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I Went In The Grocery Store For One Item, But This Happened!

When You Grocery Shop While Hungry

As my work day came to an end, my beautiful wife sent me a text to pick up a few bell peppers from the grocery store on my way home.  I asked how many she needed and I was on my way.  Simple grocery store trip, in and out.  I am not a fan of shopping in any grocery store, especially the one near our home.  It takes the longest time to get through the checkout line.  I can get in, pick up a whole week’s worth of groceries and it will still take longer to checkout then it does to pick up all of the items.  It is frustrating.

As I entered the grocery store, I was a simple mission to pick up some bell peppers.  Check a few and see if they are ripe, yep!  Check the price, yep!  Stuff them in the bag, yep!  Wait, wait a minute.  What is that…..

Stomach, are you talking to me?  You want what to snack on?  Ok, let me try and find it…..

DANG IT!  My stomach started talking to me and wanted me to walk through the store and find some tasty things in order to have a nice snack later in the night.  My simple one item shopping trip ended with me purchasing about 12 items and all of them were unnecessary.  There goes the grocery budget for the week.

The funny thing is that I didn’t buy things that were crazy.  I bought sour cream for the meal to go with the peppers, string cheese (a family favorite), peanut butter, celery, peanuts, and popcorn kernels.  I mean, it is really not a bad “splurge” food purchase.  The last time this happened to me I had purchased all junk food.  I don’t even want to remember what I bought, but my stomach was leading that show. I think I came home with bags of chips, soda, and other junk I normally don’t eat. Whoops!

Why Grocery Shopping While Hungry Will Kill Your Budget!

This just goes to show that you should never go grocery shopping when you are hungry.  Nothing good can come from it.  No matter what time of day, if you are hungry, you WILL spend more at the grocery store.  I had a list of just one item, just one, and I still overspent on the trip.  I should have spent $3.50, but ended up over $20.  That’s what hunger will do to you and your grocery budget. It will destroy it.

When your stomach takes over your rational mind, you will always lose out.  You will spend more money in the grocery store, order more in a restaurant, or stop over to your favorite fast food restaurant to get a quick bite to eat. It’s especially bad in the grocery store because the food is all right there in front of you. You don’t have to wait for it. You can pick it off the shelf and eat it. It’s the ultimate store for convenience.

Most grocery stores (probably all of them) are set up for you to make impulse purchases and buy stuff where they make the most money. As a marketing major in college, this was taught to us in great detail. You entice shoppers to buy what you want them to at every part of the store. It’s like a grocery game with people’s money. I’m usually pretty good and keeping to myself and my list, but when hunger sticks, it’s game on.

How to Keep Your Grocery Budget in Check When Hungry

We’ve all probably been there. We need to pick something up at the grocery store, so we stop by when we’re on our way home from work. It doesn’t take long and it’s on the way home. This is perfect to save time, but it will almost never save you money. If you’re anything like me and hunger takes over you wallet and your rational purchasing mindset, then you need to thing again before stopping at the store.

If you really want to reduce your costs at the store and keep your hunger in check, I would recommend keeping some crackers or a granola bar in your car or purse. Something you can grab on the go to squelch that hunger and keep your money in your bank account. It’s really not difficult to do either. Crackers and granola bars are easy to transport and can stay in your car for some time without going bad.

If you don’t want to keep food in your car, then think about just going home first to grab a snack (which you already paid for) and then going to the store. You might argue that is a waste of time and gas, but if you are going for one item and end up buying ten, then it’s not really a waste at all. The extra time it takes to go back to your house might be minuscule compared to the amount of money your hungry mind will spend. Extra gas at even $4 per gallon is still a better deal than purchasing $20 worth of food when you meant to only spend $3.50.

I would say that I have learned my lesson, but I have done this more than I want to admit.  I know it is bad, but I don’t have food in my car.  I can’t eat on the way to the grocery store, but I will have to work on my timing.  Life happens and I just have to eat a piece of it before I go into the grocery store 😉 .

