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Snacking on one's own groceries at the supermarket...

Why oh why do people do this so frequently? I am not referring to the 'grape tasters' in the produce section or the folks who feel compelled to reach into the gummy bear bin in the bag-your-own candy aisle. I'm talking about the supermarket shoppers who open the the bag of doritos that they fully intend on purchasing and snack on them while toting their carts around, or the people standing in the express lane who've already begun working on their deli-case prepared foods. Or patrons who are apparently so thirsty that they've nearly finished their pomegranite juice before they make it back to their car in the parking lot. Who are these people walking around THAT hungry and thirsty?? OK, if one grows one's own veggies or fishes for one's own trout, sure, the instant the tomato comes off the vine or the trout jumps into the buttered skillet next to the stream, would seem to catch the foodstuffs at their peak freshness. But does it seem that so many people find it perfectly acceptable to seriously graze while shopping? I once half-jokingly suggested a new fad diet, wherein one might eat anything one desires, so long as one must run to and from the store to purchase it, and then one must also consume the food while also running. But for the folks who eat their own groceries at the supermarket, I wonder just how enjoyable can that consumption be? I ask this not to bait or flame; I genuinely want to understand why people eat and shop simultaneously...

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  1. I never eat food (unless it is offered for a tasting which is done in my market) but I will often get a bottle of water from the cold case and drink it as I shop. It is usually done by the time I am so the empty bottle goes through and they ditch it for me. This is usually if I'm coming from exercise class or have been out and about so long and am thirsty. Linda

    1. I have certainly been thirsty enough to drink before paying for something...and come to think of it, I've also consumed food in the store. I often go to Whole Foods directly from the stable after horseback riding, and am usually hot, hungry and thirsty. If I've run out of "car water", then I'm really, really thirsty when I get inside. Or, I may be out scouting for locations, and I've had so many appointments or have been in such a frenzy that I haven't had lunch, and because I have no time to go to a restaurant, I'll sometimes pick up something from the grocery store and start eating it right away if my blood sugar's low and I'm starting to get that headache I get when I don't eat soon enough.

      So there are a couple of examples. I don't eat anything before paying that has to be weighed, and I am careful not to spill anything, so what's the harm? Sure, I'd love to be having a leisurely lunch somewhere, but frankly I don't always have that luxury. By the way, when you're really hungry and/or thirsty, food's even more delicious!

      1. I do consider it odd when I see people snacking as they shop. It's just never occurred to me to join in. It being (the tail end of) Summer I find myself purchasing a bottle of whatever water, etc that's on sale and drinking most of it *outside* the store. But, then, I walk with my groceries and am attempting to stay hydrated while doing so.

        1. Thanks for all the replies so far. The theme seems to revolve mostly around water, which I believe is a more recent (5 to 10 year) phenomena. My mother-in-law calls us 'The Hydrated Generation', whereby mostly we are ever cognizant of our body's water levels. That makes alot of sense, to me. But as far as foodstuffs go, even in a 'tasty' shopping environment such as Whole Foods or Bristol Farms, there would seem to be limited charm to grazing on fairly expensive food while negotiating the human minefield of fellow fussy shoppers :-).

          1. Eh, no biggie in my book.

            As long as they pay for it, I say live and let live (or in this case, eat and let eat...)

            1. I think most people that make a habit of tasting grapes do it to makes sure they're getting what they pay for and not to fill up their belly for free. That said, its not really acceptable to return used fruit (ie Seinfeld) so I don't really see what's wrong with trying a single grape out of the 200 that are in the same bundle which most likely you'll end up buying. There's been countless occasions where I bought fruit and ended up throwing away because they weren't good even when ripened. And more and more stores like Whole Foods pretty much allow the customers to try any of their produce inside.

              As far as people eating the products that they intend to buy while they're shopping... it's kinda like buying a pretzel and soda at the mall some people just get hungry while shopping and I don't think the store really minds as long as the customer pays for what they eat because they'd rather have them eat inside and pay for it rather than leaving to go eat and not buy anything at the store.

