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Stealing a loaf of bread would be cliché

When I was 8 years old, I stole a granola bar from the grocery store. They were in a large bin and looked tasty, so I grabbed one and smuggled it out of the store in my underpants. I was a poor thief though, squirming and squiggling enough on the way home that my mom busted me. I was scolded, but we didn’t bother to return the bar because it was a cheap purchase and didn’t seem worth it. Also, it had been in a grade-schooler’s underpants. That definitely marked it not for resell. The worst thing, besides feeling incompetent for being caught and smashing all previous records on my personal guilt meter, was that the granola bar tasted like ass. I don’t think this had anything to do with my underpants. If you’re going to steal food, steal something tasty.

While I can blame my food thievery on my youth, I was surprised to read that meat was the most shoplifted item in American grocery stores in 2005, or so says the Food Marketing Institute. Not only that, but “aspirational meatlifters are most likely to be gainfully employed women between 35 and 54.” Considering that describes a lot of this blog’s audience, I have to wonder, have any of you stolen meat?

The “gainfully employed” part of that sentence surprised me, because I could somewhat excuse a poor mother of eight from padding her bra with hamburger patties. I saw Les Miserables and sometimes you’ve just got to steal that loaf of bread, even if it means an obsessive-compulsive cop will relentlessly pursue you for the rest of your life while singing about fate written in the stars. But if you have a job, it seems a little less excusable to be stuffing a honey-baked ham in your oversized purse. I would also be concerned about getting pork blood all over my pocketbook if the saran wrap wasn’t properly secured or got poked by one of my pens.

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29 Comments

Lily • January 22, 2007 at 10:46 am

What does “gainfully employed” really mean in this instance. Is a minimum wage job for a family of six considered “gainfully employed?”

I know lots of people steal who don’t need to — Wynonna Ryder anyone? But meat. Odd.

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C. Froggenhall • January 22, 2007 at 11:47 am

Good point, Lily: just because people are employed, they still might not be making enough to feed their family. I don’t want to get off topic, but I volunteered at a soup kitchen last month, and we were told that 25% of their clients are the working poor. A fair amount of folks came in, took their meal, packed it up, and ran off back to their jobs.

So if these are people just stealing for the thrill of it, that’s seriously stoopid. Does this number change in the summer? Because if you don’t get that stuff into a fridge fast in July, it’s going to go bad.

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Debbi • January 22, 2007 at 11:51 am

As God is my witness, I’ve never stolen meat. I did steal a pair of plastic Barbie high heels when I was about 10 or 11, I think. Oh, the shame of it!

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Hilly • January 22, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Nah, my big debut on the childhood shoplifting circuit was candy….Jolly Rancher Fire Sticks, to be exact. Gee, how did I end up getting chubbalubba?

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Heather • January 22, 2007 at 1:11 pm

When I was very young, I tried to steal a golden delicious apple. I tucked it under my shirt. My mom bought Granny Smith and I wanted yellow! The checkout person saw and said something. Busted!

Most the adults thought it was amusing I’d try to steal a single apple, but I felt horrible once I connected that it was really a BAD thing to do.

I have never once tried to steal or tolerated stealing after that. I’ve gone back and paid for things friends have stolen (as a rebellious teenager). :o

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Heather • January 22, 2007 at 1:12 pm

Wanted to add… they’ve started putting security pads underneath the meat/fish at Kroger. I worked there for a while and was shocked when I found out.

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hopefulloser • January 22, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I’m a vegetarian so I certainly never stole meat.

When I was younger I worked in a grocery store and there were so many shop lifters and so few of them ever looked like they really needed to. It was definitely weird to see people put meat in their pants.

I’ve since read that the majority of shop lifters (regardless of the product stolen) are middle aged white women with middle level incomes. And majority of shop lifting is rarely about necessity. That’s pretty amazing that so many people who are in such need still don’t shoplift.

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Susan • January 22, 2007 at 2:19 pm

Stealing meat??? That’s the last thing I’d steal [not that I’d steal anything, of course.]

Maybe this includes well-sealed packages of lunch meat and hotdogs? The fresh stuff in the meat department leaks!

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vimilla • January 22, 2007 at 2:54 pm

The COST of meat is the real reason for it’s frequent theft. It may as well be gasoline! Could you imagine if society had to pre-pay for groceries? -bet we’d ALL slim down if that were to happen.

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spacedcowgirl • January 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Well, you kind of do have to prepay for groceries. Inasmuch as you can’t take the groceries home and convert the raw meat into edible meals until you’ve paid for them. I’d say you have to prepay for groceries to the same extent you have to prepay for gas. :)

I’ve never stolen meat. I vaguely remember once as a little kid picking up an unshelled walnut off the floor of the grocery store and putting it in my pocket because I thought it was neat. When my mom found out (and again, the memory is sort of fuzzy) I seem to remember her impressing upon me that this was stealing and I shouldn’t do it. I think that’s the only thing I’ve ever stolen. So no meat thievery.

