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Proper shopping: How supermarkets manipulate our buying behavior - 9 ways to protect yourself

Proper shopping has to be learned. Supermarkets are designed in such a way that they subconsciously manipulate your buying behavior. Many then buy food that they “actually” didn't want to eat. This article will change your supermarket shopping forever - guaranteed.

40% of all food in our supermarkets is bought impulsively.1

For those of us with children: The area at the cash register is not called the “whining zone” for nothing.

What does this have to do with looking good naked? Very easily:

You eat the food you buy too.

Maybe not right away, but sooner or later.

Supermarkets are secret seducers. You want to arouse emotions: curiosity, desire, appetite. They want to - let me put it this way - support us as well as possible in our impulse purchases.

In fact, studies show that purchasing decisions in the supermarket are now made much more quickly than in the past

The catch?

If you don't know the pitfalls of shopping for groceries, you will make more ill-considered decisions.

And - whoops! - the pantry is full of things that are probably not on your healthy grocery shopping list.

This article will help you avoid that and make the right decisions.

Shopping correctly: do you really need more self-discipline?

How about if you can now control all impulses while shopping? The idea is good. And the implementation requires a lot of training.

Impulse control is a skill that requires training and time.

There is another way. If you go it, you make it easy for yourself:

You want to shop right out of habit.

Because doing something that you are used to takes almost no effort. You just stick with it. In this case it means:

You create framework conditions for your grocery shopping, through which you automatically buy the right thing.

Systematic shopping - that is the idea. A system that minimizes the temptation. And protects you from running into the pulse knife in the supermarket.

Until you find it easy to resist the temptation.

In my experience, so many people come back from the supermarket with things that they actually didn't want to buy because they go shopping without a plan. Yes it's right:

Planning takes (some) time.

And time is the most precious commodity for most of us. Still: it's worth it! Because a plan gives you the freedom of thought that you need to implement it in order to make the right decisions.

There is a rule of thumb in project management that you can transfer wonderfully to the "body project":

Every minute of planning saves you ten minutes later in execution.

It's amazing how quickly you get results when you apply this simple idea to your shopping, your diet, your training, maybe even your whole life.

If you really take the time to plan, you will SAVE time at the end of the day. You then have it for other things that are important to you. And perhaps most importantly:

If you have a plan, you will reach your goal faster.

And that's not all. If you're like me, you feel the same way: being unprepared just doesn't feel good.

Stressed out not having a plan.

It is this feeling of insecurity that you can replace - with comparatively little effort - with confidence, certainty and ease.

The shopping strategies in the next section will help you with this.

9 ways to avoid psychological traps in the supermarket (and stick to it more easily)

The real trick is this:

You make the majority of your purchase decisions in advance.

So when you are not directly exposed to the tempting images and smells.

It is quite possible that you will also make certain decisions on site. For example, when comparing the nutritional information of two foods like Sherlock Holmes to make an informed decision.

When you walk into the supermarket, you already know what you're going home with.

If you follow the following 9 best practices, from today only those foods will end up in your shopping cart that bring you closer to your goals.

Before we go into detail: In the free stay tuned newsletter, you will receive practical tips about looking naked in your inbox twice a week.

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Shopping Properly # 1 - Write a shopping list

Shopping lists are created in no time.

When you plan the meals for the next few days, you can write down all the foods you need for the next week at the same time.

As soon as the shopping list is up, you stick to it.

If you are like me, then you buy 80% of the same groceries every week anyway.

That makes things even easier for you. Because after a short time you have developed a kind of “shopping list master”, your checklist for proper shopping.

Would you like an example? Here you will find a shopping list of healthy foods for your fridge and pantry.

💡Tip: digital shopping list

A shopping list app for smartphones is a practical alternative to handwritten shopping lists. I use Bring for iOS / watchOS (Android app here).

The digital solution has the advantage that you don't have to rewrite the shopping list every time. Helpful if you don't live alone: ​​you can share it with other people.

