Six foolproof ways to beat impulse snack-buying

by Ali on May 9, 2008

I’m sure I’m not the only person this happens to: after a mad dash around the tiny Sainsbury’s on the high street after work, I end up stuck in a queue that trails around half the store. By the time I’ve inched past the freshly-baked pastries, past the “special offers” shelves, past the crisps and chocolate … my formerly healthy basket now isn’t quite so saintly.

Do you buy snacks on impulse, only to get home and wish you hadn’t? Did you really need two family-sized bars of chocolate, just because they were on offer? Most likely, you’ve been lured into spending more than you wanted by canny supermarket offers and product positioning.

Here’s some of the tricks I use to stop myself buying on impulse.

  1. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
    Not only does this prevent the “I’ll just see if there’s anything reduced” mentality, it also stops you forgetting that vital ingredient for supper.
  2. Never add anything to your basket at the checkout.
    Have you noticed how the shops pile the shelves right by the tills with crisps and chocolate? Think how much they must increase their profits by encouraging shoppers to pick up one or two little extras. Remind yourself, firmly, that single bags of crisps and chocolate bars are very poor value for money.
  3. Don’t shop when hungry.
    This is advice I first heard as a hard-up student, and it does help if you’ve eaten shortly before going shopping. If the only chance you have to buy groceries is a hasty detour on your way home from work, though, having a light yet nutritious meal first is hardly practical! Instead, acknowledge that you’re peckish, and refuse to let this dictate what you put in your basket.
  4. Resist special offers unless you’d buy the products anyway.
    “They’re buy one get one free” is rarely a good reason to buy anything. Sure, stock up when crispbreads, low-sugar squash, frozen prawns etc are on offer … but don’t be drawn into buying multipacks of crisps and biscuits. It might feel like you’re saving money, but you aren’t – you’re just spending more than you need to on food that will hinder you in reaching your goals.
  5. Don’t buy seasonal goods just because they’re discounted.
    Have you noticed the shelves full of cut-price Christmas cakes in January, the offers on heart-shaped goodies on February 15th, and the reduced chocolate eggs after Easter? Are you ever tempted to buy these just because they’re so cheap? I wrote about this back in January: Avoiding the “bargain!” mindset when food shopping
  6. Shop locally at small specialist stores.
    I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but going to your local bakery, greengrocer and butcher means you only need to trek to the supermarket once a fortnight. You’ll be supporting businesses in your community, and even if items are a little pricier, you’ll probably save money overall by only buying what you need. I’ve never noticed any chocolate bars by the till in our greengrocers (they have mushrooms there instead)!

Impulse buying is bad for your waist line and bad for your wallet. The only people benefiting from your moment of weakness are the millionaire owners of supermarket chains. Don’t sabotage your diet by succumbing to the special offers and the stacks of chocolate: stick to your list, and stick to your diet.

(Image above by vlad the impala)

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