Cartin' Disaster at the Supermarket

By , John “Mr. Bad Food” McGran
I've been writing about weight loss since 2000. It's 2011. I'm older, but I wish I were a whole lot wiser.
I don't know how many times over the past 11 years that I've gone food shopping while hungry. I do know it's a stupid idea... but I do it anyway. Like just last week, for example.
The cupboards at home were fairly bare--that happens a lot with a teen son and his 11-year-old sister. So I collected up the kids and headed to the nearest supermarket to restock the homestead.
I made two mistakes.
  1. I did it without my wife
  2. I did it before I ate lunch.
Two hours and $200 later, I drove home with more junk in my trunk than Kim Kardashian. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one.)
Don't get me wrong. I have been known to shop wisely. Just not when I am hungry or accompanied by my carb-craving daughter and her brother, who takes advantage of dad's inability to just say no.
So we started out OK with the basic food staples--whole wheat bread, fat-free milk, fresh fruits and veggies. But then we began journeying down the aisles of no return--the snack section, soda spot, and that mile-long stretch of coolers that houses the frozen pizzas and overly processed and ready-to-heat-and-eat foods. And, of course, we didn't forget the ice cream freezer.
By the time I made my way to the check-out line, my cart runneth over with one fatty, high-cal food after another. I could have avoided much of the dietary damage--and the nasty stares I got from my wife when she returned home from work to find our pantry stocked floor-to-ceiling with cookies, crackers, chips and other assorted “treats.”
From experience, I know you don't go shopping without first drawing up a list. Rule 2: You stick to that list!
It also helps to steer clear of the aisles that house the worst foods. I could have easily maneuvered the outer fringes of the food area--the place that traditionally displays the fruits, veggies, dairy products and breads. (Psst, John, that's one of the habits of healthy eaters: Shop the perimeter!)
The deeper you venture inside the inner food area, the deeper in trouble you tend to get.   
Heck, I should have spent a little time shopping for tips here at SparkPeople before I set out for the store. It took me seconds to find great tips for smart supermarket shopping (found on the SparkPeople Message Boards!).
Five good tips to store away for next time:
  1. Shop the perimeter (...just like I said above)
  1. Don't shop when you're hungry ( you tell me!)
  1. Don't get distracted (...the layout at my local supermarket is great at distraction!)
  1. Avoid the crowd (...God, I hate crowds and I do shop more chaotically when I am in one!)
  1. Make a list and stick to it (...if at list you don't succeed, you're doomed!!!)
(While you're at it, learn 7 secrets to outsmart your supermarket!)
I admit it. I am the master of impulse buying. My wife and I have a saying that suits us to a T: She shops, I buy. What that means is she'll actually walk away from a product until she knows it is a good buy. As for me, if I see it--and I want it--I buy it!
And when I am hungry, I want too much and buy way too much.
Please do as Mr. Bad Food says and not as I do. I really do know better. I simply forget everything I know when confronted by shelves of yummy-looking (but not necessarily yummy-tasting) foods.
Until we eat again, have a great day--and a better shopping experience!
Are you a smart shopper? Which of these tips is the hardest for you to remember?
John McGran, aka "Mr. Bad Food," blogs twice a month for

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Yes, the list reigns supreme when it comes to keeping to a budget, a menu plan and healthy choices!!! I have also found that the less times you go to the grocery store, the less temptation you have to stray from the plan. Report
But I'll bet you had two happy kids. They are entitled to an occasional splurge.

PS I ALWAYS shop with a list. But always have goodies in the house as DH can eat whatever he wants. The doctor never tells him to lose weight! Report
I've shopped like that too. The last time I went shopping I bought for 3-4 weeks. I spent almost $400.00 then take off the $85.00 in coupons. Any other trips are for milk and such. It's a smarter move, believe me. I love these 24 hr. crowds.

