1. Don’t shop if you are hungry, thirsty or tired
When shopping, each of your senses is being bombarded with stimuli, leading to choice and temptation. You need to reduce the impact of those tempting pictures of food and drink on product packs and in-store advertising, with a golden rule: never, never, visit the supermarket when you are hungry!
This way, those expensively crafted images and mouthwatering scents of freshly-baked bread won’t cause you to salivate autonomically because your blood sugar will be balanced and your brain will be receiving internal dialogue that you are full.
The same applies if you are thirsty or tired, as your autonomic reactions to things will cause you to react in powerful ways to these stimuli. Ensuring you are fed, watered and rested means you can better focus on being a more effective shopper, rather than being distracted by your physical needs.
2. Adopt a positive physiological state when you are shopping
Your emotions, feelings, moods and states of mind come from the combined efforts of your brain and your body. To have a certain feeling, you need to alter psychologically and physiologically. If you smile broadly and sit up in the chair while reading this and then try to feel miserable without changing your facial expression or posture you will probably find it extremely difficult.
Recognise that supermarkets can influence both your state of mind, and your physiology. We’ll speed up when walking down narrow aisles and slow down when we see our reflection.
Something as subtle as the style and tempo of in-store music can influence mental processing and physical behaviour.
When you’re supermarket shopping, try to filter out as many distractions as possible and, to paraphrase Johnny Cash, ‘Walk tall and look the world right in the eye’ – adopt a positive physiological state as you shop for groceries; you’ll find that your mind and brain start to adopt the same positive and beneficial outlook.
3. Prime yourself to shop in the right way by focussing on longer-term goals
Because of the way that supermarkets work, it’s likely that you are primed as a shopper before you arrive at a particular product category. The technique of priming is about the ability of a store or brand to alter how you feel before you reach a particular aisle or category and influence your behaviour and purchase decision.
There are many ways to prime consumers, for example, the larger than life promotional displays in the reception areas of stores prime us to start associating that store with better deals, prices and financial value.
Another example is the fresh produce section of the store, typically near to the entrance and a brightly coloured, fresh and healthy onslaught on a number of our senses. This helps prime us on all the good things relating to food – that it’s healthy, fresh and natural. The smell of freshly baked bread primes us to consider if we’re hungry, and can actually make us feel hungrier.
You have a real battle on your hands if you want to combat priming. The problem is that it happens everywhere. Our brains are constantly assessing the current situation to adjust behaviour for the most appropriate fight, flight or fornicate related course of action.
There are steps you can take to improve the situation, though:
- First, you can partake in a little self-priming by focussing on what you want as a result of saving money and shopping more effectively.
- You could get hold of a picture of something you’d dearly like to buy but can never really save enough money for: that new dress, a luxury holiday or even a Mercedes Benz.
- Simply attach the image to the handle of your shopping trolley so that you are constantly looking at it as you shop. This will remind your brain of the bigger goal that you are working towards, and spending more wisely in the supermarket is part of that process.
4. Make a shopping list based on your needs
Given the Covid restrictions and one-way routes, shopping lists have become somewhat of an essential shopping trip item, along with a face mask, of course!
It used to be easier to be distracted in the supermarket and be tempted to buy more than you wanted or needed as you wandered freely up and down the aisles. So as shopping seems to be returning to a more 'normal' stance, don't forget the importance of the shopping list!
Before setting out, put some time into developing a comprehensive shopping list that contains the items you need, and when you’re in the supermarket, stick to it as much as you can. Maybe even take that old one-way route you were forced to do for the last year to make sure you don't veer off course.
If you’re tempted to put an item in the trolley that you don’t really need, you can ask yourself if you really need the item; if not, leave it on the shelf.
5. Be mindful of the subtle techniques used to influence you
It’s impossible to turn off a particular sense in the supermarket so we need to prepare our senses for the trip and remind ourselves of the importance of not believing everything we see, hear, smell, touch or taste:
- Be aware of different types of lighting used to make certain products look more appealing
- Be mindful of in-store tastings as a morsel of something can be very tempting but may have a different result compared with consuming an entire portion.
- Pay attention to the background music or smells and how they are influencing you.