Science would have us believe that men can control their hunger better than women can. Indeed, a 2009 study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory revealed that men who tried to inhibit their food cravings actually wound up wanting the food less, whereas when women tried to inhibit their cravings, they said they weren’t as hungry, but their brain scans indicated that their desire for the food was still just as strong.
I am here to refute this notion that men have more self-control than women when it comes to food. That’s right. I am here to tell you that I live with a very hungry man. And you know what? It’s costing me.
I wake up most mornings in sweet anticipation of enjoying a nice glass of pomegranate cherry juice with my breakfast — juice that, usually, we’ve bought at the grocery store just the day before. Too often have I gone to pick up the carton to find only a splash left. Sometimes, it’s completely empty.
Other days, I’ll go to grab a granola bar from the cupboard to bring with me to work — only to find the entire six-pack we recently purchased is, you guessed it, empty.
I’m not alone in my plight. As one friend tells me of the hungry man she lives with: “At least once a week I'll come home thinking about a particular leftover or snack to find it demolished.”
Not only is living with a food monster who strikes when you’re not around frustrating; it can also get kind of expensive.
The replacement factor
How, exactly, are the hungry man’s actions costing me?
Well, it’s simple: instead of things like strawberries, nuts, cheese and juice lasting for an entire week, they disappear from our kitchen within 24 hours. Groceries just don’t last as long in our house as they should, and so we need to replenish them sooner than we normally would.
And even though we split the cost of groceries 50/50 (a decision we made a while back to address this very problem), my partner’s Hungry Hungry Hippo-level metabolism means I’m still spending more on food than I would if I lived alone because of what I like to call the Replacement Factor.
Here are some of the things the hungry man will often finish in just one night, and the rough cost of each:
Granola bars: $3.49
Sure, it’s not going to break the bank, but replacing these items after only a day or two has the potential to amount to an extra $20 a week in groceries.
In the hungry man’s defence
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: Lisa, if he splits the cost of food with you 50/50, then he’s entitled to it just as much as you are. It’s just tough luck that he finishes it before you get a chance to have any.
And I would kindly accept that rebuttal.
Another acceptable defence for the hungry man’s food theft is that he’s a chef and his hours are completely bonkers. He usually doesn’t eat until 4 or 5 p.m. and then not again until 1 or 2 a.m. when he gets home from work. His ravenous tendencies, when seen from this perspective, are understandable.
He’s also aware of his actions and has made great strides to be better about it all. For instance, as we’re unpacking the week’s groceries, he’ll often urge me to squirrel away however many nuts (sorry, that pun was too easy) I want to bring with me to work for the week and he’ll have whatever’s leftover. He also cooks delicious meals for me whenever he’s home — something I’ll admit doesn’t get reciprocated nearly enough. And he grows food in our garden that he knows I love and will use: green onions, kale, radishes, and strawberries abound.
All of these actions show us, Your Honour, that the hungry man’s food theft is not malicious. And that’s why, instead of breaking up with him over an empty jug of juice, I’ve found creative ways to block his binging and prevent my disappointment.
How to deter the hungry man
Over time, I’ve come to rely on a set of strategies to make food last longer in our apartment. If you, too, live with a hungry man, feel free to borrow them.
Note that these are most helpful when the hungry man is not in the house at the same time as you are. In my case, if we’re both home, it’s likely I will just yell from the bedroom as I’m crawling into bed, something like “please just leave me one of the bagels!”
However, if you have opposing schedules and aren’t often home at the same time (which, in my experience, is when the hungry man is most likely to strike), then here are some strategies I like to employ:
1. Send a clearly worded text message advising him of what he can and cannot eat
I know this makes me sound like the food monster, but hear me out.
If I can see that we’re nearing the end of a grocery item, alarm bells start to go off in my head. If I hope to still enjoy some of said item within the next 24 hours, then I need to be proactive. So, I’ll send a gentle text message asking him to please leave me some of whatever the food happens to be for the next day.
Or when I cook dinner for myself and make enough for me, enough for him, and enough to bring for my lunch the next day, I’ll send him a text message telling him which Pyrex container is for him, and which is for my lunch.
But sometimes sending a text message isn’t good enough. Sometimes, the hungry man forgets. And by the time he comes home and enters binge mode, there’s no telling what will happen. Which leads us to a more aggressive version of strategy number one.
2. Leave pieces of paper on the leftovers with the words “Yes” and “No” on them
This is very helpful for the hungry man when he’s too tired to care or think after a long day of work. “Yes” means exactly that. It’s yours to enjoy! Eat your heart out! “No” means back away immediately. These are leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.
I often imagine the hungry man opening the fridge door at 2 a.m., spotting a Pyrex container full of pasta and reaching for it, only to have the word “No” stop him dead in his tracks. The message is unambiguous. And it brings me great joy.
3. Take my share of the food first, and leave him the rest
While this strategy is perhaps the most logical, it unfortunately only works for food that I plan to take out of the house and out of the hungry man’s sight, like snacks I bring to work. If I’m not hungry for, say, a dozen chocolate covered almonds at THIS VERY MOMENT, that’s fine. But the hungry man might be. It’s in my best interest to at least put what I think I’ll want to eat throughout the week in a reusable container and get it out of the house — stat. To the hungry man, unattended and unaccounted-for food is fair game.
4. Hide my food in my dresser drawer
Alas, we’ve reached more desperate measures. Now, this strategy only really works for snacks or packaged foods that can’t perish. But speaking from personal experience, the dresser drawer is a great place to stash a bag of Doritos or a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
I'm pretty sure I learned about hiding food from my mother, who to this day will hide her snack foods in a specific secret cupboard in order to keep my father from eating them when she’s not around. Whoever said we don’t become our parents?
So, there you have it.
Living with a hungry man might drive up your weekly grocery bill, but there are ways to curb the added expense. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, the hungry man himself will give you tips.
Just the other day, he said to me: “You know, if you want to keep me from drinking all the juice, just buy orange juice. I can’t chug orange juice.”
Noted, hungry man. Noted.