Eat Before You Shop

Participants in a recent study were asked to grocery shop: Half were given a nutritious snack first, and half shopped hungry. Those who shopped hungry were more likely to choose calorie-dense processed foods over healthy foods like vegetables and chicken. Interestingly enough, young children were also problematic: They’re pleaders par excellence and their culinary tastes run toward Fruity Pebbles.

As if that’s not enough, the store stacks the deck against you—they want you to buy the most profitable foods for them, and that means processed foods. Limiting your purchases to “three cans per customer” triggers survival instincts that encourage hoarding. Flooring that makes a clackety clack under your cart wheels makes you go slower to avoid an unpleasant aural experience. And, speaking of carts, larger carts lead to more spending.

If this seems simplistic, consider this: In the experiment, they ran the exact same offer two days in a row. On the second day, however, they removed the dollar sign in front of the price on one particular display, put up a “maximum three cans per customer” sign, gave shoppers bigger carts, and changed the floor tiles. The rate at which shoppers snapped up Campbell’s soup increased sevenfold.

Moral of the story? Decide on healthy foods ahead of time, make a list, eat before you go, and leave the kids at home.