I hate shopping.

th-1I’m beginning to understand why people have things delivered. Today I drove DF to work so that I could use the vehicle for the day. I figured I’d do a couple of errands and maybe meet a friend for lunch.

Somehow the errands took over, shaving off slabs of time like a knife on a shawarma spit. It felt as though I spent two hours just getting out of the car and into the stores.

I’d forgotten how much I hate shopping. Real shopping, that is, not the kind I did in Seattle.

My last three years in the Emerald City were car-free: When my daughter and son-in-law moved to Phoenix I realized that I kept the car mostly so she’d have a reliable source of transportation. (She has a chronic illness.)

So I gave them my Chevy Cavalier, asking only that they remember this when they were picking out my nursing home. Once my car headed south I did most errands via shank’s mare, combining the need for exercise with my need to go to the library, the post office or the grocery store.

After church on Sunday my sister would ask if there was anywhere I needed to stop. That didn’t feel like shopping so much as an extension of the chatty lunch we’d just had. We’d talk as I prowled for free-after-rebate items at Walgreens or stocked up on heavier staples at the supermarket.

A cranky consumer

Today was not chatty. It was cheerless. I was alone, since my friend couldn’t make it for lunch. The day seemed made entirely of traffic lights, icy parking lots and snow that came and went – flurries, to be true, but the sky was lowering enough to have turned a few flakes into another foot-high dumping like last weekend’s.

Yep, I missed Seattle today.

It’s not as though that city is a paradise for shoppers. I often walked in drizzle or downpour, and if I weren’t careful I’d get splashed by cars. I’d do just one or two (or no) stops per daily walk, and I rarely bought more than I could carry in my backpack or my two hands. The point is that I could walk: Everything I needed was within a mile or so of my apartment.

In Seattle I didn’t need to spend hours driving from place to place and checking items off a list that seemed to grow a tail. I may have had to leap the occasional puddle but I didn’t need to tiptoe ’cross the ice floe. And I sure didn’t have to trundle seven or eight heavy bags and four 12-packs of Diet Coke into and out of the car, then take many of those items down to a basement.

Jeez, I was cranky. It’s probably a good thing my friend didn’t make it for lunch. Halfway through the entrée she might have run from the building with her hands over her ears.

When I was married I did virtually all the shopping by myself. I can’t remember being this aggravated. Is it that my time is more precious now?

A new experiment

Going shopping with DF is kind of fun. We check for deals in the “used meat” bin and the scratch-and-dent rack, look at the produce very carefully and tut-tut over the prices of everything.

Even so, we agree that picking up milk, meat and apples takes up way too much of a perfectly good Saturday.

“Shopping,” he says, “is a time suck.”

Then again, he remembers when Anchorage had small stores and people walked to them. He also remembers living in rural Alaska, where groceries were delivered once a month – or once a year.

That’s why we’ve decided to make April an experiment: We’re going to shop as little as possible, living instead on all the food in the freezer, cupboards and, yes, the basement.

There’s no chance of deprivation. We’ve got a lot of good food stored away, and we’ll still spend money on fresh stuff like bananas and salad greens. All shopping receipts will go into an envelope so we can add up what we spent.

Cost isn’t the issue, though. The time suck is.

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  1. Holly Samlan

    I have been saving ALL my shopping receipts for over a year AND I keep a spreadsheet of how much I spend on what (food, eating out, treats, cat, personal stuff).

    I used to do all my errands & shopping on the 2 days/week I went to my dad’s. This month I am doing it all 1x/week or 3x/2 weeks. Just a quick extra hop each week to the library (I do pass & sometimeds hit Aldi, 2 fruit/veg markets, CVS & WAG).

    I have spent WAAAY less than usual by $50-80 for the month in spite of fresh fruit & veg prices being SKY high. In part because I have spent less because I am also buying less gasoline.

  2. Yes! Shopping is a time suck, which is why I avoid days like the one you relate above! I was very happy when a supermarket opened near my house last fall, and it has changed my shopping habits quite a bit. It used to be that I drove or perhaps cycled a little over a mile each way to a grocery store. Now I can walk the 4.5 blocks to and from the store.