Shopping Properly # 2 - Don't go shopping hungry

Most of us probably already know this tip. The question is, are you sticking to it? As hunger increases, so does the risk of impulse buying junk food.

Most people are more prone to impulse buying even when they're tired, exhausted, or upset.

💡Tip: Train your mindfulness

The best thing to do is to consciously observe your buying behavior for a few weeks. How does your emotional or physical condition affect your buying behavior? In which situations would you have tended to impulse buying? Once you know the answers, you can start thinking of alternative behaviors.

Shopping correctly # 3 - Shop quickly

Have you ever wondered why people play so slow music in supermarkets?

Even if we are often not consciously aware of the music, it influences our buying behavior: Relaxed songs make you go slower and you spend more time in the supermarket.

And the more time you spend there, the more you buy.

So you just turn the tables - with the shopping list always in view - how quickly do you manage to collect everything and reach the till?

If you have the opportunity, you can also go shopping outside of peak hours: It helps if you have a lot of space in the store and the lines at the checkout are short.

💡Tip: make a game out of it

Gamification is the magic word. Sometimes I stop time shopping. Next time I'll try to beat my old record. If you are one of the playful children among us, that can enormously increase the fun factor when shopping.

Do the right shopping # 4 - Focus on the fresh produce areas

On your tour of the supermarket, concentrate on the areas where you can find fresh, preferably unprocessed food. So fresh or frozen fish, meat, dairy products, eggs, fruit, vegetables, lettuce and potatoes.

You can usually find these areas on the edge of the supermarket, while processed and finished products tend to require a detour inside.

💡Tip: Look forward to your new "you"

As you establish these new shopping habits, you notice more and more how your perception changes.

"While I couldn't resist the impulse to buy when walking through the candy shelf in the past, the sight of junk food leaves me cold today." I made this experience myself and keep hearing it from clients and those who stay at it. It's the magic of good habit in action.

Shop Right # 5 - Ignore the Marketing Promises

Marketing professors often cite the supermarket as an example in their lectures.

Why? Because every shelf and every display is an advertising space:

  • Food companies pay a lot of money to have their goods displayed as clearly as possible.
  • Candy colors like red, orange and yellow stimulate the appetite and draw your attention to highly processed snacks.
  • Fancy names like “strawberry dream” are often used. A designation - in this case: "Milk mixed drink made from skimmed milk with strawberry flavor, heat treated (sterilized)" - is required by law, but is usually hidden in small print on the back of the pack. 3

It's actually like this: You can recognize a healthy food by the fact that it does not have to be marketed as such.

💡 Tip: Be selective when shopping

It is best to just stick to your shopping list and ignore any advertising promises that advertise a food as particularly healthy or easy to lose.

Shopping Properly # 6 - Buy mostly groceries with no ingredients list

Most of the foods you should eat every day have no label at all. Think about fruits and vegetables.

Packaged food must have an ingredient list. Unless there is only one ingredient.

Meat, fish, eggs, low-fat quark or oatmeal therefore have a label, but no list of ingredients.

Of course, not all foods that contain more than one ingredient are necessarily bad. Here's a handy rule of thumb:

If a product has more than five ingredients, you leave it.

Unless it's about the 10% exemptions from the 90-10 rule.

The same applies, by the way, if it contains hydrogenated fats. Or chemical additives that you can't even pronounce.

💡 Tip: What do E numbers mean?

Over 300 food additives are permitted in the EU. They make food last longer, brighter, spice up the taste or change the consistency. Every additive has an E number. Either the chemical name or the E number of an additive must be declared in the list of ingredients. Some, but not all of these substances are harmful to health.

How do you know what is behind a certain E-number and what purpose this substance fulfills? The “E-Number Finder”, the free smartphone app from the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE), answers these questions. It is available for iOS and Android.

Proper shopping # 7 - watch out for hidden sugars

With nutritional information and ingredients you will become a nutrition detective.

Before you eat anything packaged, take a look at the label.

The list of ingredients is sorted by quantity. A food contains most of the ingredient that comes first.

