Why You Should Not Shop Hungry

Why You Should Not Shop Hungry

We’ve all done it. You’re having a busy day, haven’t had a lot of time to take a break and now it’s time to head to the grocery store to knock off items from your healthy shopping list. You walk into the store and immediately are greeted with a rotisserie chicken sitting at the front, and your stomach starts growling. You realize you’ve made the largest mistake of grocery shopping: doing so hungry.

Or maybe you make it past the delicious smelling chicken, and you make your way not much further into the store, and you see an array of baked goods in the aisle, right in the middle of where you need to pass.

Maybe you have an indominable spirit, and you pass the fresh cookies and pastries, just to succumb to the chip stand set up nicely placed just a few meters down the very same aisle by the grocery section.

Point being: grocery stores have their products placed strategically. You don’t have to walk too far into the grocery store before you are faced with numerous splurge-type items. In fact, these items are placed near the front of the store and right in the main aisles so that you purchase them. Grocery stores know that these items are unlikely to be on your initial list, so they put them in these locations so that you see them on your way in, and on your way out. Think about the candy bars at check-out isles, or the randomly placed rotisserie chickens. Their goal as a money-making business is to get you to purchase as many things as possible while you are in the store.

This is why sticking to your grocery list, and your budget, is important for yourself to save a hit to your wallet. Hungry individuals will take more of what they have access to, and in a grocery store like Walmart where the shelves are filled with eligible items, individuals will be more likely to spend more money and purchase more items than their non-hungry counterparts.

Research shows that individuals that shop hungry are not just more likely to purchase food products that were not originally on the list. In fact, hungry shoppers are likely to have increased spending on non-food items as well. Based on survey results by researchers on individuals at a large department store with non-food items, individuals that rated themselves as hungrier spent 64% more money than those who were less hungry.

This shows a direct correlation between hunger and an increase in the desire for the general acquisition of items. Alison Jing Xu with the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, in reviewing the results from a similar study they conducted, stated: “Hunger makes us want to eat, which means that we think about seeking, acquiring and consuming food. Those acquisition-related thoughts may spill over and put consumers in the mode of getting more stuff in general, even stuff they can’t eat.”

If you are sticking to the grocery section of the store, or are at a store with only food items, shopping hungry makes it much more likely that you will deviate from your shopping list, and high calorie foods are much more likely to make their way into your grocery cart.

This can be extremely detrimental if you are shopping with a specific budget, and having children with you that are hungry will make this all the more difficult as these same responses will result. So, it is a good idea to be sure to have a snack before heading to the grocery store, or to go to the grocery store following mealtimes.

In another study, 68 participants were asked to join the researchers at their lab and to avoid eating for five hours before they came. When they arrived, half of the participants in the study were given the opportunity to eat as many wheat crackers as they wanted, while the other half were not given any food.

Both groups of participants were then asked to grocery shop in an online store that offered high-calorie foods, such as candy, salty snacks and red meat, as well as low-calorie foods, such as fruits, vegetables and chicken breasts.


Participants who were hungry purchased more high-calorie products; the researchers found. On average, they purchased 5.7 high-calorie products, while the group that ate before shopping bought 3.9 high-calorie products.

If you find that you are about to head out for a shopping trip and you realize you are hungry, it is important to be sure to make some time to eat, even if that is just a snack. This will not only save you money, but it will preserve your healthy goals as you are more likely to stick to your grocery list and stay away from high-calorie foods that weren’t on your radar before you made eye contact with them in the store.

Keep up with our blog for more tips, and for now, don’t shop hungry so that you can keep your grocery cart full of exactly what you intended.



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