Is It Acceptable To Bring Your Own Food To The Movie Theater? Day 60: Eating Well On $1 A Day


I had an interview I did a few days ago come out in the Globe and Mail (a large Canadian newspaper) titled How to eat well for $1 a day and still have leftovers. That led to several radio show requests of which I did the first one today. For anyone curious, be glad that you are reading about the challenge here and not hearing about it on the radio. I think it is fair to say that my radio presence is about as good as my cooking which doesn't make me too excited about the others coming up…

One of the most interesting parts of this challenge has been coming across situations that I have simply taken for granted in the past and trying to figure out if it is ethical or not to do certain things when living on a very limited budget. I had another one of those situations present itself to me this evening.

I was invited to see a movie in the evening (Get Him To The Greek – loved it – so outrageously stupid that I found myself chuckling to myself all the way through which is not usual for me with those types of movies – definitely more of a guy type movie though) and ran into another Eating On $1 A Day quandary. It is always more fun to watch a movie with snacks in hand, but there is obviously no way that I could afford the theater food prices with the current budget.

So the question was whether or not it would be ethical for me to bring my own snacks into the movie theater? With the assumption that you are technically not supposed to, but a lot of people still do (kind of like jaywalking), what is your opinion on taking your own food into movie theaters? Have you ever done it? Do you think it would be acceptable to do this as part of the challenge, or is that just my tough luck and I have to watch without any snacks in hand? Feel free to leave comments and your opinion:

Is it acceptable to bring your own food into a movie theater?

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I did a little wandering in the morning and came across some cherry plum trees. Back at my main base, there are a lot of these cherry plum trees, but this is the first time I have seen that the cherry plums had begun to fall off the tree and birds had been eating them. With those clues, I figured that they were probably ripe and picked a few:

cherry plums

Cherry Plum Banana Smoothie

I decided to use the cherry plums I had gathered for my morning smoothie. The most difficult part was pitting them and it took me awhile to figure out a method that didn't completely destroy the fruit. I added them, a banana and ice and received this as a result:

cherry plum banana smoothie

The cherry plums were tart, but not sour so they mixed well with the banana and it was a great smoothie to help me wake up. I really liked the taste although those that don't enjoy tart might not (I loved umeboshi – sour plums – on my rice when I lived in Japan, so I have no problems with tart). I will be gathering more of these when the opportunity presents itself.

Kashi Oatmeal

I had been snacking a lot the previous couple of days, so i decided I needed something more filling in the morning. I decided that a cup of oatmeal should do the trick, but wasn't sure how to sweeten it (I had used all the cherry plums for the smoothie). I first decided on a bit of brown sugar, but then after putting in teaspoon full, wondered how Kashi cereal would be mixed in:

kashi oatmeal

The taste was good, but the texture of the Kashi cereal when hot and wet was a bit strange. It didn't bother me at all, but I can see how it would bother some people. I definitely didn't need the brown sugar when the Kashi cereal was added – it made it plenty sweet. It was a quick and easy filling morning meal that I will use again.

Peanut Butter & Banana

When things get busy and I need something quick, this is what I usually turn to. I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off most afternoons recently, so this has become a staple (even though my sister still doesn't consider it to be a proper meal)

banana peanut butter sandwich

Fried Potatoes, Onions & Spinach

I decided to fry up a big batch of potatoes so I had enough left over for another meal later on. I used 3 potatoes, 1 onion, a handful of mushrooms and a handful of spinach. I used some olive oil Italian salad dressing for the oil which seemed to work well this time and gave it a bit of flavor as well. I added some chopped tomatoes on top:

potato onion spinach

day 60 dinner

This is the current list of food I still have
This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $40.01
Money left to spend: $20.99 ($5.04 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $1171.64

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The Beginning ::: Day 61: Apparently, Eating On $1 A day Is Too Easy

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33 Responses to Is It Acceptable To Bring Your Own Food To The Movie Theater? Day 60: Eating Well On $1 A Day

  1. Amanda says:

    A few movie theater’s down here have already started allowing poeple to bring their own food in given a few guide lines as in no can or glass no alcohol etc.. standard for any place .A friend of mine has been doing it for year’s but because of food allergies , bad ones , she has had to she would either tell the attendants and explain or just walk on in depending on which theater we went to . No one seemed to have any problem with it at all. I started doing it because i am not about to pay 7 dollar for a soda or 5 dollar for a bottle water . lol

  2. Malik says:

    I have to vote NO on this one. If the theater policy doesn’t permit bringing in outside munchies, then regardless of whether or not people do, they shouldn’t.
    I agree it’s often more fun to watch movies with munchies or drinks, but it’s by no means required; eat beforehand, or after (or both, if you want).