              I myself don't try to eat or drink anything inside unless I'm desperately thirsty for some water in which I'll drink a bottled water that I'll pay for later and comfortably shop for the rest of my groceries. In this day in age more and more people grocery shop after work or in between classes so they try to consolidate many tasks and sometimes that may be eating while shopping so I don't think you should take personal offense to people that eat inside the store. They're not really being rude but rather trying to fulfill their basic needs in a limited amount of time.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Danimal n Hustler

                Well stated... As an aside, there are a couple of my usual supermarket haunts that have truly allowed their (hundreds) of shopping carts (not to mention their small plastic carrying baskets) to go severely downhill in condition, what with rust and years of accumulated dirt and lord knows what else. Some higher end markets provide handi-wipes to swab down the cart handles. But that said, the condition of these carts, handling money, and the usual grit and grubiness of any supermarket shelf is enough to dampen my appetite for the half hour I'm there, mostly...

              2. Well, most of us are not housewives of yore doing limited daily shopping but tend to make more extended weekend runs of errands that may leave us thirsty. Especially in the summer. And most grocery stores no longer have water fountains. Where there are functioning water fountains, I am happy to drink from them. Where not, I see zip problem with drinking something I am purchasing otherwise. '

                Can't speak to eating food, though.

                1. I see this constantly... but I never do it, because to do so would violate one of my rules of life: never, EVER shop for groceries when you're hungry... you'll end up buying impulse items that you don't need, or that are really bad for you, or are shamefully overpriced.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Totally concur on this sentiment.

                    This is why I always eat BEFORE shopping at Costco.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I've always heard that...but I find that if I shop for groceries when I'm NOT hungry, I can't convince myself that I really need any food at all....

                      1. re: LT from LF

                        I've done that; go to the store full, then realize the next day there's nothing in the fridge to cook.

                        The way to avoid it is to keep a going list of things you need as they occur to you during the week, then stick to the list. Sticking to the list is only possible when you're not hungry.

                    2. i do not see what the big deal is. Sometimes i'll grab a bag of chips, sometimes open a box of cookies and once I even grabbed some sushi to eat and another time grabbed a cheeseburger from the deli. I try not to shop when I'm hungry but sometimes I just run out of time.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        Hi there... I understand your point, especially as regards time management and modern life. But here's an analogy that I find apt: When grocery shopping, I deliberately opt to not use the restrooms at the supermarket. Now, if there is a bodily emergency and things become exceedingly urgent, of course I will use their lavatory facilities. But otherwise, I've found a way (as I assume most people have) to 'schedule' those personal activites for my home turf. So as regards eating at the supermarket, sure, if someone is diabetic or hypoglycemic (sp) or has a small child that needs immediate sustenance, then of course it makes absolute sense. What I suppose surprises me (but certainly does not offend me) is the extent to which so many shoppers actually have an appeptite while walking, pushing a cart, and tracking down their groceries. It's not like a cocktail party, where the mindset is to weave in and around others with a drink in hand, snack on crab rangoon, and have interesting tete-a-tetes. Just too much sterile (or conversely, unsterile) surroundings for me to work up a fervent appetite, I guess...

                        1. re: silence9

                          Your reply makes me giggle, i really like it, and i am being sincere. I smile more broadly with the triangular analogy of (1) using a supermarket's bathroom, (2) eating a bag of chips while grocery shopping and (3) interesting tete-a-tete with a crab rangoon and a drink.

                          I would state -
                          (1) Use a supermarket's bathrrom ONLY when absolutely necessary;
                          (2) Eat a bag of chips or cookies while food shopping as needed;
                          (3) Have a cocktail and crab whenever possible.

                      2. Try shopping with your toddler in tow. The only way I can stay sane is to grab a mini carton of the goldfish crackers and let her snack as we move along.

                        As for me, I do my shopping early on Sunday after bowl of cereal or breakfast out with my family. So I'm good to go.

