Tag Archives: shopping

The Gruen Effect

I just recently read something about the Gruen Effect (or Gruen Transfer) that got me thinking about how I seem to work, and wondering if the Gruen Effect operates differently with autistic people.

So before I go any further, I want to ask you – what is it like when you go shopping? How well do you stick to your plan?

Ok, onwards to the post. First of all, let’s talk about this Gruen Effect thing. I actually remember learning about it (or, well, an aspect of it) in school back in the 90’s, but I guess until I was reminded of it I didn’t really think about it since. Basically, apparently when shopping, a fairly common thing to happen is to lose track of what one is shopping for, and grabbing extra things that one sees around. Stores now are often designed to encourage this and take advantage of it. When in school, the thing that my teachers talked about was specifically grocery stores – how they are designed in many different ways to manipulate your shopping experience and encourage impulse purchases. I don’t actually know how common it is for people to grab lots of extra things, but various things I’ve read seem to indicate that it happens a lot.

What I do know, though, is how I shop. And this Gruen thing does not seem to apply to me at all. AT ALL. When I go grocery shopping, I do need to bring a written list with me. However, this is because if I don’t, I just won’t get anything, or I’ll only get a very small number of things that I can remember we need, but anything I don’t remember I don’t get. And I don’t get extras.

When I do go in with a list, I ONLY get what’s on that list. I will, maybe, get some things not written that I simply know need to be gotten every week, so I feel less need to rely on the written list to get it. But otherwise, if we need something and I didn’t write it down, I don’t get it. This has actually happened to a fair extreme a few times. Sometimes we need milk, but I forgot to write it down. When going into the store, I might remember that I need to get milk, and make a mental note to get it. If I don’t write it down immediately, though, I ultimately won’t get milk. I will walk right past the huge, impossible to miss dairy display because I am so focused on my written list that I can’t remember anything else that I might need.

What’s really telling to me, though, is what happens when Nee and I go grocery shopping together, as opposed to me going on my own. When we go together, we wind up getting a LOT more than what was on the list. Nee will see things and go “hey, that looks good!” or “we could use this!” or “hey, let’s make a dinner out of that” or whatever else. Also of note, when I am alone I never, ever, grab myself impulse candy in the checkout aisle. When Nee is with me, I sometimes will, but generally only after Nee suggests it, or I watch Nee grab candy for themself.

Oh, and we do this in defiance of typical stereotypes, as I am female and Nee is male.

So that got me wondering if there’s something about me that means I operate differently. Maybe it’s an autistic thing. I couldn’t actually find anything in my initial googling, so I’m left to wonder. Which is why I’m asking you – how does shopping work for you?

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How do I Adult: Grocery Shopping

Now that we’ve gone over cooking it’s time to address another scary adult task: grocery shopping. Grocery shopping and cooking are fairly intertwined tasks since they are both ultimately about what you eat and impact each other quite a bit. So if you find grocery shopping an overwhelming task, that’s ok! I am here for you.

Get Organized

Getting organized is a very important part of grocery shopping. You’re going to want to have at least some idea of what you need and what you want to get before you ever leave the house. The first thing is knowing about what cooking level you are. NOTE: This is not about where you want to be, it’s about where you are. What can you do. Challenging yourself to do more is wonderful, but remember to do it one step at a time. Don’t go and grab a week’s worth of level 3 groceries when you are only comfortable at level 1.

Next you need to figure out for about how long you are shopping: for instance, it’s fairly common for people to shop once a week, and get one week’s worth of groceries at a time. However, some people shop more often, and other people shop less often. Figuring out how long you need the food to last will help you figure out how much of it to get. I’ll be writing this with the assumption of one week of food; you should adjust that to whatever works best for you.

Ok. So assuming you want to shop for one week, that means seven breakfasts, seven lunches, and seven dinners, plus any snacks you may want to have.

You are generally safe grabbing something quick and simple to have for breakfasts – cold or hot cereal, microwavable oatmeal, that sort of thing. Many of these things are bought in large packages that will last you for many meals, so when you are making your grocery list, check to see how your breakfast supplies are doing. If you are running low, add them to the list.

Lunches are often level 1 meals – things like leftovers from previous dinners, sandwiches, or easy microwavable meals. Some people simply choose to get take-out or food from a lunch truck during the week, in which case you only need to worry about lunch on the weekends. Personally, I like to make sure I always have a variety of easy microwavable meals on hand to eat, and then I add “lunches” to my list when I run low. You may want to be much more specific than that when you are making your list.

Dinners are where it gets more serious. How many people need to be fed? What sort of meals do you want to make, and how much effort do you want to put into your meals? Do you want to make big meals that will have a lot of leftovers? It really helps to plan what sort of dinners you will want to make for the week ahead of time, and then get the necessary supplies.

For instance, Nee and I like to do one or two level 3 meals per week. We will decide ahead of time what we want them to be and write down the ingredients we need to get on our grocery list. We also make sure to have a number of level 2 meals on hand (usually frozen bag meals and pasta for us), and make a point to refresh our supply when we get low.

Snacks are really up to you. Do you like to snack during the day? Do you like to have dessert after a meal? You can consider things like chips, pretzels, crackers, and cookies to keep around for munching on.

Make your list

As you get an idea of what you need to buy and how much of it you need to get, write out your grocery list. You will need to decide for yourself how specific you need that list to be – can you just write “lunches” and know what that means, or will it be better for you to write out exactly what sort of lunches you want to get? If you aren’t sure, I would lean towards being more specific rather than less. However, you might be exploring, figuring out what to get in the first place, in which case a number might be better. Like maybe “7 microwavable meals” or something.

Look through your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have and what you are running low on to help figure out what you need. Write down any ingredients you may need for meals.

Grocery stores also often sell things like cleaning supplies, paper towels, and toilet paper. It can be useful to take a look at your various supplies to see if you need more of any. If you do, add them to the list as well.

Once you have your list written out, it’s time to go to the store.

Bring with you:

Your list
A pen
Money, checks, or a bank or credit card to pay with (a bank or credit card will often be the easiest way to handle the transaction)
If you use them, your reusable bags

Next up, the grocery store! If you’re pretty sure already that the store is just too much for you, that’s ok! Skip ahead to page 3.

(as usual, you may need to scroll down to find the page buttons)

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