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Filching Food for Fun

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"I never run around in the bushes in a ski mask when I'm breaking in some place. Somebody catches you, what are you gonna say? You wanna look like a legitimate visitor until the very last minute. If you can't look legit, confused works almost as well. Maybe you get a soda from the fridge or a yogurt. If you're caught, you just act confused and apologize like crazy for taking the yogurt, nothing could be more innocent."
Michael Westen, "Pilot", Burn Notice

Taking someone else's food in secret is petty and it's nothing nice, but it's not a serious crime either. This trope is about casually stealing food for no particular reason, just because the character considers it fun, entertaining, a good prank or perhaps a proper revenge. Some do it to relieve boredom. And as a bonus they can get some delicious food.

It's not quite as rude or intimidating as stealing food from someone's plate right in front of their very eyes, but it's still pretty rude and generally frowned upon. Daring characters will however do it because of the thrill and excitement. If they're caught, the punishment isn't very severe. If the character steals from their friends, siblings or roommates, they're likely to be told off or they might argue about whose food it really was and why they did it, but that's about it. It can lead to Lost Food Grievance.

Another reason to steal food from others is Evil Is Petty. It's not a major act of villainy, but extremely annoying.

A common "Revenge" for this type of behavior in the modern day (usually an office setting) is to give the thief more than they bargained for. The most common is dousing an otherwise mundane dish in Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce; this not only teaches them a VERY painful lesson, it also outs them as the food thief, and if they attempt to complain, you can throw their innocent act back in their face by asking them why they were getting into your food and they can't feign ignorance, because if you're the one they're complaining at, clearly they had full knowledge it was your food. However, it's not advised to do this with things that can cause common allergies like peanuts, fruits, or gluten - if you even slightly suspect the thief is someone you know has one of these allergies and they suffer a reaction, you can be charged for poisoning or attempted murder.

Scrumping is an Internal Subtrope for children, teens or young adults who steal fruit from trees in their neighbours' orchards and gardens, traditionally apples or pears. It's considered a childish prank at worst, and it has an air of old-fashioned wholesomeness. The reason is that children never take a lot and they usually eat the fruit right away. So such fresh food and exercise benefit their health.

Sister Trope to Enemy Eats Your Lunch which is about eating someone else's food right in front of them to assert dominance or intimidate opponents. Compare Roguish Poacher. Contrast Justified Criminal, who steals out of necessity to feed themselves or their family. A character who does this a lot may have Sticky Fingers. Literally.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In episode 5, season 1 of Love Live!, Nico swipes Honoka's and Umi's fries when they aren't looking out of sheer pettiness, but she's caught when trying to steal Honoka's hamburger. When Honoka demands her fries back, Nico defiantly opens her mouth, causing the former to clarify by having her buy new fries.

    Comic Books 
  • Cosmo Cat gives us Willy Rat, who has three separate stories about his love for stealing lollipops from kids. His in-universe nickname is even "The Lollipop Fiend". Willy appears to enjoy hoarding lollipops far more than eating them, though.
  • Chuck Billy from Brazilian comic series Monica's Gang is constantly seen scrumping from his neighbor Mr. Lau's guava tree, resulting in him angrily shooting at him with a rifle loaded with salt.

    Comic Strips 
  • Garfield has this as a stock behavior for Garfield, as well as one of its most frequently recurring gags. One strip has Jon try and turn the tables on the cat by stealing his food. Garfield, who is already tucking into Jon's dinner that night, is unimpressed.

