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9 Items Mom Needs an Advanced Degree to Purchase

02/02/2015 06:08 pm ET | Updated Apr 04, 2015
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Many moons ago, I had to flash an ID for beer. I've now decided that the grocery store should also make it mandatory for shoppers to provide proof of procurement expertise when purchasing certain products. I've made this decision based on my own inability to accurately select from the 17,000+ options provided for each product, without thorough study and careful contemplation. Surely, if we all had some kind of advanced grocery-getting degrees, the shopping experience would be better for everyone.

I've come home on more than one occasion (after checking and re-checking before I left the store) with the wrong freaking thing. Either all the choices are confusing me, or a regular maxi pad has the ability to sprout wings when left alone in the grocery bag on the passenger seat for eight minutes. I'm willing to entertain metamorphosis theories here, however, I'm pretty sure that the frequency of this happening with all my purchases means that there is a bigger issue at play. There are so many options for certain things that moms are often stymied in the supermarket during what used to be a simple shopping trip for basic family items.

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Let's count down the worst offenders:

9. Paper Towels: The simple task of purchasing paper towels was made exponentially worse with the advent of "select a size." Whether you're a fan or not, this perforation option combined with double roll, single roll, mega and Eco options, plus 20 different package size options, puts paper towels in ninth place on my list.

8. Bread: Not so long ago, all you had to do was pick white or brown, and all bread was soft enough to rub on your face like a yeast lovey. There was one choice for hot dog or hamburger buns, and maybe rye or pumpernickel if you wanted to get fancy with your sandwich. Now bread has its own zip code at Walmart. Forget white and brown, now there is something called white wheat, just to really eff with us. Add gluten-free, organic, gluten-free-organic, rounds, thins, enriched, soft, split-top, potato, stone ground, whole grain, multi grain and dozens more and it's enough to make you lose your wheat berries.

7. Goldfish snacks: I use the term "snacks" because they are not just crackers anymore, they are 900 different annoying versions of salty and sweet. There are rainbow fish, fish with smiles, puffy ones, cookie and graham cracker fish and Flavor Blasted (TM), to name a few. If you're putting pizza flavor on my processed food, isn't that enough? Do we really need to super charge it with something called flavor blasting? Our grocery store offers a single type of generic penguin snacks next to the wall of fish. The near-extinct penguins are Harris Teeter's answer to the fish overpopulation, and preferable when you are in a confused state.

6. Vitamins: Gummy vitamins alone come in a nerve-wracking number of brands and varieties without even throwing regular vitamins into the mix. Now they make gummies for adults, too. This causes me to read and re-read the label, lest I accidentally give my 3-year-old a man-sized daily dose of magnesium and niacin, inadvertently causing him to take on super powers and glow in the dark. They seem to purposely mix the adult and child gummy vites on the shelf, as if to remind us that adults getting gummy vitamins should put down their ring pops, man up and get a swallow-y vitamin. Point taken.

5. Feminine products: This one actually makes my pulse race a little as I approach the aisle. The feminine hygiene manufacturers have plotted together to package all of their products in only shades of pink and blue, making a quick ID impossible. Detailed label reading is necessary to determine the scented, unscented, winged, wingless, long, short, thin and wide properties of your purchase. At this point, I'm close to adopting those horrific re-usable cloth pads just to be done with it.

4. Milk : The milk situation is getting out of control. Once you locate the milk, you then have to narrow it down systematically. For me, that means weeding out soy, almond and anything else that didn't come out of a nipple. Next, I find the organic and select the appropriate percentage. Finally, I eliminate the ones with things like omega 3's, ultra-pasturization or anything else done to them that sounds like Botox for my cereal juice. While this CAN be done, and follows a specific formula, it takes a level of dedication and concentration not always present in the tired mom brain.

3. Bags: While I can usually locate the type of bag I want (trash, freezer, sandwich etc.) poorly labeled options such as zipper, fold, snack-size, gallon size, tie top, drawstring, twist tie, yellow-and-blue-make-green and the like are a source of confusion. I prefer paper bags I can just put over my head so I can cry in private.

2. Eggs: It used to be brown or white. Then there were sizes (because it is very important that all the eggs in the pack be of equal size, for some unknown reason). Now you have organic, free-range, cage-free, vegetarian and pasteurized. As with any food item, there are also eggs sporting omega 3's just to play on the insecurities of the other eggs. If you surveyed all the people taking these mystery eggs to check out, no one would have a freaking clue what they mean or why they're buying them.

1. M&Ms and Hershey's Kisses: I remember the golden years of cheap chocolate when every kiss came in a silver wrapper and your only M&M choice was peanut or regular. In recent years, Kisses have offered almonds, white chocolate stripes, dark chocolate, caramel and cookies and cream. Take each of those and package them in holiday colors for Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day and Christmas. Then add special holiday flavorings like coconut, mint truffle, candy cane, pumpkin spice, elf droppings and bunny nuggets. M&Ms won't be outdone. With peanut butter, pretzel, mega-chocolate, dark chocolate, almond, mint, raspberry and a snack mix (because this is a good idea), they have pretty much covered all the bases. There is even a mini version. Apparently, they were not small enough.

Next time you hit your Piggly Wiggly to stock up on those family favorites, bring your critical thinking skills, a sheet of scratch paper and a paper bag. If it all gets to be too much, just put the bag over your head and take a minute before you come back out and face the madness.