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ISO-Standard Urban Groceries

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That milk had better come from sea cows.

"All grocery bags must contain at least one loaf of French bread."
''Hollywood Rule Book,'' Vanity Fair

If a character lives in The City and has just come home from shopping, they will inevitably be carrying a single brown paper bag from which protrudes a baguette (loaf of French bread) and the greens of a bunch of carrots or celery; neither of these will be separately wrapped or packaged. If the bag is emptied on-camera (perhaps in a Meet Cute), there will also be a quart of milk and a dozen eggs. Optionally, orange juice and/or a cut of meat may be present.

Also, the astute shopper who purchases a pair of oranges is preparing to drop said sack or have it knocked out of their hands. (These will likewise not be prepackaged or in a produce bag.)

In Japanese media, naga-negi (a very large scallion resembling a leek) and/or daikon radishes (a large white, carrot-shaped tuber) are the typical stock groceries.

These items are typically chosen for the audience's sake. Despite the growing popularity of reusable grocery bags, the brown bag is universal in design and still recently used enough to communicate the character went for groceries. Also, note that many of the items listed have an oblong shape or are usually contained in rectangular containers; this lets them stick out noticeably from the top of the bag to be easily identified.

The trope name plays with the International Organization for Standardization's tendency to establish consistent standards. If a person in a movie is carrying a grocery bag filled with Twinkies, Mountain Dew, beer and pasteurized process sandwich spread, the audience will focus on that; ISO-Standard Urban Groceries, on the other hand, are generic, non-specific things that people would imagine everyone buys on a usual grocery trip, and thus merely communicate that's what the character has done.

Because commodity foodstuffs are often sold loose or unlabeled, this trope may have its origins in avoiding Brand X or Product Placement issues. Subtrope to Stock Food Depictions. See also Baguette Beatdown. May or may not be related to Villains Out Shopping. Has nothing to do with the other ISOs.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Linna is seen walking around with a bag with a baguette sticking out of it in one episode.
  • A variation is observed in Cells at Work!, a series that personifies human cells as humans living in a big city. In this universe, Red Blood Cells also transport nutrients (which in real life is dissolved in blood, not carried by cells), which is represented by they occasionally carrying a food basket that without fail contains at least one baguette sandwich.
  • Played with in the D.N.Angel anime. The main character's mother and their Maid go shopping on market day and buy a veritable mountain of different goods on sale. When you see them carrying all the bags, there is at least one leek sticking up from every bag.
  • In a Season 2 episode of The Familiar of Zero, Siesta is seen carrying a grocery bag with a baguette and, as seen when she drops it, an apple.
  • In F-Zero: GP Legend, Bart Lemming is seen, twice in the same episode, carrying a grocery bag with a baguette in it.
  • Gunslinger Girl: Rico carries one of these in the opening for the first season.
  • One-Punch Man: On the cover of the first volume, Saitama is depicted in his superhero costume, carrying a bag of groceries with the standard protruding leek. The final shot of the anime's first opening uses a similar motif.
  • Yuuki carries a bag with a baguette in the opening of the Silent Möbius TV series.
  • Slayers: Amelia, while carrying a large cloth sack of food, (which has two loaves of french bread sticking out the top) tries to save Lina and Gourry from a bunch of bandits by attacking them from a high cliff. She crashes to the ground, which causes the food to fly out, including meat, more bread, and fruit.
  • In episode 4 of Smile Pretty Cure!, Nao is carrying three grocery bags, a leek protuding from one and a daikon radish from another, when she comes across the panicking Miyuki.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Keith is carrying the usual "baguette and carrots" bag when he runs into Cis in episode 15. There's also an apple in there, which he offers to her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Best Offer, the hero delivers two grocery bags to his love interst. We see a baguette sticking out from one of them.
  • In the first Death Wish, this is one of the ways the police narrow the search for the vigilante: after a subway mugger is killed they find an abandoned bag of groceries on a seat on the train across from his body with a receipt from D'Agostinos in his neighborhood, in which they (correctly) figure the vigilante bought them at the store near his home.
  • At the end of The Departed, Sullivan carries one of these bags into his apartment. He gets shot by Dignam, and the groceries do end up all over the floor. The original script even called for the rat that comes out to start nibbling on a fallen bagel.
  • Dana Barret's shopping in Ghostbusters (1984), although it also includes a bag of Stay-Puft Marshmallows.
  • Seen played straight in The Godfather, at least for the oranges part. Except in this case, while the Don is buying said oranges from the fruit vendor, a bunch of thugs show up and shoot him a few times, inevitably causing him to drop the oranges. This is a trope in itself; the producer used oranges to 'brighten up' otherwise grim scenes and dark sets — therefore, you can find oranges in many scenes where someone dies. Which is also a bit of a Genius Bonus referencing the Mafia's original role running protection rackets on Sicilian orange-growers.
  • Played with in The Lost Weekend. Don Birnam, a hopeless alcoholic, gets two bottles of rye with ten dollars he stole from his brother. But he doesn't want people in the neighborhood to think that he's going out buying liquor in the morning, so he buys a few pieces of fruit to put in the top of the bag to make it look like he just went out for groceries.
  • Madame Rosa: Maybe, if you actually live in France like Rosa does, it's OK to come home from the grocery with a paper bag that has a loaf of French bread sticking out.
  • In Madeline, the shopping includes two baguettes, but instead of protruding from bags, two of the girls sword-fight with them.
  • In Mega Man (Eddie Lebron), Dr. Wily, before planning his revenge removes bran flakes and a roll of paper towels from a paper bag, sets them on his kitchen counter, and then sits down to think up his evil scheme...
  • Exaggerated in Michael Clayton: Michael finds Arthur walking with a paper grocery bag filled with nothing BUT baguettes.
  • Night Of The Coconut takes this to its logical extreme: Any time grocery bags are shown, the contain ONLY loaves of french bread.
  • The Return of the Pink Panther: A baguette is poking out of a bag of groceries brought home by Inspector Clouseau. When caught inspecting the front page of a neighbor's newspaper, he is whomped on the head with said bread.
  • Seen in Rumble in the Bronx. The baguette is even wrapped and labeled as such.
  • In Taken, Bryan uses one of these bags as camouflage to get into the Paris apartment. The only recognizable food item is not one but TWO baguettes; the greens look like a small ficus plant. (Evidently in France you need more than one baguette.)
    • It should be noted that in France groceries are never packaged in a brown paper bag. But holding a plastic pouch high enough to conceal his face would not look very natural.
    • Also in the same film, Jean-Claude also carries home a baguette for dinner.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: April O'Neil is seen with one with a visible baguette when arriving back to her apartment.
  • A Thousand Clowns: Taken to the point of singularity, when Sandra and Murray are coming back home with the standard grocery bag with the standard loaf of French bread. They greet a neighbor, who also has the standard paper grocery bag, which also has the standard loaf of French bread.

