Supermarket Shopping; How To Reduce Impulse Buys

Friday 05th Jul 2024 |

Why You Should Never Drink Coffee Before A Food Shop: Experts Reveal How To Reduce Impulse Buys And Keep Your Costs Down

With the cost of living and climate change on the rise, more and more people are shopping savvier, paying more attention to the type of products they buy, food waste and how much they spend. 

In light of this, HelloFresh Ireland has provided expert advice to help us shop smarter when it comes to the weekly food shop, speaking to Chartered Psychologist and former Professor of Consumer Psychology, Gareth J Harvey on shopping psychology, as well as Head of Culinary, Hannah Duxbury, on shopping list hacks. 

Four bizarre factors that may influence our food shopping habits

According to food psychologist, Gareth Harvey, there are certain factors that can impact the way you shop and cause you to spend more:

Coffee can lead to impulse shopping

“Most people know that shopping when you’re hungry is a bad idea. It turns out having a coffee before shopping might be just as bad! After a coffee you’re more likely to make impulse purchases & buy more hedonic items such as rich and calorific foods (aka those that taste really good),” explains Gareth

How To Reduce Impulse Buys

A full bladder may result in better shopping decisions 

“Bizarrely when you last went to the toilet can also influence how you shop. Despite what you may think, researchers have shown that people with full bladders make better decisions. People with a full bladder are more likely to choose a large reward in the future, rather than selecting a smaller immediate reward.

In terms of shopping, this is likely to manifest with people choosing unhealthy, but tasty items rather than prioritising healthier items like fruit or vegetables, which are better for us in the long term. So if you’re prone to impulse purchasing, maybe drink a bottle of water before your next shopping trip”

Bad weather can make us shop and spend less

“The weather significantly changes our grocery shopping habits. When there is bad weather shoppers typically spend less and make fewer trips. However, this is only true when we’re shopping in familiar environments.”

Mood can affect how much we spend 

Studies show that “shoppers in a positive mood spend 12% more than customers in a negative mood.” 

Tips to shop smarter when grocery shopping

From avoiding supermarket queues that are designed to make us spend more to creating a reverse shopping list, there are many ways to adapt shopping behaviours so that we ultimately spend less and avoid waste. 

Shop online 

Gareth notes the psychological benefits of shopping online, explaining “When shopping online we simply type the product we are interested in and we can add it to our basket. This reduces the likelihood that we will see other products and tempt us to make a purchase that we weren’t planning on making.

Another advantage of shopping online is the fact that we’re not exposed to environmental cues, such as lighting, music, or aromas. Supermarkets are designed to encourage us to spend more, for example, fast tempo background music subconsciously causes us to walk around the store faster (just like it causes us to drive faster) which influences what we purchase.”

Head of Culinary, Hannah Duxbury, also notes the benefits of recipe box delivery services, such as HelloFresh, to help reduce impulse buys. “Opting for a recipe box delivery ensures you only order what you need, so that nothing goes to waste. It can also reduce your trips to the supermarket significantly, so you won’t be tempted to add extras on each visit.”

Create a reverse shopping list 

Hannah explains that another great way to ensure you only buy what you need is to make a reverse shopping list.

“Instead of writing out all the groceries you need from the store at once, try logging what you use up throughout the week and therefore need to replace. So, whenever something’s running low, make a note until you’re ready for your weekly shop. This will make sure you only buy exactly what you need, as it’ll be food you eat regularly.”

How To Reduce Impulse Buys

Order your grocery list in reference to the store’s layout 

According to Gareth, ordering your groceries as they appear in the shop can help reduce your need to buy anything extra. 

“Structure the shopping list so that items are listed in the order you will encounter them in the supermarket, e.g. placing fruits and vegetables first on the list. This makes it easier to spot items on the list and decreases your likelihood to make impulse purchases.”

Meal prep

Hannah explains “Meal prepping before a shop means you’ll know exactly which ingredients you’ll need throughout the week, so there’s no need to buy food for the sake of it. This is one of the best ways to reduce food waste, because so often we buy things only to realise we have nothing to cook with it.

When meal prepping, try to think of recipes that use up the same ingredients, so that you don’t have any unwanted leftovers. Some of the most versatile ingredients involve green leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage, green beans, potatoes, kidney beans and chickpeas.”

For more inspiration visit HelloFresh Ireland’s Meal Prep Guide

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