The simple fact of the matter is that going grocery shopping isn’t—and never was—as simple as you imagined, whether you’re on your own for the first time, or you’ve been shopping for a family of eight for 20 years.
Sometimes it seems less like you’re going out to buy milk and bread than you’re buffeted by endless marketing, too many choices, and not enough information. Does the perky green label mean that this box of cereal is good for me? Are there certain expiration dates that are less important than others? Am I a bad mom if I buy frozen spinach for dinner? How do I know what kind of fish to buy? Am I right to be a little scared of the butcher? And how did I end up spending $150 if all I went in for was some milk and bread?
Even professional food writers and editors ask these questions. (Butchers’ cleavers look scary!) But if you really want to learn how to do something right, you have to put aside your ego, go back to the basics, and approach everything you thought you knew as if you were a newborn—or maybe a freshman in college whose every previous meal had come from Mom, McDonald’s, or the lunch ladies at school.