How many of you have blown your budgets at the grocery store because you were hungry? Be honest…

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Grayson Bell

Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog. It is Empowered Shopper, which helps people get information about products they want to buy. You can also check out Eyes on the Dollar, which is a great blog that I co-own.


  1. Cash In A Snap
    October 12, 2015 at 7:51 am — Reply

    Our stomach always talks to us while we are in a grocery store. We always think to buy and buy more when we visit even for a small purchase. Even I also practice this but I hate it. It costs more and more.
    Instead we can carry on the online grocery order facility. It saves more if coupon codes are applied. You can go through our post on grocery savings.

  2. October 12, 2015 at 9:50 am — Reply

    I’ve totally done this, Grayson! Especially at places like Whole Foods. I’m there for a couple of specialty items and then I’m chowing down on chicken fried tofu from the hot bar! You know what’s actually been helpful? My boyfriend and I started using Shipt. It’s a grocery delivery service, so there’s no chance of random splurges. It might be a little more expensive, but it saves us a ton of time!

    • October 14, 2015 at 11:36 am — Reply

      Well, a grocery delivery service is one way to bypass this!

  3. October 12, 2015 at 10:09 am — Reply

    I do not like going to the grocery store hungry and always avoid it! One thing that keeps me on track is a pretty regimented system. Throughout the week I add items to a digital list on my phone. Then, every Saturday or Sunday I go to the store and buy exactly what’s on my list. This has become a habit that works (one that I don’t do hungry!).

    • October 14, 2015 at 11:38 am — Reply

      I used to have such a system, but then I had a kid! That system went out the window when he would run out of something mid-week. That’s when this can happen!

  4. October 12, 2015 at 10:46 am — Reply

    My problem isn’t hunger so much as I feel like a trip is a waste if I haven’t bought a basket’s worth of items. Which is why I almost never buy food more than once per week, it limits my opportunities to screw up the budget.

    • October 14, 2015 at 11:38 am — Reply

      Interesting! Different mindset, but same spending.

  5. October 12, 2015 at 5:41 pm — Reply

    I agree 100% going to the grocery store if your hungry isn’t a very good idea. Your always going to come out spending way more than what you planned.

  6. October 13, 2015 at 9:10 am — Reply

    Another ‘me too’ reply here.

    I’ve done it countless times before and it gets nasty. Not only I purchase all kinds of stuff I don’t need (we don’t eat ‘processed’ food too much, so mostly it’s produce and healthy ingredients I splurged on) , just because I was making meals in my head and needed this and that.

    Eat well, have a list and little money (if you go with cash). That helped a lot.

    • October 14, 2015 at 11:39 am — Reply

      At least you’re keeping the junk food out of the picture. That can be bad!

  7. October 13, 2015 at 9:55 am — Reply

    I’ve sooo been there. I’m really bad in the store. I buy all healthy, but even so, it’s still more than I need and then it just goes to waste!

  8. October 14, 2015 at 2:11 am — Reply

    Oh, I’m guilty about this one! I usually went to the grocery store while I’m hungry and it really ruins my budget.

  9. October 14, 2015 at 8:30 am — Reply

    My grocery store issue is that the kids are always trying to talk me into something. Either they want a fun, new snack – or they want something specific for dinner. I would save even more than I do if I didn’t have to take them with me! =)

    • October 14, 2015 at 11:41 am — Reply

      I know what you mean Holly. One thing my wife and I started doing is just one of us goes to the store. It keeps the child temptation (and sometimes fits) out of the store and allows the trip to go smoothly.

  10. October 15, 2015 at 5:34 pm — Reply

    For me it’s not being hungry, it’s just the act of walking into the grocery store. The more times I walk in the doors, the more I’ll spend – guaranteed. I try to stick to a single trip to the grocery store each week. Less tempation, better chance at staying on budget!

  11. October 17, 2015 at 11:11 am — Reply

    Unfortunately, it happens a lot more than I care to admit. I do my best to make sure I’m not hungry when I go to the store and I make sure I have a list. I know where the items are in the store so I only go to those places instead of visiting each aisle.

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