Punch Drunk: A Grocery Neophyte 

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Who knew a simple grocery run could cause so much stress?

I don’t usually do the grocery shopping for our house. I’ll do quick runs for the essentials that tend to run out at inopportune times. Such things as toilet paper, toothpaste, milk, Totino’s Pizza Rolls, six-packs of Hardywood Singel.

At the drop of a dime I’ll gladly walk down to our neighborhood bodega for wine. I’m a great boyfriend in that respect. If we need something quick — I’m on it! But the big, weekly grocery run? I usually manage to get out of it. I’ll take the reins maybe once out of every six grocery trips, and it always ends with me not getting a bunch of key ingredients to some dish or coming home with nothing but wine and Lunchables.

My girlfriend is the chef by choice in our household. I have none of the necessary skills. Until recently, I didn’t even know that onions came in different colors! Seriously. That’s how kitchen illiterate I am.

We’ve attempted to go to the grocery store together a few times. Once, when we moved in together, and a few times after that when necessity and fate combined to give us no other options. Those trips ended with both parties in a barely simmering rage on the drive home. Like going to the gym or shopping for clothes, it’s something we generally just do by ourselves. Knowing when to stay the hell out of each other’s way is the key to a strong relationship.

But this past week my hand was forced and I had to hit Kroger. I don’t actually mind going to the grocery store. I just suck at it. And OK, I mind a little bit. I hate shopping like a little boy hates being forced to go with his single mom to the Hecht’s at Chesterfield Towne Center — which I was, many, many times.

The horror, the horror.

I usually get my girlfriend to email a grocery list to me. A dummy-proof one that puts each item in the order I walk around the Carytown Kroger. Produce section, fresh baked breads, meats, canned goods, etc. — all the way to the end, ice-cream sandwiches. Hey, you have to reward yourself.

I spent half an hour visualizing my plan of attack. My grocery shopping anxiety can be eased with preparation. Don’t look at me like that. You’re the crazy one. Unlike many people who frequent this particular Kroger, I’m not going in to chat.

Yes, there’s a reason that the Carytown Kroger is unofficially known as the hottest pickup scene in town aka Club Carytown. People stand around and flirt like they’re standing in a bar on a Friday night. No thank you. If some cougar tries to stop me and ask me how firm my avocados are — she gets a stiff arm. And honestly, lady, it depends on the day.

Speaking of seductive foods, the produce section screwed me, as it always does. My girlfriend, the health nut and chef, requires a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is great. I like those things and I like eating healthy. The problem is, the produce section is like a Rubik’s Cube. It’s mystifying. I’ve spent entire lifetimes trying to find shredded carrots. I found the skeleton of a fellow grocery-fetching boyfriend buried somewhere in the parsley. Or was that cilantro? Either way, that’s a completely true story.

So she’s now sometimes using cauliflower as a healthy, low-carb substitute for rice. All the Richmond yuppies are doing it. You shred the cauliflower into little ricelike particles and honestly, it’s not as a good as rice, but it’s not that bad. So I know now that this requires a lot of cauliflower. At the time, I have no freaking idea what she’s looking for. It says “cauliflower” on the list. So I get a little bag of cauliflower, not a “head” of it. I didn’t even see any heads of cauliflower. Turns out I was wrong, wrong, WRONG!

It was the first of many glaring omissions. Who knew “almond milk” actually meant almond milk, and that it’s in a section that is a mile from the regular milk?

And sure, these are issues that can easily be solved by asking someone for help, but I refuse to do that.

Long story short, this ends with her having to go back to the store and fill in the blanks.

Look, I tried. Where is my A for effort? Where is my “U.S.D.A. Prime” sticker?

From now on, I’m sticking with what I know: beer and horrible processed food, the two staples of any man’s diet. I’ll take a lifetime of reoccurring health issues over having to ask a sales associate for help any day. S

Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at letters@styleweekly.com, or on Twitter at jackgoesforth.

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