The Etiquette of Fridge Raiding

Dining for free…our guide to the ethics of fridge raiding.

College Fridge Hungry Neighbours Queen's College Stealing Students

We’ve all seen the adverts for DVD piracy. You wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a television. You probably, in fact, would ‘steal’ a movie by watching it online. But would you steal the popcorn to go with it?

Would you join the ranks of enterprising and cash-strapped students mischievously ‘hunter-gathering’ their sustenance for those long, essay (or X Factor)-filled nights?

I’m not talking about stealing from shops. Or even from buttery. No- I refer simply to borrowing food from your College neighbours. (‘Borrow’ is used here as you might ‘borrow’ a Kleenex…)

Robbing rations from fellow students’ fridges is commonplace in Cambridge. Queens’ College even labels the prevalent practice ‘Cripps Shopping’, in honour of the (Fresher) building where most grocery-grabbing occurs.

And I warn you now my friends. There will come a point when even the most upstanding and righteous among you will be tempted by the soothing hum of someone else’s fridge. Before long, you will experience for yourself the satisfying ‘thwuk’ of a fridge door illicitly closing, as you scuttle down the corridor, perishable loot held close.

Your first experience of fridge-raiding might not be come at the same time as all your friends (but don’t worry, you are still normal…) Circumstances vary. You might stagger in after a few too many, having given up on the queue at Gardies. Maybe the torrential rain will force you to postpone that much needed trip to Sainsburys. Or perhaps simply you’ll lay your hungry, Buttery-weary eyes upon a novelty foodstuff in the fridge, awakening a craving- a yearning- for something you were previously none too fond of: cocktail sausages, water chestnuts, meringue nests.

But! In the interest of health and safety, before you venture in, take a few moments to acquaint yourself with the Tab’s manual of fridge-raiding etiquette.

DO be discreet. Scan the corridors, but don’t loiter. Disguises, generally, are unnecessary.

DO dispose of the evidence. I don’t mean hauling the cardboard sleeve to Cambridge City Dump (it’s on Butt Lane in Milton if you’re interested) – the next kitchen will do.

DO get an alibi. As in, “have I seen your Quorn cottage pie? Why! I’ve been watching iplayer with Ashima all day!” Sharing the spoils with Ashima will help get her on board.

DON’T do it in Fresher’s week. Wait until you have some strong(ish) bonds with your new BFF’s before starting to pillage their food supplies. This will arouse less suspicion.

DON’T nick just anything. A slosh of pasta sauce is ok, robbing the jar is not. Likewise, a slice of Swiss cheese is fair, a block of vintage parmigiano-reggiano, not so much. A few grapes from a bunch are legit. A banana is borderline (although if you do go for it, take the whole fruit. Even worse than having one stolen is having half of one stolen, the remnants left to smear brown goo over your untouched groceries).

DON’T crack into sealed packets to get your fix – it’s not polite. In the same vein, ready-meals (or parts of) are simply not fair game. Nor is it subtle for your new best pal to find you mid-chow on a Sainsbury’s Basics Spaghetti Bolognese, just as he tells you that his has gone missing. Carefully avoid ready meals from any kind of health/slimming range. Their owners are statistically at least 200 times more likely to be angry and vengeful.

DO be decent and replace what you took IF a neighbour leaves a note/asks you directly/can be heard wailing for her lost Chelsea buns. The etiquette here is to sneakily insert the nibbles in question into the fridge under cover of night/lectures, and act like the butter you stole wouldn’t melt.

DO play innocent. If you are a stingy ‘shopper’ and won’t replenish the missing goodies, then a good tip is to pretend that you too, are incensed by the spate of food thefts blighting your corridor. Drop in that you also had a Yakult/tin of adzuki beans/ duck pate stolen. This adds emphasis. As do some facial expressions- recruit some keen thesps to help you hone ‘shocked’ and ‘indignant’.

Equipped as you now are with basic fridge-raiding decorum, all that remains to be urged is that you use common sense at all time.

If indeed you wouldn’t steal a television (and I really hope you wouldn’t) then steer clear of anything of greater value. Don’t scoff someone’s gold-leaf-flaked-vanilla-ice-cream just because it was already open and you have an accomplice help you guzzle the tub.

Similarly, the exotic delights baked by the blind great-grandmother of the international student next door really aren’t for the taking. Value can be sentimental too, lest we forget.

People (especially students and ESPECIALLY hungry/stressed students) can be positively territorial with their prey. You probably don’t want to test just how literally that cheesecake is to die for…