When I head to the grocery store I have a few lists – my mental list, my husband’s written down list of things he’s noticed we need, and lastly my subconscious list that gets triggered as I walk the aisles (or depending on how hungry and/or PMS I am the evil list that somehow throws the Mallomars into my cart). My cart more or less always looks the same, filled with the basics that make up our family’s diet. It never occurred to me that these items were unique, interesting or in any way different than anyone else’s. But, a while back I went to Costco with a friend I don’t usually shop with and she looked in my cart and said, “Wow, we have totally different carts. I would never buy any of that stuff.” I looked in her cart and thought pretty much the same thing.
There we were – two very good friends, with fairly identical parenting approaches, the same political views, the same family backgrounds, even similar husbands and kids who adore each other, with two completely different grocery carts. How different could they be? Well, I’ve written before about my disdain for prepackaged, portioned snack food. My friend is the queen of those items – it’s one of those short cuts that make her life easier so it makes sense for her. She’s a big Vitamin Water drinker. Me, not so much. I am a vegetarian (though I eat fish so technically I’m a pescetarian). So, my cart was full of clams and sardines for various pasta sauces, frozen wild salmon and shrimp and lobster salad. Hers was full of chicken nuggets, canned pasta and soup. We joke that my daughter is a fruititarian so I had enough fruit to open a farm stand. She had applesauce and fruit snacks. She likes one brand of turkey and yogurt; I like another. Ditto for toilet paper, paper towels and bread. I need dark chocolate and good balsamic vinegar in my pantry at all times. She needs baby carrots and multi-grain chips and salsa.
The funniest thing about looking at our two different carts and cracking up is that the biggest, most obvious difference between us is that I cook almost every night and she doesn’t. Her priority when shopping is to get the things for in between her children’s meals since a lot of nights they order in or go out and lunch is taken care of at school. My priority is to fill up on staples and fill in on the fresh stuff so I don’t have to run to the market every day. I’m looking at three meals a day, she’s usually only looking at one; and that’s breakfast. But none of this had ever occurred to me until that day.
It’s a strange thing grocery shopping with a friend. Unlike clothes shopping where you are helping each other out or asking opinions food shopping is very utilitarian and at the same time way more revealing. So next time a girlfriend is going food shopping make it a date and I bet you’ll learn more about your friend and her family than you ever realized before. (And if she’s one of those people who can buy bags of potato chips or giant boxes of Oreos and not eat them herself you may want to reconsider your friendship)
This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog