Food profiling in the supermarket37

Posted on January 15, 2009 by ChristieFood News

No-one is safe from my prying eyes… I’m guilty as charged.

It’s not as creepy as it sounds – you probably do it too. I peer into people’s shopping trolleys and I judge them. Harshly.

Or I smile to myself and feel righteous. Isn’t that shameful? Will anyone else admit they do this too so that I don’t sound like such a freak? Please.

I know everyone isn’t as concerned with nutrition as I am, but if you’re in the supermarket and you’re grossly overweight and you’re piling junk into your trolley, don’t you deserve an icy stare. Perhaps a tsk?

OK the tsk was taking it too far. That’s just rude.

You know, I think this is coming out all wrong. I’m making myself sound evil. Let’s start again…

When I’m in the supermarket I can’t help but sneak a peek into other people’s baskets. I love to see what people are buying. Whether they’re getting ingredients for one night’s dinner, a weekly shop or no food at all, just cleaning products. It’s fascinating. Don’t you think?

I find it amusing to see women with 2 or 3 children in tow taking items out every so often. I used to try and sneak stuff into the trolley when I was a kid – chicos, nutella, funny faces, strawberry freddo frogs and ripe mangoes come immediately to mind.

I do seriously get concerned and/or upset when I see trolleys full of pre-packaged foods, frozen pies and 5L tubs of ice-cream. As food bloggers, we know how easy it is to whip up fresh meals, I wish others did too.

So do you have a ‘profile’ you apply to a person if they’ve got particular items in their basket? Perhaps organic produce rings a judgmental bell or 12 cans of Diet Coke makes you wonder…

Leave me a comment. Let’s discuss! Christie x

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  • Lol I thought I was the only one! Ok not really but yeah – guilty as charged!

    I like the ones that come out of the toiletry/personal hygiene aisle with an embarassed look on their face because they’re buying stuff they don’t want anybody else to know about!

  • I think many foodies probably do this, I know I do! As a dietitian, I hear some nutrition horror stories about what people eat (and buy), usually as a result of a combination of poor cooking skills and food knowledge. I agree with you – as foodies, we take these for granted. Socioeconomic reasons are also a big factor. I also identify with the sneaky children – I was awful for it lol.

  • Haha so brutal! Don’t tell me that you actually tsk’d someone? I have a look of course, I think most people do. There’s definitely many harried mums near me, the single dudes and single girls. Mosman has some weird shoppers. One LV bagged mum pulled apart a head of garlic and ripped off two cloves and paid for that (I think that was what 10c?) and another stole a thing of pate! lol Poor Prue and Trudes :P

  • Hmm I don’t really do it but I might start now hee hee :P
    I think I am usually too distracted by the stuff on the selves and what to buy myself to pay too much attention to others.

  • I see others’ groceries when I’m waiting in line at the cashier and see the person(s) ahead of me with their food on the conveyor and the tally ringing up.

    Many people are spending big $$$ for junk!

  • Sue

    Ah yeh, its one of my favourite things about grocery shopping.

    I always cringe when I see ppl buy loaves of white bread. It also makes me sad seeing old men especially buying items for one like steak and milk.

  • see i have the reverse problem and feel that people are shaking their heads at *me* because i am forever telling my two children to ‘get that out of the trolley’! To this they reply ‘oh but why mum’ and so i reply (like a broken record) ‘because it’s crap dear’!!!

  • Oh yes! guilty as charged on this one! You always seem to bring out all these unusual food topic conversation starters Christie….

  • oh this is my favourite game at the supermarket – so many conclusions to be guessed at! as brillat-savarin says, “tell me what you eat…”

  • I do this too, but I have been on the receiving end of a ‘tsk’ or two, mainly when I have gone to the supermarket check-out with 2 bottles of gin and a multi-pack of Hula Hoops – a girl’s gotta get her salty snacks! (there were limes in the basket too…)

  • Jilly

    I do this too! However, I find I judge more harshly in the staff room at work! I’m a nurse and am often horrified by the food choices my colleagues make. Many nurses have weight problems, and a quick survey of my tearoom would reveal why! The most revolting (and judge-worthy) food that is brough in regularly is “crab meat” aka. seafood extender. It actually isn’t so high in fat but it is downright disgusting and nutritionally devoid!

