Making Peace with Your Partner's Spendthrift Ways

by Dianna Huff

My significant other grocery shops the way some people clothes shop. He loves to wander up and down the aisles, buying whatever strikes his fancy or appetite. An hour later he'll come home with bags of food-Haas avocados that are perfectly ripened, pita bread for sandwiches, cans of albacore tuna, canned kidney beans, and corn tortillas. Sometimes he has a plan for all this-he likes to cook, too. But most of the time, the stuff ends up in the pantry or freezer and it is up to me to figure out what to do with it.

At first, his recreational shopping habits bugged me. I had put us on a strict grocery budget and he was throwing us out of whack! I would very carefully look over sale papers, make my weekly menu and list, and consult my calculator as I compared prices. I didn't want or need the large can of pineapple chunks that he had brought home from one of his expeditions!

But after a few months of this, I realized that whereas for me grocery shopping was a chore, for him it was a pleasure. It helped him relax. It also full-filled a deep-seated desire in him to provide for his family. Once I saw his shopping for what it was, I stopped nagging him and started using his habit to my advantage.

The first thing I did was begin to keep an inventory of what we had on hand. We have tall, deep cabinet spaces and things tend to fall behind each other or get "lost." Climbing up on a chair and actually looking at the back of the shelves helps me keep better track of supplies. I also go through the freezer and refrigerator on a weekly basis.

Inventory in hand, I then go through my cookbooks looking for recipes that call for the ingredients we have on hand. I've made great chicken enchiladas from the sour cream and chicken breasts he bought one week; another time I was able to make taco salads complete with tortilla "bowls."

After I make my weekly menu, I then double check supplies and make my grocery list. I try to incorporate leftovers as much as possible (his cooking for a small army is another issue altogether!). My list then just becomes fill-in items, fresh produce, and staples. A bag of spinach in the bottom of the fridge and some eggs are turned into quiche. (He had bought the frozen pie crusts weeks before.) Two apple turnovers coupled with the remaining ice-cream makes a delicious dessert.

Because I have started working with him rather than against him, cooking has become fun for me again. Finding new recipes inspires me to try different foods and it keeps me from falling into food ruts. I also like going through our pantry and thinking, "hhhmmmmm . . . how can I use . . . . ."

I still keep my price book, and I still keep track of our food costs. However, I've bumped up that part of the budget to give him room to shop and have cut back in other areas.

When I know he's on his way to the market and something is at a good price, I tell him to pick it up. If we go together, I point out the more expensive items and tell him the sales price. So while I haven't been able to stop him from buying boneless chicken breasts, at least he comes home with whole chickens when they are .39 cents a pound!

But most importantly, we have peace in our house again and that to me is worth all the money he spends on name brand orange juice. Now if I could just find a way to sneak the frozen stuff into the carton . . . . .

Dianna Huff is a communications consultant who specializes in marketing writing for high-tech and industrial companies. She can be reached at Visit her website at

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