations (in Utah) and maybe a couple in Idaho. Big stuff for a local guy. The bakery in this store is unsurpassed. The rest of the store is scary (to me). Odd brands, although they used to mostly stock Western Family. Now it’s something called “food club” and the quality of that brand? Sucks. Their produce is bought locally (a plus in their column) BUT is usually of so/so quality or poor. Their meat section (and cheese) and deli? I wouldn’t buy it on a bet. Some people I’ve known have actually gotten food poisoning from eating the meat out of that store.

    and low man on the totem pole (my very LAST option) is Wal*Mart. I’ll shop there (under protest) because I disagree with their policies in general. But a huge mark in their favor is their low cost prescriptions. I’m going to have to switch to their pharmacy for my ‘drugs’. Smiths has priced themselves (well the INSURANCE companies and Big Pharm..I know it’s not the store per se) out of my league.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We shop at Hannafords which was Victory (even MORE local) when we shopped there. I was disappointed that they sold out because Victory was great. Hannaford is still much better than Stop N-Shop and cheaper too. Usually much less expensive than Walmart. There are some other really good ones in Bellingham and Worcester, but they are too far. Maybe if we had a bigger family it might be worth the extra effort, but for the two of us? Hannaford is decent about drugs and they have their own plan, so if your Medicare price is higher than their price, they will run it through their pricing. But, they are small so they always run out of things before other, bigger pharmacies do,

      The only really big pharmacy is CVS — and I hate CVS. Everything is more expensive and the lines are unending — and maybe Walmart, which actually has a decent pharmacy, but it’s way at the far (other) end of town. We also live at the far end of town. The southern end. They are at the far northern end and I think it might even be Whitinsville over there.

      Walmart has the best bakery and it’s cheap. Their fresh Italian bread never made it home. The smell was so good, you just had to eat it while you shop. But they have a very limited produce section and it’s expensive. With Walmart, you really have to know what things ought to cost because while you save three cents on one item, the next one is twice the price of Hannaford. And the meat at Hannaford is definitely the best as is the deli section (lacking, as we do, a real butcher). The bakery isn’t bad. They make some wonderful chewy bread that goes well with soup. The doughnuts are okay, but most doughnuts are too sweet. And they haven’t doped out that muffins are not miniature cakes. I think they don’t know the difference between cupcakes and muffins.

      Their “own brands” are mostly not bad and their pasta sauces are as good as any and less than half the cost. You also get a 2% discount when you buy their products, which adds up to quite a bit of money after a while.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Kent’s (the local store) is the hub for that type of activity, almost EVERYONE shops at Kent’s. I’m too leery of their stock though, especially after I got some Havarti there and it was hard as a rock, even though the date was recent. Bleah.

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      1. That’s one reason I’ve stuck with Smiths. I get anywhere from three cents to fifty (and once I got a dollar) off their gas. That’s really important, because our gas prices are probably nearer to national average than the rest of Utah is. If I drive down to Salt Lake, for example, I could save quite a bit on a tank of gas, but I’d use it all up going back and forth too. So not worth it. You get extra points for buying prescriptions through the pharmacy, which is another reason I’ve stuck it out with them. You might get 10 cents off on your gas from just buying groceries or household items, but you’ll get fifty cents PER PRESCRIPTION off on the gas. It adds up. It sounds like Hannaford’s is ‘your’ hometown store. How lovely that such a place has survived and continues to thrive!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Our Southern California chain groceries (Kroger, Safeway & its subsidiaries) are just about to go out on strike. That will leave us with Trader Joe, Smart & Final (where you buy in bulk), and a bunch of other not well-known stores, and no single place to go for everything! Our WalMart doesn’t do groceries.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m pretty sure Stop & Shop is a Safeway store. Our Walmart didn’t do groceries either, but they upgraded to a Super Walmart. But it’s quite a long drive from here and you really need to know what prices should be. For every discount they give, they rip you off on something else.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I admittedly hate shopping! But my Santa Barbara friend makes a list the night before, then when we go to the base for meds, we do a shop for 3 months worth of staples. He knows the aisles, and somehow the list works pretty well aisle for aisle. It’s exhausting, but 2 hours later we have a car-ful of canned and boxed goods to take home. It slows down a bit when the store reorganizes and things aren’t where they are supposed to be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Slmet, I hate it when they move stuff around on us. I have everything visualized when I enter. Aisle by aisle. Makes it easy to shop fast if the store isn’t crowded. On Tuesdays, Senior Discount day, all bets are off. You just go with the flow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our stores are too big for senior discounts, although they do have a “club card” which provides discounts at checkout. More like a loyalty program!

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      1. I think it’s exactly that — if you can’t find something and go looking for it, you’re more likely to see other things that were not on the list. My closest Safeway even puts things in two places sometimes — really frustrating when you find sugar in the food storage aisle as well as in the sugar aisle! I haven’t figured that one out yet, except for the one time I found sugar with the canning jars! It truly is annoying when they do that!

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