Side Effects

Richard Quinn

BEING CONFINED TO home—except for trips to the grocery store for “necessities”—is changing me. My frugality has evaporated, my prudent buying habits destroyed, my healthy eating falling by the wayside. What’s happening?

No doubt there is a diagnosis, but in simple terms it’s called stir-crazy—and I’ve got it bad.

I’ve made two trips to the supermarket in the past two weeks. I had a shopping list. But as a result of my affliction, I instead roamed the aisles, on occasion unintentionally violating the one-way arrows taped to the floor. I grabbed what I thought we might need, based on what I’m not sure.

On my first trip, I came home with four containers of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, whipped cream and bananas.  What was I thinking? Little of what was on my shopping list was available anyway. Besides, as I explained to my wife, with the mask on my face, my glasses fogged up, so I wasn’t really sure what I was buying.

On my second trip, trying to fulfill my wife’s craving for chili and finding no ground beef in the meat section, I resorted to buying eight “gourmet” pre-packaged burgers for $20. Now do you see the extent of my problem? I also left the store with two bags of chips that were on sale and two half-gallons of ice cream (which no longer contain half-gallons), as well as packages of chocolate, rice pudding and two bags of pretzels.

And it isn’t just the shopping. In desperation, I rummaged through the freezer and found a fruitcake from 2018. It was still tasty. Must be the rum.

Given my new shopping habits, you won’t be surprised to learn that my eating habits have also been affected by my isolation. I’ve given up my usual bowl of oatmeal for breakfast in exchange for what the Brits call a fry-up.

I was doing some research on the effects of isolation. When I found a science site with an article on the topic, ads for Omaha Steaks kept popping up. I’ve either made quite the impression with Omaha Steaks with my recent orders—or the science site is visited frequently by dysfunctional people like me.

I also find myself checking my Amazon orders as often as I do my Bloomberg watchlist that tracks my investments, which—by the way—have been performing significantly better. I have, however, resisted checking the scale. You know the phrase “this too shall pass”? That’s my new philosophy.

Richard Quinn blogs at Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His earlier articles include How Not to MoveChange Our Ways and Home At Last. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.

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David Baese
David Baese
3 years ago

Where do you live? In what kind of town or community? Are you able to get outside?

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
3 years ago

Great article Richard. I just got back from the grocery store. It’s amazing how the fear of the unknown makes us buy extra – who knows when I might need those 4 limes for $1.99. My new hobby is making ice cream. We’ve had an inexpensive machine for a decade, but only used it a few times. Now I’m searching the internet for recipes. I just made a killer version of my favorite gelato – Stracciatella. The machine makes 1.5 quarts which is the new half gallon. I’ve started looking at Amazon for professional grade machines at hundreds of dollars. What’s next.

3 years ago

Your post made me laugh! “Shelter in place” here is in its eighth week. With three teens who have had to give up their friends and fast food and who I am now cajoling to stay home except when walking the dog or getting exercise. They are online hours a day with “remote learning” followed by social media time with friends and need fuel to keep themselves going. My grocery bill has tripled, as I will buy almost anything that is on my list, at whatever price is posted. And a spare of anything that might not be on the shelves next week except where “Limit 1” signs are posted.

My worst habit at the store (beyond going instead of having it delivered) is taking photos of empty shelves while shopping. Once I went to three stores looking for yeast, only to hear that there’s a nationwide shortage. We’ve had so much homemade sourdough bread since I made a starter that the kids are in rebellion. Overall, my food budget is a wash, since I’m not paying for school lunches, morning lattes, and occasional dinners out as in days of yore. Strange times!

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