No Outside Food Allowed: Saving Money By Being a Food Smuggler

 Editor’s note: This is an interesting post in light of Michelle’s post earlier this week. Michelle was asking whether this was stealing.What do you think?

As far as I know, unless there are signs specifically stating it, it is not illegal to bring your own food to certain events. Take the movies for example. The cost for movie tickets is already expensive enough (I often reminisce about the times when it only cost $4.25 to see a movie and then on Tuesday nights it was $2.50), let enough having to buy snacks for you and your date or for your whole family. I’ve personally never done this myself going to the movies, but I’ve heard of many people bringing their own snacks and drinks, such as trail mix, candy or chips. All you need to do is go with someone with one of those gigantic purses that seems to be bottomless (or someone with really big pants pockets) and you’re golden.

outside food into theaters

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The only thing theatre employees check for is your ticket. I have yet to hear of someone having their purse searched and kicked out of the theatre for wanting to save some money on a night out.

Depending on the length of the flight or the type of airline, there may be times when you’ll have to purchase snacks and meals. I used to be under the impression that if even if your flight was only several hours long, you would be provided a free meal. That is not always the case. In order to keep costs of the airfare down, budget airlines will often charge passengers for snacks and drinks. Just like with the costs of whether or not you will be charged for extra luggage, it can vary from airline to airline.

At first you may think it would be wise to eat before boarding the plane. Unfortunately the airport restaurants and snacks at the airport stores can also be quite expensive. For my last couple of trips on a plane, I have purchased snacks such as granola bars and trail mix from the local grocery store. They are a safe bet because they have a longer shelf life, are easy to pack and don’t give off any foul odours. As much as you may love your stinky cheese to go along with your crackers, the person sitting next to you might not enjoy it as much.   If you want a more detailed list of what foods are permissible in your carry-on and checked luggage, you can always check your country’s air transportation security website.

My earliest experience of food smuggling was going to the local amusement park when I a teenager. I had purchased a pass that enabled me to go as many times as I wanted during the summer. You would think I would have thought to have applied for a job there since I spent so much time at the park. Nope. I just wanted to ride every roller coaster there and check out cute boys.  However, I did manage to keep my spending at bay by bringing along a lunch and some snacks while my friends bought their food at the park.  There were times where I was very tempted to forget about my lunch and purchase the overpriced meal combo of chicken fingers and fries.  There were times when I did give in to that temptation, but for the most part, I just mooched off my friends who were more than willing to share.

I understand that it is a business and having vendors sell food is a way to make money, but I find most food prices are way more on the ridiculous side, than reasonable. I vaguely recall a single slice of pizza (which wasn’t even very big) costing me $6-$7 when I was at a hockey game. But of course, people get hungry and/or thirsty, so they will buy the food and drinks, regardless of how much it costs.  After all, I can only suppress my hunger and thirst for so long.

Have you ever smuggled food and drinks into the movies or other events?

35 thoughts on “No Outside Food Allowed: Saving Money By Being a Food Smuggler

    • It’s so hard NOT to buy food at sporting events because everyone else around you is buying them and eating them. How can one resist the smell of pizza and hot dogs? 🙂

  1. KC says:

    Movie theatres make their money at the concession stand. They do not make the movies. They basically rent the movie from the film company. When you pay $10.00 for a ticket the theatre is only getting 10-20% ($1-$2).

    Also the price of corn and sugar has dramticaly increased over the past 5 years. Increasing a theatres cost.

    When you sneak in food you hurt people who do pay by inadvertatly raising prices.

    • I don’t know if I agree with that. If we didn’t buy food separately, we wouldn’t be buying at the concession stand instead, so it’s not a straight comparison.

    • Where I live, the price of a movie ticket has been $12-$14 (from $4.25) for about 12-15 years. I think it was more so due to the larger theatres with stadium type seating, along with the 3D and IMAX experiences.

  2. In my earlier days I would do this at the movies. But I’m choosing to not do so anymore because I’m taking my kids. I think it sends them the wrong message. So I just pay up and buy popcorn and soda…or eat before we go so that we are not hungry.

    • That’s very honest of you. I’m not sure I would do the same if I had kids. I would probably try to have them eat before we go, but the smell of buttered popcorn would make it hard to resist buying some.

