Grocery Shopping Tactics For Avoiding Impulse Buys

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Grocery Shopping Tactics to Avoid Impulse Buys
Grocery Shopping Tricks by Korta @

I was in Woolies the other day, and a voice over the loudspeaker said:

‘Why not try a steak from our meat department? They’re on special this week at $19 a kilo [ah, yeah, not really cheap]. Grab some vegetables from our fresh produce department and a nice tomato relish and sit down with a steak and beer in front of the football. What a great way to spend your Friday night!’

I generally think I’m pretty immune to marketing, yet I found myself making a bee-line to the meat department. The picture he painted really did sound nice (and I don’t even like football and beer)!

There’s nothing inherently bad about impulse buying – we all like to do something spontaneous every now and again. 

The real problem with impulse buys is when they occur frequently, when they blow your budget and when they get wasted.

According to a consumer goods survey done by GfK Marktforschung, around 40% of what goes into the shopping basket of the average shopper are impulse buys.

When about 20% of what we buy ends up in the bin, you can bet much of what is wasted was what was bought on impulse.

You know the things I’m talking about here. That jar of tamarind paste you bought thinking ‘one day’ you’ll make a curry paste from scratch. Or the celeriac you bought because you saw it on MasterChef, but then it get’s forgotten in the bottom of the crisper.

In other words, what we’re talking about is unplanned buys that get thrown in the bin.

How do you avoid impulse buys?

Supermarkets have lots of tactics to get you to part with their hard-earned cash. There are whole marketing departments working out the psychology of buying. 

Having a few grocery shopping tactics of your own can build up an immunity to the supermarket’s tactics. Shop on YOUR terms. Buy what YOU want, not what you’re manipulated into buying. Spend your money in a way that suits you, not them and do your bit for the environment (and your hip pocket) by reducing food waste. 

Here are a few shopping tactics to use:

  • PLAN. Write a menu plan and a shopping list and take your list with you.
  • Stick to your list.
  • Shop less often. If you only go to the store once a week or once a fortnight, that’s only once you have the opportunity to buy on impulse. You can’t want what you don’t see.
  • Go to the store at quiet times when there’s no demonstration cooking displays or tastings.
  • Don’t go to the store hungry. Carry a snack in your bag to eat just before shopping, so that you’re not starving.
  • Leave the kids at home with dad. Sorry fellas, but studies say you’re more susceptible to advertising and impulse buying than women. On the other hand, if the man of the house is the more savvy shopper, give him the task of doing the grocery shopping.
  • Avoid the chocolate, biscuit, soft drink and chip aisles altogether.
  • Practice saying ‘no, I don’t need that’ until it becomes a habit.

There are lots of action steps you can take to save money on the groceries, like comparing unit prices, and meal planning, but avoiding impulse buys is a biggie. And the key to avoiding impulse buys is to shop with a plan and stick to it. 

You might also like: Meal Box Delivery Review – Four Boxes Compared.

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  1. Hi Melissa,

    I just read a great tip from a savings site (Simple Savings) I belong to about food waste. They have created a “penalty tin” and put in the amount of money they wasted on an item that was binned from their grocery budget. I am going to try the same idea, as I don’t often waste anything, but may be surprised just what amount of money I DO waste by trying this hint out!


  2. Hi Kaye, I read that too – it’s a great tip! Would love to hear how you go with it.

  3. The “don’t go to the store hungry” tip is SOOOOO true. Lately l have been going after eating and l don’t end up buying the biscuits and lollies l normally would have. Then later in the day l think to myself l should have got this and this to snack on. By then you can’t be bothered going back.

  4. If I shop hungry, I always walk out with a bag of potato chips. I admit though, if I *really* want something later, DH doesn’t need his arm to be twisted to get icecream from the servo. It would probably be cheaper to just get treats at the supermarket (although we don’t do servo runs often, maybe we’d eat more if I bought stuff all the time).

  5. Melissa, after living in Melbourne all my life (until last year) you could just pop down the supermarket at 7 or 8pm for snacks etc. I’m in the sticks now and both little supermarkets close at 6pm. Probably a blessing in disguise. Hopefully l will lose some weight that way…:)

  6. Yes, I could certainly benefit from some *non-convenience*.