There’s a bottomless pit in my house. Together with his sister, the depthless chasm, they make my presence at the grocery store a frequent, regular, and perpetual event. I’m stuck making the food run in the ol’ grocery-getter far too often. Since it takes a special kind of person to want to be both a writer and an extreme shopper, here’s some of the tips I’ve put in place to keep the extreme shopping limited to only what can be sustained by quick bursts of coffee-fueled adrenaline, with built-in recovery time for gibbering afterwards. In other words, a Viking Raid.

You’re On My List, Bub

The trick to a good Viking raid is to know why you’re raiding, and what you’re raiding for. Never leave for the store without a list. I used to pride myself on my ability to mentally tag and trace everything I’d need from now until next Tuesday. Then at some point, my buffers began sending me warning pings saying I’m nearing capacity. I can still do the mental tag thing, but when I think about it, would I rather be filling my buffers with useful thoughts like the meta-relationships between character quirks and the tone and theme of a story, or the repeated mantra of “eggs and cat food, eggs and cat food.” Yeah, I thought so.

Choose Your Weapons

Never go a-Viking without a trusty battle-axe. I use technology like the tool I am it is. For me, it’s Google Tasks and the GTasks app for Android. I have a special “grocery” task category that goes with me to and from the store. Now, one would think, given my previous posts about the big organizational board and the white board that is the wall, that I’d be big on having a paper list and such. Well, I don’t. I’ve tried, but the paper lists end up being doodles, paper airplanes, or confetti. If I write it down, I give the ol’ brain buffer permission to archive, and it’s gone. So into the smartphone it goes.

Also, be green and take your bags with you. Most stores sell them for 99 cents, but you can re-use your plastic, or if you’re crafty, there are a hundred different ways you can make up string bags or reusable shopping bags from everything from old t-shirts or yarn to other plastic bags. Let your mind mull that one for a minute…a reusable plastic bag…made out of yarn (plarn) reused from plastic bags.

Here Be Dragons

Never plan a raid without a map. It pays to know the territory of the grocery store.

  • The Outer Hinterlands–the outside edges, the boundaries of the store. Like the holdings of old, these are where the bounty lies–the fertile fields of fresh vegetables and the stables full of ground chuck at 2.99 a pound. The dairy rich with milk, butter, cheese, and eggs. These places are hard to reach because you must fight your way through the processed, packaged additives and “enhancers” that are considered to “civilize” food.
  • The Rich Coffers–wound into the Byzantine maze of aisles, half-aisles, and endcap displays are the rich coffers of treasure–staples like baking needs, and absolute necessities like coffee and chocolate. Navigate these carefully, for while many groceries have buckled under the inevitability of Viking raids and helpfully point out their staples in an effort to reduce the carnage, many still don’t.
  • The Frozen Wastes–Kept protectively behind thick glass, this annex of the Frost Giants can provide vast booty, but great danger in the form of Drumsticks and Klondike bars. Don’t be fooled! You have your list and your map, brave Viking! Sometimes baited with traps like pre-formed meatballs and ravioli already made, and often defended by a near-impenetrable wall of pizzas encased in ice, the Frozen Wastes can suck a lot of the coins out of your Viking raiding pouch. If you’ve done your homework like a good Viking, you won’t be tempted by the frosty siren song of frozen dinners that are never quite as delicious as the pictures, and you won’t be waylaid by sodium content high enough to make you need a pair of Valkyries with a defibrillator in an ambulance one day before you’re ready.
  • The Distractionary–This puzzling and ever-changing mound of stock and inventory is, quite simply put, whatever you don’t need. And it changes every raid. Some raids, the health and beauty aids department will be part of the Distractionary. Other times, it’ll be the cereal aisle. A good Viking knows that a good raid is fast, hard, and to the point. The Distractionary is designed to lure you into confusion and steal from you the hard-hitting focus that makes you a Viking. Don’t be tempted!

Extreme Couponing

Note: I don’t do extreme couponing. I know people who do, and as much as I love them, it makes me cringe to see “coupon” used as a verb. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Or the equivalent on a whiteboard. We are Vikings, and our discount is our trusty battle-axe! I also buy a lot of fresh and/or basic food (that outer hinterlands marked on the map), and you don’t find many coupons for that.

Of course, in the world outside my mind, you can’t use a battle-axe to get fifty cents off a can of corn. Use your coupons only to your comfort level, and don’t make your list or plan your meals around the idea of saving fifty cents off a can of corn, especially if you don’t normally eat canned corn. Coupons are a tool, and no good Viking builds a wheeled trebuchet when an ocean-based raid calls for a fast ship. Plan your meals and make your list first, then go hunting for discounts and specials based on what you want and need in your pantry, not what you can get for a few cents less. That’s how pantries get full of crap that doesn’t get used and your money trickles away, leaving you hungry.

Good Vikings raid for the stuff they came for, not the stuff that’s just there. If a Viking goes a-raiding for gold, walking out with six weepy maids tucked under each arm is just going to take up more space on the ship that ought to be reserved for treasure.

Of course, the grocery store isn’t the worst place to meet a potential love interest, if you’re in the market. If you are going a-Viking for a mate, though, at least stop by the meat department and get some cow to leave for a dowry.


My short contemporary romantic comedy, Forever Material, is out now! Please check it out!


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