Wednesday 11 January 2012

More Glimpses

Several times on my blog, I have written about glimpses we catch of other people's lives, in various circumstances. And today, while I was waiting at the checkout queue at Aldi's during my lunch break, I realized what a good occasion for such glimpses a visit to the supermarket or groceries store is.

While you wait your turn, you can't help but notice what the person in front of you is putting from their trolley on the conveyor. But have you actually ever stopped to think about the items others buy, having exactly the same choice of products as you have? And what their choice reveals about them?

Take the contents of my shopping trolley, for instance; most of the time, when I am on my own and do not expect anyone for dinner, mine is the typical middle-aged-single-woman-with-cat kind of mixture: cat food (always!), yoghurts, chocolate, bread, cheese, the odd shower gel or washing up liquid in between. Nothing exciting, nothing expensive, nothing that will take a long time to prepare.
When I have guests, it is a different matter entirely, not only in that there is more of everything, but also healthier stuff such as fresh vegetable and fruit, eggs and so on.

What would you think if you saw me putting a packet of finger bisquits, mascarpone, sugar, eggs and a bottle of amaretto on the conveyor? Or a packet of flour, yeast, tomato, mozzarella and a potted basil plant? You would rightly conclude that the woman buying these items is about to make a Tirami-Su or, in the second case, a pizza.

Sometimes there are whole families doing their shopping together, but sometimes you can tell from the sheer amount of things as well as the kind of products that the one person doing the shopping has a family in the background who will consume all this - at least that is what I assume. I could be wrong, of course, and the person buying a lot of food is just a hearty eater and stocking up the larder. 

Today, the customer in front of me, a woman of more or less my age, very skinny, unremarkably dressed, put a packet of ham, two nets of clementines and two large parsnips on the conveyor, as well as a set of 50 envelopes that came from the special offer section of the super market. Nothing else.
My mind instantly started to spin out possible scenarios for her rather unusual mixture of products; was she just going to get the envelopes and then saw the clementines and the parsnips and the ham and thought, 'hmm... I haven't had any of this in a while, they look nice,' and taken them? Or did she have a particular dish in mind to prepare with the parsnips and the ham, and while she was there, saw the cheerful colour of the clementines and couldn't resist, and the envelopes were the kind of thing one can always use anyway?

There were more such mini-stories playing in my head, but then she paid and left and it was my turn.


  1. We ended up with some of those Aldi envelopes last week - they were such good value! Needless to say tea-bags are a permanent item in our shopping trolley.

  2. I think she was going to post slices of ham in those envelopes, because she's a vegeterian, and the parsnips and clementines were for her dinner.

    (I've written at least one story about the contents of shopping trolleys.)

  3. Meike, I'm fascinted by grocery carts!
    Many people here buy lots of wine. Its not unusual to see six to eight bottles of wine in a cart, and also by the case.
    Now about that cart. Baked ham with spicy crust,and clementine sauce (much like orange sauce) parsip souffle, and a simple dessert of fresh clementines and espresso.
    There is also a chilled reisling to be served but her friend is bringing that.
    Lots of leftover ham for sandwiches or to add to the omelettes and soups in the days to come.
    The envelopes are for the recipe for the souffle. (Everyone always asks for it)

  4. What interesting observations! Sometimes I cringe at the thought of what other people might be concluding about me, based on what I buy! Oh well, happily I'll never know!

  5. Fascinating to see what you think about the shoppers ahead of you in the check-out line! I think of myself as non-judgmental, but I realize it is not true when put to this test.....And I think I better start questioning some of my assumptions!

  6. Scriptor, I didn't know Aldi have the same non-food promotions in England as in Germany!

    Frances, is your story on your blog? I'd like to read it! The poor postie who has to deliver those slices of ham in the envelopes... or maybe it will make him friends with the dogs he encounters on his round :-)

    Julie, love your little background sketch of the woman in front of me! Thank you!

    Canadian Chickadee, I wonder how many of them really DO think anything at all when they see what you buy, I doubt that many people consciously take any note of it.
    Not that long ago, the guy behind me in the line was trying to chat me up by commenting on the cat food I'd put on the conveyor. He was not successful, although I was, of course, friendly and polite.

    Kristi, I rather think of this as not being judgemental but letting my imagination wander, a creative process :-)

  7. Yeah, I have made a study of Aldi & Lidl in every country I have been able to find one. It amuses me that branches in the whole of Europe mus stock skiing equipment or scuba accessories at the same time regardless of latitude and geography. I love that you get car components next to kids toys next to ladies pants next to stationery.
    I find a trip to Lidl or Aldi (for they are very similar in business model) to be a real treat. Last time I bought dishwasher tablets, a set of ring spanners, some rechargeable batteries, grape juice (for my winemaking), a fruit loaf, a pocket translator (8 European languages. very helpful to me on my travels) and some socks with sticky traction pads on the sole for Mrs E. Absolutely marvelous value!

  8. Oh dear. I've never given the matter a second's thought. Now I'll be looking at people's trolleys. Will I alter my purchases subconsciously now. So many questions!

  9. Perl, I find Aldi particularly good value when it comes to stuff like sports clothes, nightwear, bed sheets and of course CHOCOLATE! Their cat food is what my cat likes, so that's what she gets - suits my wallet, too.

    GB, good to see you are back in the blogosphere! Maybe you'll let us know about what you noticed in other people's trolleys next time you go shopping :-)