ADHD Grocery Shopping

Streamlining Grocery Shopping for Individuals with ADHD

Grocery shopping can pose distinct challenges for those with ADHD, including distraction, forgetfulness, and impulsivity. These difficulties often lead to disorganization and inefficient shopping. To manage this, preparing a detailed list ahead of time, sticking to a structured shopping routine, and using tools like apps to track purchases can be highly effective. Additionally, shopping during off-peak hours to minimize distractions and setting a strict budget can help maintain focus and control impulsiveness. Adopting these strategies can significantly improve the grocery shopping experience for individuals with ADHD.

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word form our expert

What Goes Through an ADHD Brain While Grocery Shopping?

How is your experience when running grocery errands 🛒? ADHD can sometimes get in the way when we replenish our home supplies. I'll be sharing my thoughts and insights about my grocery shopping experiences, and I hope you can relate to them and share your experiences, too.

Don't misjudge me, but I do love running grocery store errands. I like to spend my time walking through the aisles and seeing whether or not I'll be needing the three-piece shampoo 🧴 promotion that they are offering, the new dairy product a specific brand is releasing, or the oh-so-tempting dessert that's on sale for half-price. It's not that I have FOMO, but I sometimes feel like if I go home without these items, I'll be missing out on something good. So, more often than not, I would end up purchasing unnecessary things.

Then after relentless add-to carts and impulse buys, there's a good chance I'll contemplate my decisions in life 🤔. Will I be living for the rest of my days, waiting for the next paycheck to arrive? Will buying items not on my grocery list provide more dopamine? Or will I just save money and be sad because I didn't get what I wanted?

Starting with the Grocery Lists

When I have the energy and time to make a shopping list 📜, I prepare them religiously up to the last cent. There are moments when I do meal planning, hoping I'll save more since I’ll know exactly what ingredients to buy and how much I’ll need. Theoretically, by having a list of provisions that I need to buy, I'll be on top of my budget. I'll also know if there are any coupons available and become better able to limit myself to buying foods good enough to feed me within a specific timeframe.

Sometimes, making my shopping list gets complicated, especially when I have friends over and I have to account for them for the meals and other stuff. Shopping would be easier if I were the only person who would consume everything. But when I have to consider my friends’ and family’s preferences among other things, the task at hand can get daunting and tiring 😫. 

After a lengthy deliberation of list-making, I am finally ready to go to the grocery store with a game plan. Before heading, I eat healthy meals, so I won’t have to buy snacks while at the store, plan on buying things just right for our consumption or dinner party, and try to stick to my budget. But there are moments when things can still go awry even with the best-laid plans. As soon as I see the shiny new packaging of a product or sale items flashing in bright red, my game plan gets thrown out of the window.

Unplanned Food Shopping Items

There are days when I would walk into the grocery store feeling invincible because my list is complete, I have coupons in hand (except when I forgot to bring them), and I know exactly what aisle each item is in. There are days when I feel like I am finally conquering my shopping experience and getting things done orderly because I have developed a game plan that I can follow. But then my ADHD conscience will slide its way in and the struggle begins 😅.

Having a grocery list saves me from impulsive purchases and helps ensure that I have all the supplies I need for our meals at home. However, making a to-buy list doesn’t guarantee that I’ll follow through with it. I know that I need to be more mindful of my spending, but it is hard when there are just too many things I want.

One thing I learned through experience when going to grocery stores is to never go on an empty stomach 🌯. You must eat before leaving your home or somewhere else along the way. But if you forget to fill in your tummy and go to the grocery shop immediately, you'll most likely make impulsive purchases and fail to resist the urge to add the delicious baked goods they are selling.

Falling with the Sale Trap

Aside from the food items that I wanted to try because of how hungry I was when I got to the grocery shop, another thing that distracts me when it comes to doing the groceries are the promotions these grocery stores put up in bright flashing LED signage, screaming "SALE!" 🤑 These signages always get my attention, make me check them out, and spend my budget on whatever deal they offer, even if it isn't on my master list.

That's perhaps one of the hardest things to resist when you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. All it takes is a little glow, a bright red font, an enticing smell, or a catchy song from the little booth offering their product at a reasonable price. The next thing I know, I am already caught up by the salesperson who's giving me their item to pay at a discount 💸.

It is not that I cannot ignore these external stimuli, but many ADHD people can get distracted by them quite often. When too many things are going on inside my head, it can be a struggle to focus on just one task. Instead of outright going through my master list and purchasing just the things I need, I often get sidetracked and buy other exciting things I see.

Visualize your ADHD traits!

Take our fun online quiz to visualize your ADHD traits and learn more about your brain!


Struggling to Choose Between Two Brands

Another thing with doing the groceries is when I get into overanalyzing the details of certain things. For example, choosing products in a box or getting something in a pack can sometimes take most of my time. I have trouble deciding which should go with me and which does not deserve to be checked out of the store.

When our ADHD brains start processing too much information because it’s presented with too many choices, the worry that we might choose the wrong option can give us unwanted stress and anxiety. Analysis Paralysis can be something we often experience, and we can end up not deciding at all!

