Almond milk 33It didn’t seem like a difficult task.

Take a handwritten list of items needed and head to the grocery store. Simple! Done? Not quite.

The start was easy…eggs, skim milk, and toilet paper. Then the first problem…almond milk. The list was no help as it only said, “almond milk” but in front of me I see regular almond milk, vanilla almond milk, unsweetened almond milk, and more. Why can’t I remember which brand we buy and exactly what type I drink everyday?

So, you see the problem! And I’m only at the beginning of my list. What will happen when I get to the hundreds of brands, flavors, sizes, and types of yogurt? With or without fruit? Low-fat or non-fat? What was it I read about Greek yogurt…good for you or not?

This is where technology can be so useful to boomers. Turn that $200 smartphone into a “smart grocery list.” I suggest a seldom-mentioned use of a smartphone that is immediately useful and practical. So, here are three can’t-miss ideas to help out anyone (but particularly those who are “grocery shopping challenged…ok I will say it, MEN) who can’t remember what they are supposed to buy when they go to the grocery store.

Strategy #1 begins before you leave home. Take out your smartphone and snap several photos of those items that you are headed to the store to buy. That way you have the exact item on your phone and all you need to do is match it once you reach the correct aisle. While I find that I prefer a written grocery list over a list on my phone (I like to cross out the items as I add them to the cart), the photos of items that are a little tricky and I must identify exactly or get in trouble when I return home, are invaluable. These items include the aforementioned yogurt (although honestly, I think my wife changes yogurt brands every month just to keep me off guard!) and wine and ice cream. Like yogurt, these last two items are offered in too many options.

The other benefit for taking photos ahead of time is that it shows that you plan ahead. Also when you whip out your phone in the grocery story you will most likely receive admiring glances from other women who wish their husbands were as smart as you.

Strategy #2, of course, is the emergency call or text from the store to your spouse/partner about a particular item and it goes something like this:

Me: Honey, you have arugula on the list but the store is all out.”

My wife: Are you actually in the produce section? See all the leafy green stuff in plastic containers? Buy the one that says, “Arugula”.

Me: Oh, there it is. Thanks.

Some people try texting in this case but the time delay may make texting impractical. Your grocery store may not want you loitering too long around the tomatoes. Besides one call (or text) inevitably leads to the next one and then one after that.

Strategy #3 may be particularly effective for those (men) who need some hand-holding all the way through each visit to the grocery store. For them I suggest a strong internet connection and a video chat app like Skype or FaceTime. When faced with a vast array of choice, the person shopping (usually a man) can pan the camera around each section until the person on the other end (other spouse or partner) can actually see the item she wants you to buy. At this point she will say, “That’s the one. Now, pick it up and put it in your cart.”

Downside to this strategy? Other shoppers may not want to participate in the classic husband/wife interaction this will entail. And you all know what I mean by this. Second downside to this face-to-face strategy? Your wife thinks she has at least one hour of peace and quiet while you are out of the house! She will not want to waste that time talking to you while you shop.

One final strategy I will mention here as a possibility but I honestly reject it out-of-hand because many of the men (including myself) I know are genetically incapable of doing this. And that is actually PAYING ATTENTION to what you eat and what you typically buy at the store. Again, I do not see this as a realistic alternative. That is why you have your smartphone to use as a crutch when you can’t remember.

A sad story with a happy ending: Recently, good friends just celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary. They have been together a long time and have shared thousands of meals. The husband in question returned from a trip to the store thinking he had brought his wife a nice treat, some pistachios. However, they weren’t just plain nuts, they were spiced; unfortunately spiced with paprika. Do I need to add that said wife is highly allergic to paprika and can’t come in contact with it let alone ingest it? I rest my case. The happy part is that she knows to check everything her husband buys!

Why did this incident happen? Because he ignored every one of the three strategies mentioned above.

Another practical application of the computer in your pocket…your smartphone!

One thought on “Foolproof Shopping Tips for Boomer Husbands

  • May 28, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing Ed! I use the Notes app on my phone to make shopping lists when buying for cooking classes. If I pay attention I can avoid showing up for class with round wonton wrappers when I really need square ones!

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