I then cook in large amounts,vacum pack and freeze most of it. Then I have for lunches and dinners. If you cook up pancakes, bag & freeze it is as good as anything on the market and you can make them healthier with less calories. Report
Thanks for the tips.
And I think the Kim K. reference was funny and not mean . She has said as much herself. Report
I usually forget to make the list, which results in return trips to the store the following day. And the day after that. However I live with my in-laws and we are on two different nutrition levels. Ours is closer to healthy, tho admittedly not ideal. Remind me to make a list, and take it with me, and I'm one of the best shoppers in the store. And with only two or three extras, which last for at least a week. Report
:) Thank you. These *are* tips we all know, but they are also the very ones we tend to forget. :) Report
Good tips.I agree without my wife & with kids as the worst 2.Without lunch didn't help. If you have to,leave shopping with the kids to the wife who probably has good practice at teaching them good & bad shopping habits.I took the kids &made it a learning time.My spouse took the kids & came home with nothing reasonable to cook with or eat healthy in the cart. Report
Love the article! Just two questions:
1. how do you get your teen/pre-teen to go shopping with you?
2. Who is Kim Kardashian? Report
I understand that kids are a pain at the store, but if you never take your kids to the store, you can't teach them to shop. My boys are both very good shoppers now after years of going with me. Moneywise and nutritionally. Report
Still feeling the love! And, to set the record straight, I am a fan of "junk in the trunk" so that reference was not meant as a slam to Miss Kardashian! I will be more careful with future blogs, though. :o) Report
Going shopping with my teenage daughter leads to Oreos, Chips & ice cream~make-up/hair stuff & an extra $50 I wasn't planning on spending! Be strong, Mr Bad Food.
& nothin' wrong with a little junk in the trunk once in awhile....;-) Report
Great! Report
I love this story. I can totally relate to everything you said. Report
I cover the whole store, up and down every aisle, except the junk food, and soda ones. I go around the perimiter first, but do buy things, that I know are bad...some canned things. I do try to shop more healthy than not, though. Report
My husband does the same thing...he comes home with 85% junk a few healthy things. LOL Report
Been there before! I didn't think the comment on Kim K was that harsh. She prides herself on her "junk in her trunk".. some of us have a little extra and are not ashamed :) Report
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'm going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that he intended the Kim Kardashian remark as a compliment. After all, beauty comes in all different packages! Report
GREAT tips...
SUPER blog...
LOVE the witty Kim Kardasian reference! Report
The comment about Kim K left a bad taste in my mouth, although I thought I was overreacting. But then I saw a couple of other comments, that yeah it was completely unnecessary.

Although the "stick to the perimeter" rule no longer applies. Grocery stores have caught on to this and now pack the perimeter with junk they want to get rid of. So we need to reword or change that one! Report
Thanks for the reminders. Report
All good points but I think the comment about Kim Kardashian has to go. Since when does Spark People approve of naming names and pointing a mean finger at someone?

Very un-Sparklike.
And yes, I know the blog wasn't written by a Spark employee. Report
Wow, I love the many comments I get here. I think other than my early days at eDiets, this place provides me the most feedback ever -- and I've been writing as Mr Bad Food for 12 years now. You guys motivate and inspire me. Please keep reading my blogs every other Wednesday and share them with your friends on facebook and other social media sites. Thanks in advance. Report
I have been going to the store when i am hungry a couple of times so far.
and sometimes i don't make a list either. those are the tips
i need to work on. But whan i go to the store when i am not hungry
i walk around and look at almost everything to see what i want to buy on
or a little after my husband's Pay days.
and do me a favor, don't rip on Kim Kardashian. It doesn't matter if you
couldn't resist it or not or was only jokeing bad joke. It's just not nice.

Enjoyed the blog! I find it helps to listen to my exercising playlist while shopping. I put it in one ear so I'm not oblivious to others and the same songs that motivate me to run up hills motivate me to walk past the Twinkies. Report
Great article. I would add:
Do Not Take The Kids - though I suppose that goes under the Do Not Get Distracted. Report
I shop online too, it saves all the angst. And I truly hate supermarkets, life is too short to spend it in the aisles. Though I find the fruit and veggies can be disappointing, so I like to go the local famer's market for those. I love the smell and crispness of freshly picked or dug vegetables and buying produce in season is so much cheaper. Plus I can get freshly caught fish from mine, you can't beat it. Truly sometimes I think it is cheaper to go to the local dairy, I think you call it a conveience store in the US, and pay the inflated prices for just a few items than to go to the supermarket unprepared. They are designed to magic your money right out of your wallet! Report
I have learned that when you order your groceries online ( in the states, and here in New Zealand) You save time, money, stress, and lose weight!!! I preplan my meals, have a list (which I have made of clean foods and laminated so I can check what I need on it with a dry eraose marker and reuse over and over) order online, its delivered to my kitchen, and it's brilliant. It keeps me from buying the "specials" on the endcaps that you think you need to buy because they are on sale! Keeps my butt out of the Pringles isle and all the other junk too...what I save is WAY more than the delivery I find it saves me time & Money & stress! :) Report
I so stick to a list now as I buy too much and it gets wasted and I do not buy because I want it, it has to be because we need it. Report
Sticking to the list is the key. The layout of supermarkets are designed to distract you, hence the constant moving about of goods to various locations. You cannot just dash in and buy the one item you want because it is in a different place. By the time you have found it you have half a dozen other items you saw while searching for the one you want. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr !!!! Report
Before I shop, I make a menu with 2 extra dinners on it so If the store is out of a main ingredent, I have a planned meal I can fall back on and not buy items I don't need ( mostly junk food). It isn't easy follow the shopping rules, but I do try hard and reward my self when I do. My last reward was ared box movie and popcorn in the middle of the day. Report
I can easily make a list and stick to it. When I am distracted by some product at the store, I tell myself, "You don't need that. If you needed that or if it was important, you would have put it on the list. Not on the list = not in my cart."

