Grocery Cart Psychology: What Does Yours Reveal?

On a recent HEB run, I noticed the young woman in front of Little G and me in the checkout line—as well as what was in her grocery cart. It was like looking at myself and my grocery cart, 10 years and a few stretch marks ago.

First, the lady: She appeared well-rested, toned, and unhurried in yoga pants and a coordinating top. In fact, she probably actually had just come from yoga class. Unlike myself and many other moms I know, whose love of yoga apparel stems from its comfortable, forgiving fit rather than the physical/spiritual exercise itself.

The woman finished unloading the contents of her grocery cart onto the checkout conveyor: a four-pack of bottled Frappuccino; a single serving of General Tso’s chicken from the prepared foods section; several cans of soup (organic, I think); Kind granola bars; and stuffed grape leaves.

Stuffed grape leaves. OK, there you go. I could be wrong, but if I had to guess, I’d guess the following about this early-20s “could have been me 10 years ago”: single; possibly a boyfriend; definitely no kids; lives alone or with a roommate; yuppie; eats out half the time, at least; hobbies include yoga (obvi) and reality TV (just a hunch); says yes to happy hour. (Those were the days. 🙂 )

The thing is—generally speaking—women don’t buy four-ounce containers of stuffed grape leaves if they live with or are married to a man, much less if they have children together. The majority of men, especially Texans, seem to prefer burgers, barbecue, and the like to vegetarian Mediterranean specialties such as stuffed grape leaves. And if you’ve got kids, you’re usually looking for hearty food that, fingers crossed, will last another meal.

Thus, my grocery cart …

Grocery Cart Psychology

You can see Little G up front. So immediately, my grocery cart reveals that I’m a mom. Some other “maternal giveaways” include the opened bags of multigrain pita chips and Goldfish in the back, not to mention the opened box of strawberry yogurt squeezers in the middle (letting your child snack while grocery shopping together makes the whole experience much smoother than not); two boxes of rigatoni (kids would eat pasta for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you let them, right?); and the three-pack of heavy-duty sponges.

I never bought heavy-duty sponges before giving birth.

My grocery cart also contains a generous amount of nonperishables such as cereal, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, black beans, and marinara sauce, in family-size portions. Because I often make family-size portions of nonexotic but hearty meals like slow cooker chicken and chili. I promise there’s fresh fruit in there, too—wedged under the heavy-duty sponges and ready-to-eat salad kits. And milk. I’m a mom; of course I bought milk.

What does your grocery cart reveal about you? This is just for fun, friends. Grocery cart psychology isn’t an exact science. But I think we can make some generalizations. If your grocery cart contains the following, then possibly …

1. Hot Pockets, frozen pizza, Cap’n Crunch, milk, and beer: You’re a college student or just-graduated-from-college bachelor. You use self-checkout.

2. Hot Pockets, Campbell’s condensed soup, Life Savers, a quart of milk, the store brand of aspirin, tissues, and maybe some bananas: You’re an older bachelor—OK, much older. You use the “15 items or fewer” lane, and you have coupons for the Hot Pockets and soup.

3. Single servings of prepared foods, artisan crackers, gourmet cheese and olive oil, Mighty Leaf tea, lamb chops fresh from the meat market, and a bottle of red and bottle of white: Yuppie, similar to our yoga-practicing friend above. You know the best local restaurants, wine bars, and coffee shops. It’s fun to follow you on Twitter and live vicariously through your hashtags.

4. Strawberries, a value pack of pork chops, multiple boxes of granola bars, apple juice, and frozen chicken nuggets: Mom.

5. Random pieces of fruit, multiple packages of ground coffee or K-Cups, random boxes of frozen dinners, lanolin cream or cans of Enfamil, and diapers: New mom.

6. A grocery cart full of Chobani yogurt and bottled water: You play for the Spurs. (Occasionally, Little G and I catch a glimpse of some of the local NBA team in our HEB. This is all I ever see them buy … they must have personal chefs?)

7. Several packages of all-purpose flour, a few cartons of eggs, and an economy size package of Styrofoam cups: You work at the local bakery around the corner. (The white apron you’re still wearing is a “bakery worker giveaway,” too.) Whoever’s in charge of buying must have underestimated how busy you’d be today.

8. Two boxes of freshly baked muffins and a large container of prewashed, pre-cut fresh fruit: You work at a nearby office, and it’s your turn to bring refreshments for the weekly staff meeting.

9. Taco seasoning mix and children’s Tylenol: You’re my husband. I forgot these things yesterday, and I asked you to pick them up on your way home from work. True to form, you didn’t stray from “the list.” (How long have we known each other now? Did it really not occur to you to surprise me with some dark chocolate? I know, I know … I told you we needed taco seasoning mix and children’s Tylenol, and so that’s what you got. 🙂 )

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4 Comments

  1. This was a fun post! I am def a mix of #3 and #4. HEB is my weakness. I can never go in there and stick to a list.

    Reply

  2. I always find myself assessing other people’s grocery carts! I can totally relate to at least one opened package during every grocery trip!

    Reply

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