    I actually tend to shop more often now, but I don’t overbuy food like I did in the past — buying stuff not on my list, but that I think I may use, or which is on sale — because I have the car for a big weekly shopping trip. Now I am much more relaxed about getting groceries. I resist buying a certain produce item, for example, because if I do end up really needing it, there’s no issue with walking a few blocks to get it. Usually, I end up not needing it, either, which saves me the expense of purchasing something unnecessary.

    Luckily the stores I need to use most are located near me. The pharmacy is about a mile away, which makes for a good walk or a short bike ride on a nice day. The post office and library are in the same general area as the pharmacy. Yesterday I took advantage of the beautiful weather we had to walk to the pharmacy, library, and post office. Between those errands and a short trip to the grocery store last night I walked nearly 4 miles. 🙂 I only wish I could have brought the dog with me on the longer walk as she really would have enjoyed it, too.

    • Donna Freedman

      That was me in Seattle those last few years: Daily walks and buying fewer things at a time. Since I was considering moving back to Anchorage, I was determined to use up stockpiles — most of my food purchases were therefore fruits, vegetables, a bit of meat and milk. They were almost always bought at the Asian/Western market three blocks from my house, a place easy to dip into, grab a few things and get right back out. I miss that store.

  3. The real time-suck is other people and other cars. I have discovered that I can go between 11 pm and 2 am and meet few cars, get mostly red lights or just short waits at lights, find an electric cart that works, shop and check out without much time, gas, or frustration. I am grumpy when I shop during the day because as I drive 2 mph, or just sit with my foot on the brake, I realize my precious gasoline is being consumed.

    I think being older, hurting, and not having someone to drag all the groceries in is why I am grumpier. I can get someone to put heavy groceries in my cart, and have someone put them all in the car, use my little red wagon to get them to the house, but I still have to haul cokes and milk and bags up the steps! Some days, I ask for no help.

    If I had to deal with ice and snow, I would check in somewhere and never come out.

  4. That is why I have discovered a love of online shopping. Last month I found a deal on toilet paper on Amazon! And instead of hitting Kohl’s on Black Friday to get an item I wanted, I found that I could order it at the same price online. I ordered enough to get free shipping and even earned Kohl’s bucks that I then used for more online shopping for Christmas gifts… without leaving the comfort of my home.

    • Donna Freedman

      I used free Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks to get all sorts of things sent to me when I lived in Seattle: wool socks, olive oil, vitamins, books, flax seed, quinoa. In addition, I had items like cat litter and paper products sent to my daughter and son-in-law. That’s because I had an Amazon Prime membership so I didn’t have to pay for shipping.

      Prime doesn’t cover shipping to Alaska (or Hawaii) so I buy less for myself that way. However, I renewed for another year in order to send gifts to friends and family in the Lower 48 and also to allow several relatives to piggyback on the membership (you can add others to it). Worth it to me, especially around the holidays. And yeah, sometimes I still have staples sent to daughter and SIL because, hey, whose budget couldn’t use a boost now and then?

      Once again: Anyone who’s not a Swagbucks member already, give it a try. And if you do, I hope you’ll use my referral code:

  5. Car shopping SUCKS. I unloaded most of this week’s shopping (a birthday present, socks, new boots, letting kiddo spend his savings on videogames) on my partner yesterday – he had the day off, and it was his boots that wore out – and he came home so, so disgruntled.

    I do my regular shopping – groceries, the thrift store, hardware store – mostly on my bike, or along the bus route back and forth to school, and that stops it from growing and growing the way the car errands do. I can only carry so much, no adding “just one more stop”.

    • Donna Freedman

      “Just one more stop” — that’s kind of how my day went. Ack. Glad to be carless most of the time, actually.

  6. I feel exactly the same way about shopping. Its so rediculis to have to drive from parking lot to parking lot. I live 2 blocks from a great grocery store that I visit 2 to 3 times a week. Its quick and efficient and I never buy more than I can carry. Its exactly how shopping should be.

  7. Laura Devin

    I think it’s funny that just three days ago I said to my husband, “We are not buying any more food until we eat more of what is in the freezer!” in a really big voice. And here you are doing the same thing all the way across the country. I am in Maine.

