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January 8, 2009

Top this grocery list



All my guest posters this week are picking subjects I wish I had thought of first.

My grocery lists are always models of decorum. The problem is that I don't want anyone I know to see what's actually in my grocery cart. That's one of the hazards of being a restaurant critic. If you happen to have a box of Twinkies resting on top of the organic grape tomatoes (and, no, I never have) and you're spotted, it's all over.

But Owl Meat Groceryshopper has his own take on lists. Here he is with another fantastic Funtastic Thursday. EL

In my ongoing search for meaning in the mundane, I have landed on grocery lists. Yahtzee! The list to the right is from, a site that has collected nearly 2,000 found grocery lists. ...

Some of them are funny and some are scary.  I don't know how your week is going, but sweet sassy molassy, mine is way better than No. 849's (pictured).  In addition to anhedonia, algesia, and other conditions, he or she has tangled kid hair.  
Here is my shopping list for last week:  Eggs, milk, apples, ketchup, bottled water, and a watermelon.  I even have a video of the party I bought everything for.

Did you know that there are programs and Web sites that will generate a grocery list for you?  That reminds me of an old Lithuanian expression

Heloise (the hinter, not Abelard's paramour) suggests using the back of your grocery store receipt for next week's list.  I can't believe I just wrote that. 
When YHWH was handing out languages after the Tower of Babel fiasco, I always thought that the Israelites got a bad deal because Hebrew lacks vowels.  Then I realized that although quite useful, we tend to omit vowels for our to-do and grocery lists.  Given the history of Israelites as merchants, Hebrew may be the ultimate grocery list language.
My grocery list will never be seen by anyone else and yet I still write it as if it might be interpreted by scholars coming through the Stargate in a thousand years.   God forbid that they not know whether I was buying toilet paper or toothpaste in January of 2009 C.E.  -- thus "TPaste." 

Our list-making has influenced our language, too.  Everyone knows what you mean by "OJ," because it's a common American grocery list item, although "Get OJ" now has a darker meaning, too.   
What is the likelihood that your list is exactly what you will buy?  Mine is a superset of things I should buy.  Rarely is it honest though.  I never write down "smthg 2 fll emptnss."  That's ice cream, by the way.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:19 AM | | Comments (42)


Wow, that must have been one bang-up party. Talk about doing shots!

BTW I can't use the backs of my old grocery receipts because they insist on printing useless coupons of them. If I "age" them a month or so, the thermal printing does fade and makes the front useful.

I keep my grocery list in my head. Since I live alone, it is no big deal if I mess it up. Although, if there is something really critical, like I'm nearly out of garlic, I put it in my phone.

I seem to plan meals opposite of the way most do. I go see what is fresh, looks good, on sale or some combination thereof, then I cook based on that.

Great post, Owlie, as usual.

For myself, I never take a written list to the grocery store. I usually have a mental list that ends up being about 25% of what I buy. And I take the cell phone, in case I need to call home and ask, "Hey...what's the situation with crackers? It's buy-one-get-one-free."

Only one thing on my list right now: 2 Tkts 2 Paradise!

I give Christmas biscotti to my four favorite check-out clerks at Giant #158 for reason of many kindnesses over the years, but especially for this one: it is much less embarrassing to sidle up to one of them with my abbreviated list and ask for an interpretation than it is to the stranger at the next cart.

I make a small list for everyday things that I'm out of or almost out of, but, like Lissa, I plan my meals around what's available and what's at a good price.

I can't believe I'm more organized than the other posters here. I keep a running list on a recycled envelope. The family has been trained to write what they want on the master list. The envelope holds the relevant coupons, map to Wegman's, etc. Works like a charm--as long as I can read my own handwriting!

It must be a commentary on my own personality that I am so fascinated by stuff like this. Not only do I find it interesting to see what other people buy and what organization their lists take (if any), but it concretes my belief that all of us have 2 kinds of handwriting: 1 for the rest of the world, and 1 for our own eyes.

One more reason to love my iPhone: my shopping list app.

My problem is remembering to get the list off of the refrigerator in the morning and putting it in my shirt pocket so I'll have it with me when I stop at the store on the way home from work.

