The Science of Grocery Shopping


Whether you dread it or love it, grocery shopping is probably part of your family’s, or your, weekly to-do list. The grocery trip can help you get ready for days of planned healthy meals and snacks. On the other hand, your grocery trip may leave you with a full cart and still feeling confused about what to cook for dinner. I’ll tell you how to make every grocery trip a productive one!

First things first, arrive at the grocery store prepared. Consider what meals you want to make with the groceries you are about to buy and know what’s in your kitchen so you know what’s needed. Be armed with a list of items and amounts that you will need! Also, try not to grocery shop when you are already hungry – researchers have found that when you are hungry, it’s easier to grab less healthy products! If you are hungry before you leave for the grocery store, grab a quick healthy snack such as an apple and peanut butter or carrots and hummus.

Once you walk into the grocery store head for the produce section. Generally, this is the first area you see when you walk in. Fill your cart with the fruits and vegetables you need before moving on. In general, the edges of grocery stores are where you want to spend most of your grocery trip. The edges have all the essentials such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, meat and fish. The aisles of the grocery store have more processed foods that may not be as healthy. It’s hard to ignore the flashy looking cereal boxes and chip products – but when was the last time you saw a big display of a new kind of fruit? It’s no coincidence these flashy products in the aisles are the same ones you see on commercials or ads on the computer or your TV; be aware of this to prevent buying items not on your list! Once you’ve gone around the border of the store, pick the aisles you need to go to, and grab only the products on your list. This may help you avoid temptation of some products that look new and exciting. Try to stick with your plan!

Phew, you made it out of the aisles and now all you have to do is checkout. One last obstacle of grocery shopping is trying to avoid buying the small, tempting items right at the checkout area. The grocery store intentionally puts these items right at the end of your grocery trip – they want you to impulsively grab a few items now that you’re tired and hungry from all the grocery shopping. Researchers even have a word for this marketing strategy, calling it “decision fatigue,” and it means that after you’ve had to decide between so many different products (for example, which type of apples to buy, what kind of oats do I need?), you’re much more likely to be tempted by a quick unhealthy product. Be a smart shopper and know about this trick before you toss some candy into the cart!

Now that you have your list, you’ve had a snack and you know the science of the set-up, you’re ready to go. Have fun!