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What to Do When Grocery Shopping Is Tearing Your Relationship Apart

No, Linda, we do NOT need an 11th bottle of half-opened soy sauce

It’s well understood that couples face any number of battlegrounds upon shacking up to supply the abode with goods and victuals. Among the most notorious is shopping at IKEA, where psychologists have deemed the store a literal “map of a relationship nightmare,” where bedding is a stand-in for his sex problem, and the kitchen goods corner is designed to expose her inability to load a dishwasher right.

Less discussed is the other relationship nightmare map called the grocery store. But I’m not talking about what couples face shopping together in the literal store. I’m talking about that moment when your significant other is permitted to go off alone to procure provisions, and somehow comes back with a bunch of bullshit that makes no sense. I’m talking about what it means to live with, love and endure someone who has no idea what things to buy or how to buy them, and definitely no idea how many of them you should have on hand.

That landmine was revealed recently on Reddit when someone to took the r/mildlyinfuriating subreddit to show the world the sort of perishables and toiletries his wife considers acceptable for purchase. The post is a simple four-panel exhibit proving unequivocally that “Wife doesn’t pay attention to what we already have when buying groceries.”

Wife doesn’t pay attention to what we already have when buying groceries. from mildlyinfuriating

What in God’s name is going on here? As is plainly evident from the photo, this person’s wife, left to her own devices, has purchased multiples of things already stocked at home. There are four tubes of Colgate toothpaste in varying sizes. There are over a dozen bottles of soy sauce. There are four boxes of saltines, including the original Premiums and the Premium Fresh Stacks. And there are at least four different jars of cinnamon, maybe more, since it’s not clear if whatever the hell behind the cinnamon is actually more cinnamon.

Now I don’t know what kind of weird diet these people might have that would require this combination of items, but mostly I’m wondering: How the hell does this happen? Even worse? Every single one of these motherfuckin’ items is open and in play. Meaning, she or they don’t even wait to use all of the last one before introducing the new shit into the mix.

When I showed the post to my friends — Southern, mannered women with extreme regard for domestic arts — they flipped out.

“Divorce her!” one friend yelled. “This is wasteful and lazy!!!! That soy sauce situation is absurd! Toothpaste ridiculous! This is probably THOUSANDS a year on extras. Spices aren’t cheap!!! How much baking are you ACTUALLY doing!? What is the cinnamon even for!?”

“I use about four tablespoons of cinnamon a year and I BAKE!” another friend added.

“I spent way too much time with grandparents who were adults during the Depression,” said the first. “I was taught better than this. For lack of a better word, it’s just so American.”

There’s a Simple Formula to Prevent Grocery Hoarding

It’s also appallingly easy to prevent. The formula for this is simple: When deciding how many of any one item to purchase, only only needs to weigh usage frequency against storage space. Then, making a freaking list!

It’s not that it’s bad to have more than one. America is built on buying in bulk, which is usually ridiculous but can be absolutely practical. Stocking up on toiletries or any nonperishables so as to avoid ever being caught without what you need is totally valid. No wants to run out of toilet paper or toothpaste, soap or shampoo.

If you put soy sauce on everything, have some fucking soy sauce on hand! No questions asked! If you use milk every day for cereal, you might be the sort of people with two jugs of milk on hand. But six milks = annoying. Six deodorants = logical! Because duh, the deodorant isn’t going bad.

Flour and sugar, cooking oils and basic spices should all be in decent supply for home cooking. So based on what you use, order a couple and toss them in your closet or pantry or fridge, and be mindful when the supply is running low so as to always have at least one on hand in addition to the one in use. Buying extra toilet paper and paper towels, toothpaste and extra toothbrushes, grooming supplies and a backup of an extra kid’s Benadryl or whatever it is you know your family burns through at whatever rate, is not wasteful. Bought it in bulk and got a deal? Even better.

But the one giant blinking neon sign here is this: Don’t open the next one until the first one is completely used up.

If only it were that simple. In the case of the original poster on Reddit, that’s not their issue. This is the result of his wife refusing to check the contents of the cupboard before heading to the store. We’re never told why this is the case, or why she can’t make a list. Is she a busy professional managing an insane workload and children, or is there some weird refusal here to do the simple work of making a list based on actual household need?

Is it intentional? Passive-aggressive? We never find out!

It can feel anything from wasteful to baffling to pointedly evil when someone hauls in the groceries and there’s three taco kits on hand and you make tacos once a month. And if it keeps happening? Do they hate your guts?

To be fair, I’m no stranger to the saltines overbuy. It’s not intentional laziness, and I have no idea why saltines are the most forgettable pantry stable. But it is terrible planning. Here’s what usually happened: I’d realize last minute after work or a meeting that I was near a grocery store and should pick up a few things. With no list, I did my best guess work as to what was needed, and faced the facts once I got home. If I texted my partner, they were at work, too, so neither of us would be on the scene to verify need.

Once in the store, I would see some saltines and realize neither of us could remember if we already had them, so I’d grab them to be safe. And then I’d get home and realize I did that already. The last three trips.

Still, come next time, I’d do it again. After realizing I was a repeat offender, I handed over the reins to the other person so the problem would be solved, and I could at least take turns getting mad at them for a while when they accidentally ordered three containers of fresh mozzarella. It evens things out.

Do Men and Women Really Shop Differently?

This Reddit post is important. It defies the stereotype that women are always the natural, superior shoppers and men are buffoons who are supposed to bring back a week’s worth of dinners but come back with two pork tenderloins and a can of Cheez Whiz.

Some of the stereotype is true that men shop differently, and somewhat less strategically, than women. They’re more likely to just buy what’s needed tonight and seem less skilled at comparison shopping, and more likely to reach for expensive brands. But men have only also just recently begun to match women’s numbers as the primary shoppers in their households, and it’s only now about equal.

The point is, anyone can shop for shit, either by not making a list, buying unnecessary shit that will go to waste or not taking the time to look for a deal. It’s not just that it’s wasteful or mystifying. It can create real logistical challenges that lead to inadvertent food waste, as one commenter noted:

Without clear labeling or some order to this madness, people you love and care about are at a total loss:

One Handy Life Hack That Solves This Problem for Good (Along With a Less-Convenient Lifestyle Change That Will Probably Help Your Relationship More)

Here’s a tip: Before you leave for the store, snap a photo of the inside of the fridge and the pantry. Easy! Practical! You won’t have to stare at the jars of cold brew concentrate for five minutes wondering how much is left back at home.

Of course, you could always start doing the shopping together, in person, as a couple. As Woody Harrelson allegedly once said, “You know you’re in love when the two of you can go grocery shopping together.” But he’s right: It’s more than a test of your compatibility, it’s a partnership-building exercise — you’re working as a team to tackle the arduous demands of daily meal prep. Plus you can spoil each other in the cookie aisle.

Even though everyone hates those co-shopping couples, isn’t that better than hating each other? If nothing else, at last one of you can physically prevent that 15th bottle of soy sauce from making it in the cart.