    Live Action TV 
  • CSI: NY:
    • Played straight in "Nothing for Something." Mac's old partner, William Hunt, goes after a perp they put away who's out of jail and up to his old tricks. He carries your standard-issue bag of groceries complete with baguette into an alley he knows the guy will be walking through. When the guy gets there, the bread, an orange, some paper towels, etc are scattered around and Hunt is nowhere to be seen. Hunt jumps out, beats the guy to a pulp, calmly gathers his groceries and walks away.
    • Downplayed in "Slainte." After having cancelled another dinner date, Mac tries to make things up to Christine by showing up at her restaurant with what appears to be a plain, medium-sized gift bag. It has handles and nothing is seen sticking out of it. She offers to fix him something to eat; he says he thought they'd fix something together. A minute later, they're in the kitchen and he's slicing up a small baguette which he uses to make brucshetta for her.
  • Lampshaded in Dharma & Greg: One episode mentions that every time Greg does the groceries he buys a baguette, even though no one eats it.
  • Parodied in an episode of Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, when Chloe sets up a Funny Background Event during a walking conversation with James by stealing a baguette from a passing shopper's bag.
  • Highlander:
    • Averted in "Deadly Medicine" — Duncan was getting items for an Italian meal, so there were tomatoes, among other things. There was some bread, though, probably for garlic bread. It got knocked to the ground when Duncan was hit by the car.
    • Played straight, however, in "For Evil's Sake": Duncan, temporarily living in Paris while Tessa curates an exhibit there, returns from grocery shopping with an inevitable baguette sticking out of his paper sack. (It all gets chucked at a murderous street mime, but this time Duncan is able to retrieve his foodstuffs and leaves at the end of the scene with bag in hand, baguette and all.)
  • Turns up in Lovejoy tv series, the episode "The Axeman Cometh"; possibly the french loaf sticking out of the bag was to hammer home to the audience that the character holding it was meant to be French.
  • In the Modern Family episode "Baby On Board," Haley comes home with a paper shopping bag full of groceries so she can cook a special dinner for the family. Guess what's in the bag.
  • In Space Precinct, we see that three-eyed aliens in the future still fill their shopping bags with that mandatory baguette.

    Music Videos 

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Louis C.K. must be aware of this trope. After being told by a driver he cut off to "Go suck a bag of dicks!", he proceeds to wonder what a bag of dicks would look like, and whether the dicks would stick out the top like baguettes.

