4 Grocery Shopping Mistakes To Avoid

grocery shopping

(Healthcastle.com) Ever wonder why you don’t have tortillas when you need them for taco night or what possessed you to toss ice cream in to your cart instead of frozen fruit? Do you get stuck grabbing take out a night or two a week because you realized you had no basics in the fridge or were out of milk? Learn the top 4 grocery shopping mistakes even healthy shoppers make and how to avoid below.

1. Shopping on an empty stomach

Now I know that just finding time to get to the store can be challenging, but do yourself a favour and have a piece of fruit before you leave that car. Research by Brian Wansink and his crew confirmed what many of us have experienced; your food choices change when you shop hungry. They found that the ratio of high calorie foods to lower calorie, more nutritious foods was much less healthy in hungry study participants compared to those who had a light snack before. And it makes sense! We feel that evolutionary pull to eat when our blood glucose is low or we’ve gone too long between meals. It’s a time where our bodies are pushing for high calorie and easy to digest foods so what goes in your cart is likely going to reflect what your hormones are saying, not your head. Save yourself the jumbo tub of vanilla and make sure your’re nourished before you head in. 

2. Hitting the store without a list

Even if you’re only hitting the store for 4 or 5 items, make a quick list. You’re more likely to purchase things you don’t need (remember that tub of vanilla my hungry friends) and miss out on some of the items you do. Grocery stores are sensory overload- the noise, colours, samples and smells all demand  your attention away from the task at hand. Using a list means you won’t have any last minute shopping trips or take out nights because your fridge is stocked and ready to go and you’ll have a healthy and well fed household ready to take on the world.

Your list doesn’t need to be complicated, there are some great templates out there to print off and fill in or you can jot items on a whiteboard in the kitchen as you run out and snap a picture with your phone on the way out the door. Keep the process simple and it will be easy to keep going.

3. Buying non-fat products

Non-fat seems like such an easy choice, they are lower in calories and fat is bad, right? Not necessarily! We need fat in foods for texture (how it feels in your mouth), to carry flavour molecules and to slow digestion and absorption which helps to keep our blood sugar balanced and our appetites controlled. When we take all the fat out, it is often replaced with less desirable ingredients- added sugars are common, as are thickeners, stabilizers and flavour additives that help replace the texture and taste of the normal product. Not only are they usually a pale comparison of the original, the non-fat versions can’t replicate all those physiological functions like keeping you full or carrying fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

If you’re watching your weight, choose 2% yogurt and cottage cheese to keep the calories under control or use smaller portions of full fat items. For cheese I usually just stick with using a bit of the real thing. The low fat doesn’t ever quite taste or melt the same and you end up using more anyways.

4. Buying snack foods in bulk

Sorry Costco! While I’m a big fan of the big bag of superfood salad and great prices on my favourite sprouted grain bread, it can be a big temptation to pick up a jumbo bag of chips or sweets just because the price is so good. Or if you’re like me you’ll lovingly eye the kettle corn until it magically appears in your cart. But its just to have for special occasions once in a while or  a treat once a week, right?

Wrong. Brian Wansink (this guy is the king of food and behaviour research) also found that a whopping 50% of snack foods bought in bulk will be gone within 6 days. And my own informal home research totally backs this up. It is almost impossible to resist the temptation to steal a handful here and there and it barely looks like you’ve made a dent in the bag.

So don’t buy the bag if you know you don’t want to splurge on snacks this week, unfortunately biology is just not on your side.

Stick to buying regular size bags when you need it- and don’t totally forgo your favourite treats once in a while. The good news is that lots of other research shows that being a bit flexible in your diet helps you stay on track long term. Feeling deprived doesn’t motivate anyone for long!

What are your best tricks for getting in and out of the grocery store with exactly what you needed? Share with us in the comments below!

Want to find out more about the practical research being done by Brian Wansink and Cornell University? Find their studies and tips based on their findings here.

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