Cereal is a serious issue


I am in Tesco with Dean*, on his first shopping trip since he arrived. Our shopping techniques, it seems, are slightly different. I loathe being in a crowded space full of people and decisions to make, and so take a Let’s Get This Over With approach. This usually means that I spend a maximum of 10 minutes in any given shop as I zoom around grabbing exactly the items I need. Much as I hate doing it, I feel like I’ve got the hang of this shopping thing. Dean is less sure about this, mostly because the choice of cereal is so great.

“I am an expert in identifying the cheapest item on the shelf, rather like the pricing experts on Flog It but with even less class or style”

“I like cornflakes,” he muses, “But then again I also really like muesli.”

“Get both,” I suggest, unused to actually stopping to contemplate such a choice when all around us is horrifying, retail-induced chaos. Yet I remember the time a few weeks ago when shopping was a new experience for me; revelling in the freedom to buy anything I wanted, every choice of item was filled with endless possibilities. I once spent nearly 20 minutes dithering between two near-identical brands of cheese. It’s a hard situation to adjust to, so he has my sympathy.

“Hmm. What’s the difference between them though?”

“Muesli is twice as expensive as cornflakes,” I reply; at this point I am an expert in identifying the cheapest item on the shelf, rather like the pricing experts on Flog It but with even less class or style.

“Yeah, I guess,” he pauses as an unsupervised toddler whizzes past us on a scooter twice its size, “But I still want to get muesli.”

He goes to put the cornflakes back, which takes about 3 seconds, but in that time several fellow shoppers regard me with utmost disdain. What if I’m obstructing their shopping experience by placing our trolley in front of the mayonnaise shelves? How could I be so selfish, so unconcerned with their wellbeing? I am overwhelmed by guilt and hasten to the fresh veg aisle so that I can pretend, at least, to be healthy.

The automatic checkout machines are creepy as hell; my dreams are forever haunted by the robotic cry of “Unexpected item in bagging area!” Fortunately Dean agrees that he would rather bother an actual human being with our shopping, so I smile winningly at the woman on the till. She glances down at our trolley, as if judging our purchases.

Discounted bread, eh? She seems to say, And five cans of soup? Do you need that many?

Hastily I attempt to bag up the items that she flings across the counter at us. Dean is struggling with his rucksack and I offer to help. The man behind us, buying a single pint of milk, glares at us for holding him up; we have become Those People with Too Much Shopping. Fumbling with our many, many bags, we finally stagger outside.

“That went well,” I remark, “Now we just have to carry it all up the hill to get home.”

Dean groans, and I can only agree with him.


Protips for livers out this week:

  • The supermarket is a scary place full of magical items, most of which you cannot afford.
  • Find solace in the cake and biscuit aisle, or in care packages from home.
  • Also, everything gets priced down if you go in just before closing time.

*My housemates, because they are lovely, have allowed me to write about them on the condition that I change their names.

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