We have to consider different specifications and find new items to replace the old ones we use. We decide on the spot if we need to have our staple brand of detergent or if there's a better deal from another laundry company. We often ask for other people's insight and recommendations, check online reviews and hope we don't get the worse deal when we stick with our decision.

Putting Back Impulsively Grabbed Items

I like going to shopping stores with plenty of long aisles to walk around. It is not that I want to buy everything there, but long aisles give me ample time to decide whether the things that I have added should go home with me, or I'll just return them one by one on the shelves where I got them.

When I notice too many snack foods on my cart and very few of the healthy foods items worthy of cooking, I feel guilty and ashamed because of my life choices. After all, I could have a home-cooked healthy meal instead of less nutritious food, so what am I doing? Another thing I worry about is impulsively putting everything I want in the cart even though I don’t have the budget for them 😢. Then, I'll struggle to fit what remains of my allowance into other things that I really need. 

Money management can sometimes be hard to do, especially when you have limited resources and an unlimited urge to buy everything you see because you want to fill up your pantry 🏪. But, managing our finances is necessary not just for day-to-day living, but also for our future. We can develop a better scheme or approach for saving, like utilizing coupons, waiting for sale days, or having a specific day of the week where we only do grocery shopping.

Getting Impatient at the Checkout Line

Every shopping errand ends when you have already paid for all the items, they are bagged already by the cashier, and you bid them goodbye, hoping they will have a good day. But one of the obstacles for many people with ADHD comes before going to the cashier. We line up our carts, patiently wait for our turn to pay for everything, and end up waiting a bit more because the person in front of us is taking quite some time or there are already plenty of people present for their payment.

Waiting can sometimes be a struggle for many people with ADHD. There are instances when we need to get going and move from time to time just to keep ourselves from fidgeting and feeling antsy. It can be challenging for us to remain still 🪑 in one place when we know that there are other things that we could be doing instead. We feel like we are wasting our time and that our schedule isn't met because we have to wait in line.

The restless thought of not being in control and being unable to do what we want can sometimes be exhausting. We sometimes feel that waiting can be torture. We can't do anything about it, though, because shoppers need to check out all their goods. What we usually do is have one deep breath and hope that the line will move quickly  so we can be on our way home as soon as possible.

Tips for ADHD Grocery Shopping

Since some of the ADHD struggles often happen when running grocery errands, it’ll be helpful to minimize the effects of the ADHD symptoms during this time. With the following steps,  we can better manage our budget and have a more pleasant run in with our fellow shoppers. 

Here are the Mini ADHD Coach tips for grocery shopping:

  • Be religious and committed to your grocery shopping lists 📝. There are moments when this could be a struggle, but think of the rewards! It can help you save time, resources, and energy that you can use for other things.
  • Set a regular schedule for doing the groceries errand 📅, possibly per week or bi-weekly, depending on the need. It can help you save time and energy going to the store at a set schedule; it can also help budget your finances wisely.
  • Have a stock list 📜 ready on your fridge or cupboard. This can help you save time in brainstorming what you need to buy, plus this can be a great help with meal preparation. It does not have to be a full-blown inventory of what you have but more of a master list of what you'll possibly buy.
  • If you are fond of cooking, do a meal plan suitable for a week and store ingredients every week. Planning your meals can help you minimize the cost because you’re buying in larger quantities. 
  • Bring only enough money when doing groceries 💰. We tend to overspend when we see that we have a lot of money with us. It would be best to bring only the amount you are willing to spend, and maybe a little more for the unplanned items you'll see on sale or that you might need.
  • Remember that promotions and sales are good deals only if you need the items. It is not a good deal if you buy things you do not need. 
  • Use vouchers and coupons only on the things that you need. It would be best to check the expiration date of these coupons so you can use them before they are no longer valid.
  • If going to the grocery shops is overwhelming, you can do online shopping instead 📱 and have the items delivered to your doorstep. This can help you avoid loud noise, crowded aisles, and long queues in the cashier.

Some adults with ADHD can find grocery errands soothing and relaxing as some of us may get the dopamine that we need during these times. But for some, this can be a source of anxiety and stress. It is essential to find a system or a routine that can work for you so that buying essentials won't be a source of negative emotions, but a task that you can look forward to 😉.

Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

Visualize and assess 25 ADHD traits and understand how they affect your life.

Learn more

ADHD and Grocery Shopping: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do people with ADHD love to shop for groceries?

Some people do, because they find grocery shopping relaxing. Others, however, find it stressful because some of their symptoms get in the way.

What ADHD symptoms can make it hard to do grocery shopping?

A number of symptoms can make grocery shopping challenging. For instance, being easily distracted and forgetful can make it difficult to make a shopping list. Being impulsive can lead to unnecessary purchases. And analysis paralysis might make you spend a lot of time between two brands.‍

What are some tips to overcome challenges in running grocery errands?

If you want to overcome the challenges in running grocery errands, the following tips might help: set and stick to a grocery schedule and budget, don’t go to the store on an empty stomach, bring only enough money (and maybe a little extra), and consider online shopping if you’re anxious of the crowds.

Share this article on Social Media

Help us raise awareness around ADHD, let's spread ADHD love and support to all that need it.

If you liked this article you are going to like these ones:

Check out more content about similar topics: