Last weekend’s birthday party was small and simple, but it still trashed my house. And it came just a week after we returned home from vacation. So it should have come as no surprise Monday morning when I started to make Annalyn’s lunch and realized we had no bread.

Really, we had very little real food at all. Monday was here. I had to go buy groceries.

In theory I love buying groceries. Or, perhaps more accurately, I loved buying groceries when my life was easy (aka, in college when I could go to the 24-hour Walmart in the middle of the night if I felt like it). These days, though, it’s a pain in the neck.

I’m not even talking about the actual task of paying for groceries. That part is not as difficult as it’s been in the past – a fact that I am immensely thankful for every time I visit the store. The hard part, to me, is the ridiculous number of steps required to buy groceries.

Gone are the days (if they even existed in the first place) when I could just jump in the car, run to the store, pick up a few things and come home. Oh no. A “good” grocery trip takes about 38 different steps.

1. Plan menu.
2. Check fridge and pantry to see what we already have.
3. Throw away expired or otherwise rotten food.
4. Think of starving children and promise to never let food expire or rot again.
5. Make grocery list.
6. Rewrite grocery list in order of the items’ location in the store.
7. Wonder if anyone else is so obsessive or if you’re weird.
8. Remember it’s better than backtracking and walking in confused circles.
9. Dig the grocery sale flyers out of the unopened mail pile.
10. Circle all the items you need.
11. Plan to take all flyers to Walmart for price matching.
12. Decide it’s not worth the hassle.
13. Take sale flyers to recycling bin.
14. Get your list, coupons your mom gave you and purse, and get in the car.
15. Get back out of the car to find canvas grocery bags in the house.
16. Try it again.
17. Go to the first store.
18. Move grocery items from shelf to cart to conveyor belt to bags to car.
19. Go to the second store and repeat.
20. Consult list to see what you’re still missing.
21. Debate with yourself about going to third store.
22. Decide you don’t really need those other items.
23. Think of four more items you needed from the first store.
24. Start a list for next week.
25. Drive to nearest ice cream merchant and get yourself a treat. You deserve it.
26. Go home.
27. Lug the lopsided, over-stuffed canvas bags into the house.
28. Drop the groceries on the table.
29. Open fridge and wonder why you didn’t organize it that morning.
30. Organize the fridge and freezer.
31. Put cold items in the freezer and fridge.
32. Open pantry and wonder why you didn’t organize it that morning.
33. Decide the rest of the groceries can wait.
34. Regret getting ice cream instead of pizza/nachos/massive amounts of chocolate.
35. Feel guilty about unpacked groceries and pull them out of the bags.
36. Fold bags and put in your don’t-forget-to-take-them spot.
37. Put away a few items.
38. Collapse on the couch and wish for grocery fairies to finish the job.

As you can see, the grocery fairies did not finish the job at my house. And actually, though I bought groceries – and took these photos – on Monday, I still have five items on my table. I might have to cook with them tonight just to clear off the table!

This process right here is why I don’t coupon, people. Buying groceries – store-brand and wholesale groceries that you can’t find coupons for anyway, not that I’m defensive about this – is exhausting. I just can’t imagine adding another set of steps, no matter how much money you promise it will save me.

How do you buy groceries? Do you plan ahead? Is it a simple process? Do you go every few days or [like my uber-organized parents do] once a month? Do you take your kids and make them help, or do you go when they’re in school or otherwise occupied like I do?

Help me out. What makes grocery shopping tolerable in your life? (And if nothing does and it drives you batty like it does me, please, commiserate with me in the comments!)

This post is part of 31 Days of Giving Up on Perfect. All month long, I’ll be writing about my fight against perfectionism and my quest to get on with life, already. For more 31 Days, visit The Nester.

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