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Stalking sale items on the grocery shelves

By Lenore Skenazy

Not everyone shares my hobby, but let me put it out there. It is grocery shopping. There’s nothing I enjoy more. And since we live in the city, I’m shopping all the time, because who has space for those container ports of Country Crock the folks in the suburbs stock up on?

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 Kraves (basically, wafer cookie meets molten chocolate cake meets “breakfast”), I can’t help wondering who’s yanking our collective chain when it comes to the items on sale.

I realize this is the dictionary definition of a First World problem, 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 also bound together (talk about your existential metaphor!) by “cream.”

On sale weeks at my local grocery, these are harder to find than a “Jeb for President” button in George Stephanopoulos’ accessory drawer.

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. Because now there are “Golden Oreos,” which are albino.

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 sleeve 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 the store brand, at $3.99? Don’t make me laugh.

Then look! There’s Ben & Jerry (& Unilever)’s, the megalithic corporation 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/Uni 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’s Moose Track galore. Rum Raisin by the barrel. If you’re looking for Rocky Road Ice Cream with Raw Cookie Dough 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 riding vanilla’s coat tails?

But wait … behind the mint 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 is low fat.

And sugar free.

And actually, it is yogurt.

Who cares? I grab it and head home, ecstatic. It’ll taste fine, once I crumble some Birthday Cake Oreos on top.

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids.

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