I've often thought it would be cool to have an electronic shopping list on the refrigerator that I could query over the network from work. It's technically feasible, but would cost too much money.

Must admit, I prepare a detailed dinner menu for the week, based in part on the sale ad and Sunday coupons. Then I write a corresponding grocery list, organized according to the order in which things are arranged in the grocery store aisles (i.e. produce, meats, canned goods, toiletries and seasonal, frozen, dairy, bread/bakery, deli), with coupons arranged in the same order. Family members have been trained to add special requests or necessities directly to the list, which sits on its corner of the kitchen cabinet during the week. There is some flexibility if I get to the store, or pass a farm cart, and see something I have to have. And icecream is (almost) always on the list.

As I am usually shopping to feed and groom 5-8 people in any given week, I had to have a system. This works pretty well, and I rarely have to make trips, or send someone else, to the store in the middle of the week...unless we run out of icecream.

Dahlink - a map to Wegman's?

Lissa wrote "I seem to plan meals opposite of the way most do. I go see what is fresh, looks good, on sale or some combination thereof, then I cook based on that."

I think that comes more naturally for people who have had the opportunity to live in other countries, where large refrigerators and freezers are not available. When I lived in Germany, there was little grocery in the ground floor of the next building that I was in almost every day, despite the fact that I had access to the US Army Commissary. I still do similar things today, walking through the store to see what piques my interest or figuring out how I might cook the things I find.

My mom does the same thing, writes out her grocery lists on an old envelope. But she keeps her coupons in an organizer thing.

Me, I keep a running list on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Seems like I go once or twice a week, because neither grocery store (Winn-Dixie or Publix) carries all of what I want/need.

Then, of course, I forget to either put something on the list, or completely forget to pick up something that is on the list!

Gray Girl... my kind of woman. I do exactly the same thing, albeit for just the two of us.

Bucky, no, the Wegman's map shows me where things are in the store, not how to get there (which I could almost do with my eyes closed). If you ever visit here, you'll understand--it's huge!

My running list that stays on the side of the refrigerator is most like the one resembling GrayGirl's post. The items are listed according to the aisle located in the grocery store. I make several trips during the week to the store because of the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that I prefer to consume. I really enjoy reading about other respondents way of organizing their routines.

RE: Wegman's maps -- when are these folks going to get clever and post GPS listings for things in the store?? Olive oil in aisle 8 ... not so helpful. Olive oil at 39° 29' 53.70" N x 76° 39" 17.42" W ... very helpful.

(No, I did not get one for Christmas. Just been playing with Google maps a lot lately. And speaking of which, I note with interest that their satellite picture of "Hunt Valley" is still of the old mall ... how September 10th of them!)

As it runs low, I list stuff on the pad on the fridge, and almost always remember to bring it and my coupon organizer with me. But I'm one of those weirdos who likes to food shop, so I run the aisles to see what's on too good a sale to pass up--like today's NY strips and flank steak that were 30% off. They're vacuum sealed and in the freezer, waiting to make nice meals.

Cast your mind back, say 10 years (maybe only 5 years) and consider this statement: '... I'm nearly out of garlic, I put it in my phone.' Then you were stark raving mad. Now, no one blinks and someone else recommends shopping list software for a phone.

Me, I'd like product locations from Wegmans in electronic form so I could play with Access and have a list in the correct shopping order, based on the door by which I enter the store. Actually, their web site does allow you to enter a shopping list and they say the will provide the location information. Haven't played with that yet.

As a Giant customer, I use their online clickable circular, which allows you to click on items as you browse the circular and add the items to a shopping list. (I think Safeway has a similar online feature.) I also prefer to wait for the Sunday coupons before shopping, especially since many of the coupons will be for items that are on sale that same week.

Dahlink - I'm relieved. You've always seemed lucid, so the map comment caught me off-guard.

RtSO, I can't think of how I got through college using an electric typewriter. Seems like professors stopped having a preference for footnotes over end notes right about when I started using a computer.

Of course, technology has been trying to solve the shopping list problem for quite some time.

