12 Most Popular Items People Steal from Grocery Stores

The five-finger discount is still alive and well. Check out the nine most popular items people steal from grocery stores.
Updated April 11, 2024
Fact checked
 frightened woman in denim jacket trying to steal bottle of wine

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As food prices continue to rise, everyone is hoping for relief.

Unfortunately, instead of looking at more honest ways to save money shopping, some cross the ethical line and resort to the good old five-finger discount to make groceries more affordable.

Unfortunately, “sticky fingers” aren’t going away anytime soon. Following are 12 of the most popular items people steal from grocery stores.

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Natalia Lisovskaya/Adobe Black Angus Prime meat steaks

This one seems surprising. Honestly, who would try to grab a few T-bone steaks for free?

However, meat has a high resale value due to demand. Package it up differently and no one will be the wiser that it’s from the local grocery store.

Meat is also sold this way to restaurants on the black market in an attempt to get as much money for the effort of shoplifting as possible.


ronstik/Adobe Assorted makeup

Talk about putting lipstick on a pig. Some shoplifters have little shame about swiping cosmetics from grocery stores and elsewhere.

There are entire social media groups devoted to reselling makeup, and buyers aren’t able to verify whether makeup products are legit or stolen.

Alcoholic beverages

JackF/Adobe  alcohols in a store shelf

Alcohol is a popular target for shoplifters because some bottles are relatively small and easy to swipe.

Alcohol can be resold or just enjoyed for personal use, making it worth a shoplifter’s time to steal from the supermarket.

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Baby formula

Africa Studio/Adobe baby milk formula on kitchen

This one is a little sad. Baby formula is an extremely popular item to steal.

When people cannot find formula, they often go to extreme measures to feed their growing babies. That is why rather sophisticated crime rings resell baby formula for profit.


nerudol/Adobe dark chocolate on dark background

Chocolate is one of the world’s most popular foods. It impacts our senses strongly, improves our mood, and just tastes great.

So it makes sense that it’s also one of the most popular items people snatch from the local grocery store.


singidavar/Adobe fresh seafood

Since seafood is perishable, it might seem odd that people steal it from grocery stores.

Unfortunately, thieves have gotten this down to a science. They will have cooler packs ready to keep the product stable until it can be transferred to a proper refrigerator.

Reselling on the black market to restaurants can be a common activity.

Over-the-counter medicine

mandritoiu/Adobe aisle in a CVS pharmacy

Cold and flu medicine are always popular, but the winter months send demand soaring. With high demand comes the potential for shoplifting and reselling.

Some grocery stores keep premium cold, flu, and headache medications behind the pharmacy counter to try to prevent as much theft as possible.

Pro tip: Instead of stealing, turn to an old-fashioned way of saving money on groceries: Clipping coupons. Or try the modern version of coupon clipping by using cash-back apps such as Ibotta.

Skincare items

busra/Adobe bathroom set

Skincare is big business, so it makes sense that skincare products are regularly stolen from grocery stores.

This creates a problem on multiple levels. When these items are sold on the black market, they often lack any warranty or proof that they haven’t been tampered with.

Family planning products

lemontreeimages/Adobe condoms

These products are locked up in grocery stores for a reason. People will happily steal family planning products ranging from condoms to lubricants and gel contraceptives.

Not only do people steal them for personal needs, but they are often resold to others looking for a discount.

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Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe Woman pointing to fresh cheese in a grocery store

Cheese is one of the most shoplifted items in the world, particularly in Europe.

This is surprising on the surface, but it makes sense. Fresh cheese isn't easy to tag with anti-theft devices, and it's often small enough to be slipped into a pocket or jacket.


Gudellaphoto/Adobe batteries

Batteries are a prime target for theft. They're small but expensive, and we all need them.

Some petty thieves don't think twice before checking out — they just swipe them, pocket them, and move along with their days.

Razor blades

Pavel/Adobe A row of three disposable razors

Razor blades fit into the "small but necessary" category.

Plus, they're inexpensive, so thieves sneak off with them with little guilt. Some even sell razors on the black market for significant profits.

Bottom line

pressmaster/Adobe woman in stripped skirt hiding apple in pocket while stealing it

Ultimately, anything that’s easy to conceal, transport, and resell will always be a target for shoplifters. Grocery stores try to strike a balance between providing shoppers with access to goods and preventing theft.

So, the next time you go to the store and see something locked up, be patient with the staff. Keep calm, carry on, and look for bargains that can reduce the rising cost of groceries.

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