    Films — Animation 
  • Zootopia: Right before delivering his "Reason You Suck" Speech to Judy, Nick casually nabs a handful of blueberries from a fruit vendor he passes on the street. He immediately tosses one in his mouth to confuse an already annoyed Judy and puts the rest in his shirt pocket.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Bold Caballero, Zorro robs the wagon bringing supplies to the inn and steals the special supper ordered for the new governor. Then, as Don Diego, he meets the governor at the inn and, when the governor discovers there is no supper, Diego offers to share his own supper that he brought with him (which is actually the stolen supper). The governor declines, but his daughter Isabella accepts Diego's invitation.
  • Cruella: When confronted by the slumbering guard in the Baroness' workshop, Horace walks up to him, takes his packet of Wotsits, and starts eating them.
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster: At the end of the film, Scratch extracts a final act of petty vengeance by stealing Daniel Webster's peach pie and eating it.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring: Sam and Frodo run into Merry and Pippin while taking a shortcut across Farmer Maggot's land. They're shortly chased off a steep hill by Maggot because Merry and Pippin have been stealing from his crop.
  • Infamous (2020): After robbing the dispensary, Arielle grabs a handful of candy from the bowl on the counter on her way out.
  • Judas Kiss: After knocking out the security guard, Ruben steals his bag of chips and eats them while the kidnapping is going down. He also steals the guard's porno tapes, which shows his pettiness.
  • Unfortunately this becomes a Deadly Prank in Sleepers, where a foursome of boys steal from a hot dog vendor and then prank him by holding his cart at the top of some stairs. When the cart slips from their hands, it crashes and severely injures an elderly man.

  • In Confessions, Augustine recounts that the first deliberate sin he committed as a child was getting together with some friends to steal pears from a neighbor's tree, just because they could. They didn't even end up eating the fruit.
  • Good Omens ends with Adam Young scrumping an apple from a neighbour's tree, because "there never was an apple, in Adam's opinion, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it".
  • Persuasion: Implied when a lawyer recalls an event when a former clergyman consulted with him about some stolen apples from his orchard. Mr Wentworth decided not to take any legal action so it's likely it was a young kid who made a stupid mistake.
    [I] knew the gentleman so well by sight; seen him a hundred times; came to consult me once, I remember, about a trespass of one of his neighbours; farmer's man breaking into his orchard; wall torn down; apples stolen; caught in the fact; and afterwards, contrary to my judgement, submitted to an amicable compromise.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The teenage thief Lift is introduced breaking into a palace to eat the ruler's lunch; the Edgedancer novella features her visiting a new city just to steal the festival pancakes. Beyond the self-imposed challenge, she's a Big Eater because she's a Knight Radiant with the unique ability to convert nutrition into Investiture, so using her powers makes her extremely hungry.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A variation shows up at the beginning of the Babylon 5 episode "Babylon Squared". Ivanova, awakened early and short on sleep, dozes off at breakfast as Sinclair quotes a meditation chant. Sinclair and Garibaldi then hide everybody's food and wake her up, causing her to think that she's a half-hour behind schedule.
  • In Burn Notice's pilot episode, Michael breaks into his client's employer's mansion to look at his finances, suspecting the wealthy landlord committed the crime of the week as an insurance scam. While there, he swipes a yogurt from the fridge (partly) for use as a prop to confuse anybody who might walk in on him.
  • Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23: Chloe, the titular B(itch), casually steals food from other people. For example, she takes her roommate June's lunch from their fridge. She does it for the heck of it and mostly because there's not much others can do about it.
  • Firefly, "War Stories": Kaylee chases River through the cargo bay, trying to take back her apple that River stole. They're laughing, wrestling and having fun like children. Others watch them and look amused, though it's pointed out that Jayne bought a full crate of apples, so they don't have to fight over them.
  • Friends:
    • "The One with Monica's Thunder": Phoebe secretly takes Joey's partially eaten candy bar. When he asks about it, she claims he has eaten it all. She then takes it out and eagerly eats it. Food is a Serious Business for Joey so he's not happy when he sniffs her later and finds out she ate it.
    • "The One with Ross's Sandwich": Ross has his delicious turkey sandwich stolen at work despite it having a note with his name. He finds out that it was his boss who took it for no particular reason. The fact that his boss couldn't finish it and threw most of it into trash sends Ross over the edge.
      Ross: You-you-you-you threw... my sandwich away! MY SANDWICH? MY SANDWICH?!?
  • In House, Doctor Jerk House steals his friend Wilson's food repeatedly and sometimes eats it right in front of him to tick him off, but at times he steals his food from a fridge (either at home as they're occasionally roommates or at the hospital where they both work), only for Wilson to find empty boxes. It's Played for Laughs as they are friends who bicker all the time. House also secretly eats other doctors' food in the morgue. He just loves messing with people.
    Cuddy: You keep your lunch in the morgue?
    House: If I put it in the doctor's lounge, everybody else eats it.
    Cuddy: [points to a label on one of the containers] That's because it's everybody else's food.
  • Lucifer: Lucifer is always stealing Dan's pudding cups and eating them behind Dan's back. Lucifer doesn't even particularly like pudding, he just does it to annoy Dan.
  • Federal flack Twitchell on Tremors: The Series was always taking food and soft drinks from Jodie's store without paying for them, in one of many ways he threw his weight around.

