How to Trick Yourself Out of Food Impulse Purchases You’ll Regret

Recently someone asked me how I shop the grocery store.  Everybody loves to recite the “shop the periphery” rule to avoid the processed food that dominates the middle section of the supermarket.

That’s a decent start, but even in the health food stores I struggle with one issue: impulse purchases.

Sometimes I go with a list, sometimes I don’t.  Either way, I always end up with a few things that I don’t need.

Most often these purchases are some new organic snacky-snack that catches my eye or one of my trusty “offenders“, like a jar of peanut butter.  Whatever it is, it’s surely something that will knock me off my focus or make me throw it out halfway through eating it when I realize it was a dumb idea.

Recently, I discovered a way to reduce my chances of making the naughty impulse purchase:  shop in the opposite direction of how I eat.  In other words…

Save the Veggies for Last

When sit down to eat, my strategy is “go for the veggies first” — they crowd out the heavier, “fattening” stuff, leaving me with less room to crave it.

But when I shop Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that way — veggies first — my strategy backfires.  Instead of “crowding out” the snacky foods, my inner voice tries to justify it:

Ooh look at all those leafy greens I have in my basket!  Surely I can afford to try these new organic cheddar cheesy-poofs…

So, to sidestep this justification by my inner jerk, I tried a new strategy:  start at the other end of the store, working my way back to the produce section.

This way, the impulse buys are more likely to be a couple of nectarines or a fennel bulb (yes, really) than a tub of coconut bon-bons.  I go home happy that I didn’t buy something that will make me feel like crap, Whole Foods still gets me to buy stuff I didn’t think I needed – everybody wins!

What kind of impulse purchases do you make? Smart ones or not-so-smart ones?  Do you have a mantra for shopping smart?  Let me know in the comments below!