When Wegman's opened here I was warned about their tracking of purchases by someone whose brother shopped at the original Wegman's in Rochester. He once got a letter apologizing for being out of their favorite cat food, which he thought was nice. Then he realized that he had not complained or mentioned this to anyone at the store.

Wegman's maps -- when are these folks going to get clever and post GPS listings for things in the store??

Great idea, except that GPS units don't work indoors.

In my youth I was a clrk for a local grocery chain, when I would find an abandoned grocery list. I would grade it content/grammar (B-/C+ etc) and post them on the emplyees bulletin board , store manager had no sense of humor and would always remove them. Some were quite funny!!!
and some as stated quite scary

Geeze! I just wander around whatever store is least annoying to stop at after work, trying to remember what that thing was that I needed, picking up what seem like a good idea!

Eve - Exactly! Forgetting, of course, what I originally intended to get (unless it is cat food, for the cat...NEVER come home without the cat food!), and leaving with something completely different.

I must confess, that it's no uncommon for me to come home with everything EXCEPT what I went to the store for. It's the shiny objects....

Shiny objects, cat food and sale chocolate. My downfalls.


I do the same thing at times, when I leave my list home. Like today, I will try to remember the couple/three things I forgot to get yesterday.

It's the shiny objects....

...or those birthday cards that play music.

The real problem with lists is that they expose you to too many shiny objects. If I enter the portals of the Kingdom of Wegmans, list in hand, I leave with far more than what is on my list; shop without a list and I escape with far less. With a list I am generally forced to travel more isles thus exposing me to more of those pesky shiny objects. Memory shopping limits the amount of the store I cover.

Wow RtSO - That is a great theory. Especially at a place like Wegmans (if you can first of all find a place to park). There, before you know it, you walk out with 10 pounds of cheeses from around the world and $30 worth of chinese food from the hotbar, forgetting the toilet paper you actually went in for.

Ms Trixie, exactly. From memory you can hold only so many items (3 is about my limit.) After I exhaust my memory list I revert my famous blank stare, get bored and decide I've been in the store too long and have to get home. Wandering to the till I might grab one or two shiny objects, but that's it, not as you say, 10 pounds of cheeses.

If you shopped in the inner city, rather than at luxurious Wegman's, you wouldn't have the problem of coming out with 10 lbs. of artisinal cheeses, $30 of Chinese food and organic, cruelty-free cat treats. Instead, you'd have a package of off-brand baloney and a stale-dated loaf of white "bread".

Then again, Aldi's does have an excellent chocolate selection...

Bucky--thanks! "Lucid" may be the nicest thing anyone has ever called me!

Lissa - That is exactly the reason I do not shop at Wegmans. Not saying that it is a bad store, but I just think that (at least for my shopping purposes, I only shop for me and the cat!) it is a little over the top and overwhelming.

Trixie, Wegman's is nice once or twice a year, when I've rented a car and have leftover disposable income. After all, there is no way on earth I'm going to be able to pass up organic dark chocolate ice cream or crotins.

Not that I can afford it, or have ever purchased it, but who can resist a store with honest to god real white truffles?

Honestly, I like Wegmens and sometimes their prices (for normal things) are pretty good. Their food is pretty and well packed and they have great variety. I just think it's too big. And, I'm not used to it enough to where anything is so I wander the aisles and thus (as Trixie pointed out) wind up with "10 lbs of artisinal cheeses and $30 of Chinese food and organic, cruelty-free cat treats".

Maybe if I did my weekly shopping there I could build up some serious leg muscles, though.

Yes, Joyce W., I justify the extra cheeses, etc. I come home with by considering the trek from car to store and then the trek inside as a workout. Yesterday I was so disorganized I had to circle back to the beginning for something I had forgotten, so it was a double workout.

Shill at 6:17 AM? (I assume that somebody who posts to a topic, dormant for eight months, and inserts a link to a French-language website for cell phone accessories, is a shill.)

You know, I stared and stared at it, because I just couldn't decide, it was so unconnected. But since you, too, wonder, poof! I may start simply killing out anyone I haven't heard of before who links and also praises a post. EL

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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