  • Finally, I can come out of the closet on this! I have a habit of looking at someones ingredients and figuring out what they are cooking , or I will see what type of pre-packed food they have in their trolley and think ” hah how stupid, you can make that from scratch and it’ll be cheaper and taste better ” eg. Frozen pizza

  • Y

    I love having a little peek, but I tend not to judge (at least I don’t think I do). I just find it more fascinating than anything else.

  • I think everyone does that, I am amazed that sometimes one trolley is not enough and they need two! … on the other hand, I actually like to see other people reaction on what’s in my trolley. I usually look back to the lady behind me at the cashier when she is peeking at my items on the conveyor belt. Sometimes they find it funny when there are more cat food than human food in the groceries.

  • Wow, this proves all of my paranoias right. My partner always says “but we can’t buy a litre of icecream and two spoons!” One of his favourites was a guy in Germany who bought a loaf of bread, a bottle of beer and a bottle opener. Now I wonder what he was about to do…

  • Lol I saw this on your twitter :D. I laughed because I’m the same way, though I actually never tried to sneak anything into the cart. Instead, I was very relentless…I held on to the darn candy or box of cookies and begged and begged :P.

  • @Karen – Yay, you too! Lol, personal hygiene aisle :)
    @Miss Honey – It is sad that socio-economic reasons have to determine what people choose. But there are definitely ways to eat healthy that aren’t expensive.
    @Lorraine – I only tsk people who really deserve it! Wow, I thought everyone in Mosman was well off? 2 cloves off the garlic – I’d be so embarrassed to do that!
    @Ffichiban – well then, you’re nicer than I am! ;)
    @Sue – YES! White bread is evil. No-one should eat it.
    @MsGourmet – Haha, love your response to the kids!
    @Peter G – Thanks for admitting it! I feel much better now I’ve got some allies.
    @Helen – It’s a fun game, exactly!
    @Lizzie – You’re really into Hula hoops, aren’t you? You’re always on twitter saying you’re munching on them. Re: Gin, well you’ve got have limes, don’t ya?
    @Jilly – Ewww, seafood extender. I’ve got friends that are nurses and they tell me the same thing! You’d think you guys would be even more healthy considering you know what it does to your body! Good to hear you’re healthy though ;)
    @Howard – Out of the closet, lol. I think that too – you can definitely make the majority of frozen meals better and cheaper with fresh ingredients
    @Y – well I guess you’re just nicer than the rest of us! I wish I wasn’t judgmental sometimes…
    @Billy – two trolleys, woah! How do they push them both? I think I’d raise an eyebrow if you had more catfood than real food. Maybe even tsk you… hehe.
    @Arwen – Ahahahaha! Love those stories.
    @Sophie – Begging mostly works as a child, doesn’t it? It’s one of the only weapons you’ve got at that age – other than throwing a tantrum :P


  • Candice


    i do the same, i like to see what people buy food wise specially and think what kind of things they gona make. My dad is the worst he put things in other peoples baskets lol.

    I dont Jugde people by what they are buying, im guilty of buying sometimes those bad prepackaged foods when i know its just me on the weekend and i really couldnt be bothered to make a meal for myself.

    But, if we all bought the same foods, we’d look all teh same and then how boring would it be for us that eye other peoples trolleys in the shops.

  • Yes, I am guilty as well. I’m glad I’m not the only one!
    I find it really sad when I see French people buying generic Brie and Camembert.

  • Not only do I peek, but I judge as well. There’s nothing like the virtuous feeling you get when the person in front of you has Pop Tarts, Coke and oven bake chips, while you have fresh tomatoes, blueberries and low fat milk.

  • I don’t think I judge but I do feel sorry for those hostage to overpriced and flavour-deficient convenience food.

    In my younger years, I had someone come through my checkout once with a package of 2 lamb chops, 1 carrot, 3 new potatoes and a lonely onion. So sad!

    And then there was the time someone came through with just a toothbrush and a packet of condoms!

  • I worked in the supermarket as a cashier when I was in high school. I’ve become numb to what other people are buying now.

