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Kenkyuusha defines 買{か}い食{ぐ}い as:

spend one's pocket money on candy

and Daijirin defines it as:


Both of these identify 買い食い as being related to candy/sweets. Is the term given this definition just because a child, left to its own devices, would be likely to go and buy sweet rather than other things? Or, would it actually be unnatural to say something like あの子がたこ焼きを買い食いした (たこ焼き being neither a candy nor a sweet)?

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I would say that it has more to do with the general use of 「食う」 versus 「食べる」. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Dec 23 '13 at 22:02
あの子は>あの子が for an example sentence that has nothing to do with particle usages. – l'électeur Dec 23 '13 at 22:13
up vote 6 down vote accepted

No, it cannot be used for just any kind of food and the word can be used for adults, too.

買い食い, despite its pretty straightforward look "buy and eat", carries a fairly negative connotation for us native speakers. Moms hate it if kids do it often (because they do not get to know what the kids are eating). The word is never used to describe buying a "serious" or "full-size" meal. It is all about buying snacks to eat between meals. Takoyaki, mentioned by OP, is a prime example.

While it is true that mostly kids do the 買い食い, it is absolutely Ok to use the word for adults when they buy and eat snacks. Adults may use the word in self-deprecation when they do the 買い食い themselves and use it kiddingly when other adults do it.

Finally, the word is NOT used when you buy a snack and bring it home to eat it. You need to eat it near where you bought it to call it 買い食い, which is why moms hate it.

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