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If you think it can be a challenge to check all the supermarket sale ads and cross-reference your coupons while planning for a shopping trip, it turns out there are a few other factors you have to keep in mind for an optimal shopping experience. Everything from the way you look, to the way you sleep, to the way you keep track of how much you’re spending. A slew of recent studies suggests that all of those factors could throw off even the best-planned grocery shopping trip – provided that you do plan.

A list will keep you slim
Not only does shopping from a list keep you on budget, it also keeps you in shape. That’s according to a study from Australian researchers at Monash University.

It makes sense – if you write up a shopping list and stick to it, you’re less likely to be tempted by unplanned purchases.

“We found because the planning of meals and writing of the shopping list could be carried out relatively cheaply, it was a cost-effective weight-loss tool when compared to the alternative of doing nothing,” said the lead researcher, Dr. Nicole Au.

Not impressed by the study’s obvious findings? Try this one:

Mirror, mirror, on the shopping cart
It seems that how you look, can affect how you shop. A pair of researchers from New Mexico State University recently decided to stick a mirror inside a shopping cart, facing the shopper, to see what happened. And what happened was, many shoppers weren’t pleased with what they saw – so they steered their carts away from the chips and cookies and toward the produce.

“I don’t realize I’m overweight, until I look at myself,” researcher Mihai Niculescu told the New York Times.

The mirrors are part of a test the researchers are conducting, of a theory known as “nudge marketing”. Instead of telling people what they ought to buy, you instead subtly nudge them to make better decisions themselves. And what better way to nudge some people to eat healthier, than by forcing them to face an image of their unhealthy selves?

“I think what they’re doing is very innovative and clever,” a psychology professor told the Times. “If you put up some cues that remind people of their weight or healthy eating, without hitting them over the head, they will go and choose healthier items.”

Unless, that is, you don’t get a good night’s sleep before you shop:

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Don’t shop while sleepy
It’s well-known that shopping while you’re hungry is probably a bad idea, because it could make you buy bad food. But it appears that shopping while sleepy is just as bad, for the same reason.

In a study published in the journal Obesity, a group of Swedish researchers recently sent two groups of male shoppers to the store – one group had a good sleep the night before, the other group pulled an all-nighter and hadn’t slept a wink before shuffling off to the store. Their conclusion? “Sleep-deprived men purchased significantly more calories and grams of food than they did after one night of sleep.” The researchers cite a simple combination of factors: “some studies have linked sleep deprivation to impaired decision making” and “sleep loss increases food intake in humans.”

While only men were studied, the researchers conclude that “additional studies should confirm the effect in females.” In the end, they caution that shift workers could be at greater risk for obesity, if they have to squeeze in grocery shopping between working all night and sleeping all day. For the rest of us, they advise, if you’re too tired to shop – you’re better off if you don’t.

Oh, and leave the calculator at home:

Knowing what you’re spending, makes you spend more
You might think that keeping a running tally of your grocery bill as you shop, would encourage you to stop before you buy too much. Instead, researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands say it can encourage you to buy even more.

As part of their study, they sent shoppers to get their groceries with the help of a “smart shopping cart”, which displayed the total price of all the items in the cart.

And shoppers who were trying to stick to a budget, ended up blowing it. “When shoppers know exactly how much they’re spending, they were more likely to splurge on items like chocolate and brand name cookies,” the researchers said. They spent an average of almost 22% more, but that’s okay – because they left the store feeling happier.

Conversely, the running grocery total encouraged shoppers who weren’t trying to stick to a budget, to spend less. An average of 19% less, with fewer national brands and more store brands in their shopping cart.

“It makes people smarter shoppers,” one of the researchers concluded. Nonbudget shoppers are a little more careful, and “real-time spending feedback enables budget shoppers to spend more of their budget and feel good about it.”

So there you have it. If you want to be a smarter shopper, then bring a mirror and a shopping list to the store, leave the calculator at home unless you don’t mind spending more than you budgeted, and get a good rest first.

And don’t forget the coupons!

4 Comments

  1. Not sure I agree with the mirror study.
    1. how about young and slim people? They’d see themselves as someone who can afford to eat whatever they want.
    2. People with wrinkled faces may reach for more of makeup, creams and lotions? And overweight shoppers will buy more of weight loss remedies?
    3. what about money factor – fresh produce usually cost more then cookies and candy?

  2. LOL I really love your stuff.
    Sometimes I think you have written the article exclusively for me.

    (I see myself here—no mirror required)

  3. For myself, I don’t blow my budget. I use X amount of cash only shopping money for the month, and pretty much that’s what I stick with. Just a fun little game, really.

    As for the mirrors. That’s interesting. I would though cover them as I’m not interested in seeing myself, but more interested in seeing my calculator. It’s a great shopping tool. Love it.

    PS: Good last line of your article. You do well writing these. Have a great weekend.

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