How to Survive Meijer | Speed Shopper’s Guide

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I have one goal when shopping: get in and get out as quickly as possible.

Each trip is a chance to set a new record. I like to be the guy that defies all the market research on time spent shopping or path taken. I am direct in my attack, unless there is an attractive set of obstacles in an aisle that I can shred like a slalom course.

I don’t enjoy lingering under the fluorescent lights. If I hear the same song twice, I know I’ve been there far too long. Time spent shopping is time that could be spent eating or sleeping.

Not willing to pay for convenience, I will often drive out of my way to save a few dollars, or even just one dollar. Also not liking to spend money out for lunch, I pack a lunch whenever I can. My office moved downtown making mid-day grocery runs near impossible. That leaves me two options: grocery shop after work (with everyone else) or go during the off hours on the weekend.

Bachelor Tip: Go when others ain’t.

Inspired by the below video, I wanted to give Meijer a shot.

The majority of my grocery shopping takes place at ALDI, Walmart and Mariano’s. Each has their appeal and i’ll tackle how to conquer each in separate posts.

I have accompanied my girlfriend to Meijer but previously never went in of my own volition. That all changed tonight when I stepped into the wonderland that is Meijer.

First observation: HUGE. The stores I have been in are massive. They are like Monstro, the whale in Pinocchio, with stores inside stores. Need clothes? They got ’em. Fishing equipment? Middle back. Next time I go I will have to do a perimeter sweep to get a full idea of what they house in there. My trip had one goal: lunch meat and peanut butter. *Not to be used in conjunction.

I entered on the wrong side. Unlike Walmart, Meijer, or this one at least, has produce and the deli on the left side. I passed the 20+ cash registers en route to the deli area. The prices were on par with Walmart and a bit higher than Mariano’s for what was on sale. A man with a name tag that read “Kenneth” assisted, slicing me a piece to snack on while he sliced the half pound of chipotle chicken breast. He was friendly, an adjective I seldom would use to describe most grocery store employees. On to my next grocery item: mushrooms. Yes, I know. That wasn’t on my mental list. I wasn’t satisfied with the picked over ‘shroom options, so I skipped them. Nothing against the store on this one. When I shop at 8PM on a Monday night, I don’t expect fully stocked shelves.

Back to my list. Peanut butter for homemade egg rolls. I hugged the far wall and scanned each aisle for peanut butter, bread or jelly, since these are usually grouped together. No such luck. Here’s another tip for surviving Meijer. Bring binoculars. The aisles aren’t really aisles as much as really high walls that disappear in the horizon. Remember learning about vanishing points in art class? Yeah, that’s every aisle at Meijer. After serpentining my way and not finding peanut butter, I found a staffer tidying a center display. I asked if she knew where the PB was. In her gravely voice, she said she didn’t, but then she started walking with me on our quest. “They change stuff all the time,” she said as we walked and scanned. Then, there it was in the signage high above aisle 13. PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY. It was the second item listed. One of these days I need to learn how to read.

I grabbed Brownberry Oatnut bread, which was on sale for $2 (normally it’s $3-4), and headed toward the checkout. The store was pretty empty, then again it would take a stadium of people to make that place seem full. I walked into the empty self checkout aisle and scanned my four items. Each rang up correctly and I didn’t get yelled at that something was missing from the bagging area. The pay terminals had the little logo to use tap to pay, so I tried using Apple Pay. My primary card was out of date, otherwise it would have worked and I could have been out even faster without handling a card.

After the woman helped me locate the PB, I thanked her for her help and she began walking away to continue her evening responsibilities. She did something I have rarely experienced in a grocery. She turned around and sincerely said “thanks for choosing Meijer.” And there it is. Where we shop is a choice. I often choose cost ahead of anything else. But there’s something special about a store that helps you and conveys it values your business.

2,077 Miles from Chicago

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There’s something comforting about a neighborhood Walmart. Some scenic turns through the area surrounding Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport allowed us to see chickens strutting in the narrow streets, with cars parked however the owner felt convenient. The wandering cats are in need of Purina. I opted against attempting to play fetch con los gatos.

