How to Avoid Temptation at the Grocery Store

December 30, 2018

grocery cart with sign saying "I can resist temptation"

Does this sound familiar? You walk into a grocery store intending not to buy tempting foods you know you need to limit or avoid. By the time you walk out, you’ve bought at least one of those temptations.

Has it happened to you? You are not alone! The “oops, it ended up in my grocery cart” syndrome is very common and many of us wrestle with it.

Why it happens

As I’ve explained in other posts, sometimes we fall into “biology vs willpower” situations. There are other times, however, we fall into “marketing vs willpower” situations. Grocery stores are prime examples of this type of situation.

The food industry spends millions of dollars on research, package design, and advertising to get you to buy their products. Grocery stores do the same and use layout, displays, colors and other elements of store design to get you to make impulse purchases as they are key to boosting the store’s revenue.

There are, however, ways to avoid impulse buying and the siren song of those tempting food choices that can promote weight gain and an unhealthy gut microbiome that challenges our health and mood.

Time your grocery shopping carefully

Avoid shopping at the end of a long work day when you are tired and hungry. That’s when those temptations are singing their song so loud you can’t help but have them fall into your grocery cart.  (Sometimes you’re sure they jumped in by themselves!)

Instead, go early in the morning if you can or on a weekend when you’ve just had a meal and are better rested.

Use a “pickup” service

If you must grocery shop at the end of the workday, consider using a “pickup” service. You place your order online, choose when you want to pick up your order, and then call a special phone number when you’ve arrived in the parking lot. Store staff will bring your order to your car, take your coupons and your payment. You drive away never having had to set foot in the store.

Hannaford started this a few years ago and lists stores where it is available on their website. It’s now available in the lakes region in Gilford and Franklin.  Other grocery stores around the country offer this service, so check on the website of the stores you shop at.

Yes, stores that offer this service charge a small fee for it. At the time I write this, Hannaford charges $5, but many people will save at least that amount by avoiding impulse purchases of items. Plus it will save you time and prevent you from having to stand in line where those displays of candy and chips lie in wait for a moment of weakness.

Use a list

If you choose to go into the grocery store, creating a grocery list and sticking to it can also help limit those impulse buys and keep you on track.

Use a version of the “one and done” or “two and stop” technique

The comment I hear most about using a list is “What if I forget to put something on my list and remember it in the store?  Or discover a great bargain?”  If this sounds like you, getting in the habit of limiting your purchasing to one or two items that are not on your list can help.

Pick the right size grocery cart for your trip

If you are just running in to pick up a few items, avoid taking a wheeled cart and use a carry basket instead. It’s also a good way to use those arm muscles! If you must use a cart, use a small one.

Develop, strengthen and use your label reading skills

Knowledge is power. Knowing what to ignore on a food package, what to look for, and how to interpret what you find is the ultimate way to avoid temptations and win in “marketing vs willpower” situations.  It’s also crucial if you have food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies.

Get help from an expert

Make an appointment with me and let’s get your label reading skills into top-notch form!


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Having personally struggled with weight and gut health issues, I understand how easy it is to think that food is the enemy especially with the changes our bodies undergo as we age.  It doesn’t have to be that way!

I love using my extensive education and coach approach to help people realize it is possible to feel better and be healthier while still enjoying their life and food.

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