    Video Games 
  • Played for Drama in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers; Team Skull decided to amuse themselves by stealing and eating all of Wigglytuff's perfect apples. The sudden lack of said apples forced the protagonists to go and look for more, which only increased Team Skull's petty enjoyment.

    Web Original 
  • Etra-chan saw it!: Azami steals some of Yuri's fries when she's not looking, but due to Yuri's naiveness, she ends up buying more fries for Azami because she thinks she liked them.
  • Girl Genius: One of Krosp's, Emperor of all cats, bad habits. In one comic, he licks the filling out of Agatha's tuna salad sandwich, then eats the rest when she throws it out; when Gil brings her a replacement sandwich, Krosp eats that one too, only for Gil to mention he put ghost pirate peppers on it.
  • In Helluva Boss, Loona has a habit of stealing Moxxie's lunch, judging from the note on the break room fridge visible as she's taking his avocado salad.
  • Pirates SMP: Martyn's boot ratsnote  are prone to stealing food from his pockets out of pettiness because he doesn't feed them often.

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts: Donald Duck's 1950 short "Lion Around" involves Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie disguising themselves as a mountain lion in order to scare Donald and steal a pie off his windowsill. Things get complicated when a real mountain lion shows up.
  • The Dragon Prince: Crown prince Ezran steals jelly tarts from the baker for fun.
  • In The Loud House episode, "A Fridge Too Far," Luan mentions that she likes stealing her siblings' food simply for the heck of it.
  • The 1937 Merrie Melodies short "Pigs is Pigs" had Piggy Hamhock (a predecessor to Porky Pig) compulsively stealing and eating all manner of food, much to his mother's chagrin. He then proceeds to have a lengthy Acid Reflux Nightmare in which a mad scientist uses an elaborate machine to force-feed Piggy until he's grotesquely bloated. When Piggy is finally allowed to leave, he decides to have one last chicken leg for the road... and promptly explodes. Then he wakes up, relieved to find out it was All Just a Dream.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Lemon of Troy": Boys from Springfield and Shelbyville argue over a lemon tree and its lemons. Both groups think the tree belongs to their town. One day Bart and co. find the tree is entirely without the fruit, and later the whole tree gets stolen.
    • "The Marge Ian Chronicles": Flanders builds a chicken coop to get fresh eggs. After stealing some of them, Homer decides he wants fresh eggs himself and builds his own coop. However, he and Bart soon realize part of the superior taste is the thrill of stealing, leading Homer to blow the whole thing off.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: In the episode "Life of Crime", the title character gives himself and Patrick a candy bar. Patrick foolishly thinks Spongebob stole his despite him already eating it which Spongebob asserts to no avail. He then decides to taunt Patrick's stubbornness by gesturing to eat the candy bar and eventually does.
  • In her first spotlight episode, Katnappe from Xiaolin Showdown steals a little boy's ice-cream at a fair and eats a bit, then throws it on the ground. This makes the little boy cry.
  • Yogi Bear: Yogi Bear, a Funny Animal living in Jellystone National Park, has stealing picnic baskets as his calling card. He's by no means a malicious character, and there's no evidence he doesn't have sufficient food otherwise available (though he finds the usual bear diet of nuts and berries unappetizing), so he seems to be doing it mostly for fun.
    • He pretty much lampshades this in an episode where he's rewarded with a picnic basket after capturing a runaway lion. He's hesitant to partake in the basket at first, saying "It's just not the same when the ranger knows about it." But then he brightens up and tucks in.

    Real Life 
  • Saint Augustine famouslynote  stole pears as a kid and felt terrible about the fact after he reformed and became Christian. Years later.
  • There's an old Yiddish proverb that says, "Tasty is the fish from someone else's plate."