The Irritations of Modern Life 30. Supermarkets

I AM at the supermarket. The word "yoghurt" is scrawled on the torn envelope in my hand, so I steer the trolley towards the dairy aisle, a 30-ft expanse of milk-based products. Mission accomplished.

Er, no. There's peach-flavoured yoghurt, strawberry-flavoured yoghurt, yoghurt with peach or strawberry chunks, yoghurt with forest berries (I've never seen berries in a forest), vanilla-flavoured yoghurt, chocolate- flavoured yoghurt, Greek-style with honey, creamy yoghurt with blobs of fruit puree in a separate compartment.

There's low-fat yoghurt and no-fat yoghurt, or rather - since spellings have to vary as much as the contents - lo-fat or lite. And just in case you think you've got a handle on the choices involved, there's creme fraiche and fromage blanc.

Out of my depth in dairy, I decide to go for the ordinary, unflavoured, unfiltered, unmediated, full-fat, plain variety. And I can't find it.

Perhaps I should retrace my steps and try to remember why I wanted yoghurt in the first place? Was it for pudding or salad?

If, by some failure of weekend programming, my family and I were to find ourselves at the supermarket together, my interior monologue on the merits and uses of various yoghurts would turn into a public debate that would inevitably end in one of those domestic compromises that leave each party feeling sour - and we end up leaving the shop with half a dozen different types and flavours of yoghurt in our trolley.

Without the interested parties present to debate their particular tastes, my nerve wavered. But I did not sink so low as to phone home on the mobile, as I see my fellow shoppers doing from time to time, and describe the display in front of me.

The whole point of the supermarket run is to shop quickly and efficiently and maybe even inexpensively under one roof.

The whole point of choice, on the other hand, is that it requires decision- making - a demanding and time-consuming process.

So the abundance of choice in our supermarkets - every year bigger, better, more - has transformed the business of stocking up on household staples into a day's work, involving detailed analysis of pros and cons and whys and wherefores.

The next item on my envelope is washing powder. The aisle is another expanse of different brands in different sizes and different packages and boxes. One declares itself to be "biological". What can it mean? Is it intended to sound healthy and natural?

The next box is equally proud of being "non-biological". I can have a soft pack. A cardboard box. A plastic container. A dispensing ball. A measuring cup. I could have a refill (what would I be refilling?). There are different flavours. I could, if I chose, walk around in lemon-scented jockey shorts, or sleep in pine-scented sheets. And how do I choose?

At this point I do what any rational person would, dazzled by infinite variety. I start loading the trolley at random. Then, dimly aware that I've departed from my crumpled list, I dump a couple of yoghurts (lo-fat banana flavour with honeycomb; Greek full fat with muesli) on the dog- food shelf. More choice for dogs.

Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea