Ask the Specialist: Make the Most of Grocery Shopping

 ADHD Weekly 2016-04-07

Q: I can’t stand to go grocery shopping. I tell myself I’ll do it later and then I run out of time. I usually end up rushed at the store, grabbing whatever looks attractive to me in the moment. I end up with a cart full of food but nothing to really make meals for more than a day or two. How can I work around my ADHD symptoms and still grocery shop in a way that works for me?

— New college grad in Tennessee

A: When you have ADHD, grocery shopping can be harder than most people imagine. Grocery stores are designed to distract shoppers with colorful displays and free samples. There are many choices for the different kinds of products. Most stores are large and don’t have clocks or windows to give you a sense of time. These things, along with impulsivity and distractibility, can cause you to end up with food or products in your shopping cart you don’t need or didn’t really want. It’s also very easy to forget some important items on your list.

How can you navigate the grocery store without being overwhelmed if you have ADHD?

Before You Go

  • Keep a running list of items you need at the grocery store. Many people like to hang the list on their refrigerator door at home.
  • Do a little bit of meal planning and decide which ingredients you need to make those meals. Planning for a few meals at a time helps, so you don’t end up having to go to the grocery store several times in the week.
  • Check your pantry and refrigerator so you don’t end up buying more of what you already have.
  • Eat before you shop. Hungry people tend to buy more food, especially junk food.

At the Grocery Store

  • Take your list with you. Bring a pen to mark off the items as you put them in your cart.
  • Stick to the items on your list. Be wary of the displays at the end of the aisles. A lot of these displays are designed to encourage impulse buying.
  • Get to know your grocery store. Products and displays are moved around every so often, prompting shoppers to spend more time in the store and, therefore, buy more.
  • Shop at times when the grocery store isn’t crowded so you can get in and out more quickly.

Some Other Solutions

  • Shopping apps for your phone can help you manage your grocery lists, including putting items you frequently purchase automatically on the list. If you have a favorite grocery store, check with that store online for a grocery shopping app.
  • Check with your favorite grocery store for shopping services. These services gather your groceries for you and either deliver them or have curbside pickup for a fee.