Visualizing One Year of Groceries

Sat, Nov 7, 2020

I’ve been buying groceries for myself for a little over a year, and during that time I kept my grocery list in a single, ever-growing note in Google Keep. Buying groceries tops the list of my least favorite errands and chores, and cooking isn’t too far behind. But I’m learning. When it comes to food, it’s been a year of big successes and equally big failures – of delicious sweet potato tacos, burnt popcorn accidentally popped all over the kitchen, and soggy pizza falling through the oven rack because I attempted to roast cauliflower underneath it.

I don’t think I’ll ever love cooking, and I’ll probably never understand what a smoke point is. But I do love food, and I love that I’ve fed myself for a year. I think those things are worth celebrating. And what better way to celebrate something than to visualize it?

The data set has some important limitations:

  • Some items are missing. I definitely bought things without writing them down.
  • Some items are vague. I had a habit of writing down something like “fruit” and then buying what looked good once I got to the grocery store.
  • The items don’t have time stamps, but they’re in order of when I bought them.
  • The number of times an item appears reflects how many separate times I bought it, not the quantity I bought each time.

So, I couldn’t answer all the questions I might have wanted to, but here’s the question I did want to answer: what does a year of groceries look like?

I bought 462 items, including 125 unique items. The items I bought most frequently are bananas, bread, broccoli, cheese, kale, milk, mushrooms, and yogurt.

I went through the data set and assigned a color to every item, attempting to make the colors as accurate as possible based on what I actually purchased. For example, I made “chips” orange because I bought barbecue chips.

Here’s the legend, with items arranged by hue (split into two charts, so you can see everything):

And, here’s every item I bought, in order from top left to bottom right.

Okay, so I bought a lot of bananas and milk (two things that spoil relatively quickly, so I had to buy them over and over).

And, the items organized by hue instead of order purchased:

When it comes to this last year and food, my only major regret is ruining that perfectly good frozen pizza. But, after spending so much time with this data set and thinking about the subtleties and beauty of the colors, I think I’ve been inspired to be a little adventurous and buy a wider variety of foods. And, maybe some blue foods. Do those exist?

Anyway, I hope you eat something yummy today!

P.S. As usual, here’s a link to download my code.
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