You may be saving the earth by bringing your own bags to the store, but you’re not doing much for your diet, according to Harvard Business School research. In fact, people are more likely to buy junk food when they bring reusable bags to the grocery store than when they use store-provided sacks, reports the new working paper. (And that’s not even your Worst Grocery Shopping Mistake!)
Researchers attribute this to something called licensing—making a “good” choice can lead to indulging in a later decision, explains study author Uma Karmarker, Ph.D. Sounds crazy that we’d pat ourselves on the back for such a small gesture, but here’s the interesting part: When people used a reusable bag because the store required them to, the unconscious urge to reward disappeared.
We’re all for this eco-friendly habit (after all, every bag counts), but adding junk to your cart can cost you serious calories. (Not to mention a pricier grocery bill! Here’s 16 Money Rules Every Woman Should Know by Age 30.) No matter the bag you’re using, if you find yourself reaching for the not-so-good stuff, think of indulging in another way, suggests Karmarker. Her study also found that, in addition to cookies and candy, people were more likely to indulge in organic products on days they brought their own bags. (There’s the silver lining!) So channel your reward mindset toward healthy, but possibly more expensive products. Or try that seasonal fruit or vegetable you’ve been meaning to pick up—your treat! (And find out How to Save Money on Healthy Foods.)
By Rachael Schultz
Last modified: April 30, 2015