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Who Knew Grocery Shopping Could Be an Adventure?

A new supermarket opened near my home. To reach it, I leave my housing complex, walk across the street, and walk barely another half-block.

You wouldn’t think this is a big deal! But this isn’t just any supermarket—it’s a Grand Frais supermarket. Shoppers here in France are so loyal to Grand Frais that they drive significant distances to shop at one. Lucky me! I am fortunate enough to have one within a five-minute walk.

The best way to describe a Grand Frais is to compare it to Trader Joe’s in the US—only it’s like a Trader Joe’s on steroids.

As the number ten retailer of groceries, Trader Joe’s appeals to health-conscious consumers, seniors, young professionals, and families who, of necessity, are price-conscious. Grand Frais has those same qualities, and the products offered are greater in number and variety.

On my first visit, I couldn’t believe the choices that shoppers enjoyed. For instance, I counted thirty different kinds of olives in one display. I was sad for a minute when I realized I wouldn’t live long enough to sample them all.

Beef, chicken and cold cuts to please the most demanding

In the bakery, I didn’t bother to count the varieties of bread. Not only were there dozens of different kinds, but the customer could also choose how the bread was baked—light, regular, or crispy.

How do I know which kind of bread to pick?

The vegetables and fruits were beautifully arranged and crisply fresh. But how to choose? I found over a dozen varieties of fresh tomatoes and an even wider choice of lettuces.

Catherine Pulsifer, a Canadian author and promoter of positive thinking, says, “Life presents many choices, the choices we make determine our future.”

I would paraphrase Catherine to say that the Grand Frais supermarket presents many grocery items, and the choices we make when we shop on Saturday will determine what we will eat the next Monday through Friday.

Red raspberry tart, flan, or apple pie anyone?

Decision Paralysis

On my first visit to the store, I didn’t buy anything. The store had opened earlier that morning, and the parking lot was full when we arrived around eleven. Inside, the aisles were so crowded with people and carts that it was hard to move around. And the lines to check out groceries were already ten to twelve people deep.

But that wasn’t the reason I didn’t buy anything.

The reason was decision paralysis. I was overloaded with options for even the smallest item on my grocery list, and I could not be sure I was making the best choice.

For example, eggs were on my list. I stood and read about eggs until I suffered from information overload.

My choices were (1) standard white eggs raised conventionally; (2) standard brown eggs raised conventionally; (3) free-run eggs from hens allowed to roam freely within an enclosed area; (4) free-range eggs from hens with access to the outdoors; (5) organic eggs from hens provided certified organic feed; (6) omega-3 eggs from hens that were provided feed containing extra flax; (7) vitamin-enhanced eggs from hens that were fed nutritionally enhanced feed including higher levels of certain vitamins; (8) vegetarian eggs from hens that were fed only plant-based ingredients; and (9) processed eggs, which usually are standard white eggs that have been liquified, frozen or dried.

Lest you think I am falling apart, I would bring to your attention the findings of researchers at the Decision Lab. They concluded “that while an abundance of options might initially seem attractive to consumers, having too many options might actually cause someone not to make any decision at all.”

Can you understand why I came home without eggs?

No Milk or Cheese Either

I’ve also given up on buying milk. Too complicated. Or cheeses, dozens of which I’ve never heard of. I have so many choices that I don’t know where to begin.

Different cheeses as far as I can see

So, I don’t begin. I’ve delegated grocery shopping to Expresso and Attenderella. I tell them generally what I want, and presto the groceries are on my dining table.

I won’t stop breezing through Grand Frais, however. The supermarket is on my way to and from tennis. As a grocery voyeur, I simply enjoy seeing all the varieties. Maybe one day I’ll overcome my paralysis and be able to do my own shopping.