With My Huge Blended Family, I’ve Resorted To Labeling My Food

I woke up in a completely bitchy mood, as I seem to do at least once a week nowadays. This has nothing to do with lack of sleep, but more of the fact that THERE WASN’T ANY FUCKING ORANGE JUICE LEFT. Yes, I need a glass of orange juice every morning to start my day. And when I don’t get my orange juice I get like this.

The problem is I have a blended family. I went from having just my daughter, to having three pre-teen girls, a fiancé, and a live-in nanny. This means the grocery-shopping cart is now seven times as full as it once was and also the bill is a lot larger. When my fiancé and I discussed the merging of our families as well as the merging of chores, so they are EQUAL (but not really. I still do more. Ha!), we decided that his ONE chore would be to do the grocery shopping. This is because his children eat way differently (and more, because they are older and growing and there are two of them!) than my daughter who pretty much eats pasta, rice and vegetables and that’s it. She’s easy to shop for. My fiancé’s girls eat so much more, including junk food, which I’m NOT a fan of for children. But they’re his kids, so whatever.

The problem with a big family is that often I’m finding that when I open the fridge there is nothing in there for ME, especially on our days with his children. I require only six things in the house at all times – Diet Coke, M&M peanuts, yogurt, orange juice, milk and eggs. But when I wake up these days, after my fiancé’s children wake up (they have to get up super early for school) I come down and, WHOA!, there is an ounce of orange juice left, no fucking eggs (they like eggs too) no milk (they like making chocolate milk) and then I’m like, “BUT WHERE IS MY FOOD!”

My fiancé says he shops for me, but really, I think he’s more shopping for his kids, since I don’t remember the last time I ate a fruit roll up or slices of ham. This is why the POST IT NOTES have come out. I tried hiding the food or drinks that I need on hand, but even though I put my Diet Coke at the VERY back of the fridge, his kids find it and then I come home and all I’m thinking is I can’t WAIT to have a Diet Coke (I have only one a day.) And then there isn’t one. And that puts me in a mood. The same thing happened with my M&M’s. It turns out, even though my fiancé says he bought them SPECIFICALLY for me, his kids ate them all.

So, the most recent time he came home with a bag, I wrote a Post-It note on it that said, “REBECCA’S.”

I recently read a Facebook post of a friend of mine who has six children. All one of her kids wanted for his birthday was an entire carton of chocolate milk for himself. (How easy and cheap a gift is that?) But, alas, the kid didn’t get his wish because he has siblings who obviously didn’t listen to the mother’s rule that the carton was specifically for the birthday boy, who cried, of course, when he realized he didn’t get the one wish he wanted for his birthday. I feel for this kid, because even though it’s not my birthday, all I want is the food I WANT.

I know this sounds crazy, but my fiancé and I actually kind of got into a grocery shop fight, where I said, “I’m just going to do my own shopping from now on. AND I’M GOING TO PUT NOTES ON MY THINGS.”

I’m sure all families (those with kids) have the issue of opening their fridge and seeing there is an ounce of orange juice or milk left. What is it with children who put that back in the fridge like that? HELLO!!!! There’s nothing in there! It’s like a bad joke. You see the carton but there’s nothing in it.

So, tell me big families, how do you shop? How do you PROTECT the few items that you NEED to have from the other humans in your house? Are Post-It notes really the answer? (Between you and me, I have a case of Diet Coke hidden with my shoes in my closet in my bedroom. Yes, that’s what my household has come to! So, please, help me.)

(photo: Ed Phillips / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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    • CMJ

      Unfortunately, there aren’t enough post-it notes in the world to deter hungry kids from food…especially if it’s in the house.

      Buy more or get to it first.

    • Daisy

      I SO sympathize! I recently moved back in with my parents after about a year and a half of living on my own. It was more expensive buying my own groceries but I always had what I wanted, when I wanted it. Now, my parents don’t buy the stuff I like, and when they do, my little sisters eat it all. So I’ve resorted to doing my own shopping again, hiding a stash of non-perishables in my room, and anything that has to go in the fridge is labelled as mine.
      Of course, I also recently found out that my dad and both my sisters drink milk and juice right out of the carton, so now I feel like nothing in the fridge is really safe, regardless of labels…

    • Venessa

      After reading this article, I feel like I just overheard a very private conversation where a couple is fighting. The same article could have been written without making it seem like the author is venting and hit ‘Send/Post’ before reading through it again. It actually looks more like a teenager’s Facebook post (what with all the words in caps and so much “Me Me ME ME” going on).
      Honestly curious here.. Rebecca, does you fiance read your articles? And if so, how does he feel about you airing all this dirty laundry?
      It would be nice to get an opinion from someone else in the family. How does he feel when there is very little or no orange juice left in the fridge? What do the girls think when they aren’t allowed to eat/drink certain items in the fridge? Do they have the option of getting extra from the store so they can have some?