    We grow food all summer long and freeze a lot of stuff for the winter. We just got rid of our sons(to college and life) and are still figuring out how much we need as two adults who are NOT having any growth spurts. Or, at least, we are not supposed to be having any…

    Right now, I am sitting on an overload of blueberries and strawberries that we will do something with- hopefully before we decide to pick some more in a few months!

    Thanks for your blog, I love it.

    • Donna Freedman

      I hope to get a strawberry bed established here. Probably won’t happen this summer, though. And while I also hope to go berry-picking, I doubt I’ll get enough to last us a winter because the berries are so tiny and far-flung. I already miss those free, copious Seattle blackberries.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  8. I agree with DF…shopping is a time suck. And frustrating to boot. We live in a big enough town that the number of stores to shop are quite a few-and I am writing only about groceries-Super Walmart, King Soopers, 2 Safeways, 2 Albertsons. Once we get back to having our own place, I’m going to do some serious investigative work on buying more grocery items online. Life’s too short to stand in line! And to find a place to park…

  9. On this topic, I need to ask a question. We have a friend who bases her shopping totally on the advertised sale prices in grocery ads. She won’t buy lettuce at Grocery A for $1.50 because it’s on sale at Grocery B for $1. Even though that’s the only thing at Grocery B she plans to buy. In order for her to complete her grocery shopping, she may go to 3 or 4 different stores. But everything she buys is on sale.

    Is it better to shop like our friend, or pick one over-all cheaper store, and do most, if not all, of your shopping there? Knowing full well you might pay more for that head of lettuce today, but the deal on toilet paper is amazing.

    • Donna Freedman

      I would base that on gasoline and time. If it takes more than 50 cents’ worth of gas to get to store B, then nope, I don’t think that’s a savings.
      And as noted, at this point my time is worth more than 50 cents. But that’s just me.

  10. This is an interesting topic, and one close to my heart. We live in a rural area in Illinois and we are about 40 minutes from almost everything. Having to drive this far for most things is the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE!!!!! I am CONSTANTLY grouchy whenever we have to make a trip into the “city”, which is pretty often. I hate it, because it is a COMPLETE time suck, and honestly has a very negative impact on my life. We’re here because my husband grew up on a nearby farm, but those days are long over, and he works far, far away. So we are here, essentially, for no real reason. My kids hate these trips as much as I do, and will do just about anything to get out of them. I prefer to see and handle things when I am shopping, but I so hate going to these places and driving long distances that I have ordered a lot more online in the last few years. Anything to avoid these trips. Our town/village has only a tiny IGA grocery store with the worst produce you’ve ever seen, a Dollar store, and a post office. Not much you can do with those three. Trust me, I’ve tried!

  11. Christine

    Yes, you do not need to be present to pick out a gallon of milk or a jug of Tide. Or anything other than produce and meat, and even there, a good service like fresh direct has fabulous fresh food so you’re fine.
    I am making a list of food I buy regularly and if it can be ordered as cheaply as buying in person. I can then assess what is worth my while and where it’s worth it to save.
    All these errands are more force of habit than well thought out buying decisions. I agree, don’t waste your time on buying staples.

  12. I used to be a huge couponer and traveled to several stores. But all were within 5 miles of home. But the time to read up on the lists, cut the coupons and organizing the lists, then go shopping – well after a year of it I got tired. I did save lots of money but the time and the fact that I overbought to get all the deals. I just stopped and now mostly go to Aldi’s and once in a while Walmart. I’m much less crabby 😉

  13. I hate shopping too. There is definitely a reason that Amazon.com gets so much of my business, lol. My big issue was that we only planned a day or two ahead for food, so we were making 3 trips a week to our grocery store. We’re trying for 3 a month right now…

  14. This is why I do about 90% of my shopping online. In Los Angeles, everything is at least 40 minutes away. Two errands can easily take three hours. Ugh.

    • Donna Freedman

      Sounds horrifying. Unless you’re a FedEx, UPS or Amazon Fresh driver, that is.

  15. Ro in San Diego

    It’s funny that I am reading this now – I am steeling myself for my once monthly Commissary trip. It’s a big “time suck”. I have to add the layer (time wasting) of going on to the Marine base to get to the store. Then there’s the lines. The upside is the commissary is one of the few places that allows overages on coupons. Wish me luck. I must admit I enjoy the occasional yard sale as there can be treasure among the junk.


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