What is the rule for
grocery shopping with house guests?
They come with me to
the store to pick up something they forgot, and soon I find them
tossing things into the cart that fit their “vacation
mode”—expensive out-of-season produce, favorite sodas or
juices, things they think I would love to try, something their kids
“must have” to get though the day.
The guest usually
offers to pay for his choices, but I find it awkward at the register,
like I'm too cheap to be truly hospitable.
Never fear. Although
you have a duty to provide your guest with food and drink during his
stay, you do not have to buy him everything he tosses into your
graciously providing for your guest within your means and budget. It
does not mean buying him anything he wants at the store.
In fact, a polite
guest, who knows that his end of the hospitality bargain is to
graciously receive what his host provides, would be embarrassed to
load up your cart with goodies and expect you to pay. Instead, he
would want to know what kind of goodies you and your family like so
he could provide them as a special treat.
When you enter the
store, pick up a basket or cart and offer it to your guest. Ask
kindly, “Would you like a basket?” If the guests accepts
the basket, proceed to shop together, filling your respective
baskets. At the checkout, each of you pays for his own basket of
If your guest
declines his own basket, you will have to find some other way to
distinguish his purchases from yours.
So when your guest
adds his first item to your cart, say something pleasant like, “I’ll
put my things on this side of the cart.” Then move your things
away from his item. This will send the message that whatever he puts
in the cart will be on his tab.
Any comments from
your guest about how delicious such-and-such an item is should be met
with something like, “Oh,” or “Really?”
delivered in a pleasant, interested tone of voice. Do not add the
item to your cart unless you actually need to buy it.
Instead, oblige your
guest’s taste by consulting him on things you were already
going to buy, like breakfast cereal or ice cream. But don’t ask
his opinion unless you actually intend to buy what he suggests.
When you get to the
register, unload only your things and put the plastic divider behind
them. All the while, keep up a pleasant patter of conversation, as if
it were the most normal and comfortable situation in the world.
that your relationship with your guest is more important than what
goes into your grocery cart. For example, if the price of harmony
with your very-sensitive sister who visits once a year is an $8.00
box of cereal, just buy the cereal.
And go shopping
alone next time.
you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life?
Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to
answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!
Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her
adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She
graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from
Duke University with a law degree.
She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap
dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in
Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.
Cyndie serves as first counselor in her ward Relief Society organization.