                        I will do the water bottle thing from time to time though.

                        1. I *love* doing the water bottle thing because I chuckle every time I see the expression on the cashier's face when he or she picks up the bottle and it's empty.

                          I don't do food. Just water.

                          1. Yeah... snacking on / drinking unpaid grocery items in the store kind of goes against the lessons ingrained in me during preschool about not taking things that don't belong to you (which these things don't until you've legitimately paid for them, right?) I don't even grape-test (I get by with smelling practically everything and poking grapes to make sure they're not mushy).

                            I think it's an unusual practice, but I wouldn't hold it against anyone.

                            1. I have done it. But I was so thirsty that I pretty much lost my ability to speak and taste. It was either drink or suffer.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: mimolette

                                I drink a lot of water but find myself particularly thirst in the supermarket. It is the only place I can remember being desperately thirsty... do you think that shoppers are being manipulated somehow so that we buy additional liquids at the market??

                                Like others, I will drink in the market if I must but prefer to buy a drink from the coffee cart which accepts payment directly. Otherwise I too experience the very very uncomfortable feeling of consuming something that isn't mine yet!

                                But sadly, I find that more and more often I see discarded empty food packages on the shelves in the supermarket indicating that people are eating and discarding the wrappers rather than paying for what they've consumed.

                                I'm walking around feeling shady for drinking my water before I've been able to give them my dollar and others are walking around eating bags of cookies and then stuffing the empty packages into the displays!

                                1. re: Kater

                                  I always pay for what I drink, if I do... As a matter of fact, since getting pregnant and only since, I may grab something to nibble on if I happen to be in the store and hunger strikes...not unusual at this time. I ALWAYS pay and the cashier does not seem fazed at all...like it is a common occurrence...

                                  What irks me is empty food wrappers left behind as well along with people (both adults and children) who routinely put their unclean hands in the bins of pay by the pound candy and nuts and begin nibbling, not intending to purchase any of it at all... as if the store put it there for their free snack and leaving me unable to purchase my almonds or such because I am turned off by the grossness of it!

                                  Yes, I am a bit anal about cleanliness...especially now... :-)

                                  1. re: Michele4466

                                    supermarkets, babies, cleanliness...

                                    Just in case you haven't seen this fabulous item that became popular shortly after my son was beyond needing it... do get yourself one of those kid seat cozies that will separate him from the cart. It covers that whole front section including the handles and has leg holes. I am actually from the 'keep your house really clean but don't oversanitize your baby" school of thought, in fact I once say my son eat dirt and I can't say that it even registered on my radar, but even Moms who love antibodies aren't crazy enough to want their kids to lick the grocery cart handle!!!


                                    1. re: Kater


                                      Funny you should mention it, I have been told about those and intend to get one... I am from the same school of thought...

                                      "I am actually from the 'keep your house really clean but don't oversanitize your baby" school of thought"

                                      I figure between me and the hubby, we are good... He is no where near as crazy as I am :-) and so somewhere in the middle is where things will play out...

                                      However, you're are right, the cart is just way to disgusting to take a chance...

                                      1. re: Kater

                                        That's why Pavilions (and Gelsons and Whole Paycheque) provide sanitising wipes. Now, if they'd just a) put them out of the main traffic path so I'm not blocking the entrance while wiping it down, and b) provide a bleeding trash can for the used wipe, we'd be good to go!

                                        1. re: Kater

                                          You know, in the local A & P I have seen them and never used them (I admit I do carry Purell wipes at ALL times) but not at some of the others in the area... I do not believe I had seen them in Manhattan stores... just moved to the 'burbs.

                                          I agree, there are never garbages around, I often ask to throw things out under the cashier... :-)

                                          BTW: I do not remember my local Santa Monica Albertson's having them or the Century City Gelson's (worked there)...is it a new thing? Less than two years? I do not remember seeing them on the East Coast until recently either.

