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A great way to curb impulse grocery shopping. April 4, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. If, like me, you love food and love grocery shopping, you probably have a hard time keeping pricey items from somehow slipping into your basket or cart. Here’s how it goes:

You need crumbled Gorgonzola, but while you’re looking for the best deal on it, your eye is caught by that hunk of Jarlsberg or slab of Brie. Maybe you could indulge just this once. Heading towards the potatoes, you pass the olive bar… hmmm… those kalamata olives look wonderful, and look! They have the olive-feta mix our friend Ben loves on his salads, not to mention artichoke hearts. Yum! You’re out of button mushrooms, but once you reach the mushroom display, that package of gourmet mushrooms doesn’t really seem that pricey.

Stopping for mixed greens, you can’t resist a bag of your favorite, arugula, not to mention packages of sprouts and watercress, since they’re both supposed to be so good for you, and a couple of bunches of fresh cilantro. And just look at that beautiful container of crudites! You’re always trying to get OFB to eat more veggies, so you grab it and a carton of yogurt dip. Wow, green, white, and purple asparagus! We love asparagus, let’s get one of each. And look, a great deal on blood oranges and lemons! Bags of both go into the cart.

Before you’ve even left the produce section, your cart or basket is bulging with things you hadn’t intended to buy. And once you reach the checkout line, your eyes are standing out of your head from sticker shock. Bazillion dollars just for groceries, and not that many groceries either, come to that? How did that happen?! But no worries—you have your debit card. (Or worse, your credit card.) You slide the card, load up the car, and return home, trying to banish those feelings of guilt as you’ve overspent again. Your budget’s already blown, and you forgot the dog food and toilet paper!

If your eyes are always bigger than your budget, willpower, or imagination, like mine, you need intervention. But fortunately, it’s not hard to find. Just one simple technique—plus one small gadget you almost certainly already have on hand—will do the trick.

I signed up years ago to receive e-mails from RealAge, the website set up by the renowned Dr. Mehmet Oz and his partner, Dr. Michael Roizen, to provide information on nutritional breakthroughs and other low-tech ways real people could enhance their health through diet, exercise, and the like. I recommend the site to you, since signing up is free and the information is helpful and easy to implement. So I was thrilled to see a feature in today’s e-mail that recommended the same solution to overspending at the grocery that I’d adopted long ago, in a feature called “Eating Healthy on a Budget.”

The article points out what ought to be obvious, but in today’s pay-with-plastic world really isn’t: “Turns out you make more unhealthy impulse buys… at the supermarket when you pay with plastic than with real money. Pay with cash and your shopping cart will contain just as much good-for-you stuff but about 30% fewer unhealthy foods… In fact, researchers suspect there’s a parallel between Americans paying for at least 40% of their purchases with plastic and 34% of Americans being extremely overweight.”

Yikes. RealAge suggests that you curb this tendency by calculating how much you can afford to spend, budgeting accordingly, and paying with cash. They suggest that, if you have trouble adding up the items going into your basket or cart as you shop, you carry a pocket calculator or use the calculator function on your cell phone to add things up.

I can tell you that paying with cash works wonders on curbing impulse buying, even when you’re not about to buy unhealthy junk. You have $40 to spend, and you know $20 will have to go to that bag of dog food. In addition, you need crumbled Gorgonzola, potatoes, salad greens, mushrooms, and toilet paper?

Goodbye Jarlsberg, Brie, olives, fancy mushrooms, fruit, crudites, dip, asparagus, arugula, and other pricey items. You can see right away that it will take pretty much all of the remaining $20 just to buy the stuff on your list.

If you’re really good at mental calculation or use that pocket calculator or cell-phone function, you just might discover that your budget would stretch to a bunch of green asparagus. Hooray! You can enjoy one of spring’s most delicious veggies and still not go over your limit.

Try it. You may not like it, but you’ll definitely like not running over your grocery budget every month.

                ‘Til next time,




1. kate - April 5, 2011

I keep hearing this. I’ve been hearing it for years. It’s obviously good advice; I wonder how many more times I’ll hear it before I finally try it. Sigh.

Ha! I know, Kate. Buying yummy stuff at the grocery seems like such a small indulgence… until you get to checkout, hand over your store card for all those big discounts, and the cashier still somehow manages to say, “That’s $127…” Sigh is right.

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