Here’s a bad combination: Swinging through the grocery store without a list, while hungry, yet in an expansive, world-full-of-possibilities mood.
What could go wrong?
I’m a list person, and I’m not saying I can’t get through the day without a good checklist, but it does help keep me as well focused as I’m likely to be. Same thing at the grocery store. You don’t want to get home and realize you forgot Grape Nuts. Or milk.
The tip about not shopping for groceries when you’re hungry is a classic. Everything looks good, so there goes the budget. And, wait, are those caramel M&M’s? Ooh. I didn’t know that was a thing.
You get home and wonder why you bought a rack of ribs, three pounds of cole slaw, a pizza and four packages of Oreos. And more milk.
But the greatest danger is taking on grocery shopping as a creative adventure instead of a simple chore.
I’ll admit it: Yard work is OK, though mowing gets old quickly. Shoveling snow is fun for about four minutes. Sitting down to pay the bills is moderately amusing. Grocery shopping and cooking, however, are fun. There, I said it. Fun.
The helpful smiles in the friendly aisles must love people like me. Why look, sir, they might say, it’s olive oil infused with blood orange. How ever have I gotten along without that?
I made something a little different – a lighter, more aromatic take on potato salad – for a Fourth of July party. It was grand. It was a mistake. People seemed to like it, and it got eaten up.
But I also signed up with the source of that recipe for more stuff. That’s a dicey move. Now I’m getting four emails a week, and I lack the will to not read them.
Here came one the other day. It led with a picture, a simple photo with an unspoken but clear message: There is no way you’re not making this. Don’t fight it. The grocery store is waiting for you right now.
It was a lemon/blueberry/almond cake. It demanded moves I’d forgotten about – zesting a lemon, adding stuff after the cake went into the oven, that foil-loosely-over-the-top trick that’s actually harder than it sounds like. The recipe required the purchase of almond flour. And the use of the stand mixer. It was a marathon.
It was glorious, from the lemon icing to the sumptuous blueberries, and it will be repeated. I assume this gets easier with repetition. I plan to be the hit of the next church potluck.
Wait a minute. This project required a planning-and-procurement effort just shy of logistics for the Normandy landing, and that included a proper grocery list. Still, I’d have spent less money if I’d wandered the aisles and randomly grabbed every 10th item.
I probably should rethink this. I probably won’t. Another email will come – buttermilk-crust fried chicken would be my guess – and the happy cycle starts over. It beats shoveling snow.
– Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @FoxEJC