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13 June 2012


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It depends. If you are buying by weight, I'd say no. Anything else, I don't see an issue. I was in line behind a woman whose toddler was eating a banana. She had the checker weigh the bunch of bananas, then pulled one off and had her ring that single one again. I thought that was a creative way around the weight issue.

Jennifer Fitz

Mostly just tacky. The amount of inconvenience to others, and the ability to pay for it properly, are the deciding factors.

Also, it isn't yours until you pay for it. So it would bug me to do it myself, even though I can think of 10,000 situations where it would be understandable.


I've let my toddler (27 months) eat things before we pay for them, although my husband doesn't like it. I've also opened a drink from a store cooler and shared it with said toddler in the store. In theory I guess it would be good not to eat anything before we pay, but I also figure that listening to a toddler tantrum isn't pleasant for other shoppers, either. Plus, when the store has cheese sticks for sale individually, it almost seems to invite in-store snacking. I also occasionally get something from the bakery for snacking in the store. But I do not open large packages in the store, at least! I did reweigh fruit once, like the previous Erin mentioned.

On our latest trip to the store, I brought a snack in my purse, since it was close to lunch time. But then I was worried that they would think my son had eaten something without paying for it!


For my family...it depends. There is usually no reason that I, or most of my kids, MUST eat right then.
I have, however, opened a box of cookies /crackers /etc. for an unruly toddler. Momma's gotta buy food...toddler's gotta get through the store somewhat quietly. It's by no means standard for us though, I try to feed the little ones before going shopping but life isn't always conducive to that plan. I draw the line at sticky or anything that is gross for the cashier to try and ring up.


I have done it in the past for unruly toddlers, though I do try to avoid it as kind of tacky and because it can lend the appearance of impropriety. Nowadays my grocery store plan of attack always involves snacks for everyone so that I don't get stuck in that situation very often anymore.

Our store lets you scan as you go and weigh and scan produce so I'd have less qualms about peeling a banana because it's already weighed. (Though in that vein I once got home with a bag of sweet potatoes I had neglected to weigh and scan. The next time I went to the store I weighed and scanned the same number of potatoes and then put them back.)

Our grocery store thoughtfully hands out free cookies, which also helps with the hungry wee ones.


I think for toddlers/babies its ok, as long as you pay for it. But for adults? No way, unless it's Costco but that's a whole different story. I personally don't like to eat and walk at the same time, so it's not for me.


We were never allowed to do this as kids, so of course my habituation is against it. I don't judge another mom if I see her doing it -- maybe she forgot to bring a snack or didn't have time to fix a meal, etc. -- but I try to remember always to bring a snack for the kiddo so I never get caught in this situation myself. And I don't allow my 2.5yo to open packages in the store, even if it causes a tantrum -- at that point I don't care what other shoppers think; since I came prepared, it's not a question of desperate hunger but of will, and he's not going to get his way by crying in public: just nope.


I do it all the time for my toddler, again using many of the strategies mentioned above. I also routinely grab a cold drink (vitamin water or some such) from the cold case, drink it while I shop and then pay for it on check out. I'm pretty certain that they stock the cold case to encourage people to do exactly that. My grocery store is extremely customer service oriented though and a lot of the staff recognize me and my kids, and I'm always careful to pay for everything. I might not act the same at a "strange" grocery store.


See, I actually have a really strong revulsion towards this behavior. When I was a child, my mother would no more have let me unwrap and eat something in the store than she would have let me strip naked and run down the aisles. As an adult, I can't help but imagine somebody licking the Cheeto dust off their fingers before picking up heads of lettuce to examine and then putting them back, possibly to be bought by me.

I was wondering if I'm completely unreasonable and this is, in fact, normal behavior. Maybe it's regional; I don't remember ever seeing people snacking on grapes in the store until I moved (from Ohio) to Minnesota. Or maybe it's a generational thing and it's only become commonplace enough for me to notice it in the last 10 years or so.

I have, on occasion, had the screaming-child-in-store problem, and I have never been so desperate as to let the child eat in the store.

Donna Jannuzzi

I'm with Jennifer, and I do think it is a bit tacky. I also agree with you Erin, and am totally grossed out by the idea of someone eating and then touching other food... but then, people do all kinds of things and then touch the food at the grocery store which is at least one reason why you should always wash your produce. ;)

I always brought a snack for my boys when we'd go out, just in case. As they've gotten older they are told they just have to wait until we get home (unless I know we will be away from home for a long period of time).

I am rather surprised to read how many people actually do this. I also think that it isn't yours until you pay for it, and how easy it might be to forget to pay. That is a situation that could be quite problematic. I wonder how individual grocery stores feel about this behavior (re: Sara's comment).


