How often do you go shopping with a short list and end up buying a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with what you really need?

Picture: Anthony Albright

Passing in front of all that coloured-packaged food, I feel as if I really have to buy almost everything. Supermarkets seem to be made for people to get lost and waste a lot of precious time walking confusedly among the shelves.

One of the things that I’ve liked the most since I’d fled the nest is going to the shop. Finally I could decide what to eat and how to organize my meals – even if I couldn’t bother cooking for myself. Anyway.

Supermarkets have the power to fascinate customers with all those products, the plain voice of the speaker – always calling someone of the staff to the cashiers – the noise and the breeze coming from the big fridges, the sections of food, the buy-one-get-one-free offers…

Even if at first I didn’t mind spending half an hour in that attractive new place, now I feel I really have enough of it. And I’m not the only one, I guess.

Go to Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose or Marks & Spencer and you’ll have the same problem. Although you may be determined to have a quick shop, as you’ll enter the store you’ll be dazzled by the strong lights, and eventually forget your good intentions.

All shops follow the same scheme: unappealing fruit and vegetables are at the entrance, followed by “ready dishes”, a mess of shelves full of other things and snacks at the end, right in front of the line for the cashier. Unless you’re very lucky, in the majority of the cases there are no panels with instructions about the areas where you can find different products: so you have to guess.

Moreover, shop assistants aren’t even useful when you ask for help, as they always ignore where the you’re desperately looking for is located.

To fight the system, I’ve been going always to the same store for a month, trying to memorize the areas where are the things I usually need and avoid the passages more likely to be full of people. I never take the trolley – it slows you down and blocks the corridors – but only the basket without wheels. I’ve also learned where are the fastest routes, but still I loose too much time and buy too much. When I get out, I always have so many bags that I have to take the bus to carry everything up the hill.

It’s clearly a valuable strategy for the companies to sell more: that’s why they fit as many things as possible in those always-bigger stores – and we pay.

But why do we have to spend a lot of money, time and energy in those labyrinths, when there’s the Internet?

Buying online is an easy way to avoid all this. According to the report of the Centre for Retail Research, the online shopping is the fastest growing market in the UK, having increased by 16% every year since 2003 and reaching 10.7% of the total sales last year. It’s a reasonable choice, considering that it really saves a lot of time – which “is money”.

No more heavy plastic bags, no more never-ending lines at the cashier, no more broken eggs and temptations in the snack shelves. You only click on what you need and book a cheap delivery at your door.

It sounds cool, but my experience with it is not that positive. After I registered at Tesco’s website, I’ve ended up buying much more than I would at the physical supermarket. In fact, the computer is programmed automatically to suggest to you all the ongoing offers and eventually persuade you to buy bigger packs to save on the transport. But then, goods expire and you’re forced either to eat everything quickly or throw it in the bin.

It’s definitely not a good deal for single students with small cupboards like me. So, I cancelled the order and decided that facing the big shop once a week – maybe in the late evening to avoid crowd – is the best tactic. Let me know what you think about it.

2 thoughts on “SUPERMARKET, AGAIN

  1. One of the best weight loss tips that worked for me was “never go to shopping when you are hungry”. That was sooo true for me. If I’m hungry and go to the grocery store, I end up buying too many things because of my craving!

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