A Whanganui man who admitted to stealing nearly $200 of groceries told the judge that "life on the benefit's hard" and that's why he did it.

Huri John Haddon pleaded guilty to shoplifting when he appeared in the Whanganui District Court on Tuesday.

Police prosecutor Stephen Butler said at about 4pm on October 4, Haddon was caught on CCTV cameras leaving Pak'nSave Whanganui without paying for all his groceries.

"He took his groceries to the self-checkout area and paid for a small number of items and then proceeded to leave the store without paying for the rest of his groceries."

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Mr Butler said the explanation he gave police was that he had taken advantage of the self-checkout system and only had enough money to pay for a coffee.

"Life is just a bit hard on the benefit," Haddon told the judge.

The groceries were worth $178.37 and all items have been recovered.

Judge Philip Crayton ordered Haddon to come up if called upon in the next 12 months.

"What that means is if you stay out of trouble for the next 12 months this conviction will go away but if you offend again you will be sentenced for both matters," the judge told Haddon.