So if you find white flour or any added sugar at the top of the list of ingredients, you simply put the food back.

Food with a list of ingredients must also contain a nutritional table in which the nutrients per 100 grams or 100 milliliters of food are declared. For an initial overview, you should first keep an eye on the calories and sugar.

There is also an increasing selection of supplements in supermarkets, including protein powder and many others. You can save most of this, but a lot helps.

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Proper shopping # 8 - Overcome the "whining zone"

At almost every checkout, sweets and snacks are within easy reach.

Because the waiting time to pay is ideal for marketing (and selling) more groceries.

If you are aware of this, you will be much better able to resist the impulse to buy something at the checkout.

💡Tip: Use whine-free zones

In some supermarkets there are “whine-free” checkouts without sweets. If you (or your children) have been easily tempted so far, use them.

Shopping Properly # 9 - Buy Your Groceries Online

More and more people are ordering their groceries online. In addition to established supermarkets such as Edeka and Rewe, pure online supermarkets such as Amazon Fresh or MyTime.de now also deliver fresh goods to the front door.

A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity observed the following association: 4

Those who want to lose weight and order their groceries online buy 28 percent fewer high-calorie foods than offline shoppers.

This is probably due to the fact that we are forced to plan when ordering online due to the delayed delivery and thus make more rational purchasing decisions.

Decision tree: this is how you identify real food in the supermarket

No idea whether a food is good for you? No problem: this decision tree will help you.

You should take a close look at every food with more than five ingredients: All ingredients that sound Latin or contain an “E” are artificial in nature and are intended to improve the manufacturing process, shelf life, taste or consistency.

These mysterious (but unfortunately common) additives are pretty good indicators of "food-like" products. But mostly it is just not “real” food.

The good news: There are exceptions to this rule. Some manufacturers do without additives and take into account the fact that some consumers - like us sticking to it - consciously pay attention to the quality of our food. I hope this trend continues.

You can be on the safe side by taking a look at the ingredient label.


A balanced diet does not begin at the dining table, but in the supermarket. Because the food we buy is what we eat.

In this article you got to know the hidden pitfalls that ensure that almost half of all food is not planned, but bought impulsively.

The easiest way to get around these psychological traps is not self-discipline, but planning. The 9 healthy shopping habits that you now know will help you:

  1. You write a shopping list
  2. go shopping saturated,
  3. buy quickly,
  4. focus on the fresh produce areas,
  5. gallantly ignore the manufacturers' marketing promises,
  6. mainly buys products without a list of ingredients,
  7. watch out for hidden sugar
  8. overcome the whining zone and
  9. buy your groceries online.

Okay, the last point is definitely not a "must". But maybe you just give online delivery a try. It makes my life - and thus also keeping up with it - easier for me.

Question: What healthy habits will help you make the right decisions when shopping? Do you buy your groceries online or offline? Share your experiences and write a comment.

  1. Helge Delion: Spontaneous purchase - catchphrase with irritating charisma. Shoppermetrics, 2010, http://shoppermetrics.com/2010/05/27/spontankauf/, accessed: November 19, 2017 [↩]
  2. Jelden, Holzmann, et al .: The Retail Revolution. P. 24. Interone GmbH, Jörg Jelden Trand & Transformation Consulting, 2011 [↩]
  3. Consumer advice center: labeling of food. https://www.verbüberszentrale.de/wissen/lebensmittel/kennzeichnung-und-inhaltsstoffe/kennzeichnung-von-lebensmittel-5430, accessed: November 20, 2017 [↩]
  4. Gorin, et al .: Home grocery delivery improves the household food environments of behavioral weight loss participants: Results of an 8-week pilot study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2007. [↩]
  5. DISQ: test online food stores. https://disq.de/2016/20161110-Online-Shops-Lebensmittel.html, accessed: November 20, 2017 [↩]

Category: Equipment, NutritionTags: Emotional Eating, Eating, Healthy Food, Habits, Buying Advice, Planning, Sports Nutrition, Invisible Scripts