The 5 Second Rule: A Frugal Necessity at Our House

If you’re a mom, you’ve no doubt heard of the 5 second rule: if your kid drops a piece of food on the floor, and you pick it up within 5 seconds, it’s still good to eat. Right?

My 5 Second Rule Story

At our house, we live by the 5 second rule. We have to. You see, I have a picky eater. He’s pictured above. He’s also very charming. And very smart.

At the dinner table, he refuses to eat anything he doesn’t like. Unfortunately for him, I don’t fix many dinners that consist entirely of chocolate and potato chips. This presents a problem for my young son.

Because he would just as soon starve than eat anything nutritious, we’ve had to institute a “you need to eat at least x number of bites” rule. That’s when he pulls out the charm.

He starts to poke his food with the fork. It takes him 5 minutes to get the fork to his mouth, and when it’s finally in the vicinity, he throws back his head with a big grin, closes his eyes, and pretends to try to get the food in his mouth. 99% of the time it lands on the floor.

That’s when the 5 second rule comes into play. Trying hard not to laugh, I pick up the piece of food, put it back on his plate, and let him know that he can now eat the food, plus the germs. Ok, I leave out the part about the germs. But I don’t let him waste the food.

Samantha Bee on the 5 Second Rule

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to The Consumer Queen interview Samantha Bee of the Daily Show about the 5 second rule. First of all, Samantha Bee is incredibly funny. Listening to the call brightened a busy day.

Samantha talked about her own use of the 5 second rule, as well as the results of a study by San Diego State University. The study, funded by Clorox, found that some foods picked up bacteria in less than 5 seconds. To read more about the study, visit

Study or no study, I’m unlikely to give up my 5 second rule ways. I hate wasting food (and wasting the money that paid for the food). Besides, my charming and intelligent son would quickly figure out that dropping food would get him out of eating dinner. And we can’t have that, can we?


By , on Feb 3, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Becky:

    I’m laughing at all the dog comments… Our dog has gained 10lbs since our toddler started eating solid food! Food doesn’t last 5 seconds on our floors :)

  2. Alex:

    I use the 5 second rule with gusto!

    Of course, the length of my 5 seconds is largely determined by my level of desire to eat the food, the cleanliness of the surface, and the food type.

    For instance, soup dumped on the floor of a bathroom, the 5 seconds is in reality 2 milliseconds. The last chip in a bag of chips dropped on a cleanly mopped kitchen floor, the 5 seconds could be up to an hour or two. :)

  3. Yeah 5 second rule. I don’t mind germs either.

  4. Lindsey:

    If it’s chocolate, I use the 5 second rule. Otherwise I tend to let it go. As a teacher, though, I’ve seen some pretty gross things be eaten. One student ate a skittle that was stepped on during the 5 seconds. It wasn’t even a dare!

  5. Georgia:

    Definately use the 5 second rule!!

  6. rebecca:

    I guess it depends on where it falls and how much dog hair it has on it.

  7. Crista:

    I have a two year old. I have given up on preventing her from eating food off the floor.

  8. Martha:

    We too love the 5 second rule. My doctor friend she even uses it!

  9. Kate:

    My question is – how do you not laugh when he does the routine? I use the 5 second rule often and I am sure that most of the food already has germs on it when you open up the package!

  10. Jennifer:

    Yes, I use the 5 second rule but then my daughter is a bit clumsy.

  11. Ruth:

    My husband does not use the 5-second rule, but I do if it’s something that can be rinsed off, like a raw carrot.

  12. Sylvia:

    I like our rule better than the 5 second rule: “As long as it didn’t land in a puddle.” As in, I dropped this on the sidewalk, floor, in the car, etc,… can I eat it? My response is, “As long as it didn’t land in a puddle!”
    sylviarj at yahoo dot com

  13. Debbie:

    The 5 second rule depends on whether the dog gets it first in our house. LOL

  14. marci357:

    PS – We call them “Thank you bites”… meaning they must taste everything so many bites…. for politeness sake :)

    And growing up each of my kids had 2 things (their choice) that they absolutely did NOT have to taste… but only two… they were allowed to change their “selections” every 6 months if they wanted to. Put an end to fighting over it. The kids let ME pick two things also – mine were beets (which the rest of my family loved so we had them a lot) and okra :) One kid picked sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts, another was asparagus and liver, etc….

  15. Suzanne:

    I just did the 5 second rule the other day. I picked my daughter up from daycare and as we were leaving she dropped her nila wafer and was very upset. I grabbed it up blew on it and said 5 second rule. My daycare provider just laughed at me. Plus when we are home it is a 1 second rule because the dog is usually there in about 2 seconds after he hears food drop.

  16. Meghan:

    It depends. My husband is waaaay more finicky then I am. So if he is present, we do not use the 5 second rule (not even if something falls on to the counter or table). If he isn’t, I use the 5 second rule unless there is pet hair on it.

  17. marci357:

    One of the problems in our oh-so-sterile cleaning-frenzy world these days is that kids do not get enough dirt, ie, germs… and their bodies do not learn to deal with it early on and build up their immune systems, thereby giving them stronger immune systems when they get older.

    I think I had the healthiest kids in town…well just as healthy as all the other farm kids anyway, in that eating down at the barn things were never sterile…. and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or hamburgers while milking, (their choice to eat them) with cow tales (and other ‘stuff’) flying, led to ingesting stuff that was not really on the edible listing… lol…. However, the kids were healthy, with healthy immune systems, and rarely were sick, and then only for a very short time compared to the other kids around.

    Yes, we had a 10 second rule…but you had to beat the dog to it :) and yes I am sure my kids built up an immunity to e-coli at a very young age…at least to the e-coli strains on our farm. E-coli is only a health issue if your body’s immune system can’t fight it off itself. We all have E-coli within us, and we deal with it on a daily basis… normally healthy immune systems have no problem with it.

    As I grew up hearing, “A little bit of dirt never hurt anyone!” :)

  18. I don’t worry about the 5 second rule because my Dachshund gets anything in 2 seconds!

  19. M in TX:

    We use the rule at home only, but it’s more like the 30-second rule!

  20. susan:

    We use the five second rule. Susan

  21. Sarah:

    Yes, I have used it.

  22. Hope:

    I started to follow the 5 second rule yesterday and saw a hair…*shudder* Its just going to depend on which floor and how recently it was cleaned!

  23. My husband uses the five second rule and I will if it is something I really wanted to eat :)

  24. When our dog was alive, nothing went to waste and we didn’t have 5 seconds to retrieve the food that had fallen to the floor. toby was always under our feet ready and waiting for falling food. we are currently dog-less and if something falls, it probably gets eaten, except for things like yogurt and other saucy stuff.

  25. Danielle:

    Well in our hosue we have a 120 pound Labador so if it’s still there then yes I abide by the 5 second rule! I agree! Hate to waste!!

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