  3. Kellie says:

    Where I come from it’s very common for people to take their own healthy snacks to the movie theater to avoid the high fat & sugar snacks most theaters sell. I think it’s perfectly fine to bring a small bag of nuts or chopped veggies to munch on while enjoying a movie.

  4. Tammy says:

    I voted “no” but for a completely different reason than the others. Going to the movies comes out of our entertainment budget, not the grocery budget. I feel that as long as you don’t abuse the entertainment budget to keep within your $1 a day grocery budget then this occasional treat should be allowed.

    Another thing you could do is look for opportunities for free movies. Then, you could use the money you would have spent on the ticket for treats.

    Living on a dollar a day is commendable and I applaud you. I really enjoy reading your blog and feel that you are doing a great job.

    I know that a lot of people feel that movie theater treats are over priced. In the past, I would have agreed with them. After taking a field trip with my kids to get a behind the scenes look, I now understand that it is how they pay the bills. Most of the sales from tickets goes to the movie companies. The consessions part of the theater is how the movie theaters cover their overhead and make money.

  5. Chelsea says:

    I bring in my own candy that I purchase at the dollar store, or get free via couponing in my purse all of the time.

    Movie theaters don’t want you to bring in your own food because that means their concession stands lose money…. but their prices are so outrageous, I’m sorry, it’s not ethical for them to overprice stuff either! So I’m not very respectful of their “no outside food” policy.

  6. ShorterMama says:

    Here’s a thought – You don’t technically go out and spend $1 each and every day for this challenge. You make purchases that average out to $1/day over a course of time. It looks like you had the money still available to you for the rest of the month. I’d say it’s all about choices. Is it really necessary to have food to watch a movie? No. Did you want it? Yes. So decision time. Am I going to get the food or not? What will that cost me in the long run and am I willing to sacrifice something else that I want for this that I want right now…

  7. T says:

    I have never heard of a situation like Amanda’s, but that’s the only case in which I can imagine bringing in your own food (if the theater permits it).

    Yes, concession snacks are rather expensive, but everyone knows that walking in. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it okay to abuse it – you could just watch the movie at home later, for example.

    Furthermore, Tammy is correct that most of the money that pays to keep the theater open comes from the concession stand(s). Theaters bid to get movies brought to them by percentage of ticket prices (when I worked at one, many years ago, we were told that they’d even bid over 100% of tickets sold to get some of the movies that were expected to be huge). This doesn’t mean you have to buy concession food, but it’s good to realize if you enjoy the big-screen experience.

  8. Deborah says:

    This is more a question of ethics.

    People who bring their own snacks to the theaters are the REASON the rest of us have to pay so much for a soda. If you want lower costs, follow the rules.

  9. Pam says:

    The only reason I voted no is because I don’t think the food you purchase at the theater should be counted towards the project. It’s entertainment, and it’s against policy to bring your own food. There is no access to bringing your own food without breaking the theater’s policy, so purchase of food while at the movies should be considered outside of the bet. Of course, this is just my own opinion.

  10. Dana says:

    Jeffrey, congratulations for making it through May and June successfully. I really admire the persistence and creativity that you show in this challenge. A lesser man might have thrown in the towel by now, but your dedication is admirable and a good example for all of us to follow.

    Kudos for the interview in the Canadian paper. You sound very knowledgeable in the interview, and your picture shows that you’re not suffering from starvation during this challenge.

    If the movie theater prohibits outside food, I would not bring in my own from home. From what I understand, theaters barely break even (or even lose money) on the cost of admission, and they rely on the concession stands to make their income. I don’t think its the moral equivalent of jaywalking because no one is hurt by a jaywalker, but a movie theater can be financially impacted if people bring in their own food. I feel like if I can’t watch the film without needing a snack, then I can either buy from the concession stand or wait till the movie comes out on dvd and then I can snack all I want to at home. So, in direct answer to your questions, I do not think it is ethical for you to sneak your own snacks into the movie theater and I’ve never done it myself.

  11. Michael says:

    NO. Part of the challenge is to follow the rules.

    The movie theater is free to dictate their rules; you’re free to go elsewhere if you don’t like them. Otherwise, you may as well write a blog on how to steal enough food to eat without spending anything.

    Watch a movie at home if you want to eat food from home.

    Outside of the challenge, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but in this context, I think it’s a definite NO.

  12. Amanda Fletcher says:

    Never mind the movie snacks ethical dilemma; how did you pit the cherry plums?!?

