Can smart-home tech stop a roommate from stealing your food?

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Getting your roommates to stop stealing your food can be harder than it sounds. Usually it involves awkward confrontations, time wasted labeling all your leftovers, or worse. Plus, if you live with a couple friends, you don’t always know who is killing the Cap’n Crunch.

Smart home gadgets can help you avoid the usual annoyances of solving the case of the disappearing food — either by catching the culprit or protecting your snacks. But can it really solve the problem altogether? Let’s take a look at the options:

Hide a smart cam in the kitchen

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Smart cameras are becoming more and more affordable, and brands like Ezviz will give you basic security features for as low as $60. Set up one of these smart cams behind the flower pot and find out which roommate is stealing your food. There’s even two-way audio with some of their cameras, so you can call them out in the moment, if you’re watching the livestream at the right instant.

The big problem with affordable smart cams is that they often don’t include much cloud storage. That means you’ll probably have to monitor the camera pretty regularly if you want to catch the culprit in the act.

Another potential concern, depending on your relationship with your roommates: installing a secret camera in your dorm or apartment will violate their privacy. Luckily, there are less intrusive options.

Get creative with security sensors

Chris Monroe/CNET

It’s a little pricier, but if you’re living in a house with multiple friends, suggest pitching in to get a DIY security system (our recommendation is the $300 Abode, but there are more affordable options). It’s a good idea in general to protect your property, but you can also commandeer a door/window sensor or motion detector to buff your pantry’s security.

Especially if you have separate food storage spaces, a door/window sensor could tip you off when someone is rifling through your snacks. Similarly, a motion detector could tip you off when someone’s raiding your room’s mini fridge for a beer. Plus, neither of these gadgets will encroach on your roommates’ privacy. And you won’t have to closely monitor the devices, like you might with particular cameras.

Problem is, sensors will only give you basic info, like when people are opening your fridge or pantry — not who is doing the opening.