Should You Prepare for Grocery Shopping? The Role of Hunger.

Laura Muller
About the Author

Laura Friederike Müller is a Psychology Student at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt am Main. She is currently doing an internship in the Eat2beNice project studying the effects of nutrition and lifestyle on mental health.

Kevin Amaral
About the Author

Kevin Amaral is a Psychology student at the Justus-Liebig-University of Gießen and is currently doing an internship on the link between nutrition, lifestyle and mental health. at the Dept. of Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the Goethe University of Frankfurt.


Have you ever done your weekly grocery shopping and ended up with more than actually written on your grocery list? Everybody has at least once experienced how it is to buy food in a supermarket with hunger and buy much more than planned. The widely known recommendation: Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry!!!

But is it only a myth or is there a grain of truth in that advice? What exactly is the issue with going grocery shopping when you are hungry? If you do you probably buy more food than you need and planned to buy. Additionally, unhealthy food might be much more attractive to you than healthy food. The consequence: you have more food at home, so you might eat more and unhealthier. Imagine you are hungry and are coming home from work after a stressful day and now you get to choose between a frozen pizza and a healthy meal that has not been prepared yet – What would you choose? In that situation, I think I would definitely choose the frozen pizza.

High-calorie food and unhealthy food are associated with obesity. Obesity research found a moderate relationship between obesity and emotional disorders like depressive disorder and anxiety disorder [1]. Thus, having fast food frequently might not only affect your physical, but also your mental well-being.

Let’s rewind to grocery shopping, but now consider you are not hungry. You probably would only buy the things that are on your grocery list, and also healthy rather than unhealthy food. So now, you come home hungry from a stressful day at work and you don’t have the choice between healthy and unhealthy food, and the temptation of the frozen pizza isn’t there. So you would start to prepare your healthy food and thus automatically eat healthier.

Coming back to the question if these scenarios are devised or true, and thus representative for weekly grocery shopping. Research has shown that impulsivity, obesity, and food buying behavior are related. People with obesity are more impulsive than slim people. Also, impulsive people eat more than less impulsive people. Hunger influences food buying behavior and food consumption, especially of high caloric food. The relationship between impulsivity and buying food might be state-dependent: researchers have found that impulsive people bought more calories, especially from snack food, but only when they were feeling hungry. This means that impulsivity and hunger interact in their influence on consumption. Obese people are found to show a preference for energy-dense, high-fat food and eat more of these foods, compared to slim people [2].

What’s the conclusion?Yes, hunger influences your grocery shopping, especially in interaction with impulsivity. If you consider yourself an impulsive person, you might be more prone to buying more than intended when you go shopping hungry.

Thus, if you have the chance: only go shopping for groceries when you are full and focused. If you accidentally get into a hungry grocery shopping situation, keep this blog in mind and try to focus on your grocery list.