How To Handle Kitchen Thieves

How To Handle Kitchen Thieves

If you’ve ever walked over to your office fridge anticipating the lunchtime meal that awaits you only to discover that someone else has nabbed your meal, foodie weblog Chow details how to avoid being left empty-handed.

Photo by Aine D.

We’re big fans of the anti-theft lunch bag, but if your sandwich is already gone, Chow’s “Table Manners” Q&A column addressed the problem that is the office kitchen thief. Reader Hungry for Justice wrote in when his chicken sandwich was eaten by a co-worker. “I wrote a mean note and taped it on the fridge, but I felt totally impotent. I’m still really angry about it. What’s the best way to keep people from stealing your stuff, and chastise them when they do?” inquired Hungry.

Chow suggested that rather than criticise someone or use devious tactics to get at them, it’s better to air your situation to whomever will listen with the aim that it will get back to the thief-in-question. If that’s too passive aggressive or time-consuming, then pen an explicit note and tape it to the fridge. How explicit? They suggest using “concrete terms” and “plaintive, rather than aggressive, language”. Need an example?

“To whomever ate my eggplant sandwich yesterday, I got up a half hour early so I could make a healthy lunch. When I discovered it missing, I had to spend half my lunch hour going to the deli for a $US7 sandwich I couldn’t afford. I don’t mean to be a jerk, but times are tough right now, and I don’t have much to spread around. Sincerely …”

As a last resort, the article says to keep your food nearby, like in your desk drawer. Have any office food nightmares and coping mechanisms to share? If so, detail yours below. And if you’re not concerned by would-be lunch thieves, then check out our guide to making your packed lunch more appealing.

Somebody Took My Lunch: How to Stop Office Kitchen Thieves [Chow]


  • The solution is easy, provided there are repeated thefts:

    1. Switch your lunch to tuna + whatever other ingredients you like in your sandwich, risotto, or other lunch of choice. Anything as long as there is a strong tuna smell and taste.

    2. Once your lunch has been stolen, send an email around at work:

    Dear Person who keeps Eating my lunch,

    Please stop eating it. I’ve tried labeling my lunch clearly, but you keep on eating it. I’ve tried placing it at the back of the fridge, but you keep on eating it. I’ve even switched to making a decoy lunch with cat food, but you even keep taking those.

    Please, please stop.

    3. Theft of your lunches should decrease sharply. If your boss doesn’t think it’s funny, you can say it was just a joke, and reveal that it was only tuna (PS: Your boss is probably eating your lunch if this is the case).

  • There is a much more efficient way of dealing with food thieves: Add just a few grains of copper sulfate (a light blue salt) to the food in question, nicely mixed in, and the result will be quick and lasting… Your food will be left alone from then on!
    Just traces of copper sulfate will induce violent vomiting (but otherwise be harmless).
    I did this many years ago, when I was an apprentice, as I was having the same sort of problem.
    I was never troubled again when I left my food in that particular community fridge.

  • My mum used to spend hours baking us cakes and biscuits for our morning and afternoon breaks.

    It was great until someone started stealing these fine treats from my brother’s schoolbag all the time (food and bags weren’t allowed in classrooms).

    My dad’s solution? Prepare a decoy snack sitting nedar the top of the bag with several drops of Tabasco sauce on each yummy-looking treat.

    The result? No one ever took food from my brother’s bag again.

  • Stephan, copper sulphate is actually long lasting and is considered a poison. Better to use, magnesium sulphate (epsom salts). Make’s them shit/follow through.

  • nope. best one i hear from my friend who lived in a hostel for a while…

    people were stealing his milk so one breakfast time he got the carton, walked out to where everyone was eating, opened the carton, opened his fly, took out his “member” and wiped it around the opening of the carton while saying “this is my milk”. he then put it back in the fridge and enjoyed all his milk from then on.


  • I use an ammunition box as a lunch box. It’s black hard plastic, a little narrow, but still big enough to do the job. Got it from my father-in-law, and it’s still got the label claiming to hold 250 rounds of .223. If you were stealing lunch, would *you* mess with the guy who might be armed?

  • Nothing better for the repeat offender, than the old crushed up laxative in a strong tasting food (tuna sandwich, curry etc). Works a treat, just look for the person doing the frantic dash to the bathroom.

  • Leave a tab or two of LSD in a decoy sandwich.

    Wait half an hour or more for it to take effect then start asking basic questions of anyone who begins acting strange or distracted. If you find your thief, have some fun making them think they’ve gone insane!

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