Makes me cringe just thinking about it -- I would never let my kids do this. To me it is like stealing. I am not saying I am right, but that is just how I feel about it. And then I also think about the cost effects of people trying out grapes -- if thousands of people do that then I am guessing the costs get passed onto the rest of us.

This may not be rational thinking, but that is how I feel about it.


At my local independent grocery store, they've encouraged me to give my toddler a piece of fruit before checking out. One time I tried to go through the checkout with just the one apple, and the store manager just chuckled at me and told me to take it. Now, I just make sure to give them an extra quarter when we check out.


Being the parent of an extremely allergic child, I seldom do this. I KNOW that if someone touches something after snacking on Ritz Bitz w/peanut butter, we might get contaminated and end up with a 911 call. That's just how it goes for us.
That being said, I just don't let my kids snack in the store. 1) So they aren't touching things and putting said hands to mouth (possibly ingesting an allergen - not normal for 99.99999% of the population) 2) They need to learn to wait. I usually have everyone snack before we go so it's not a problem (and I don't add things because I'm hungry.)
I realize I'm different than most the population given our allergy situation..


It's been a long time since I've had a screaming toddler - long enough that I actually miss those days - but I'm pretty sure I never did it. And I can't think of any circumstance where I'd need to do that for myself.


When we get corn dogs from the deli on days I've forgotten the snack and we're finishing the shopping when we really should be finishing dinner prep.... the woman at the deli counter will often ask, "Do you want me to leave the bag open?" So they clearly expect the corn dogs will be eaten while Momma shops.

One "eww!" experience I had was in one of those grocery chains that give free kid cookies: Our home store always has the bakery lady (in gloves) remove them and hand them in a paper thing to the kids. That's just what we're used to. But once on vacation, we stopped at the same chain and the bakery people just pointed my kids to an open box of cookies that all the other kids who had come before us had apparently just pawed through, with no bakery grabbing-papers in sight.... Um, no thanks?


Having just been in CA with my baby who is 9 months, I can say that I HAVE just done it - with string cheese singles, teething biscuits, and a bottle of water. Ordinarily I would never do this (although I do have vague memories of my mom bribing us with bread slices out of the bag on a couple of occasions), but while traveling and feeling guilty about screwing up a certain someone's nap and snack schedule... (And by "schedule" I mean vaguely routine-based meltdown prevention protocol.)

Very scrupulous about handing them the wrappers to scan, though - and the cashiers didn't seem to mind at all.


I don't remember as a child ever seeing people walk around eating/drinking all day long. Now it's common. It's gross and I'm a mean mom but I don't let my kids eat while walking no matter how hungry they are.


I wouldn't do it, but I also try to make grocery trips as streamlined as possible, and letting someone eat something as we go is definitely not going to make the trip faster. The store we usually go to, though, has a policy that kids under 12 or so get a free piece of fruit when they come in to shop, so they end up having a piece of fruit there. Other places, I just explain that they don't have that program, and my kids seem to be okay with that.

I also try to be sure that we're not going on a long grocery trip on empty stomachs -- a recipe for total disaster, if you ask me! It's bad enough when I shop alone and hungry, I can't handle doing so with four kids!

Angela C.

My parents never ever let us eat while we were grocery shopping. In fact, it was such a foreign concept that when I first saw someone doing so I was convinced that she was stealing from the store. There's no way I will open stuff up and start eating it before I pay for it.

I work as a cashier for the world's #1 retailer, and I see some things that people do that would make you want to douse your hands and shopping baskets in hand sanitizer. Case in point: there is a homeless man who brings a live turkey into the store with him sometimes, and has it sitting in the child's seat of his basket. I live in a major metropolitan area so this is not a normal thing, at all. I see people with their dogs and kittens. Customers who leave the bathroom without washing their hands. I could go on but I won't. Suffice it to say, it might be better for those more inclined to eat at the store to wait till they get home and wash their hands first.


"My parents never ever let us eat while we were grocery shopping. In fact, it was such a foreign concept that when I first saw someone doing so I was convinced that she was stealing from the store."

Yeah. I feel the same way. I was kind of horrified the first a friend of mine was telling me about letting her kids eat produce (from a container with a price code that she scanned later) through the store. It was like "You mean YOU do it? You mean this is ACTUALLY SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE?"

And now I'm like: OK, I get the handwashing thing, but: A live turkey? What major metropolitan area do you live in that you cannot be kicked out of the grocery store for having a live turkey?

Maybe we should spread it around the internet as a meme and then everyone will be afraid to eat in the grocery store.

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