      • rebecca eckler

        My fiance is fine with it. I talked to him about this article, as I do before I write most of them, beforehand. He finds me funny (at least someone does :) Also, I have a wonderful relationship with my bonus children. They laughed at the post-it notes.

      • chickadee

        I’m curious, though — if you have a wonderful relationship with your bonus children, and they thought your notes were amusing, then why do you need to ask for advice here? Why don’t you just sit down with them and explain the problem?

      • rebecca eckler

        it’s called a conversation….

      • chickadee

        What, this post is a conversation? You should be having it with the family, not us.

      • rebecca eckler

        Ah, chickadee, my family doesn’t pay me to have conversations with them. And yes, the point of blogs is to start a conversation. And look at us! We are! I have to say, you are kind of growing on me. :)

      • chickadee

        Your article is disingenuous, then, if you already have a solution and you are just going on about a problem that isn’t really a problem. I have to say, I hope they pay you a lot to sound incapable of handling adult problems, because that’s unfortunately how you come across a lot of the time (although I expect you exaggerate for effect).

      • rebecca eckler

        I will never win you over, will I?

      • chickadee

        Maybe not, but this comment made me laugh..! :)

      • rebecca eckler

        well, I will keep on trying then!

      • http://twitter.com/CherylUpshaw Cheryl Upshaw

        Hi Rebecca!
        I like the post-its. I come from a blended family, too. I get the frustration of not being able to eat the things you want to eat (it’s such a simple, visceral pleasure!), and that sharing matters. Maybe, just buy two of everything, and split the fridge. One shelf is just for you. The others (which have all the foods they like! With OJ and eggs, and everything!) are shared. Consequences for eating the forbidden food include extra chores. Maybe even extend it a little. Everyone gets a little something that no one else gets to take. Just a thought!

      • Sara610

        I have to say I agree with chickadee here. It sounds like your stepdaughters/bonus daughters are old enough that they should be able to respond to an honest, respectful discussion about this, especially if from the foundation of a strong relationship. Have you tried that? Post-It notes with your name on them really aren’t a conversation, but maybe an honest, rational talk would.

        I don’t really have any great advice, because I’ve honestly never encountered a family dynamic where people felt the need to “protect” food that they felt was theirs from others in their family. The one exception that I will say is that in high school, my older sister had a job and used some of her paycheck to buy food items that she specifically liked. She did label those and our parents made sure that we (my little sister and I) understood that older sister had bought those items out of her wages and while she was encouraged to share, we were not to touch unless invited.

      • Dave

        How about kids who drink out of the milk and juice/Pop Gallon. Eat out of the family ice cream /other foods in containers, instead of using a clean spoon to put some in a bowl for themselves.
        These kids argue when asked if they washed their hands before getting food to eat and rarely brush their teeth unless told to. Then tell the adult to ” Get used to it, you’ll learn to live with it.” or worst ” Fuck you..”

    • VAA

      Drive by college campus in about 3 days, pick up discarded mini fridge, check functionality, disinfect (x2), hide in bedroom. Bonus: stores “adult” beverages in addition to orange juice and diet coke.

    • CBB

      Have you thought about how a post-it system is going to affect your relationship with your future stepdaughters? Try to see this from their point-of-view.
      Their parents are split-up, which isn’t easy on any kid. Then their dad moves in this new lady with a kid of her own, and has a baby with her. (Don’t forget the insecurity and jealousy that comes along with a half-sibling.)
      Also, (again, from a pre-teen girls P-O-V), new lady is CRAZY and think all the orange juice in the fridge belongs to her. So crazy new lady goes on a post-it frenzy, like the world’s most vindictive and OCD-stricken college roomie.
      Finally, I don’t think it’s a bright idea to publicly compare your child to his kids. For one thing, over time, they should start to be *your* kids as well. Like it or not, you’re going to be a part of their lives. And comments like, “Well he lets *his* kids eat junk food, but whatever…” are drawing a negative comparison between his children and your own. Which is a huge no-no if you really want this to be a “blended” family, and not just a bunch of people trying to live together.

