The Agony and the Ecstasy: Bargain Hunting in the Grocery Aisles

When the sign in the supermarket window screams, ‘Oreos, $2.99!’ I expect to find Oreos for $2.99. On sale weeks at my local grocery, these are harder to find than a Pop-Tart in Gwyneth’s pantry.

Not everyone shares my hobby but let me put it out there.

It’s grocery shopping.

Nothing I enjoy more. But if I’m tingling every time I wander down the cereal aisle hoping that Kellogg’s just might have scored another home run like Krave cereal (basically, wafer cookie meets chocolate mousse meets “breakfast”), I can’t help wondering who’s yanking our collective chain when it comes to the sale items of the week.

I realize this is in the dictionary under “Upper 10th of First World Problems,” but when the sign in the supermarket window screams, “Oreos, $2.99!” I expect to find Oreos for $2.99. And by “Oreos” I mean THE most popular cookie in America, consisting of two chocolate cookies separated yet bound together (talk about your existential metaphor!) by “cream.”

On sale weeks at my local grocery, these are harder to find than a Pop-Tart in Gwyneth’s pantry.

Oh, there are piles and piles of Oreo options, all right: Double Stuf, Mint, Fudge-Coated. There are “Heads or Tails Oreos,” which have a vanilla cookie on one side and a chocolate one on the other. (I tried to describe these to a friend as “black and white Oreos,” to which she replied, “Aren’t ALL Oreos black and white?” Actually, missy, they aren’t. See, please: “Golden Oreos.”)

And then there’s always the nearly pristine stash of “Birthday Cake Oreos” — Oreos with sprinkles embedded in the cream, sought after by the same demographic that demands M&Ms in its brownies.

I left that demographic about four decades and 17 cavities ago.

My frustration on finding a sea of Oreos and not one single package of the Platonic Oreo Ideal is matched only by my fury at the Friendly’s ice cream selection at sale time. Drawn in by that same promise of a $2.99 treat (never $3, of course), I make my way to the freezer case and scorn all the other ice creams that are not on sale that week. 

Turkey Hill for $5.69. Doesn’t it realize how ridiculous it looks? Who would buy THAT? (Until next week when it goes on sale, I mean.) And Breyer’s for $4.89? Forget it. (For the not-on-sale moment.) The store brand, at $3.99? Don’t make me laugh.

Then look! There’s Ben & Jerry (& Unilver)’s, the megalithic brand that pretends to dream up its flavors lying on its back in the haze of a Grateful Dead concert. One pint-sized container of Ben/Jerry/Unilever costs more than the entire carton of delicious vanilla Friendly’s I am about to grab, except, of course: THERE IS NO VANILLA.

Oh, there are Moose Tracks galore. Rum Raisin by the barrel. If you’re looking for Rocky Road Ice Cream with Raw Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cup Chunks, my friend, you are in luck. But if you want vanilla ice cream without a swirl? Vanilla on its own, unflanked by strawberry and chocolate flunkies so short on self-esteem they are excited to be purchased, even though they’re just riding vanilla’s coattails?

But wait… behind the mint-toffee-coffee chip… could it be? YES!!! There’s one bashed carton of vanilla with a sticky trickle down its side. I can see the little crystals formed where a piece of the lid was ripped off.

Oh, wait — it’s low fat.

And sugar-free.

Actually… it’s yogurt.

Who cares? I grab it and head home, ecstatic. It’ll taste fine, once I mash it up with some Birthday Cake Oreos. And close my eyes.

The New York Sun

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