Why shopping while hungry will wreck your budget and diet

Did you know that grocery shopping while hungry can wreck your food budget AND undermine our healthy eating goals for an entire week?

I did some digging and here is what the research says:

We buy more food when we are hungry!

In fact, not only do we buy more food, we actually buy more of everything when we are hungry. According to researchers from the Carlson School of Management at Minnesota University (2015), being hungry not only increases our desire to buy more food, it makes us want to buy more non-food items. For example, in one study, researchers found that individuals leaving a department store brought more if they were hungry, regardless of how long they were in a store. Being hungry makes us more impulsive and reckless when it comes to spending money; therefore, we spend more.

We buy more expensive, junk foods when we are hungry!


Also, have you ever noticed the types of food you buy when you are hungry? According to studies published by researchers at Cornell University (Tal & Wansink, 2013), we buy more high-calorie foods at the grocery store when we are hungry, than when we are not hungry. And because we eat what we put in our grocery carts, when we buy more high-calorie foods, we eat more of these foods all week-long. Talk about a great way to undermine a healthy lifestyle for a whole week! ‘

Plus, high-calorie and prepared foods are more expensive than their raw counterparts. For example, for the cost of a fruit and nut bar ($1.00-3.00), I can purchase a whole head of kale and an avocado or two. For the cost of 1 kombucha, I can purchase ½ lb of almonds from Trader Joes. This amount of almonds would make 3 quarts of fresh, homemade almond milk. While I am not against raw treats, I have learned that they can easily add on an extra $5 to $15 to my grocery bill. This may not sound like a lot, but it easily adds up!

For example, I used to buy raw vegan pies and ice creams. These run close to $10 a pop. While these pies taste great, the math doesn’t work out so great. For one raw vegan pie, I would pay $10; that’s 3% of my current $300 monthly food budget for just one treat. That means 3% of my food budget, which is supposed to last me 30 days, was spent on a snack. That is also how much I am supposed to spend on food per day! If I did this every week, it would mean that slightly more than 1/10 of my budget was spent on 4 snacks. Pretty crazy stuff!

Think about the cost of the treats (or convenience food) that you buy regularly, and do the math. Simply estimate how much you spend on treats per week and multiple that number by 4. What impact do these foods have on your food budget?

Takeaway points

The next time you to go the grocery store, be sure to eat a snack or meal before you go! Remember that grocery store chains have figured out the best ways to encourage impulsive buying, so whenever you walk into a grocery store, YOU MUST BRING YOUR A GAME (i.e., a grocery list and a snack)!




Tal, A., & Wansink, B. (2013). Fattening fasting: hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food. JAMA Intern Med, 173(12), 1146-1148. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.650Xu, A. J., Schwarz, N., & Wyer, R. S., Jr. (2015). Hunger promotes acquisition of nonfood objects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 112(9), 2688-2692. doi:10.1073/pnas.1417712112

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