While I was still living at home, grocery shopping was a pleasant diversion but it was always coloured by a faint association with futility. My parents stocked the fridge regardless and I just bought extra kidney beans to supplement my vegetarian diet.
Now that I am hungry and alone, grocery shopping has become a noble necessity. I could go so far as to say I couldn’t live without it.
Every second day on my way home from work, I wander into my local branch of Netto and greet the three punks, who have inhabited the dirty pavement outside and spend their days drinking beer and enjoying banter with the store’s security guard. For the next twenty minutes, I forget my worldly problems as I navigate my way through bundles of asparagus, the weekly deal of a desktop printer and boxes of instant dumplings.
On the occasions that I have felt directionless, grocery shopping has restored a sense of purpose. There is no therapy like it.
While I am not one to write shopping lists, I do like to dash to my post box to snatch the latest promotional leaflet featuring upcoming deals at my local discounters.
It is an exercise in self-control not to rush at every offer of 19 cent bundle of radishes and toilet seats at just €19.99. With time, this kind of restraint may develop into a widely-applicable life skill.
And even if you do succumb to temptation, as I am apt to do when a 100 gram bar of Milka chocolate is offered at just 59 cent for one week only, buying superfluous groceries does not compare to the guilt associated with conventional retail therapy.
Grocery shopping melds our most primal needs with the more sophisticated cognitive processes of reasoning and restraint. We must learn to differentiate between the times when succumbing to temptation is a good thing (for example when Milka chcocolate is on special offer) and the instances when a purchase would be unhelpful (as in the case of the extra toilet seat). Such high-level strategy is rarely taught, let alone mastered at university level.
For those under the impression that grocery shopping represents mere escapism: it has its challenges too. Sometimes you end up with an excessive quantity of toilet paper; and at other times you come too late for the marzipan-flavoured Milka bar.
Sometimes when I am in a queue, the customer before me places a little barrier in between their shopping and mine. Though such an action is ultimately self-serving, I always thank them profusely. Then they look at me in the bemused way to which I have become accustomed when behaving with excessive politeness. It is the same look I get when I thank a bus driver or wish the man selling me falafels a good day. I can’t help feeling a little peeved when I place a barrier between my shopping and another person’s and I do not even get the slightest hint of acknowledgement.
Such gritty reality must sadly be faced in the world outside and grocery shopping has equipped me with the necessary skills to cope.
None of the self books I used to borrow from Rathmines library taught me as much about the human condition as shopping for food has.
Despite the transformative power of shopping for groceries, I have met individuals that profess not to be advocates. I have even heard food shopping described as “boring” and “stressful”.
I hesitate to entertain the notion, but could I be alone in my enjoyment?