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Kitt • January 22, 2007 at 3:06 pm

The Aspirational Meatlifters! I remember them from my days seeing indie bands in Boston in the 90s.

Or not. Anyway, it should be a band name.

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Haystacks • January 22, 2007 at 3:16 pm

2 Notes.

Um, when I was six, I stole a candy bar from a grocery store. a half a block away I showed my mom. I was not a criminal mastermind. Yet.

Anyway she freaked out and made me return it and apologise.

She said later that she had been afraid that I was going to keep doing it. But the memory of her freaking out was enough so I pretty much never did it again.

The second thing is I went to a pretty poor middle school. And I have a memory of what at the time seemed strange but later made sense.

I was eating my lunch and did not want my sandwich. (which was a shame since my dad is a good sammich maker. No wonder bread here) and was going to throw it out. A girl (who I did not know) saw I did not want it, and asked, “Can I have the meat?” She (and all her friends) seemed shocked I did not want the ham, but herself had no interest in the bread. I thought this incredibley bizzare at the time, but later realised that when you are poor, meat is the first thing to leave the grocery list. It is expensive comparativley to carbohydrates, and is hard to spread around. Some foods you can make stretch, meat is not one of them. All preprepared foods with meat in them are pricier. This still makes me sad. But a budget is a budget, and food is an oddly expensive commodity consitering we need it as much as free things like air and water.

Also 3 note,

When you said that the main meat shoplifters were women of certain ages I though of a really dirty joke that i am now somewhat ashamed of.

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Jenna • January 22, 2007 at 4:40 pm

I think that maybe I snitched a pack of gum when I was very young. However, that may be a false memory, as I sometimes think that I did things that my sisters got caught for doing. *laughs* Only things from a long time ago though. lol

Anyway, I’ve heard that some people steal meat, steaks and prawns, that sort of thing. The only experience that I have with it is from a much different vantage point. I worked in a grocery store, and one of the cashiers told me that she had old folks come through all the time, having taken price tags off of one meat item to put it on another. Basically, it was like taking the tag off of a cheap package of chicken thighs, and putting it on a package of chicken breast meat. She made a point to say that it was primarily older folks, and it makes me wonder if they weren’t trying to find a way to make those ends meet when SS just doesn’t provide enough to get by. I don’t know….

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K • January 22, 2007 at 5:26 pm

Never stolen meat (I’m another vegetarian) or anything else for that matter. Not even as a kid. I was usually in enough trouble by accident, without going looking for it!

I learned this week (from a source who shall remain nameless, but is my little sister) that students working part-time on the checkouts in a local supermarket used to put “past expiry date” stickers on the ENTIRE contents of her friends’ baskets. Which meant an automatic 20% discount.

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crankybee • January 22, 2007 at 5:36 pm

At the height of the last Mad Cow disease scare in the UK (around 2001) a young british backpacker arrived in Sydney with a lot of meat in his backpack. Customs busted him big time. I couldn’t help but shake my head at that – meat is SO CHEAP in Australia compared to the UK, and he didn’t even have anything special (like black sausage from Scotland) in the bag! And hello? MAD COW DISEASE! LORD!

Anyway, I’ve never stolen meat – yet another vegetarian raises her hand. I don’t think I’ve stolen anything on purpose…that I’d admit to…

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anji • January 22, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Well – a few interesting tidbits.

#1) Meat is damn expensive, especially the stuff that has less fat, and is the better cuts, which essentially is the stuff that tastes better :)

#2) Middle-age women, tend to at this point, suffer those mid-life crisis moments and suffer neurosis of various kinds, from depression to obsessive-compulsive to other things. Sometimes people just begin stealing for the sake of stealing…… not that mental illness is an excuse but – many of these women are stressed to the brink of taking care of house, taking care of children, taking care of husband and all the while, working full time… so many women are close to breakdowns, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often.

#3) Yes, lots of “working poor” people are out there. They need to pay rent first and the food is just the “extras” that are still very much needed. But, there are foodbanks/soup kitchens but – I do know (from personal experience) that many try to avoid these from a pride perspective. Then again, getting caught stealing cow liver isn’t exactly a pride thing either!