                                          1. re: Kater

                                            I don't think the SaMo Albertsons (either of them -- the Wilshire or the Lincoln) have them, but the Vons on Lincoln and Broadway does. All Gelsons now have them, but I don't remember when I started seeing it -- certainly more than two years ago in the case of my local Gelsons (NoHo).

                                    2. More than a couple of grocery stores around here in Phoenix encourage it. They have a cold case full of beverages right on your way in, and have conveniently included a cup holder in the design of their shopping carts.

                                      1. As a person who works in the grocery industry i have no problem at all with people eating things before coming to check out as long as they tell me they did it. I DO have a problem with people handing me a banana peel (this has only happened once). Clearly, I don't need the banana peel to ring in the banana.

                                        It usually happens with kids which is totally understandable. I would much rather you feed your kid a fruit leather than have you kid screaming during the entire time at the store.

                                        1. I love these posts! I can't say that I've ever seen a sign in a grocery store that says "Please pay for it, before you eat it" or "no grazing on grapes" :) Maybe a few well placed signs by management would remind us.

                                          With all the sample carts and taste testers camped out at every aisle or the fresh prepared food buffets aching to be tried, it's easy to forget to go home before eating your meal :)

                                          What a fun topic!

                                          Good eats,

                                          1. Am I the only person who was brought up to feel that one eats and drinks while sitting down, not while walking around?

                                            I feel that we have become a nation of grazers who can never go more than ten minutes without a drink or a snack. Our water bottles and styrofoam-coolie-covered soda cans have become modern security blankets.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: jillp

                                              You know, I just heard someone else the other day lamenting the "eat while walk" generation. One of the biggest arguments against eating on the go was that it made eating a solitary rather than social activity.

                                              However, eating and walking was always seen as a treat for me, because it's what people do in Taiwan. Food is EVERYWHERE when you walk down the street, so walking and munching is a way of life. Sit down meals were in addition to all the snacking, and the snacking itself could be quite social since a lot of things are designed to be shared.

                                              Of course, that's not the same as scarfing down a hamburger in your car while on the cell phone and putting on eye make up. With your Big Gulp next to you.

                                              1. re: Pei

                                                Your Big Gulp filled with 44 fl. oz. of Diet Coke, of course. I've never understood the need for our soft drinks to be so large. The largest soft drink I ever saw in Europe was 70 cL -- that's about 24 fl. oz. -- and the more standard sizes are 30 cL (10 fl. oz.) and 50 cL (17 fl. oz.).

                                                Food has always been snackable in New York -- with so little room in restaurants, some places don't have a place to put tables, so you grab "a slice to go" and walk down Spring Street munching.

                                                I think I'll start a topic about the drink sizes... I've always wondered why.

                                              2. re: jillp

                                                I've seen people eat while walking in European and Asian coutries. Street food is more common in non-US cities, it always seemed to me. NY might be an exception...

                                              3. I often go shopping after work, which is often well after a regular dinner time and will eat a proper meal when I get home. However, since I eat smaller meals throughout the day and exercise a lot, I am often very hungry and rather than be tempted to buy chips, I will buy a pint of cherry tomatoes and eat them while I shop in order to satisfy my hunger.
                                                I don't see what the big deal is though. I'm not getting in anyone's way and I eat them rather discreetly. And, of course, I am paying for them.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: pescatarian

                                                  Hi... Are you saying that you regularly eat an entire pint of _unwashed_ cherry tomatoes during a shopping excursion?? You either have a very sturdy constitution or perhaps have never dealt with a severe case of food poisoning? I'd rather eat the dirt-dusted tomatoes from an outdoor urban terrace garden than trust my local supermarket's produce shelves (regarding as yet unwashed veggies). The one time I saw the supermarket cleaning their produce shelves/bins, it was with a chemical spray and a rag (to shine the 'chrome'). Yikes! Other than the odd grape now and again, an entire carton of fruit is just too dicey to me! Also, there's a good reason that they install sneeze-guards at salad bars :-)

                                                  1. re: silence9

                                                    Yes, that's what I'm saying, I tend not to worry too much about those things and I have not had any bad experiences.
                                                    Also, considering they are in a container, I would say they are less subject to sneezes than a salad bar.
                                                    I think it's very unlikely that the staff are wiping the cherry tomatoes that are inside the container with their rag.
                                                    In any event, not a germaphobe. Nor do I see what the big deal is if people indulge a bit of snacking while they shop as long as they are paying for it.

