My Roommate Keeps Stealing My Food, but She Totally Denies It. What Am I Supposed to Do?

published May 9, 2019
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Credit: The Kitchn

Dear Marge,

I’m really pissed off. I love good food, and I cook and eat out at decent places fairly often. Most of the time when I go to a great restaurant, I bring home my leftovers and look forward to a great lunch the next day. When I cook, I usually make enough for several meals during the week.

When I first started thinking there was less food than I remembered, I chalked it up to eating more or cooking less than I thought. But when it just always seemed like there was a little less of my food than I remembered, I started paying close attention, and then I was sure: My roommate is stealing my food.

It bugs me on so many levels. For one thing, she is perfectly capable of cooking her own food — she just chooses not to. (Trying not to use the L word here.) Plus, I try to “manage my resources”: I plan my time and money around knowing I won’t need to buy lunch for a few days, or cook when I get home late from work. But here is the really big one: If she wants something of mine, shouldn’t she ask? I mean, the woman just takes my food like she is entitled to it. What’s next: my favorite top?

Okay, so I didn’t just take this lying down. I asked her really nicely to please respect my stuff in the fridge, and she acted as if she didn’t know what I was talking about. She sort of dismissively said she hadn’t touched my stuff, that she only eats what is hers.  After that, I labeled my stuff with sticky notes, which somehow all mysteriously fall off the containers.

This all makes me feel super petty, by the way — but I feel like she’s forcing me to be this way. What do I do?

Signed,

Pissed Off and Hungry

Dear POH,

Your roommate, for what it’s worth, is kind of a jerk. Nah, not kind of. I don’t like to dismiss a person for one bad trait, but she really went over the edge when you called her out and she still didn’t stop stealing.

And yes, I think you should worry about your clothes or any valuables lying around. Her behavior speaks to your roommate’s moral compass, and it sure isn’t pointing north.

I am going to assume it is not an option to get rid of your roommate, and that you have to figure out a way to live with this. To that end: Don’t put your food in clear plastic bags or containers. It is more enticing when you can see what’s inside, and can picture just taking a few tastes from it.

Store food in ways that require a seal to be broken. For example, place that container of leftover chicken breasts in a brown paper bag and staple the top of the bag shut. If she has to tear the bag open, she can’t be stealth in her criminal activities.

Mark the bag with a sharpie. Sharpie ink won’t disappear, smudge or “fall off” (uh huh) like sticky notes. Don’t label it with your name; write a message, like a picture of skull and crossbones followed by DO NOT EAT. (I did this with ingredients I needed for recipe testing when my kids were teens and it was very effective.)

If your roommate had done this once or twice, I would not suggest it is a deep-seated character flaw. The fact that she does it repeatedly and lies about it is all you need to know about her, though — you know this trait exists, so watch the rest of your stuff, too.

And, it goes without saying: Get a new roommate as soon as you can.

— Marge

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