- Author: Patti C. Wooten Swanson
Small step: Pay for groceries with cash, not credit.
Does grocery shopping for healthy food sometimes feel like walking through a minefield?
It does to me!
Temptations are everywhere---cookies, cakes, and ice cream, oh my!
I go to the store with a detailed grocery list, determined to make healthful choices and avoid high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods.
But marketers are clever and there are hazards everywhere I turn:
- A beautiful red velvet cakes bring back childhood memories
- The smell of freshly baked French bread coming out of the oven as I shop calls me to take some home
- In-store samples of the zebra popcorn (coated with chocolate and caramel) melt my sales resistance
New Research Findings
It's possible to change shopping
behavior to limit unhealthy food
purchases by paying cash for groceries.
A study reported in the Journal of Consumer Research* found that consumers who paid cash took home healthier foods than thos who paid with a credit card.
Researchers analyzed the shopping behavior of 1,000 households over six months to learn what they bought and how they paid for it. Their investigation was based on 2 concepts from behavioral economics: impulsive consumption, and psychological effects of different payment methods.
Impulse buys are purchases made on the spur of the moment without any forethought or planning.
Grocery stores are designed to promote impulsive consumption. It's no mistake when shoppers have to pass by the bakery (with its cakes, pies, and cookies) and the deli (with its savory roasting chickens) in order to get to the meat, eggs and dairy products at the back of the store. Or, go past the big displays of chips and soft drinks to reach the checkout.
So how does the way we pay for our groceries influence whether or not we buy unhealthy foods?
It’s because paying with a credit card "feels" different than paying with cash. Using a credit card is relatively “painless” since the purchase is separated in time from actual payment. But handing over hard cash is a different matter, it's painful.
In other words, it’s easier to buy junk food with credit because we don’t feel the pain of putting actual dollars on the counter!
What YOU Can Do
When the cashier asks “Paper or plastic?” pull out cash rather than your credit card to pay for the groceries, and take home healthier foods.
Tip: Rodale author Emily Main suggests you go by the ATM and get cash before you go to the grocery store, and don't forget to bring a shopping list along, too.