  13. fabledfigment says:

    I voted no. I don’t believe it is necessary to eat during a movie. It violates the tenets of eating well. You should eat when you eat, as in enjoy every bite deliberately. If you’re just eating to put something in your hands and mouth while your brain processes entertainment, you are doing it wrong.

    Besides, a good movie should keep you riveted to the screen, not leave you wishing you had a bucket of soda and a bushel of popcorn.

  14. sara says:

    I definitely vote yes, you are allowed to bring candy into movie theaters. We’ve always done this to save money, and I see no problem with it. I think it would be unacceptable to bring in something obvious and messy (like your own nachos – which a friend of mine once did because he knew the theater owner and they were in one of those escalating dare situations, but that’s special circumstances!), but a discrete bag of candy and/or reusable water bottle filled with tap water is totally fine. If you were not going to buy candy at the theater prices anyway, I don’t see how it’s losing them any sales! And they definitely know this goes on – they could try to police it better if they wanted to, but choose not to because they know their customers want to do it.

  15. Gayle says:

    I voted yes, but only if what you’re bringing in is significantly different from what is offered at the theater. My husband is diabetic & hypertensive, a challenge at the movie theater, to say the least. He usually brings unsalted nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds to munch. My son has a sensory-processing disorder & won’t drink anything besides milk or apple juice. If they don’t offer these, we bring our own. Everything else, we buy there: drinks for hubby & me, popcorn for me & my son. Check the theater’s policy regarding bringing in snacks. One local theater started offering apple juice boxes after repeated requests from me & other parents.

  16. jayinchicago says:

    Deborah:
    What you are saying makes sense only if the people bringing in their own stuff would actually buy the highly overpriced stuff in the lobby. I don’t think that’s a good assumption. If it was either lobby food or nothing, most food sneakers probably would choose nothing.

    Most of the stuff they are selling we probably shouldn’t be eating anyway.

    I would say “yes” if the food you are bringing is healthier than the stuff you can buy there.

  17. Eric says:

    I haven’t been scrutinizing your posts, but you don’t seem to be eating much protein, aside from an occasional egg.

  18. Shara says:

    I don’t see why this one is open as a poll. You don’t need your own food due to health problems, so it’s a question of if you are willing to violate the theater policy. I agree with others, no matter how the poll comes out, it’s not ethical to violate their fair and explicit rules just because you don’t like it. If you think the movie itself is overpriced is it okay to sneak in?

    It’s like smoking in a no-smoking section or bringing your dog into a hotel with a ‘no pets’ policy. People who run businesses have the right to set rules. If you don’t like it don’t give them your business. But violating their rules is just wrong, no matter what your readers say.

  19. Dawn says:

    When one eats while watching TV, a movie, or the like, the brain doesn’t fully process what one is eating. Going for 2-3 hours without eating is fine! I’ve gone to many movies without eating (either food from the theatre or from home.) If it’s not a necessity – many people can’t afford to go to movies – it shouldn’t be an issue. I am, however, intrigued with questions coming from this challenge and the input others give.

    And regardless of what your sister thinks, peanut butter and bananas ARE a delicious meal! Fruit, protein… quite a tasty combo! You tried to pit the plums and not kill the fruit, but you put it through a blender immediately after? I had to laugh! Thanks for the education I’m getting from this!

  20. Sarah says:

    I voted yes you should be allowed to bring in food. But then I was reading someone elses comment about the food wouldn’t be from the food budget, but rather the entertainment. I wholeheartedly agree, never when I have bought snacks have I counted it against my food budget. I think it definitely went towards that and you should go with that

  21. Thaelis says:

    I said yes because I grew up bringing candy and popcorn to the movies my dad would only buy a soda there and we’d bring in the snacks soni say go for it , you should tale advantage of cvs buy one get one free on m&ms and if you have the b1g1 free coupon you get them both free

  22. Honey says:

    I agree with others – my movie snacks come out of my entertainment budget. I rarely eat them because I am hungry – it’s just part of the fun of the movies!

    I do sneak things in though, if I don’t feel like what the theater has.

  23. Lynette says:

    Just have to chuckle at myself. So far I have voted the exact opposite of the majority, hmm……

  24. jeffrey says:

    @Lynette

    Apparently you and my sister would get along great 😉

  25. FallenPixels says:

    I voted yes, since I have brought my own snacks in, but I still buy some there too (popcorn) but since they have started to sell water, I don’t.

    But lately, I have been using coupons to get free or cheap Old El Paso kits and using the free concession snack coupons from them at Cineplex theatres and cheap admission.

    But I agree with whoever said that food in theatres comes out of the entertainment budget, I know I didn’t include the fudge I bought at the Canada Day fireworks last night in my grocery budget!

