Do you suffer from Supermarket Stupor?

Feeling stupefied yet?

Over the summer I moved to Western Massachusetts. I live in an amazingly cute, vibrant town called Northampton, which reminds me a lot of my old ‘hood in Brooklyn. Matt, Gola and I couldn’t be happier. It did take me some time, however, to get used to a different way of life. I did move from New York City, after all.

So, besides getting used to getting my ass into a car and driving everywhere (which I am now used to), stopping for pedestrians,  super-friendly people, and a lower cost of living, I’ve had to adapt my food shopping ways. First the major pro’s: I’ve got a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in the same shopping center 10 minutes from my home, and I am surrounded by farms, CSA’s, and farm stands so my fridge is stocked with vegetables grown literally right outside my door. In fact, I’ve never eaten healthier in my life!  But there’s one major problem I have at the local larger-than-life Stop & Shop supermarket. I call it Supermarket Stupor.

Do you experience the following symptoms when walking into a very large supermarket:

-A sense of overwhelm

-Confusion over what to buy

-Dizziness from all the products and the bright overhead lights

-Frustration at the sheer number of food items on a shelf, and the muzak in the background

-A strong desire to curse, mutter, scream

If you have experienced one or more of those symptoms, then you, my friend, have the condition known as Supermarket Stupor. Not to worry—I have the remedy.

In all seriousness, I go through all of the above when I’m at my local supermarket. I’ve started to get really angry at the rows and rows of processed food products. I now understand why people have such difficulty purchasing healthy foods: it’s so hard to make a dang decision! Also, each product’s label is literally screaming why you should choose it: “I’m low in sodium! I’m reduced sodium! I’m 45% less sodium. Pick me, pick me, pick ME!” AGHHHHHHH! It took me, I kid you not, 20 minutes to select an apple juice.  The bottom line is this: There is just TOO much in a supermarket. I believe it overwhelms you to the point that you just say “F^&* it,” and select whatever product is in front of you, which of course happens to be the unhealthiest. Just by looking at fellow shoppers’ carts, I know this is true.

I’m a nutritionist and shopping is difficult for me, so I can only imagine how hard it is for you to navigate the store.

But have no fear—I told you I’d offer you a remedy. In fact, I have 4 tips which can help prevent Supermarket Stupor:

1. Bring a list. Don’t even attempt to shop without a focused list. I guarantee your cart will be filled with crap if you shop free form. You need to make a plan of attack!

2. Stick to the perimeter. Ever notice how the fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy are on the perimeter of the store? And all the processed stuff is in the middle? Just walk a nice box around the store and you’ll have access to the healthy foods.

3. Don’t shop hungry. If you’ve done this before, you know what a disaster it can be. Are those ding-dongs in your cart? If you think you’re even the slightest bit hungry, have a small snack before venturing to the market.

4. Download my favorite app from Fooducate. It allows you to scan labels of many processed foods and rates them. It even offers you healthier alternatives. This is definitely an A+ app!

While you won’t be seeing a PSA for Supermarket Stupor anytime soon, I promise you it’s a very real, very serious condition. Good news is that it can be prevented!

Do you ever suffer from Supermarket Stupor? Share your stories and remedies!

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4 Responses to Do you suffer from Supermarket Stupor?

  1. Joanie M. October 17, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    I have a similar situation in Corvallis with excellent alternatives to the Safeway Supermarket. When I do go there I always have a list. I am usually buying Perrier, t.p. or cat food there, however and buy real food elsewhere.

    • Amanda October 19, 2011 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Joan! You’re right on track…always go with a list. I too only shop at the big supermarkets for necessities and packaged items.

  2. Yael October 19, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Nice to know I’m not alone! I had the same problem living in Montreal and definitely used those strategies, as well as one more: I started looking for alternatives. While supermarkets can have great deals, you often pay for the convenience of finding everything under one roof. It may seem like doing your weekly shopping at five different specialty stores is insane and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You definitely need a serious list for putting the tactic into action, but if you make a routine out of going to the same five places, you might not even miss the convenience of the supermarket. Besides avoiding the overwhelm factor, the chances are that a smaller place will be locally-owned and operated, so you’re keeping your dollar in your neighborhood. The difference in patronizing local businesses is huge, and can drastically shift the way you look at your area. Besides, they’re customer-driven AND know that they’re competing with the supermarket, so they’re going to bend over backwards to serve you!

    • Amanda October 19, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Thanks for the comment, Yael! That’s a great tactic–shopping at multiple smaller stores. In reality, I do that mostly, too. Whatever veggies, etc I dont get from my CSA I supplement with Whole Foods, a local health food store, and a food odds and ends from Trader Joes. I tend to avoid the larger stores if I can!

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