The Snacking-While-Shopping Etiquette You Need To Abide By

We've all been there: making our way through the grocery store with a miles-long shopping list, getting hungrier by the minute, and deciding to snack on something from our cart. After all, what's the harm if you intend to buy the item anyway?

For most foods, this isn't a big deal, as you'll still be paying a set price for a bag of chips or a box of granola bars. However, when it comes to items whose price depends on weight, like certain kinds of produce, snacking before checkout is a big breach of etiquette. As you can imagine, once you've eaten a handful of strawberries from the basket, the punnet is a bit lighter, with no way to account for the difference at checkout. Because you'll be paying less, the store loses money on the item. Effectively, you're stealing, and the store's employees have the right to call you out on it if they catch you in the act.

That being said, it's generally acceptable to sample grapes at the store, along with similarly small produce items, as your intent is to test quality rather than satisfy your hunger. Besides, in these instances, you're only trying a single grape, not eating an entire handful.

Snacking in-store is a health and safety hazard

Beyond the ethical issues of snacking while shopping, your own safety may be at risk. The main concern with munching on a handful of grapes at the store is the pesticides and pathogens you haven't had the chance to wash off; eating contaminated produce can lead to serious foodborne illness, according to the Texas Cooperative Extension.

Moreover, you don't know how many other people have handled the item you're snacking on. Someone else might have dropped produce on the floor while grocery shopping, and another person might have picked it up with unwashed hands. All those germs are now in your mouth, again with the risk of making you sick.

Illness aside, snacking in-store can lead to crumbs, juice, or bits of wrapper on the floor. Someone passing through could slip and fall, potentially injuring themselves. Just as much as you don't want to be that person, stores don't want to deal with the resulting lawsuits. If you must snack, clean up after yourself.

How to avoid the need to snack while you shop

As you can imagine, the easiest way to avoid needing to snack while grocery shopping is to eat beforehand. Generally, taking on the grocery store with a full stomach results in fewer impulse purchases. You'll feel much less inclined to rip open a candy bar or add a package of that expensive speciality granola to your cart, and you'll also save some money by sticking to your shopping list.

Another acceptable method is to pick up a drink or snack and pay for those items before resuming your shopping. Because you've paid for your snack before eating it, there's no need to worry about weight differences or potential theft — just be sure to thoroughly clean up after yourself.

To be fair, avoiding snacking while shopping is far more difficult when you have children in tow. So, your best bet is to either bring a snack with you or buy one before you begin to shop. As a last resort, if you have to placate a child with a snack mid-shopping trip, choose something whose price won't be affected by weight, and will make only a minimal mess.