Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bagging 101

I spent $245 at the grocery store today. After 5 days of stomach flu, in which I have no idea what the family ate, and 5 days of being out of town, in which I am pretty sure they ate what I left for them, the cupboards were bare. Except for some Claritin and a tube of toothpaste, everything in my cart was edible. Epic shopping. Cart overflow.

My grocery shopping trips usually come in the $130 to $180 range. That is about 5-8 reusable shopping bags worth, depending on the skill of the bagger. Given you can put 4 bags in the bottom of the cart, one on the leading edge tray and 2 in the child seat, I can usually get away with no bag stacking. This is strangely very important to me. Quite frankly, I am bagging sensitive. If there was a behavioral spectrum of bagging sensitivity, I would be off the chart. I make grown baggers cry.

I knew I was in trouble today when the items in my cart started creeping above the rim. The milk was in the underbelly. A bagging nightmare.

You see, I don't like my veggies squished. I spend a lot on fresh veggies, some of it organic. When I get home to smashed tomatoes or bruised bananas, it makes me very angry! During the summer when peaches, nectarines and plums are in season, I get nervous to the point of shakes. "DON'T SMASH THE PRODUCE" I want to yell. But I don't. I try to be nice. I try.

Why is it that the entire success of a grocery procurement process depends on the lowest paid person in the store? Conveyer belt micro-management, this is my coping mechanism. Short of just telling the check-out person that I want to bag myself, this is the only way to have some insurance that the heavies are on the bottom.

• Cans, boxes and bottles go first. Everything that can sit in the car a day and will make a nice stable base in the cart. Two cereals, two crackers, some pasta, various beans, salsas and canned tomatoes. Tightly packed! I want a nice solid foundation. Insert 10 inches conveyer break. Maybe 12 inches.

• Next all of the freezer and cold items; ice creams, frozen raspberries and peas, 30 or so yogurts, assorted dairy and maybe a frozen pizza. All of it gets covered up with my special padded cold bag with the zipper. I love that bag! Make sure you can zip it. I like it zipped. Insert another 10-12 inches here.

• Now it gets a little ambiguous, but I like to jump to the meats. Meats usually stack well and make a pretty decent base. Down go the chicken, fish, lunch meats and cheeses, tortillas and assorted leftover cold-ish things. If I only have enough time to bring two bags in the house, I like to know that all my fridge and freezer items are sharing bag space. No rogue sour cream, please!

• At this point, I am going to send down 3 reusable bags and all the fruits and veggies. They are going to be ordered by how likely they are to break a car window when thrown at a distance of 6 feet, by me. Butternut squash, potatoes, apples, onions, garlic, oranges, lemons, limes, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes... I wish for them to be distributed evenly, with the most fragile fruits on top. Little tip, lettuce makes nice packing material.

• Of course, there are some items that must be saved for the very end. The usual suspects, eggs and bananas of course. But I like to save boxed berries, chips and all my bread for the end also. They can be distributed on top of the veg. That is fine with me!

• Milk is always last and doesn't get bagged, thank you very much.

I am thinking of becoming an Independent Bagging Consultant. Mandatory classes for new baggers and ones that want to become "certified." There will be PowerPoint presentations and practical lessons. Maybe a healthy snack will be offered. Some day you too could make it home with intact produce. You'll thank me!


  1. You and I must have graduated from the same school of Grocery Bagging Compulsion 101! Ahhhh, a kindred spirit.
    Btw, can you recommend some yogurts? I gave up on them after so many are laden with HFCS and too many additives and fillers.

  2. Ninja, It is so comforting to know I am not the only one!

    Yogurts! I am a big fan of Wallaby Organic (www.wallabyyogurt.com), esspecially the raspberry! We also eat Cascade Fresh (www.cascadefresh.com),and Brown Cow Lowfat (www.browncowfarm.com) esspecially the peach and Lemon Twist.

    Lately we have gotten into greek yogurt, too. Same calories, double the protien! The Fage (www.fageUSA.com) brand is definately the tastiest, but also the most expensive! We eat Chobani (www.chobani.com) the most because I can get it for about $1 a container at Costco.

    I am NOT a fan of Stonyfield farm yogurt, even though it is organic and they have a greek option. I just don't like the taste of it!

    One more thing, if you have a Randalls nearby, their house brand, O Organic Yogurt is a dead ringer for Wallaby, at a much lower price!

    Hope that helps! -heather

  3. First, my sis has gone off the deep end.
    Second, you would go crazy here, all grocery baggers are Filipino ladies that do not speak English and get paid with tips only, they don't care that your frozen chicken is oozing Salmonella on your fresh lettuce...I have no qualms about weird bagging, but those ladies make me nervous sometimes. "just hand me my York Peppermint Patty please...."