    I will say that when I was a kid, my dad and I used to amuse ourselves on trips to the grocery store by stealthily following Mom around and sneaking random and usually distressing items into the cart. We liked to see how long it would take before she noticed. Our record was the three foot long frozen eel which we placed right across the top section of the cart, but didn’t get noticed until we got to the checkout. After that, Mom left Dad and I at home. :)

  • @Candice – Haha, I never thought to put something in someone elses basket! You’re right, it’s good we’re not all the same – that would be boring.
    @Loulou – Agreed! You must buy high quality cheese. I adored the cheese in Toulouse when I was there a few years ago.
    @Belle – Yes, virtuous! Mmm, blueberries, eewww Poptarts.
    @Helen – Ah, toothbrush and condoms, how embarrassing!
    @Fearless Kitchen – You’re hilarious! How did your poor mum miss that eel in her trolley???? :)

  • rah

    i judge EVERYONE. i try to work out if they’re single, alone for the week, just moved house, or a total fatty
    i have plenty in my trolley for others to judge!

  • I’m just usually counting how many items they have and giving them very dirty looks when it’s way more than the “15 items or less” the signs says.

  • At the risk of sounding creepy, people watching is one of my favourite pastimes. I think sidewalk cafes and airports are my favourite vantage points since you see so many people from different walks of life walking by.

  • Last April I was lined up behind a guy who had a trolley that was full to over flowing with – butter, oats, dessicated coconut, flour, brown sugar, bicarb soda and golden syrup.

    I asked him if he was planning to cook ANZAC biscuits and he said yes and asked how I knew that. Was laughing as I said he had a trolley full of ANZAC biscuit ingredients.

    He was making up huge batches to sell for an RSL fundraiser.

    Mostly though I shop via Coles Online these days so not much trolley peeking happening for me anymore.

  • @Rah – ‘A total fatty’ – it’s so un-PC, I love it!
    @Mrs L – Oops, I might be guilty of that!
    @Marc – Ah, if I lived in New York we’d definitely be friends – meeting everyday over a coffee and a ‘people watch’ – there’s nothing better!
    @Marita – Great story! I love ANZAC biscuits.

  • ginagirl

    I look @ what people have in their trollies and wonder how they can put that rubbish in their bodies, especially if there is lots of Coke. :(

  • OMG.. so funny! i don’t do this but i think i may start! sounds kind of fun, like another form of people watching. i sound like a bit&h, don’t i?

  • Anne

    I TOTALLY do that, and guilty as charged when it comes to being judgemental. I love that everyone else is doing it too! I especially don’t understand how people can feed their children that processed rubbish. My five year old knows that we don’t buy certain things because they have additives and preservatives (call me anal, but I don’t thing that’s a bad thing). I do occasionally fall off the wagon but you’ll never see the prepackaged cracker/cheese/dip or Bob the Builder shaped sandwich filling (gross….) in my trolley. I mean how difficult is it to cut a nice piece of cheese and put it on a cracker?! And you can get some really nice cuts of meat in Oz (am a wee bit nostalgic coz i live in Europe). Came across your blog from NQN and love it. Will visit again!

  • I’m guilty of doing the same thing. What can i say? A person’s grocery bag says so much about them

  • @Ginagirl – Great! Another watcher! It’s horrible when people have trolleys full of junk!
    @We Are Never Full – Yes, please start! No, I’m the bit&h for bringing it out in the open ;)
    @Anne – Welcome! NQN’s blog is fabulous, glad you came through from there. I absolutely agree with you about additives in children’s food – it should be against the law! When I have children I’ll teach them the difference too – sounds like you’re doing a good job!
    @Jude – Exactly! I’m so glad we’re all on the same page… I was worried I would come across badly ;)

  • oh, how true! Though people would be confused by my trolley as when my partner comes shopping with me, there ends up being bottles of coke zero, white multigrain bread, yucky cheese, and bottled pasta sauces…in contrast there are my oats, my skim milk, fresh berries and tomatoes, etc…it breaks my heart….but they’re the compromises you make for love!

  • Got to admit that I checkout the conveyorbelts and wander what people are upto.

    Though I think people do that at me, some young guy piling through a load of veg, lots of meat, baking ingredients and all!

    Last week I saw someone put through about 10 bottles of wine, a couple of onions, a steak. I’m hoping he found a deal!

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  • Don’t like you

    Christie, you’re a bitch and so is your friend Rah.

    Who are you to be tsking or giving icy stares to anyone?

    I can tell you that it rarely changes anyone’s behaviour.

    By the way, your photo doesn’t show you as particularly svelte, so I hope you enjoy being judged yourself.

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