#4) Gainfully employed. This actually are those who are not considered the working poor. These are people who have additional money but, for some reason just don’t spend it. Again, mental illness can play a part in this. A friend of mine was like this, so I have experienced seeing it first hand. It IS bizarre, I know, and it just doesn’t seem right but – I think MOST (not all, some are just plain thieven’ fools!) have some illness of some kind that is not being treated, etc…

Uh – and – no, I haven’t stole any meat, though, i did steal a hot-dog from the school ’cause, I didn’t have the cash on me (this was about two months ago!) but, I paid it back double when I did have the $$ to pay for it, so, I think I will be okay and not rot in hell. Right? :D

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Anneke • January 22, 2007 at 10:32 pm

My SIL got arrested about a year ago trying to shoplift a car battery from a store… I think that’s one of the strangest things I have heard of someone trying to steal!

I can’t imagine trying to shoplift meat though – I’m with you, it would leak all over the stuff in my purse, and that’s just gross and disgusting!

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lulu • January 23, 2007 at 8:10 am

When I was studying I had a part-time job in a big food hall: we used to turn a blind eye to obviously poor people, street sleepers and the like, pocketing small items of basic food as long as they were very discreet about it, but the astonishing thing (to me) was the number of obviously rich people who would try to shoplift extra luxury items even when they were paying for a cartload full of them.

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Zanitta • January 23, 2007 at 9:03 am

I work part time in a supermarket and have done in the past during university, meat and cheese are the first thing we’re told to look out for. In the tiny newsagents I worked for before it was a case of them slipping bacon into there pants and stuff, at the big supermarket it’s people (especially around Christmas) surrounding the edge of their shopping trolley’s with low cost items (toilet roll, multipacks of crisps etc), having a ‘nest’ of really high price things in the middle that you can’t see, then walking out with the trolley without paying.

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Abi • January 23, 2007 at 12:15 pm

You know, I had to ride with another Mom in my sons class to a field trip. She had a huge, new SUV and was bragging the entire car ride about how herself and her husband went to a prestigious college and how she doesn’t have to work because he makes so much money. I was thinking she was pretty lucky. At the end of the field trip all of the kids got a free pumpkin, it was included in the entrance fee. I saw her secretly steal two more pumpkins! She ran and put them in the back of her car and told me that she needed to get going – she had a doctor’s appt after the trip. I was in complete shock! The stupid pumpkins only cost $5 each! Then I realized that maybe she wasn’t so “lucky” after all.

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the veggie paparazzo • January 23, 2007 at 12:46 pm

I could never steal food . . . or anything else, really–unless I were starving. I would feel endlessly guilty if I weren’t desperate for the item.

Congratulations on all your weight loss, by the way!

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Erin • January 23, 2007 at 6:23 pm

I worked in a Wal-Mart this summer and watched the

“shoplifted” box where we threw empty containers for reimbursement with interest. Meat certainly was a high-traffic item (which makes me wonder not only how the shoplifters managed to get the meat out of its container, but WHERE IN GOD’S NAME they were hiding juicy, raw meat), but so were all sorts of obviously embarrassing merchandise like lubricants, condoms, ointments and creams, and pregnancy tests. Aside from the random toy or electronic device, it was basically the aforementioned dry goods and meat.

Perhaps there’s a more prurient motive for stealing meat than we realize? I shudder to imagine what that could be.

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v'ron • January 24, 2007 at 10:31 am

Hey we both used the word “cliche” in our blog titles this week! I just noticed now. Honest.

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Annie • January 24, 2007 at 2:02 pm

I use to taste a grape before I would buy the bunch after I had got a couple of really nasty tasting bags of them. However my husband has a fit about it so I don’t do it anymore. I just tell him if they taste like crap he can eat them.

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fatkat • January 24, 2007 at 7:08 pm

I stole a cadbury egg in HS to prove I was cool. (Pathetically, I don’t even like those things…it was just the first thing I saw when I was dared to steal something)

Nice Blog! I linked to you!

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Jeni • January 24, 2007 at 11:35 pm

I’m a little late commenting here, but one of the most embarrasing moments in my life involves meat theivery. I was in high school at the grocery store with my step-dad. Two popular, cute boys from my school were there too.

Stealing meat.

My step-dad caught them and yelled at them and turned them in to the store manager. All while I cowered in the corner and cursed my luck.

Good times.

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sara • January 25, 2007 at 2:22 pm

I stole a couple steaks from the supermarket because we were having a BBQ night, and I didn’t want to seem cheap.

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ell • January 28, 2007 at 11:26 pm

no, I’ve never stolen meat unless having sex with someone else’s guy counts.

PS–this post gave me a visual of the meat-stealing scene in Animal House when Booone stuffs Larry’s sweater full of meat at the grocery store while Otter acosts the dean’s wife in the produce aisle. Cucumber, anyone? Epic.

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florence • November 30, 2008 at 1:40 pm

HELP!!! My husband is trying to remember the actors/name of film….sexy woman slicing a loaf of bread against her breasts…Brigette, Sophia, about WWII..Thanks!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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