Eat, Pray, Cry: The New York Grocery Shopping Experience

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Eat, Pray, Cry: The New York Grocery Shopping Experience

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS/THE OBSERVER

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS/THE OBSERVER

GRAPHIC ILLUSTRATION BY ESMÉ BLEECKER-ADAMS/THE OBSERVER

By CATHERINE GALLIFORD, Contributing Writer

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After a long day consisting of going to class for two and a half hours and deleting approximately 16 emails from both the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campus bookstores, all I have the energy to do is accidentally nap for four hours and then half-heartedly do homework until 2 a.m. 

Yet, my empty cabinets tell me that I will be on a different journey this afternoon. 

As I prepare to face the unique challenges of grocery shopping on the Upper West Side, the sage words of my father’s favorite joke ring through my mind: “Remember, if you forget it at home, you can always buy it in Manhattan for three times the price.” 

With the optimism of a woman only three weeks into the semester, I stride confidently out of my dorm, certain that this trip will empower me to stop ordering copious amounts of soup from Uber Eats.

I hustle to Morton Williams, looking to keep my shopping experience short and sweet. Once inside, I am greeted by a blast of cool wind and a hot bar perpetually down to its final scoop of crusty mashed potatoes. Within moments, my guard is up. 

Although the store is not busy, I sense a dark presence within the aisles, which might just be a burnt-out fluorescent light above. Soon, though, I am comforted by the shelves of familiar name-brand products. Never before has my mood been so improved by the sight of a box of Barilla rotini pasta. Now, after boldly navigating the remaining shadowy corners of the store, I cram myself into the line. Before long I am on my way, $20 poorer and the proud owner of a single box of cereal and some saltine crackers. 

I only make it a few steps back to campus before I realize that my purchases add up to a meal that will surely result in a bad case of scurvy for me and the McMahon rat residents. Luckily for me, Whole Foods is a short walk away, and the sidewalks are only mildly congested with tourists and Fordham students deliberately avoiding eye contact. 

Once I join the hordes of other New Yorkers determined to do their grocery shopping at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, I wrestle businessmen and nonagenarians to reach the produce aisles, blindly reaching for a bag of baby carrots and leaving it up to God to decide whether I get the organic kind or not. I force myself to not think about Jeff Bezos’ unimaginable wealth so that I may buy my bananas in peace. Thankfully, the line is more than long enough to give me time to surreptitiously check my account balance, and I boldly impulse-buy the $15 organic hand sanitizer I’ve been eyeing. 

Despite my best efforts, my shopping experience is far from over. 

Although its distance is daunting, the siren call of Trader Joe’s affordable products leaves me with no choice but to make the trek up to 72nd Street. As I approach the store, I can see the checkout line spilling out the front doors. With trepidation, I channel my inner linebacker and plow through four grandmothers on my quest to seize as much fruit leather as possible.

Not even the witty quips painstakingly printed onto the merchandise can make me smile — for in the clutches of Tradesman Joseph, there is no time for joy.

With a heavy cart and a heavier heart, I join the back of the line somewhere around 48th Street. Laden down with bags of frozen rice medley and 79-cent seltzer, I shuffle ever forward, dolefully kicking my basket along with me. Eventually, I come face-to-face with the bright-eyed cashier who attempts to create a rapport with me about the items I am purchasing, but all my overstimulated mind can focus on is the cash register screen, watching my total slowly increase. 

“Wow,” I can’t help but think to myself. “These are some good deals.” Behind me, two women engage in physical violence over the last bag of shredded mozzarella. 

Back home, I barely manage to stuff my groceries into the fridge before I collapse onto my couch, exhausted and afraid to receive my next bank statement. Just as I start to think about dinner, my phone lights up with a notification. 

“$5 off a $20 order,” whispers Postmates. Turning my back to the kitchen, I unlock my phone. After all, it doesn’t hurt to look.