Have you ever unloaded your groceries from the car and thought “Wow, did I really just buy that much stuff?” At the store it seemed you needed the 8 pack of paper towels, the extra juice, the large bag of curly fries, and the third box of cereal even though you only intended to grab some bananas. After all, the cereal was on sale 3 for $6, right? Truth is, you didn’t really need those things—you just happened to see them as you walked down the aisle towards the fruit and back to the register, and it seemed natural enough to throw them in your empty cart before you rolled through the checkout line.
I had the same habit until I lived in a location where I commuted to the store on my bike and realized that buying more things than what fit into my backpack meant an awkward, if not impossible, bike ride home. It was during this stage in my life that I learned to shop with a basket instead of a cart. Now that I’ve been doing this for two years I can positively say this has resulted in me eating healthier and buying less things that I simply just don’t need.
First, filling up a basket happens much faster than filling up a cart. When the container you’re hauling around is filled up, your brain receives a subliminal message saying that you’ve gathered enough and it’s time to leave the store. In the short term, this means you buy fewer things than if you used a cart. In the long term, this means you develop the discipline to stick to your shopping list, as each extra item you buy now means you’re likely foregoing an item on your list because your basket will be too full. Food for thought: why do you think the supermarkets have giant shopping carts? Maybe it’s so you subliminally notice how empty they are and keep buying things to fill them up!
Second, all that weight you carry in your hands versus pushing around on wheels quickly feels heavy. A few apples, a squash, some milk, a bag of rice, and suddenly you don’t even want to walk down the ice cream aisle anymore! On a similar note, liquids sure do weigh a lot, which is OK since nearly all liquids for sale in the grocery store are laced with more sugar than your body knows what to do with, or simply offer no substantial value to your body. Just stick to the tap water at home and fill up your basket with a melon instead.
Third, as you’re carrying all that weight in your hands you pay more attention to what’s already in the basket. Have you ever caught yourself at the checkout counter doubting a purchase? It was likely that item you first picked off the shelf and quickly buried under a load of other items so you didn’t notice it again until the clerk swiped it across the scanner. At the checkout you have social pressure so you just buy it regardless. However, when you use a basket that doesn’t have space to thoroughly hide anything, you will see and double think that questionable purchase as you make your way around the store. It’s more likely that the questionable item will keep grabbing your attention and you’ll be more inclined to put it back before you make it to checkout.
Fourth, if you’re stocking up on mostly perishable fruits and vegetables you can’t buy more than a few days’ worth at a time or they’ll go bad before you can consume them all. This means that you don’t really need to buy that many items and all your purchases should reasonably fit in a basket. Of course, if you have a large family it may not fit in just one basket, but that’s a great excuse to put your kids to work carrying a basket along with you!
Bottom Line: Skip the shopping cart and instead pick up a basket at the grocery store. You’ll be surprised at the difference it’ll make in your food buying habits.
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