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Grocery Shopping on Sunday Is the Most Extreme Part of Adulthood

This is Thunderdome for the thirtysomething set. Why do we insist on going to Trader Joe's at the worst possible time of the week?

Buying groceries? In this economy? Many of us, I’m sure, would rather not. Even if you’re super-excited to give that new recipe from your favorite foodie blog a whirl, it’s profoundly demoralizing to stand there as a cashier scans those bougie ingredients, the screen’s dollar total climbing until it’s around what you pay, monthly, for internet. The politics of the checkout divider sure don’t help to reduce tension. Another agony in my case: the supermarket is just around the corner. Sounds convenient, yes, but if I forget something on the list, guess where I’m going: right back to the store for round two.  

Also, paper towels are too damn expensive! What are these made from, Sequoias?

Point is, you’ll do whatever it takes to minimize the pain of a shopping run. Unless that means shopping on the “right” day of the week. You gain an important advantage in terms of crowding and selection, apparently, by hitting the store on Wednesday. Intuitively, I think most of us understand this — and yet, week after week, we show up smack-dab in the middle of Sunday afternoon, which everyone agrees is the worst idea.

Sunday at the grocery store is intense. It’s Thunderdome for people in their thirties. You might even say it’s the most hardcore part of your otherwise not-too-crazy adult life.

In most cases, the ordeal begins with parking. I don’t think anyone has satisfactorily explained why supermarket lots are so much more chaotic and frustrating than your average parking situation (maybe people are just too hungry to operate their cars properly), but damn, what a mess. On a Sunday, your odds of getting rear-ended by a little old lady who can’t see over the steering wheel are vastly higher — she came straight here from church! And you may have to stalk a family back to wherever they parked, then wait for them to load the bags into the trunk and take an inexplicable eight further minutes to get their seatbelts on and pull out, before you battle the brand-new Tesla hoping to snake your spot from the other side. Fuck off, Elon Musk fanboy!  

Next, you get to the store entrance and grab a shopping basket — just kidding! You put this off for way too long, and you have no choice to get a janky, unwieldy cart that will be impossible to navigate among the hundred other carts in action at this hour. “Action” is a little misleading, though, since various dumbasses will practically abandon them as blockades in various aisles, or become so absorbed in their phones that they forget to maintain forward motion. At least one person is bound to catch your ankle with a wheel, if not run over your foot entirely. If you like, you can throw elbows to reach that table of sweaty cheese cube samples, though you’ll enjoy a similar experience trying to force a path to the wall of produce, all of which seems past its prime already.

The deli counter may pose the greatest challenge. During the slow weekdays, no one bothers taking a number ticket, while on Sunday, approximately half of shoppers do so, setting up fantastic, productive arguments about a purely hypothetical “line.” All for sliced turkey!

When, at long last, you’ve collected enough sustenance to plausibly last you until the following accursed Sunday (you’ll have eaten all the good stuff by Tuesday, FYI), do you imagine there will be enough registers open to accommodate this frenzied crowd? Please, be serious. Not even the sad bachelor in the express lane with a case of beer and nine frozen dinners can anticipate a speedy exit. And truly, there is no rush — once your bank account takes the hit for those artisanal crackers and the sliced mango that was quite the opposite of “on sale,” it’s back to the war in the parking lot. Try not to blow a gasket as someone honks at you to hurry up and give them your spot, since you’ll need your full faculties to remember which direction you’re supposed to turn and which is ONE WAY ONLY; choose poorly and you’ll snarl the confused traffic even more.

And what do you think, as soon as you’re free? “I’m never shopping for groceries on a Sunday again. Not a chance.” Go ahead, keep lying to yourself. The truth is, this scheduling is innate. Were anybody able to resist it, the store wouldn’t be the hellscape it is at the end of every weekend. You want this. You need to engage your survival instinct now and then, make sure you stay on your toes. It’s not like hunting mammoths, but it’s something. Hey, I’d like to see a caveman remember to bring his tote bag.