Have you ever gone to your grocery store to pick up a head of broccoli and walked out with a cart full of snack foods? It’s no accident. Stores are organized to encourage you to spend more money, and that’s usually not on the healthiest foods.
If you’re trying to eat as healthfully as possible and keep your budget in check, employ these responses:
Tactic: Shopping carts are getting bigger. And the larger your cart, the more likely you are to fill it with food, many of which are impulse buys.
Response: Plan your meals for the week, write out a list of items you need and stick to your list.
Tactic: Once inside the door, you’ll be greeted with an arrangement of seasonal items: chocolate hearts in February, marshmallow bunnies in April. These items act as a speed bump, getting you to slow down. Even if you don’t buy them immediately, they’re now on your mind. You might find them placed throughout the store, which makes them even more tempting, because you’ve been thinking about them since you walked in.
Response: Breeze past the seasonal displays.
Tactic: Many grocery stores offer cooked samples, which send out delicious scents. Those scents encourage you to try the product, and make you hungry. Once you try a product, you’re much more likely to purchase it. Even if you don’t buy the product being sampled, smelling and tasting the samples can make you hungry — and more likely to pick up foods that weren’t on your list.
Response: Never go to the store on an empty stomach. Being hungry while shopping leads to buying things you don’t need and often aren’t good for you.
Tactic: The checkout aisles are typically filled with inexpensive snacks, such as candy bars and chips. Supermarkets bank on you buying these things impulsively to snack on in the car. The good news is that some grocery stores are now providing more healthful snack options at their checkouts.
Response: Shop the healthful checkout lanes (they’re usually marked). If you can’t resist an impulse buy, pick up a magazine.
Tactic: Some stores are actually working to help you make healthier choices, by placing more nutritious products at eye level and offerings samples and BOGOs of fruits and vegetables. Others have rolled out signage programs to help you identify healthful foods.
Response: Find the grocery stores that tout healthful eating — and shop there.