ENGINEER’S GUIDE TO
Some people go shopping as a form of entertainment or amusement. Haven’t they got something better to do?
When I go shopping I always have in my mind exactly what I want to buy. It is something I need. I in my mind there is the exact product I am looking for. When I see it, I grab it and go.
I am also what some people call cheap. But I like to phrase that as being a ‘minimalist.’ This means that I conserve resources. Even though I can afford to waste water, I take very short showers. This probably only saves a few pennies a year, but it does conserve water. And a cheaper product that does the job is probably exactly what I want, although not always. I am a very smart shopper.
The problem is that these days in stores, especially food markets, there are so many different choices on display, that it is difficult to find the exact product you need.
Let’s say you are at the super market and you have on your list ‘cereal.’ I want a low sugar cereal of maybe granola or raisin bran.
The cereal shelves extend the complete length of the 200 foot long aisle. Where I shop, the price label for each product includes, in smaller numbers, the unit cost. It will indicate that this product costs so many cents per ounce, in the case of cereal.
I have been told by reliable witnesses that what I always suspected is true. The lowest priced product (in the case of grocery store products) is the exact same product but in a different box. As the assembly line progresses in the factory, only the box changes. But many people think that if it is more expensive, it must be better.
A minor problem for me in shopping is that the cheaper products are usually on the bottom shelf, with a price label at floor level, so I have to get down on my knees to read the unit price. Since I am near-sighted and don’t wear bifocals, my face has to be about five inches away to see the price.
With so many choices, I am up and down, up and down. I try to ignore the other shoppers behind me. Last week a white haired woman with a cane glared down at me. Maybe I mistook her look and she only needed someone to pass along the unit prices. I ignored her.
I usually don’t look up at other shoppers from my position kneeling on the floor. They are always smiling with sort of a smirk. I don’t want to give them the pleasure.
Marketers want you to pick out a box of cereal that has some flashy name, something that a kid would choose. You could pay forty-five cents an ounce for something loaded in sugar! This is three times too much! And probably be the worst for your health.
Another example is at the toothpaste stand. Hundreds of choices! I can never remember what kind of toothpaste I like to use! It’s been six months since I last bought some. So it was always a gamble. That is until I found out that what I like (and not only because it is the cheapest) costs only one dollar a tube! The ones that will give you a whiter smile or better smelling breath are four times as much. I am surprised that they don’t promise to make you smarter—for a dollar more. As I was down on my knee at the bottom shelf getting the dollar-a-tube toothpaste, I looked up at the woman with the cane glaring down at me. I flinched and almost put my arm up ready for a blow from the cane. But she was just entertained and finally smiled.
As usual, look on the bottom shelf for the bargain.
How about the toilet paper shelves! Same problem. Two hundred feet of aisle taken up by paper to wipe your butt. Here I am with toilet paper on my list. Up to now, Marlene has always picked out the brand. She included TP on my last shopping list and told me what brand. But I forgot. So I had to take a chance. This is something we couldn’t get by without for a few days.
She said “Be sure to buy such- and-such paper. Don’t buy the cheapest.”
She knows me. I think she likes the soft feel. I never noticed any difference. It’s a macho thing. You have to at least pretend to be tough.
By now you realize that people maybe should call me ‘cheap.’ But I prefer the term ‘minimalist.’ This more accurately describes my shopping choices. Get exactly what you need, no more. That is usually the healthiest, most useful and least expensive. You are getting value for your money.