Why you buy more groceries than you need

Grocery shopping is a necessary expense, but it’s far too easy to spend more than you intend. You walk into the supermarket knowing you need a few items, and you walk out with a cart full of bags and an empty wallet. Why did you end up buying more food than you need?

You were hungry

When you are hungry, all your instincts focus on acquiring food. Every item looks tasty. Smells lead you around the store. Your belly starts to rumble to remind you how unpleasant starving would be. Back in caveman days, these instincts were necessary to keep you gathering berries when you were tired, and stalking animals when you were scared. Now they keep you loading up your cart even though you have a full cupboard at home.

You didn’t have a list

Food is one of the great pleasures in life. It plays on every one of your senses and can bring out many positive emotions. It’s a strong temptation to try to fight without a game plan. The worst thing you can do is decide to walk up and down the aisles to remind you of what items you need. This can only lead to you “remembering” every tasty bite you haven’t had lately.

You brought the kids

Pushing the shopping cart, and knowing the final tally will come out of your wallet, can be a great motivator to avoid excessive purchases. But when you bring a child, or an adult who is not responsible for this shopping trip, they are free to grab items without considering the consequences. Even chatting with someone as you shop can take your focus off of your list and lead to a full cart.

Supermarket design

Many well-compensated professionals spent a lot of time designing the layout of your local supermarket. Low profit items are placed at the far reaches of the store to ensure you walk through aisles of high profit temptations in order to get there. Expensive name brand items are stocked at eye level, while you have to crouch down or stand on the bottom shelf to reach cheaper fare.  Even the music is designed to keep you zoned out and in the store as long as possible.

Security instinct

As mentioned above, human instincts are still rooted in a time when food was scarce and hard to come by. Those instincts cause you to want to stockpile the things that make you safe and secure. And a variety of available meal choices makes you feel pampered and well taken care of. That’s why one of the easiest ways to describe the bare-necessities lifestyle of a college student involves daily cold pizza and ramen noodles.

These instincts and a weakness for the temptations of the grocery store make it so important to be properly prepared to go food shopping. Have a light snack, have your list ready to go, and stay focused on what you are doing. There are powerful forces working to fill up your shopping cart, but knowing what you are up against can help you stay within your budget.