5 Grocery Hacks That Make It Easier to Eat Well
Grocery stores (along with almost all retail establishments) are carefully crafted to subtly, maybe even subliminally encourage certain behavior. There are intricate, almost unbelievably advanced algorithms and tools that track your every movement through a store. Those cameras that appear to be there mostly to deter shoplifters are actually there to raise profits. But with a little bit of knowledge and some preparation, you can 'hack' the store's methods for getting you to part with your money — and keep yourself on the healthy-eating path at the same time!
Push a Cart
The intuitive reasoning about carts vs. baskets is that you'll buy less junk with a basket just because you have less space to put stuff. But as in so many areas of life, intuition is a little problematic; in this case, because it doesn't take into account the effort needed to hold a basket. The simple act of holding up a basket with a half-decent supply of goods in it is just tiring enough, says one study, that it drives customers to take foods that are fast and easy; making basket shoppers nearly seven times more likely to make a bad-for-you impulse purchase than a cart shopper.
The buy-more tactics used by supermarkets don't end at heat-mapped layouts and pumping donut smell into the air — the sound is part of the plan as well. According to the Journal of Marketing, the elevator music that grocery stores play is deliberately slow; combine that with the deliberate lack of clocks and the numbing sameness of the isles, and you have a recipe for looong trips through the store. That, in turn, translates to 29% more food in your bags at the checkout! So fight the system by cranking up some peppy music on your MP3 player, setting a timer for your trips, and remaining deliberate about what you're doing; every distraction the store nails you with is a threat to your diet.
Don't Shop Hungry
This one is obvious; hungry people overshop. So eat a (healthy) snack before you go shopping, and bring another one or two with if you're going to be out for more than a couple of hours.
Paper, Not Plastic
Not bags, silly — payment. Experiments performed at Cornell University proved that using a credit card, in addition to effectively reducing your perception of how much money you're spending, changes what you are willing to buy as well. In short, when you whip out actual money, your brain goes into a deeper "is this worth it" process than it does when you swipe, which means you're more likely to put back the things you aren't actually proud to buy…including junk food.
Shop According To Your List, Not the Circular
A study in Preventing Chronic Disease says it all; only 3% of coupons are for produce and only 1%for unprocessed meats. If your diet consists mostly of meat and vegetables (which it should), almost every coupon is a temptation to buy something that has no place on your plate. Learn to stick to your list and look past the coupons they shove in your face as you walk through the door. Your physical (and financial) health will benefit greatly by cultivating this one habit alone!
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