It’s interesting isn’t it how much our basic habits are ingrained in us? Whilst we may strive to make changes – particularly when it comes to food – our own unconscious habits can sabotage us when we least expect it.

Ask yourself these five simple questions:

  • When you go shopping do you make a list?
  • If so, do you stick to that list?
  • If not, how much do you deviate from that list?
  • When you look at them more closely, are these “deviations” foods/beverages that you actually buy habitually?
  • Do they tend to be your “guilty” foods?

Now whilst I am not suggesting you should feel guilty about foods and drinks you consume, after all it should be a conscious CHOICE on your part to eat/drink them, I do think that foods that do not contribute towards achieving good health are foods that you should perhaps try to limit or avoid. And to that end, breaking habits that find you constantly going home from the store with foods that don’t fit your nutritional needs, and may actually contribute to ongoing health problems (whether that may be chronic conditions, weight issues, intolerances etc), is an important factor to address if you want to be successful in achieving your health goals.

When you go shopping with a list, it at least goes part way to helping prevent spontaneous buying – if you stick to it of course. However, there is much more likelihood of buying randomly when you don’t have a list. Special offers abound, but it is more than that – it is the HABITUAL stuff that you almost unconsciously pop into your trolley that are likely to be problematic. Things that you tell yourself are “for the weekend” or that “special occasion”, can end up as things that you actually buy quite frequently without realising.

This can be particularly true if you have family at home that you still buy “treats” for. Ask yourself WHY you think they need those treats? Do they need them any more than you do? What would happen if you simply didn’t have them in the house? Pretty soon, they would get used to it and not miss them. Especially if you were to substitute those treats with something healthier – or make sure that meals are satiating enough that no-one needs to reach for snacks in between. Because, of course, nobody actually needs snacks when they are eating properly. According to this study using a shopping list was associated with a healthier diet and lower BMI.

Checking labels is also important, as you may otherwise be consuming ingredients that you are trying to stay away from. Food manufacturers are sneaky – they “hide” ingredients under all sorts of obscure names, (check out the numerous names that plain old sugar goes under!) and of course there are other dubious ingredients such as gluten, soy, vegetable oils etc… that you would be better to completely avoid.


It can be hard to walk around the store with blinkers on, especially if you are not used to being very mindful about what you are there to purchase, and tend to get drawn towards the special offers and enticing displays, but next time you go shopping try writing a list beforehand and challenge yourself to stick to it completely. With a comprehensive list you shouldn’t be missing anything important that you actually need, and by adhering to it religiously you definitely won’t be taking home items that you absolutely don’t need. Added to the knowledge that what you will end up putting into your body will be a much more conscious (and hopefully healthier!) decision, think of how much money you can potentially save when you are not buying items simply on a whim. It’s a win-win situation!

Benefits of a shopping list:

  • Time saving – Many shoppers find that they spend most of the time wandering around, wondering what to get, trying to find inspiration for the weekly meals based on what they might see as opposed to purchasing necessities. With a grocery list at your fingertips, you can you get your shopping done in half the time.
  • Money-saving – When you shop for groceries, you often end up spending money on impulse purchases. Instead of loading up your trolley with all sorts of special offers, a shopping list helps you to stick to those things that you require. Avoiding falling victim to marketing strategies that encourage you to buy things you don’t actually need will ultimately help save you money.
  • Meal-planning – Writing a shopping list helps you think about things you actually need for the week ahead. This provides an excellent opportunity to search for new recipes and come up with meal ideas.
  • Reduces food waste – So much of the food we buy ends up going to waste. When you purchase fresh fruits and veggies, you often end up with way more than you actually need. Because fresh foods don’t usually keep very long, most of it will end up spoiled and discarded. A shopping list can help you to buy the right amount of food each week that you and your family will realistically eat.
  • Contributes to weight loss – Shopping lists can help people with weight loss and fitness goals to achieve success. Taking some time to write down a list of healthy food items can help you to avoid buying impulse items that could sabotage your goals.

A couple of great tips for putting together your shopping list is to start by getting rid of unhealthy foods that may be lurking in your kitchen. Tossing out any processed, unhealthy convenience foods, particularly those high in sugar, vegetable oils and trans-fats is a great way to start thinking about a more healthy attitude to food shopping. Start to think more along the lines of buying whole, unprocessed foods that don’t come with a label. Another way to maximise your list is to sort it into categories. Rather than randomly writing things down try and make it organised by sorting your shopping needs into food groups (meat, dairy, veg etc), which will help you head straight to where you need to go and avoid having to roam the aisles, running the risk of getting distracted by special offers and purchasing food you don’t want or need.

How easy do you find it to go shopping and come home WITHOUT any “extras”?