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The Etiquette of Food Shopping



As I was looking over the mesculin selection at Dean and Deluca, this very morning, I could not help but notice the girl picking grapes off the selection and eating them as she stood there. Also on her cell phone and seemed completely at home doing such a thing. I never buy grapes from the top for this very reason. Not only is it rude, but it is stealing and unhygienic. Of course, you will wash the grapes before you put them on your cheese tray, but really people…Do you have to go meddling through grapes you will not even buy anyway?

From my many food shopping outings to markets and grocery stores, this is a chronic problem. If you are that grape eater, stop or buy the whole bag please. For the rest of you, I have decided it is high time we all gather round for a sit down about The Etiquette of Food Shopping. Especially because groceries have become a mecca for social interaction and a spot where you could pick up what and who you will be having for dinner. Even if all you buy is cereal, creamer and coffee, there are still lessons to be garnered. This will be geared towards the city dwellers, who frequent small markets or corner stores, markets, Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Farmer’s markets are a whole game unto them selves, and will be covered at a later date. Having grown up in a less than urbanized city in the South, we had giant groceries that even at their busiest were never the mad houses that these super sized stores are here in NYC. Here you deal less with what happens in a say, parking lots, and more of what happens in between the aisles. So place your basket on your arm or take a cart, and let the shopping begin!

You are not there alone: Despite the common task that is grocery shopping, it is a time even the most conscious individuals lose all attention to those around them and drift into a “do we need eggs….” world of their own. Others are on time schedules, some or bothered to even have to go (really, even I get pissy if all I need is toilet paper and limes, yet get stuck behind the woman shopping for a family of close to twenty I suspect.) Let us first realize we are not alone in out shopping, which includes attire and personal presentation. The grocery is a brilliant place where almost anything goes, and even the walk-of-shame look works. Florescent lighting flatters no one but the shelves, so just make sure you wear pants, all necessary parts are covered and you’re clean…enough. We are around things people will be eating anyway.

Do not block, hog or idle in aisles: I see folks park their carts and wander all around the same aisle. The worse is leaving it right in the middle of the aisle, not on one side or the other but in the middle. Making a total road block. Others exasperation will usually not be tolerated and the moment you go to move their cart the slightest to the right, the freak out begins. No one wants your groceries. We want to get by so we can buy what we do want. Aisle traffic must flow, or in the mess everyone is elbowing or swinging baskets on arms over heads, knocking items off shelves and making a bigger disaster zone. Enter two other issues.

Baskets are not weapons. Make dinner, not war. A basket might feel like a natural extension of your arm, but it is hard and it protrudes out…far enough to properly smack those you walk by. It hurts and it is darn inconsiderate. Just say excuse me, move to one side, slide the basket in front of you…figure out a working plan. Sort of like people, basket, cart Tetris.

Knock it down, Pick it up! Now, with people blocking entire aisles and baskets flying all about you, it will happen that a box or two or forty of Wheaties will get knocked off or fall off shelves. Do yourself, the grocery employees and your fellow shoppers a favor; pick it up. Yes, you. And why not try this with anything else that might obscure your path. A box of tea? Jar of jelly? If it was in your way, odds are it will be in some one else’s, too. Random acts of neatness and consideration might trickle down. Let’s stay optimistic with this one as we move to the meat counter and pick up.

Meat Counter Order: They put little numbers in most meat and seafood areas as the store wants you to take a number and be helped in the order you arrived and are thus called. There is nothing revolutionary or complicated about this system. Yet, it does involve patience which causes many a struggle. Do not saddle up to the counter like you know your beef and deserve it faster than the rest of us. Line cutters who accept being next even when they are obviously not….are noticed. Accept your glaring looks of disapproval, take your lamb chops, move on and do not do it next time. If there are no numbers, take a note of who was there before you and after you. Take your turns. You all get your goods in the end.

Lack Patience? Time of Day Considerations: If shopping drives you crazy, people get in your way and frankly you turn into that nasty ass hole bumping and grunting throughout the store…consider when you go shopping. Avoid rush hour times and Sunday afternoons. Staying out of the mad times could save you, your groceries and your other shoppers. Plus you will not forget crucial items like yogurt or dill as you were trying to save time and sanity during a rush.