Beyond my husband’s irritating tendency to get involved in a lengthy outside chore exactly when it’s time to nudge (read: endlessly nag) the kids into doing their weekly vacuuming and room cleaning, there aren’t many bad things I can say about him. But for the life of me, when it comes to food and toiletries, I cannot understand his reluctance to maintain any sort of reserves or backup.

When we first moved in together, he was visibly startled when I came home from my first trip to the grocery store to stock our painfully bare pantry, and unloaded the bags. I had bought two of things. Two bottles of olive oil, two rolls of aluminum foil, two cans of nonstick spray.

“Why two of everything?” he wondered aloud.

I explained that as we used up the first one, we would have the second one on hand. Then on the weekly grocery trip immediately following the opening of the second one, I would buy a replacement. This method ensures that we’ll never (or only rarely) run out of something. The look I got was similar to the one he as a native New Englander gave me the first time I put a bottle of Log Cabin syrup in the cart instead of pure maple.

It said, “What the fuck are you doing?”

Over the years, we’ve had this conversation about everything from Ziplock bags to hot dog buns. It’s not something we go through very fast, it’s perishable; we’re tying up our cash.

Seriously, that’s his argument.

We’re tying up our cash.

When I point out it’s pretty much a sure thing that we’re going to use the second bag of flour in which I carelessly “invested” a whopping $2.69, he just sighs.

This is something I’ve heard about in other men too. Years ago a friend of mine bought half a dozen rolls of dental floss because they were on sale for an insanely low price. Her husband found them on the shelf in the bathroom, and was as perplexed as my own husband is at the idea of anyone buying multiples of a consumable good. To protest her action, each morning he would rearrange the containers in a new configuration—a pyramid, lined up like dominoes, etc.

What makes this reaction to my low-grade stockpiling strange is that my husband loves going to Costco. Having a backup bottle of ketchup is financially risky, but apparently buying paper towel a dozen rolls at a time is logical and desirable. I think it’s because I pay regular retail for the ketchup, and he pays Costco prices for the paper towel. If I wanted to deal with gallon jugs of ketchup, which take up more room than all of my surplus cans of diced, whole, and crushed tomatoes put together, that would be acceptable. The fact that we’d have to find a way to get the ketchup into a reasonable sized bottle, or use it directly from the massive trough in which it’s purchased and embrace the very real possibility that some child will attempt to pour ketchup directly from said trough onto their hot dog creating a mess of epic proportions, is not a consideration. We’d have saved money!

I should have realized that he would be like this. Not just because he’s a guy and this seems to be a guy thing, but because his father had a similar peculiarity. In my father-in-law’s case, it was a lack of willingness to accept that driving 45 minutes to buy something that’s on sale for twenty-five cents off—even if you buy five or six of them—isn’t actually a bargain. Between the money he’d spend on gas, and his own time (which admittedly was pretty cheap, because he was retired, but still it was worth something) he was likely losing a couple of bucks every time he “saved” one. But that logic never sank in.

After eighteen years my husband reluctantly goes along with my system, even if he occasionally protests it. He’s also never admitted that it’s actually helpful when he uses the last quarter cup of sugar, and there’s another one pound bag in the pantry from which he can scoop the other quarter cup the recipe calls for. And I’m not sure if it’s just absentmindedness, or a passive-aggressive display of disapproval when he forgets to tell me he opened the backup package of something, resulting in my not replacing it and, if I don’t somehow realize it’s been opened, our eventually running out. Somehow I always seem to be the one inconvenienced by the absence of the peanut butter or soy sauce. And when I ask, “Why didn’t you tell me you opened the second one?” about all I get for an answer is a shrug.

My guess is he was hoping I wouldn’t notice and he would take the three dollars I hadn’t frittered away on redundant food items and invest it in Apple stock.

Tracy DeBlois has a husband, four children, a dog, and a full-time job. Her work has appeared on In The Powder Room,  the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop website, Ten to Twenty Parenting, and Babble, and she is a contributor to “I Still Just Want to Pee Alone,” an anthology edited by New York Times Best Selling author Jen Mann. She blogs at Orange & Silver, providing a humorous glimpse into the never-settling snow globe that is her mind. Her days are spent answering questions about the location of her children’s belongings, figuring out what’s for dinner, and reminding everyone that socks without feet in them do not belong in the living room. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. I am so with you on the back up food. And the maple syrup. I almost started the second civil war when I told my ex I couldn’t tell the difference between Vermint and New Hampshire maple syrup.

    • qwertygirl Reply

      Uh oh, do not tell him I couldn’t do it either! Pure vs Log Cabin is now a no-brainer, but Vermont vs New Hampshire? This mid-Atlantic gal couldn’t do it 🙂

  2. I recently bought 12 toothbrushes from Amazon because it was a better price for each, buying the multiples. It took all I had to not buy the pack of 24. Now THAT was a good deal. But 24 was over the top, even for me. Having ONE backup makes sense. I’ve had to work on avoiding ending up with 5 bottles of ketchup or something similar though. 🙂

  3. Great read. Very insightful and funny. I hope you and your husband will someday overcome your syrup differences.

  4. This reminds me of the time my husband yelled “we don’t have any gd soap but we have plenty of tampons!” Of coarse we had soap too, he just couldn’t see it staring him in the face.