The roads immediately leading from the airport to Fajardo were a bit circuitous and GPS wasn’t immensely helpful, beyond triggering my fight of floor it reactions. Our rental car is a Mitsubishi hatchback, light on features and horsepower. Eventually we wound our way to the interstate and made it to the hotel.

In an effort to be efficient, my girlfriend mailed our fluids (contact solution, bug spray, sunscreen) two weeks ago. The thought was we wouldn’t have to wait for checked bags. The USPS, being occupied with delivering Christmas cards, has yet to deliver our package. So, with a dinner recommendation from the front desk we adventured out to get dinner and contact solution.

Our first stop was the restaurant. It was full and the host told two women in front of us they were closed. We hopped back into the hatch and drove toward the Walgreens. We spotted a familiar, glowing sign.

WAL-MART
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I have often lamented my irritations with Walmart’s clientele back home. Oddly, after a day of flying, driving, and being hungry, the familiar store brought a weird amount of comfort. Everyone may be speaking Spanish, but I know these aisles. Following up the trip to Wendy’s drive-thru may not have been authentic Puerto Rican comida, but I stopped caring about that as soon as I could feel the hangry coming on.

Tonight, we ate Wendy’s on the hotel bed and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. As the locals say, esta bueno.

I’m reminded today of the mindset that we hear about in all those TED talks. We learn more about ourselves, not through introspection, but by testing our boundaries and extending our comfort zone. At no point did I feel horribly unsafe; the surroundings are just different. And my Español is nowhere near my remedial French.

I also recalled that little bit of mom wisdom when turning out the lights tonight. I may be six feet tall and finish my burritos at Chipotle, but always pack a nightlight. I always forget something when traveling.

Tomorrow is a new day. We shake off the previous day and embark on trekking the only rainforest in the U.S., el yunque.

Hasta mañana.

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My Fat Weekend (and assorted tales)

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In my defense, I went to the gym Friday after work, successfully bookend-ing the week with visits to the meathead factory. That may have been the last healthy life choice in the decadence that was Saturday and Sunday. The weekend included a visit to my aunt’s, Walmart, Taco Bell and the un-mapped region known as Aurora.

The culinary highlights were numerous. After driving to pickup our ceramic creations at Terra Incognito, Leann and I wandered the street (yes, singular) of Forest Park. Not in the mood to day drink or buy antiques, we ventured to Taco Bell. After uttering “I don’t know the last time i’ve been to Taco Bell,” I educated Leann on the many wonders of their menu. The lesson concluded with the dictum “You can’t go wrong.”

What did I have you ask? Those that know me, know my order when ringing the bell. But this particular Saturday I deviated from my standard order to try the quesarito. I had read numerous descriptions but had to see how they repackaged their core ingredients into a new package. The only real difference from any other items on the menu is the black foil wrapper. The contents are beef, beans, rice, nacho cheese sauce, sour cream and a spicy sauce. It’s essentially a grilled beefy five-layer burrito.

We rolled to Aurora to sample Leann’s first attempt at making tiramisu. I had my reservations, not for her ability to bake, which has yet to be matched, but for the effect of the espresso granules and coffee-soaked lady fingers on my fickle body clock. I don’t drink coffee. Bold statement. I know. But I just pass out occasionally at my desk and blame our nation’s reliance on carbs. So when I was spooned a small portion at 7PM, I hoped the morsel wouldn’t impact me the same way that the coffee-laced desserts in Roma had. Fast forward a few hours when I kept waking up every 45 minutes and we can give this victory to caffeine.

Today started with making my favorite breakfast: french toast. We added a splash of Kahlua to the batter for a little extra coffee zip. I snagged a recipe from All Recipes.

  • 6 thick slices bread

  • 2 eggs

  • 2/3 cup milk

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Giving up on life

The weekend wrapped up meeting mi amigo at the driving range to hit a bucket. The weather was ideal. After spraying balls in every possible direction, we grabbed lunch at the course’s restaurant. Then I made another stellar decision: BBQ Chicken Nachos.

If you’re giving up on your life, why stop at french toast?

After everything I ate this weekend, I fear this may be the only tent that fits me.IMG_4464