                                                    1. re: pescatarian

                                                      Listen, I'm glad you've not gotten ill eating unwashed produce at the supermarket. I guess that would make it OK at restaurants too, then. And I'm not saying it's a big deal. Do what thou Will shall be the whole of the Law...

                                                      1. re: silence9

                                                        I've eaten fruit straight from the supermarkets, too... first of all, most supermarkets have those stupid hoses that spray everything every hour or whatever... second of all, I've never heard of anyone getting sick from unwashed produce in this country, with the exception of people who ate scallions from Mexico -- so I don't eat scallions straight out of the rubber band.

                                                        1. re: silence9

                                                          So, which board shall I start the thread about "how" you wash your produce? I am curious how others do it...hot water, cold water, produce sprays?

                                                          1. re: silence9

                                                            We once got grapes to eat from Ralphs, I think, and they took us out back and bast washed the grapes over and over before they'd let us have them to "buy-to-eat." Makes you kinda wonder what they're putting on their grapes in SoCal!


                                                    2. I often open a bottle of water or other drink while shopping especially in the summer months. If I'm thirsty why should I wait an hour after I'm done shopping to drink my water?

                                                      1. I lived in China and Taiwan for a while and I don't remember a lot of people eating and walking. Sure, there's plenty of street food - it's what I loved best about Taiwan especially, but people tend to buy it, stand (or squat)there and eat it and move on. In Europe people don't generally eat and walk (or drive, for that matter). That's partly because they allow themselves some free time. We Americans always seem to have to be multi-tasking. As the fattest nation on earth, we should probably make some rules about when not to actually be putting food in our mouths (besides during sleep.) If I go to Whole Foods starving, then I'll buy something, sit down and eat it and then shop. Yeah, yeah - I know we're all busy, but maybe that's the problem we should be dealing with. Oh and yes, we should drink, but if I hear another person talking about hydrating I'm going to scream. Somehow generations of people survived without sucking on a water bottle 24/7. Is this just the American's version of the European cigarette? The Chinese bus driver's jar of tea? Oral fixations rule. Having said all that, I still think ultimately, live and let live, ya know? Why should someone else's eating in a store bother anyone else? It's not like you're getting second-hand calories when they walk by you. You don't know anything about their lives - maybe they're holding down three jobs and truly don't have the time. Maybe they've convinced themselves that food eaten in a store before you pay for it has less calories. I do like the question, though - it does get people talking.

                                                        1. Definitely not a grocery store grazer, just the way I was brought up. If I shop while hungry, I will buy a snack and tear into it the minute I leave the store, but I do manage to wait until my shopping is done. I don't think it's ok to taste products without asking. Buy the grapes, cherries, etc, that are plump and have green stems, tasting one is not going to tell you that much about the other two pounds in the bag. And normally I'm a 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' believer - I eat things I've dropped on the floor, ignored a hair in my salad at an upscale neighborhood place earlier this week, USED to not think it necessary to wash my produce - but I really am put off by people walking around the grocery store eating. I have seen some rather gross examples, fistfuls from the bulk bin with fingers going into mouth, scarfing down fruit with fingers going into mouth - and what about the folks sampling cherries and olives and then dealing with spit-covered pits? Yuck. Then merrily going on picking out groceries. Please, please keep your hands out of your mouth if you are going to be touching my food. It's like a long thread on double-dipping awhile ago - I'm sure people who know you love you and are happy to swap spit, but I'm not!