  5. LOL!!! “Our” money- that line alone gets me. Unless you’re contributing: ex. working or bringing in an additional cash to support your family, there’s no “our money”, there’s your husband’s money. Yeah, great you’re married right? So you should be able to spend whatever you want right? When it comes right down to it, your husband works his ass off to provide for you and your family, and regardless of how ridiculous his argument may be for purchasing item(s) A and B, you have no right to determine whether it’s necessary or not- get a job and you won’t have to worry about that any longer.

    With all due respect, it’s females like this that have gradually turned me into an asexual male. No matter how much a man provides, his wife will always want and get more. Never enough. Always wives complaining and talking shit on their husbands on the internet, wait til he leaves you- not like you won’t get 50% of his assets anyways. See how long it lasts you with your habits. Coming from a 19 year old but maybe that’s just me. Thought men were greedy and manipulative? Think again #PrenupForTheWin 🙂

    • Alison Huff

      With all due respect, you must have skipped over this author’s bio – she works a full time job.

      And you know what? Even if she didn’t work, regardless of who’s working full-time, in a marriage it’s “our money.” Given what a woman has to give up in order to stay at home raising kids FOR HER HUSBAND, she’s absolutely entitled to have a say in how the money is spent.

      And before you go thinking that I must be “just another mooching housewife” think again: I work full time and my husband stays at home. And it’s still “our” money. He works his ass off at home, just as I did when the roles were reversed and *I* was at home while he was the one working.

      Marriage is give and take because it’s a partnership and while circumstances will change over the years, being partners is the one thing that doesn’t — at least if a marriage is going to be successful. You’re 19 right now, so you’ve still got a lot of growing up to do. Best of luck with your prenup plans.

    • If you treat women like that on a regular basis, small wonder you’re claiming to be asexual. The only way you’d get laid otherwise is if you clubbed her over the head and dragged her back to the cave. Perhaps you should get out a magnifying glass and take a good hard look yourself before you assume that the problem is EVERYONE else. Logic says that the problem is most likely you.

    • Isabella Tomoe
      Isabella Tomoe Reply

      Maybe you’ve become asexual…or maybe you use that as an excuse to rationalise the fact that no woman will come near you. Apart from the fact that having and bringing up kids along with taking care of the house actually does have a price tag associated with it, this writer ALSO has a full-time job to boot. You appear to be a narrow-minded neanderthal; time to go back to your man cave and jerk off.

    • Jenny Kanevsky

      Whenever someone starts a sentence with “With all due respect,” I know there is to be no respect forthcoming. “No matter how much a man provides, his wife will always want and get more.” That is your view of marriage, 19? No. Please, stay single. Asexual works too, just do not enter into a marriage because you do not understand adult marriage.

      A marriage is a partnership. In a partnership, each person brings things to the table. Usually, they love each other, that’s always good. They may both work, one may work, they may choose to have children, and if they do, (I suspect you know this), if they’re heterosexual and the woman can, she’ll do most of that heavy lifting physically. As of now, and, with all due respect, for the foreseeable future, there is to be no pay for bearing children. We don’t get paid to bring new life into the world despite the fact that it is one of the most important roles we have — parenthood and raising good citizens. We don’t get paid to take time away from our careers, lose our career paths, and stay home with our children. For some, it’s a choice, some a necessity, some not an option. Neither here nor there. The issue is this: One does not put a monetary value on the contributions made to a marriage simply because “the man provides” financially, as you assume, and the woman isn’t “contributing” in that manner. Contributions come in many forms. If you cannot see that, asexual you should remain. #SingleAt19ForTheWin

  6. I would love to know why my husband of 42 years has to buy multiples, and I means multiples of everything! We are two people in the house. We live .6 of a mile from the nearest Walmart. Yet, if I need Stainless Steel Cleaner, he will buy 6 cans of it. If we need a bar of soap, I get 20. If we need toothpaste, it comes in 10. Windex comes in 4 or 6. OMG! We have completely downsized and there is no storage space to be had! I just want to understand the thought process behind this. He did not grow up during the depression, he came from a well-to-do home. Please help me, I’m drowning in my own grocery store.

    • I found this article while looking for an explanation too. I’m a woman, if that even matters, and I live in a house of 4. My grandmother, her husband, my mom and I. We mostly get our own stuff, so each buys what they need, so no excuse of buying a lot because of sharing. My grandmother buys in excess! She buys two, or more (usually more), of EVERYTHING. It’s very irritating because there’s no space for that much crap! Four people in one bathroom! She has 8 bottles, a mix of shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, and even freaking vinegar… it’s not enough for her to have a few bodywashes, this week she had 6 bar soaps…. my mom threw away half of them, and today my grandmother opened a new one!!! Why on earth would she need a collection of bodywashes and bar soaps?! All open, all used. She has at least two of everything. She doesn’t even wait for one to be over. All of it opened and used. She is one of those that buys in bunches if it is on sale. Or buys something because it’s on sale, even if there is ten at home. It is an annoying habit, that gets old quickly. Although, I’m starting to think she has a worsening hoarding problem, and it has not much to do with the situation in the article. I get what the writer is saying, for a lot of products, I do it myself, for things that are going to be used and go by quickly, like the paper towers. But there are things that we don’t need to by like that. Much less if the reasoning is “it’s on sale, gotta get it now!!”

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