Your mom probably said it. Your grandmother probably said it. Never, ever go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Why? The reason is simple.
When you do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you’ll likely end up buying things you wouldn’t normally choose, purchase more high-calorie foods than usual and spend more money than you intended.
As it turns out, grandma’s warning is backed up by science. According to a 2013 Cornell University study reported in the Huffington Post, even short-term food deprivation can lead to poor food choices.
One part of the study reviewed two groups of people. The first group shopped between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., a period following lunch when you’re less likely to be hungry. The second group did their shopping between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., several hours after lunch, but before dinner.
The early afternoon shoppers ended up buying more high-calorie products than their late day counterparts. Ultimately, it seems, we end up making far more unhealthy choices and emptying our wallets on junk food.
A couple of other problems that lead to bad choices are impulse buying and constant visits to the grocery store for that “thing” you forgot to get yesterday. Inevitably, you buy more of what you didn’t want and end up going into the store for a gallon of milk and coming out with a whole cart full of items you probably wouldn’t normally have bought.
So how do you avoid such problems? It’s easier than you might think but does require a bit of pre-planning and discipline.
First, make the running list a staple activity in your home. No matter what medium you use, a chalk board on the kitchen wall, a magnetic note pad on the refrigerator, or a grocery list app on your iPhone, keep a running list of items you need and how soon you need them.
Next, schedule your grocery shopping and have a plan for everything. When I was growing up, for some reason, my parents would go to the grocery store constantly. We needed this or that. Part of that was the uncertainty of available money, but another was bad planning. And when they did go, it always seemed to me that they spent way too much money.
When it came to parties or holidays, my mother was a planner, but the everyday stuff would catch her off guard for some reason. So there were countless trips to the grocery store for this or that. I’m sure they ended up wasting tons of time and money. You can minimize all of these issues with a little pre-planning.
Schedule your grocery shopping for once a week and make a single trip, early in the day, right after breakfast or lunch on a weekend. Go on a full stomach and
Now you need to determine where the best values are between the different stores. Big box discount stores like Walmart, for example, usually have better deals on laundry detergent and other sundries.
By the way, don’t ignore the local grocer. You could save money and time shopping locally, even if some items are slightly more expensive.
But be careful, you could spend more going between retailers than if you just paid a few cents more in one place. Remember to avoid convenience stores and quick marts since they usually charge a good bit more for common items like milk, snacks and soda.
Finally, in the interest of time and efficiency, organize your list by the layout of the grocery store. It’s also best not to take the kids with you. You will feel compelled to buy things the kids want and, again, make unhealthy and expensive purchases you wouldn’t otherwise.
Some of this might sound tedious and even more time consuming than it really is, but if you track your money and time you’ll discover it will eventually save you both. If you’re not a list maker, it will take you some time to get in the habit of organizing and attacking your list with intent. But once you do, you’ll save money, time and calories.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com.