  26. Priskill says:

    How can anyone watch a movie without Jelly Bellies or Jelly Belly fakes in hand? Call me a desperado, but moonshining your own treats seems fine to me . . .

  27. baselle says:

    I’m laughing here. I appear to be in the minority. I think your sister’s right, and I voted no. If you have to sneak, its a sign that you’ve crossed a line. Frankly, you have other reasonable choices:

    1. Don’t eat or drink. Cripes, its two hours out of your life. One of the smaller lifestyle choices I’ve made is to de-link pleasurable activities with eating.

    2. Go to a theater where it is permissable – tends to be permitted in a drive ins (who takes the time to search the car?), or where the policy is published.

    3. Eat or drink during intermission – if there is one.

    4. Eat or drink before or after the movie.

  28. lawbreaker says:

    LOL, I never buy stuff from the concession stand! I always bring my own candy. I’m already paying $10.50 for tickets, I’m not paying for overpriced snacks, too. I have a friend who even brought popcorn from home in a plastic bag and carried it in a big purse last time we went together. I never thought to do it, but I’m sure gonna do it from now on. 😀

  29. Zoe says:

    Loads of people do it, even if it’s ‘not allowed’. Pffft, who can afford movie tickets + food? They ask outrageous prices. This is something people on a restricted budget would definitely do 🙂

  30. Ari says:

    Dana is absolutely right–movie theatres make only a small percentage on the box office (distributors demand a high return per ticket, which is what inflates ticket prices), so concessions sales really are important to their survival. I make sure to budget enough to buy one item at concessions any time I see a movie, even if it’s just a bottle of water (I’m by no stretch wealthy, but if I see matinees, I can make a concessions purchase with the difference between the cost of a matinee and the cost of a normally priced ticket).

    That said, I worked at an art house theatre once upon a time where we permitted any food that wasn’t disruptive (strong smelling or messy), so long as it was withing fire codes (no glass). Doesn’t sound like you’re in that situation, though. If you’re sneaking food in, that seems pretty unethical to me.

    (Also, chiming in late on the gum issue: if you get calories from it, I think it probably ought to come from your food budget. You’ve already conceded the point on booze, which is similarly non-nutritionally useful.)

  31. Emily says:

    i managed an art house movie theatre for five years and we struggled with people blatantly ignoring the ‘no outside food or drink’ policy. namely, these were the people who tried to carry in food (from Starbucks coffee to an entire pizza) visibly, in hand, and arguing with us when we denied them permission to bring it in.

    it is true that theatres make the vast majority of their profit from concession sales. but this doesn’t really mean anything if the choice is between bringing in outside food or not eating anything at all — in other words, if you’re not going to purchase concessions either way, what difference does it really make?

    that said, i personally had no problem with people bringing in food as long as they would abide by the following guidelines:

    1. don’t flaunt it. if i didn’t see it going in, didn’t see it coming out and didn’t have to clean up after it (candy wrappers on the floor, etc.), it’s a harmless infringement.

    2. don’t bring anything that violates basic codes (glass containers, alcohol).

    3. don’t bring anything that will bother others in the theatre, e.g. smelly or really noisy foods.

    if you are bothered by the ethical question, a great compromise is to bring something with you and splurge on buying something there as well; bring a snack and buy a drink, for example.

  32. Carolee says:

    Food purchased at the theater is part of the whole movie experience and would not count towards your $1 a day limit. 😉

  33. Benji says:

    Even if 100% of movie patrons were foolish enough to spend $5.00 for a soda, prices would NOT drop! No shrewd businessman is ever going to be so satisfied with profits that they suddenly start chopping prices. Eating chemically-laced theater food is a great way to get diabetes and cancer. So, essentially, the rule is: Eat our poisonous, over-priced food or go hungry! Any person with half of a brain would defy such idiocy and bring their own nutritious foods to the theatre. You really think theaters have a hard time making money? That’s a hilarious notion. Go walk the employee parking lot and you’re bound to find at least one Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz in the lot. The problem with movie theaters is the same problem with any business: distribution of money. The poor slobs that are actually working make minimum wage and take the bus home. The guy with the Jaguar is sitting on his duff and figuring out how to raise prices so he can buy a Rolls Royce. The only thing more hilarious is the fact that all of these people talking “policy” are regular speeders and would have a fit if a cop pulled them over for going 26 in a 25 mph zone. Hey, it’s policy! The folks among us with common sense and a love for the temple that is our body already know what to do. We will continue to bring our own food into the theater and let the fat slobs of the world stand in the “food” line.