My wife...oh that's another story... Report
Good idea not to go when I am hungry and shop the perimeter mostly. Thanks Report
Great Blog. Been there, Done that! Not great about sticking to my list...
I make a list, and I stick to it; if it's not on my list, it does NOT go in the cart.

Lately I have been shopping early Sunday mornings, it's very quiet then. Most people are either sleeping in or are in church. Report
I loved the article! ;) I also recommend making a menu before your list. IF you know specifically what you are going to eat at every single meal, before list making and shopping, it also helps with that 'impulse buying' as well! ;) Thats my tip!

OH and if my husband tries to shop when 'not hungry'... he buys NOTHING! I actually have to take him grocery shopping BEFORE he eats.. thankfully for me, he eats good stuff and little to NO junkfood! (weird, eh? a guy who hates chips, sweets, and soda... what are the odds??) Report
This sounds too familiar to me. I don't have little kids, but my husband is just out of control when he gets to the supermarket. I hate shopping with him because he won't stick to the list and throws anything in the cart that he sees. Worse when he shops by himself, which is often because he's retired and bored, while I still work fulltime. I imagine his inner dialogue at Safeway: "Let's see, I think we're out of tortilla chips, salsa, bratwurst, bacon, new york strip steak, olives, french bread, frozen pizza, beef jerky, and milk" (strangely, he drinks tons of it).
At least with kids you can be a parent and say NO, but it's impossible with an adult who's hell-bent on doing what he wants. !!!! Report
Great blog! I a lot of that rings true to my own shopping experiences. Two of the things that help me most, are not going hungry, like you mentioned, but to also shop alone. I buy less junk and my bill it most always much less. Report
I don't shop the perimeter, and while I'm hungry sometimes! Usually it's when my husband is hungry when we get into trouble though! Report
Your article put a smile on my face, not just for the odd pun but because I for one can relate to this so much!!! Report
I also try to stay clear of junk food, But must of all I try to not take the kids or hubby I always spend more and have more junk in the cart. Great blog. Report
Great Article and soooooooooooooo true!!!

SP2011 Report
A great article & a wonderful reminder to shop with list in hand after eating! Unfortunately, sometimes you just have to go shopping when you can get to it (i.e., after work when I'm ravenous!). One thing that helps -- even when I'm looking at the 'bad' foods I try to make healthier choices -- Amy's frozen pizzas are organic and low in fat & I love Skinny Cow frozen deserts just as much as the full fat goodies. Report
First of all, you made three fatal mistakes - not 2:
1.I did it without my wife
2.I did it before I ate lunch.
3. I did it with teen son and 11-yr old sister.
Otherwise, your blog is great "food for thought". Report
If push comes to shove, I think it's better to hit the drive through before a shopping trip and have one bad meal than it is to load up up weeks worth of bad foods at the grocery store. Report
Yep - shopping when you are hungry is a no win situation....LOL Report
I am really lovin' this venue for my Mr Bad Food blogs... you guys rock with your insightful and in-depth comments. I love the feedback -- even the slap on the wrist from you SCIFILESLIE. Perhaps it was a careless comment for the sake of a cheap laugh. I think KK is great and I think she'd laugh at it, if she were to see it. I worked with a columnist who always wrote about her own "junk in the trunk." I guess that made me insensitive to others! Report
See, I shop the inside aisles first because the perimeter has all the cold foods. With this summer heat I need my groceries to stay cold as long as possible. I even bring my own insulated bags to keep things as cool as possible. Still I have to look at my list and zoom to where I know things are or I do start eyeballing those not so healthy foods. Report
Although you make some good points, your comment about Kim Kardashian was unkind and uncalled for. Report
because I eat clean it's easier to shop. I always take my list with me. I never go when I am hungry. Report
When I shop for myself (and not for a special occasion or for others) I am pretty good at shopping healthy and sticking to my list. I know my weaknesses when it comes to sweets and snacks so I don't buy them. If it's not in the house and not in view then I can't eat it! Love this article! Report