October 19, 2020

Food wars: Can’t we share?

While you don’t literally have to guard the fridge, precautions like labeling groceries can prevent future fights over food. (Illustration by Keryn Brenzel)

Dear readers,

This year I made the decision to live off-campus for the first time in my college career. As you may later infer, it’s been interesting so far. The Signal is introducing this Residential Year Experience (RYE) column to share some advice acquired from my lovely and frustrating experiences last semester. Enjoy.

So you’ve made the decision to move off-campus. You found/coerced friends to find a house to serve as your off-campus haven. You’ve visited an array of houses, rooting out the formerly all-boy houses because they smell of more than cooties. You’ve found a not-so-racist landlord. You sign the lease. You’re congratulating yourself for being such a grown-up. No more cafeteria food. No more Community Advisors, flashing IDs and no signing in friends/strangers. Freedom.

At first you and your housemates coexist with a Brady Bunch harmony. You insist, then they insist; everyone’s grinning and sharing and laughing.

Then the honeymoon ends.

And it’s more than likely that what begins the end is something you hadn’t even considered to be an issue — food. How can something so basic be cause for chaos? You and your housemates aren’t barbarians, after all. You can share.

False. You are and you can’t.

Food boundaries are something that need to be established immediately in your house. What are you willing to share versus what should everyone keep their grimy paws off of? Make it known. Certain things like butter, eggs, spices, salad dressings, milk, coffee and condiments are easily shared, as long as you rotate who buys each. Keep record of who buys what to avoid confrontation.

In the beginning, I know it is tempting to take a “what’s mine is yours” attitude, especially if you like the people you are living with — which, if you don’t, you have another species of problems — but ultimately, it’s best to be realistic. Eventually, someone isn’t going to share as much as someone else, and problems will ensue. Or you’ll sit through lab dreaming of a meal you will make when you get home, only to find that someone ate a crucial ingredient, so it’s spaghetti, again. People do crazy things when an avocado goes missing.

You are paying for groceries. This is REAL money, not end of semester, ready to burn points, and you can’t afford to feed everyone. Label your food or introduce a color-coordinated sticker system. Though it may seem a little hostile at first, eventually you may not have to label things, and people will ask before they take. It’s considerably more difficult to sneak food with red sharpie warning of a certain name’s pending wrath.

For those of you moving off-campus next year, get your future housemates together and talk about how you will handle the food situation. Don’t pretend you have a Sesame Street sense of sharing — this is everyday food, not splitting a snack at lunch.

Ward off creating martyrs and mooches by clearly defining what’s acceptable. It’s always better to discuss potential and occurring issues with your housemates — food-related and otherwise — to avoid creating a not-so-civil war over a granola bar.

Have your own off-campus stories? Have questions you want addressed in this column? Contact Katie Brenzel at brenzel2@tcnj.edu.

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