The Grocery Game

Of course we know we’re supposed to make a grocery list and stick to it like it’s the law of the land. We also know that we’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach. And yet, sometimes, even when sticking to these golden rules, our grocery cart does not match our good intentions.

Grocery GameBut there is a way out. It’s easier than self-control and way, way, way more fun. It’s a game you start playing when you fill your cart, and at the checkout line, you’ll find out whether you won. Here’s how: you compare your grocery haul to what everyone else in line got. Whoever has the healthiest stuff wins.

Sometimes, people buy very unhealthy things, like chips and coke – then victory is easy. Sometimes I buy these things (that’s how I recognize a really bad day). On those days, I admit defeat before even going inside. Another example of leaving my ambitions at the bike rack: buying the shockingly high amounts of chocolate and sugar required for my Grandma’s brownies. Usually, I throw in fruit and veggies to at least secure a bronze medal.

Since you are both judge and competitor, you’re going to have to do your utmost to be impartial. But you also make the rules: if you believe bread is unhealthy, then deduct points from all bread buyers, yourself included. If you think sugar is a curse from the devil, make that known in your (silent) ratings. Gluten? Lactose? Animal products? Frozen meals? You judge their worth.

Variations in the amount of groceries purchased can make ranking tricky: You’re in a good position if you’re only stocking up on fresh produce and comparing yourself to the person who seems to plan on hosting seven teenage boys for a week. But what if you’re only buying a head of lettuce and the person in front of you gets the complete ingredients for a vegetable stir-fry with brown rice and tofu? You cannot subsist on lettuce alone…

Your choice of grocery store will affect the likelihood of your victory. The better the organic produce selection, the harder you’re going to have to work. Winning at a lower end store may be largely due to privilege, whereas Whole Foods is akin to the Olympics.

This will change the way you shop – it was a game changer for me and my friends. If you buy whole foods, fruits, vegetables, rice, whole grain bread, cheese, etc. you are pretty much guaranteed victory. A candy bar and a bag of chips can be detrimental – so you’ll think hard about whether you’d really like to trade in your victory for a short-lived sugar high.

Which incentives do you use to shop healthier?

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