  3. We don’t go to the movies a ton, but sometimes we bring food. Probably around 50% of the time we bring our own food, the other 50% is because we ran out of time or forgot.

    • I rarely go to the movies. The odd times I’ve been were using a gift certificate that included passes and snacks. The last time I bought snacks at the movies was probably when I was in university.

  4. I have never bought food at the movie theater or other event. We’ve only been to the theater once or twice since we’ve had kids. I love candy, but I will not buy it when it’s overpriced. My kids know that so they don’t even bother asking. As a hypothetical (since I don’t go to the movies anymore), if there is a sign asking you not to bring in outside food, I won’t, but if there isn’t a sign, then I think it’s fine.

  5. I bring snacks to the movies, but not always. If you have a big enough purse, you can literally bring a bag of popped popcorn and your own drink so it’s pretty nice. But since I rarely go to movies, on occasion we do buy snacks.

    Also, sometimes some smaller town pro baseball stadiums allow you to bring in food. Growing up, we were allowed to bring in coolers to Texas Rangers games, so long as there was no glass in our coolers and no alcohol. So we’d bring in our own hotdogs in buns, already cooked and wrapped in foil. 🙂

    • I never thought about bringing actual popped popcorn to the movies, but it does make sense. Lol.

      That’s awesome you were able to bring your own cooked hot dogs to a baseball game. 🙂

  6. I’ve been a food smuggler for as long as I can remember. And you’re right – it’s their famine prices that lead to this. And since I started eating organic a few years ago, it has become even more of a necessity for me since there are no healthy options at the movies.

    • Considering how popular organic food and eating healthy has become, I’m surprised no one has come up with the idea of bringing it to the movie theatres. Even the fast food restaurants have jumped on the health food bandwagon in one way or another.

  7. We have a system down pat when we venture out to the movies! My wife has her huge purse, so we pack all the sandwiches and drinks in there. Some people call it cheap and tacky, but at $13/ticket I don’t think so!

    • Eating sandwiches at the movies sounds like fun because it’s something different! It’s crazy how you can end up spending something crazy like $40 at the movies if you factor in snacks!

  8. We always smuggle snacks in to the movie. We stop at Walmart on our way to the theater and buy $1 boxes of candy (which cost $3.50 at the theater) and put them in our coats (in the winter) or in my wife’s purse in the summer. We also bring along popcorn cups we bought at the dollar store. Then we buy a single large popcorn and just share it. Popcorn is stupid expensive at the theater though….the profit margin on that has to be unbelievable.

  9. In college we did this all of the time. On Tuesdays, movies were $0.50. That’s not a typo. The best part though was that the movie theater was right next to a mall in the city, so you would have many people with shopping bags since they took the bus to get there. The movie theater never inspected what was in the bags. We would go to the drug store in the mall and buy 20oz sodas and food and then go to the movies.

  10. I’ve never been tempted to sneak food into the movies or even on plane trips. The one event type that I have considered it is sporting events. Food and drinks at most pro sports games are more ridiculous than at theaters. I’ve never tried to sneak anything in though. At some events, especially football, they can be pretty thorough in searching bags and in security pat downs.

    • It may have to do with the fact that people drink alcohol at sporting events and concerts and sometimes can get pretty rowdy. Throwing beer bottles and beer cans around in a crowded area is not a good thing.

  11. I don’t even consider is smuggling (sometimes I’m holding the water or diet coke in my hand going in), but I bring food and drink to the movies all the time. I don’t feel a bit guilty about it. And I love places like the Hollywood Bowl where not only is it perfectly acceptable to bring in food, but alcohol too. And I always try and pack a sandwich and snacks when I travel by plane.

    • That’s cool that you can bring your own alcohol. I don’t know of any nearby theatres in my area that serve alcohol, let alone allow you to bring you own.

  12. I must admit we do this all the time. We bring our own popcorn and fruits and soda. My wife brings a small backpack that looks like a big hand bag. I will not eat the artery clogging popcorn that they offer.

  13. no says:

    If you are interested in saving/accumulating money, you would not go to the movies at all.

    There, I just saved you 10 bucks a ticket x [size of your party].

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