10 Life Lessons You Will Learn at the Grocery Store
There have been many life lessons to take to heart over the last 18 months. And no place else has been more ready to teach them to us than the grocery store. When the pandemic first touched shores in early 2020, life started closing down all around us.
The business closures, the masking, the social distancing. All of it became a permanent part of our vocabulary. There to save us from absolute isolation were these shining beacons of sustainability. It was then that we started to notice much of what we learn in life is hiding right there in plain sight on the shelf-space.
In the following article, we’ll be putting grocery stores under the microscope. What do they have to teach us that we can apply to the rest of our lives? Turns out, quite a bit! Let’s have a look.
1. There Is a Difference Between Cost and Value
A trip to the grocery store can often be focused on how much money you’re spending. This emphasis on the amount can lead to one overlooking actual value. However, many grocery stores today do something that helps us slow down and really consider what we are putting into something.
The next time you look at a label at Walmart or your grocery store of choice, look for a smaller number beyond the actual cost. Look for the “price-per-unit” pullout. This number tells you what you’re paying per actual ounce. As a result, you may end up spending more but getting it at a better value.
That’s an important lesson for life, too. Sometimes we put a lot into something and get very little out of it. Other times, our best results come from the least amount of effort. (Pareto Principle, anyone?)
2. Everything Has an Opportunity Cost
At the same time that you’re comparing price-per-unit to price tag, consider third basic cost in all of this. That would be opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is what you have to give up in exchange for something else.
If you spend $10 on junk foods, for example, you’re able to spend less on foods that will actually make you feel better. The fallout from that choice can end up costing you in sugar crashes, digestive problems, heartburn, and, if left unchecked, illnesses of a considerably more serious nature. Eventually, this can lead to significant financial costs as well.
3. Hidden Costs Are Real
You can run into some hidden costs at the grocery store other than those we’ve already mentioned. For starters, there is the tax factor. Taxes are assessed in the form of a sales tax so the price you pay from the price tag will actually be higher. Also, those “buy one, get one at a discount” deals they run? Just a way to get you to spend more money.
You have to assess with each of these situations whether it’s worth it to you to buy more than you actually need. That means doing the value calculation based on your lifestyle. Sometimes it will be worth it to you. Others, not. Doing the math and the comparisons is a good life lesson to have either way.
4. Everyone Pays Taxes
Taxes can be confusing, especially on the US’s graduated tax system. You’ll probably here a lot of rich people complain about paying most in taxes. That’s true. They do. But they also make a lot more money to where the proportion of their income isn’t nearly as much.
While there are many relief programs to help lower-income earners, sales tax is inescapable for certain products. The result is that everyone does pay taxes, no matter what the complaining rich would have you to believe. Now, whether the proportions are fair is a discussion worth having in another blog post (probably on another website).
Our point: the grocery store is a great equalizer among financial classes, rightly or wrongly. That’s because it’s the one place we all have to shop, and it’s the one place where we all pay the same rate.
5. Reading Labels Is a Great Learning Lab
This is one of the most important life lessons you can learn at the grocery store because it incorporates health, math, and literacy, all at once. A food label is a wealth of information involving macronutrients (those things we use to strengthen muscle, bone, mind, and body), ingredients (transparency in what food companies are putting into the products that you buy), and the use of words (spelling, abbreviations, marketing)! A food label contains so much information that directly impacts your life.
6. Each Thing Has Its Place
Ever check the headers over the aisles in a grocery store? If you stand at the entrance and take a moment to study these, you won’t spend all your time wandering around aimlessly. You can plan your path to get the items you need in the most efficient manner possible.
7. Symbols and Images Can Save Us Time and Money
Can’t find something and really need to be somewhere quick? Look for the people in the aprons or company-branded shirts and ask! This can save you an enormous amount of time. It also can keep you from making a bunch of impulse-buys, which the grocery store is notorious for tricking you in to!
8. Dates Matter
Ever seen something out on the shelf rotting? (Looking at you, bananas!) This, the expiration dates on milk, and blackened lettuce, all serve as reminders that dates matter in life. So does proper hygiene, upkeep, and purging things that have outlived their useful shelf life.
9. So Does Geometry
Anyone who has ever been to an Aldi’s knows all about the oddity of sacking your own groceries. This can seem silly when you first go, but when you consider how Aldi is able to beat everyone else on prices because of this and the cart rentals, you start to realize that it’s totally worth it.
That still doesn’t make you a grocery-sacking champion overnight, though. No, geometry classes, as well as weights and measurements, do all that. There is no greater real-world application of these things for the standard person than sacking groceries. You learn not to stuff bags too heavy, as you play Grocery Tetris with your purchases to get them into the bags.
10. Little Decisions Can Make a Big Difference
If you don’t think this is true, then you’ve never been inside of a grocery store without a mental or physical list. You walk in with a handful of needs and walk out having spent $50. Those little “impulses” you have when walking by items can have a big impact on your budget (and life). That’s a lesson worth taking with you wherever you’re going.
Grocery Stores Do Not Have the Market Cornered on These Life Lessons, But…
They are a great place to learn about them! We hope you liked this off-the-beaten-path educational exercise. The grocery store is not the only place to learn these life lessons, obviously, but it’s a very good one. What we hope you take from it is that the things you are currently learning in school have very real-world applications, and vice versa. Making those connections will make you a more astute learner. Good luck!
[Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons]