We’ve all been there. 

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You’re scrambling to get home after a long workday, but you know that when you get there, you’re going to find an empty fridge. Now, you’ve got to make that annoying trip to Wegmans, Tops, or Aldi to make sure your family has dinner on the table tonight. 

Right when you finally find a parking spot, your stomach growls - reminding you that you skipped lunch today.

While grocery shopping while you’re hungry is never a good idea (that’s how cupcakes end up in your cart when they’re not on your list), what’s the harm of nibbling on something while you shop?

The bag of chips in your basket will eventually be eaten, and you’re planning on buying them anyway. Is it okay to open it up and have a few to hold you over?

If that seems a little excessive, what about sneaking a few almonds from the bulk bin before you fill up your bag? Is it really a crime here in New York?

Getty Images/Canva
Getty Images/Canva

Is It Illegal To Eat Your Groceries Before Paying In New York State?

The answer is a little complicated. 

Will you get strange looks and annoyed store employees by shoving some cookies in your mouth while you shop? Probably. But that’s the extent of it, because it’s actually perfectly legal to do in New York State. 

So if you’re hungry at the grocery store and just can’t wait, open up that bag of Chex Mix or Oreos (although prepare to be judged by your fellow shoppers). 

But those nuts or bananas in your cart? That may be another story. 


There Are Rules In New York About Eating Your Groceries Before Buying Them

Long story short is if you’re snacking on something at the store that's sold at a fixed price (like that bag of cookies) and eventually pay for it, you shouldn’t face any consequences.

But, eating things that are priced by their weight, like nuts, individually wrapped sweets, and produce, is a huge no-no. 

FindLaw.com explains that shoppers are legally obligated to pay for whatever they took from the store. So by snacking on a banana or an apple before you hit the register, you’re technically shoplifting. 

Here in New York State, shoplifting anything under $1,000 could get you charged with Petit larceny, a misdemeanor punishable by fines and up to a year in jail. 

Of course, the chance of getting busted sneaking bites from the bulk bin is extremely unlikely, but you never know. So the next time you find yourself hangry in the grocery store and need something to eat ASAP, your safest bet is to pop open that bag of chips. 

Keep in mind that even though places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's encourage sampling, some stores aren’t okay with eating while shopping, and may ask you to knock it off. 

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