    This Very Wiki 

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has the "shopping bag", a decorative item in the form of a paper shopping bag with a baguette and some produce sticking out.
  • In Antique Road Trip: American Dreamin' one of the hidden objects you can find in Christmas Alley: Helena, Montana is a bag of groceries with celery sticking out.
  • In Bella Design, housewife customers carry a bag of groceries including a baguette and something green and leafy.
  • City of Heroes: Some of the anti-Resistance propaganda posters feature a woman dropping a standard bag of groceries.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Penelo features a fantasy version in the finale.
  • Granblue Fantasy: Nene carries the Japanese standard leek in one of her bags even during battle, for some reason. If uncapped twice, her groceries even upgrade to the western baguette!
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has an occasional pedestrian wandering about carrying a paper bag of groceries. This contains a loaf of bread, a box of cereal, a half-gallon of milk, and some oranges. Unfortunately for Videogame Cruelty Potential, barging into them just causes them to drop the bag, intact, on the ground.
  • Lampshaded by Kingdom of Loathing with the item "Stale baguette." Eating one results in a minor Meat loss, since anybody with the aforementioned baguette is bound to get robbed in a dark alley shortly after purchase.
  • In the "linked" ending of the The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, Nayru is seen holding such a bag.
  • PAYDAY 2: The launch trailer shows a woman dropping a bag of groceries as she flees from a robbery, spilling fruit, vegetables, and breakfast cereal everywhere. This can never actually happen in-game, however.
  • In Pokémon X and Y, anyone in the Beauty trainer class is depicted holding one of these in their VS artwork. The baguette at least makes sense, as the game is set in the Pokemon version of France.
  • Sonic Adventure: The brown paper bag Amy carries in the introductory cutscene to her story.

  • In El Goonish Shive, a paper grocery bag with a baguette shows up in this strip. In this case, the baguette is justified as the panel depicts something that happened in France.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Batman, Clark Kent carries a few grocery bags rather clumsily while accompanying Lois to her apartment. He even drops them as he opens the door to his own apartment next door, but as Lois leaves the scene, Clark immediately uses Super-Speed to pick everything up. What he doesn't realize is that Bruce Wayne had just showed up and that his stunt just confirmed his true identity to the caped crusader.
    Bruce: And they call me a split personality.
  • Dennis the Menace: At the beginning of the episode "The Life You Save", Margaret is seen carrying a brown paper grocery bag, and as a result, she can't see the runaway shopping cart heading towards her, meaning Dennis has to push her out of the way.
  • Family Guy: You will at least see Lois heading home with grocery bags like this such as the episode "Brian In Love" when she unloads the bags out of her car before being hose sprayed by Peter.
  • King of the Hill: Brown paper grocery bags with baguettes can be seen in the episode "A Rover Runs Through It".
    • In Season 10 Episode 14, "Hank's Bully", Caleb's parents are seen holding grocery bags with a whopping FIVE baguettes sticking out of the top.
  • Sesame Street features maybe the best known aversion: A very smart little girl marches down the street, constantly reciting, "A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter..." all the way to the store. This line actually predates and goes beyond Sesame Street, the first recorded use was in a Porky Pig cartoon, and has been used many times since, including an episode of Johnny Bravo where Johnny recites the mantra, then gets distracted, then returns to his task saying "Now back to getting momma a loaf of buttermilk."
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Mr. Krabs brings home such a bag in the episode "Wet Painters".

  • Much of the pin-up work of Art Frahm concerns the unusual theme of women's panties dropping in a number of improbably contrived situations. Most of these occur, for some reason, in the vicinity of a Standard Urban Grocery bag, and, more specifically, in the vicinity of a Standard Urban Grocery Bag containing celery. Lileks has more on the sinister connection.
  • The logo of the U.S. SNAP program (aka the Food Stamp Program) is a grocery bag that contains a loaf of bread, a carton of milk, a carton of eggs, an apple, and something that's green (possibly broccoli).
  • The Sainsbury's Online Shopper logo is a plastic bag showing, among other indistinguishable packaging, a french loaf, a carton of orange juice, bananas and some kind of lettuce or fresh herbs.
  • A commercial for a cable company had the cable installers getting quizzed on various things that happen in movies, including, "In a romantic comedy, a grocery bag will always contain..."
  • The CollegeHumor sketch "7-Way Meet Cute" — "My bag of loose oranges and one French baguette!". Six of which appear out of nowhere.
  • Played with in a window display of a Cincinnati department store (they had one display window facing onto an alley, which they usually used for displays with a sense of humor). A female mannequin, dressed only in a towel around her body and another around her head, had opened the door to find three potential mannequin suitors. The one wearing an elegant suit had a bag containing the requisite baguette, spaghetti (raw), and a bottle presumably of wine. The one dressed for watching a sporting event had potato chips, hot dogs, and beer. The one who looked like he had picked up random clothes off the floor had a bag of White Castle hamburgers.