Bananas and Grocery Shopping Optimism


My son asked for some bananas for snack, and I started singing something I had a vague recollection of: “Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today!” I got the melody all wrong, and as my husband and I tried to finagle the right tune, I offered banana spread I had made and frozen from some bruised naners some weeks before. After finding a couple of performances of the song online in video form, I satisfied my brief obsession, and my son’s, with the banana song.

Or so I thought. If you read the lyrics to the song, you learn that the storekeeper, a non-native English speaker, has a quirk or refusing to answer “No.” Instead, he sings “Yes, we have no bananas, we have no bananas today!” I was haunted by a hidden meaning to these silly lyrics. What can bananas and a song teach us about optimism and wise purchasing? This simple song has a simple lesson: don’t let “We’re out” mean “No.”

Many of us make shopping lists to avoid spending money on things we don’t need, and we like to minimize trips and drive time for shopping. But what happens when we go to the store and it is out of something we need? Should another trip be in order? Or do you do without, despite the consequences? I’d like to propose a third option, inspired by this banana song: substitution. “We might induce you to accept a substitute less desirable, But that is not the policy at this internationally famous green grocery.” There are three types of substitution I’ll describe here, and their pros and cons.

1) Like products. Take a look at the reasons or features of your objective. If you’re looking for bananas because you need the potassium increase in your diet, find another potassium-rich food (in this case, tomatoes, yogurt, or a sweet potato can fit the bill.) Making banana pudding? Try using banana cookies and banana yogurt with the vanilla pudding. Something easy for the kids to eat? Kiwis or mangos have similar textures and are as easily digestible. Benefit? Problem solved. Drawback? You might have to do some convincing to pull off the banana replacement.

2) Raw materials. A banana would be a bad example for this kind of substitution (I’m not sure how to conjure up a banana), but if you’re looking for something pre-made and can’t find it, try doing it on your own. Instead of frozen burritos, roll up your own. Instead of ready-to-eat fried chicken, try frying your own. You can bake your own cookies, stir your own fruit into your yogurt, season your own potato chips. Upside? Doing it yourself can save money, if done right. Downside? Time may be a factor in deciding on this kind of substitution.

3) Something new. The store is having a sale and they’re…out of milk? Take advantage of the opportunity and buy some of that soy milk you’ve always been hesitant to try, but believe will improve your health. Ground sausage choices don’t agree with you? Maybe some ground turkey will be a pleasant change. None of your cereal today? Try pouring some cream over popcorn. And if there happen to be no bananas, give plantains a shot. They have to be cooked first, but they’re as remarkably tasty. Bonus? Variety! Creativity! Out of your shopping rut and routine! Minus? It may cost a bit more, your teen may complain, and you may discover you don’t like something after all.

After you’ve made your list and checked it twice, you might get to the store and discover there’s nothing to be found. Instead of thinking “Oh, no!” and trying to figure a replacement place to search, cheerfully think “YES! There ARE no bananas!” and figure a replacement morsel. The grocery store is full of un-discovered territory. Take a detour and find something new, because “we have no bananas today!”

Image courtesy of Bob.Fornal

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2 Responses to Bananas and Grocery Shopping Optimism

  1. I love this post. My husband often has to drive around town in order to find Roman Meal bread, the only bread he really likes. Fortunately, I’m not so picky.

  2. Annie J says:

    Substituting is a common routine for me. For example, I had meals planned that required ground beef, but ground turkey was less expensive, so I decided to buy it instead. When I got to the store, I saw that ground pork was also on sale for even less than the ground turkey, so I ended up buying the pork.

    I also had a recipe that called for a small amount of All-Bran cereal, but I found that a small box was nearly $4. While I like bran cereal just fine, I refuse to pay that much, so I mentally changed that recipe to include oat bran, which I already had at home, instead of buying the All-Bran.

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