I must confess that I have never had a problem with my roommates eating my food. Ever. (I’m knocking on wood as I write this) So, needless to say, I had little idea what to suggest. The only thing that comes to mind is to label everything and have each person have their own shelf. If that fails, give them food poisoning. The latter option seemed a little extreme, so I turned to my friends and asked them for some tried and true advice.
1. Psychoanalyze. Liz, the psychologist of the group and budding nurse, had to contend with this problem for her entire freshman year, and her roommate didn’t stop at the food. She “borrowed” everything, and it plagued their relationship. In her experience, these borrowing types have problems with boundaries, and therefore, you need to have a conversation to set some. It is best to have this conversation before you move in, but if that ship has sailed don’t be afraid to have it now. Make sure to explain to them what you’re okay with (i.e. something like: “I have no problem with you borrowing my food just as long as you ask first and replace what you took if necessary”) and what you’re not (taking whatever they like whenever they like) and make sure to ask them when you are done if they have similar concerns. That way it doesn’t look like you’re attacking or accusing them.
2. Go Label Crazy. If the conversation didn’t put a stop to the antics then its time to bust out the label maker. Label your food and create separate shelves in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. That way there can be no confusion about whose food is whose.
3. Get Inquisitive. The most recommended remedy was to start asking questions. For example, “I can’t find my [insert stolen thing]. Has anyone seen it?” Or, “Did my [insert stolen thing] fall on your shelf?” Another possibility is to ask them flat out, “Hey, when did you get your own [insert stolen thing]?
4. Gross ‘Em Out. Liz’s boyfriend, Nick, was kind enough suggest method(s) four. He says he makes it a point to let his roommates watch him lick the milk jug all over and cough on his other food. Typical guy—using the gross out method. He also said, “(you’ve) got to turn the laziness that drives them to steal food rather than get their own against them.” Translation: hide it! Put your food underneath less attractive food, hide it behind bigger things, or way in the back where they have to bend over more than slightly to get it. Or you could take Liz’s approach and put it in a box, underneath your bed, underneath a pile of dirty clothes and hope for the best. Can you see why they are dating?
5. (Pad) Lock It Down. If you can do this, buy or rent a mini fridge and put it in your room or buy a lock for the one you have. My friend Carolyn ended up having to do that after she had a guest literally eat her out of her apartment–repeatedly. This girl got would get totally stoned and eat all of her new groceries, including an entire package of cream cheese, in a single night. After that, my only suggestion is to give them some negative reinforcement and give them food poisoning. Just kidding!
Emily is a recent grad of Colgate University, where she studied International Relations and Art History and volunteered at the Friendship Inn and with the Colgate Hunger Outreach Program. She loves to bake cookies.