Grocery Shopping With Aphasia
Grocery shopping can be difficult when you have aphasia because every trip contains a lot of words. Shopping lists, labels, and signs in the store come before questions about where they’ve moved products or conversations with cashiers. Grocery delivery services and self-checkout have made things a little easier, but this is still a task where pooling ideas together makes life better.
At a recent Aphasia Cafe chat, we asked you how difficult do you find navigating grocery stores on a scale from 1 – 10 (with 10 being super hard and 1 being easy)?
The majority of people didn’t find it too stressful, though that may be because they’re already using the ideas they suggested below.
We also started by asking how many people had used a grocery store delivery service. Over half have never tried it because they like to choose their groceries, but the rest were a combination of loving the ease of ordering groceries online and interested in trying it.
There are multiple ways to get groceries delivered. For non-perishable items, you can use Amazon or Target. There are services such as Instacart, which serves dozens of grocery stores in your area and drop off your groceries within one hour. Whole Foods has a delivery service for Prime members.
But local grocery stores often offer two types of services. The first involves ordering the items online and having the groceries delivered to your home. The second involves ordering the items online and driving by the store where they load the bags in your car. Beyond the obvious time-saving benefits of not having to walk the aisles to find items, grocery delivery offers a host of other aphasia-friendly benefits.
Time is not a factor. You can do your grocery shopping any time of day; as quickly or as slowly as you need. Online shopping is free of impatient people behind you in line. But online shopping has drawbacks, too. You have less control over the items that go into your cart, and there is an added cost for the convenience. Still, if you have mobility issues or grocery shopping is a stressful experience, grocery delivery can be a life-saver.
“Have a list and categorize your list before going into the grocery store.” –Trazana
Multiple people spoke about ways they organize their lists. While 16% of people never made a list, 58% of the people at the chat used paper lists and 26% used an app. When it came to organizing those lists, 60% said they used one of the ordering systems below, 30% dropped items haphazardly on the list depending on what they were thinking about at the time, and 10% said they sometimes organized their list.
“I make a list that is in the order of how I buy the majority of the food I buy.” –Bruce
One method is to choose the store you shop at most often and list your items in the order in which you’d encounter those items in the store. If you generally enter by the produce, all fruits and vegetables would go toward the top of the list. You then continue to list items in the way you move through the store. Other people grouped their list by sections of the store in the order in which they’re encountered, grouping together all produce, all dairy, all meat, or all freezer items. Individual items inside each section were in any order.
“Using a grocery store app with list keyed to locations in the store.” –Ed
Some grocery apps either allow you to set up your items in groups while others will rearrange your items for you if you put in your store’s location. The general Our Groceries list allows you to share a list with other people. Two or more people can add items to the list, and the list syncs across devices. Remove items from the list with the tap of a finger. This app allows you to group items by section, though you need to first set up the store sections, such as Dairy, Meat, or Produce.
The Kroger app (specific for Kroger grocery stores) will tell you the location in the store for each item and helps you group your items based on your specific location. Most chain grocery stores have their own app, and these apps also allow you to build shopping lists inside the app or use digital coupons at check out.
“Make a list for your items. It proves to be very valuable. I’d suggest making a menu also.” –Yasmine
Some people also took it a step farther, adding in that making a menu beforehand helps you know which items you need so you can make fewer trips to the store. Yasmine creates menus two weeks at a time, but you can start small, plotting out three or four days at a time. Planning the menu also means that you stick to a healthy plan rather than getting distracted by delicious things when you enter the store.
“Prepare to have a list of alternative items if the kind of meat or brand is unavailable.” –Carol
Sometimes you get to the store, and the brand or item on your list is out-of-stock. Carol recommends having a list of alternative items at the ready. You can keep an on-going list of acceptable substitutions — such as Skippy peanut butter instead of Jif — or make it specific to the list you’re creating, such as listing other cuts of meat that would work in the recipe. Write down these brand names or substitutions so you have a list you can hand someone in the store if you need help.
“Ask for help.” –Ben
Most stores have an information desk. The point of the desk is to save you time and direct you to the correct place in the store. But if stores aren’t busy, they’re also sometimes able to provide hands-on help to customers in need. If you have trouble reading labels or navigating the store, speak to the manager at the information desk and see if they can assist during your visit. Many stores have in-store shoppers if you just ask.
“When I am in stressful situations (fatigue, noise, anxiety, tension, and frustration), I have much more difficulty speaking.” –Trish
Shopping is stressful. Stores are noisy and people are impatient. Many people recommended shopping during “off” hours — choosing times when they know the store won’t be as busy. Not everyone can shop in the middle of the workday, but early hours and late hours can help you find quieter moments in the aisles.
Returning to the same store again and again not only helps you cut down on time because you’ll be familiar with all the sections, but you’ll also learn which cashiers are aphasia-friendly. Even if the line is a little longer, return to cashiers who practice aphasia-friendly communication and are going to put you at ease.
Several people wished that their store used visual prompts instead of text prompts to let them know what was in an aisle. You may be able to speak to management and explain how pictures can help all shoppers, not just people with aphasia. But even if your store isn’t aphasia-friendly in providing those visual cues, you can construct your shopping list out of pictures. You don’t need to sketch out your list every time — draw and laminate your small magnets and take along a small board. When you’ve got an item on your list, slip your homemade magnet into your pocket or slide it to the bottom of the board.
If writing continues to be an issue, create a laminated list of all items you continuously need at the store. When you run out of something, place a checkmark next to that item on the list using a dry erase board marker. You can take this list with you when you go to the store, wiping off the checkmark when you place that item in your basket. Make sure you leave a few spaces at the bottom of the list for items unique to the shopping trip. Having a laminated list will save you a lot of writing time.
Always have your aphasia card at the ready so you can hand it to anyone before you begin speaking. We’ve created a printable aphasia card that you can fill out with your name and contact information. You will need the front of the card and the back of the card. Make sure you laminate the two pieces together after you fill out the information.
“Smile and pay with a card!” –Pat
Credit cards save you from counting cash and the self-checkout lanes save you from having to make conversation with cashiers. Another helpful item? Gift cards! You don’t need to wait for someone to give you the gift of groceries. If you don’t want to use a credit card, purchase pre-paid gift cards to your local grocery store. You can use them instead of cash or credit.
What are your best tips for navigating the grocery store?
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