      • Jules

        I think you are clueless as to the reality of a blended family. I come from one, we are as close as can be, but my mom never had a say in anything my brothers from my dad’s first marriage did. It was a really hard place for my mom because they were exhibiting poor behavior and she could not do a thing about it. It is such a fine line and delicate balance. They are his kids, she had no say in the fashion they were raised in to which they have become accustomed and has a limited ability to discipline them too. It is okay to have boundaries, and it is okay to let kids know that. If I were in the author’s shoes, I would have a talk with the hubs and tell him what’s been going on and then have a small discussion about it with all of the kids so it’s not accusatory. Just say “I am an adult contributing to this household and from now on I am gong to label things so you all know they’re mine and I expect you will all respect that.” Also, not taking the last of anything that is not explicitly yours is just rude as is leaving barely any OJ in the carton.

      • StephKay

        I come from sort of a combo of all three of these situations. I’m the half sibling. My mother started seeing my father when my big sister was ten, and when she was thirteen and not getting along well with my dad at all, my mother had the pleasure of announcing she was unexpectedly pregnant and pops was moving in.

        My dad was horrible. He never let anyone forget that she wasn’t his child, but because she was (naturally) acting out and her dad wasn’t in the picture he took it upon himself to have a say in everything to do with her. The rules all came from him, without the benefit of making those rules as a father figure. Things like post it notes division were, in this case, something he would have done and something that would have been extremely damaging for her. I can get how blended families don’t always work that way and in your moms case might have been practical, but when all other signs are waving a giant red flag of “we are separate, I don’t value you equally” something as petty as orange juice division can be really painful for a kid. My dad ended up employing the same bs with me when I got older, and I can tell you that even something as minor as knowing that normal loving families share groceries but my parent/step-parent won’t can be a real slap in the face.

        Of course we don’t really know how the authors step children feel about her or vice versa so this may not be an issue at all, I just don’t think it’s fair to write off CBBs comments as totally clueless. I grew up in a blended family too, and I think those points are dead accurate.

      • CBB

        I grew up in a blended family. Not clueless in the least.

        And, while your blended family may have worked (or not worked) a certain way, in plenty of households do the step-parents take a more active role.

      • chickadee

        And a lot of it depends upon the age of the stepchildren. My stepdaughter was 11 when we got married and my stepson was 9, so I stepped a bit more carefully in the area of rules and discipline. Even now my husband really takes the lead there, although they both respect me as an adult and as someone who can make rules and expect that they follow them. Mutual respect is our policy, and for the most part it works well.

      • Jules

        It’s not all Brady Bunch. There are a lot of considerations. My mom remarried when I was super young and due to the really messy divorce, my dad raised us like his own. He never had to worry about offending anyone or us telling him “you’re not my dad!’ because he was. But when kids are older and the other parent is active and in the picture you do not have the right to call yourself a parent. You are not. My mom got that, she would have loved to play a more active role, but couldn’t because she was their father’s wife and they already had a mother. While being an adult in an authoritative role comes with an expectation of respect it does not mean your spouses children are your children.

    • gnatselbow

      Yeah,it kind of comes off like your mad at some roommates who are eating your stuff. If you’re a blended family, then shouldn’t the food be for the family? I can see individual preferences/allergy requirements, but overall if a lot of people are all eating the same foods and therefore running out quickly – buy more.

    • ETD

      I sympathize. I became step mother to 2 teenage girls. We have had repeated discussions about lunch type food (pudding in a cup, granola bars, frozen meals etc) being for lunches only-not to eat when you come home or at night. I work and they go to school and were constantly eating the easy to make/take food at home which means there wasn’t any left for lunches. I learned 2 things quickly. 1- they can compromise with you on new “rules” since it’s a family, they need to share and your SO needs to speak up on this too. 2- you or your SO need to buy more of the things they like or you end up fighting about it every day which is not worth it.

      • rebecca eckler

        I need a bigger fridge. Sigh.

    • chickadee

      I agree with Venessa that this isn’t the best way to communicate problems, nor is it fair to your fiance to use this as fodder for a post.

      You need to have a mature discussion of the food issue with your fiance. He is obviously not buying enough of the basics for the week, and that can be solved by buying more at the time he shops. This can also be solved by making additional trips to the grocery store when you notice that supplies are low. There are also useful things called grocery lists, where you note what you need to buy and how much of each thing.

      Regarding junk food, you cannot expect children who are accustomed to consuming junk on a regular basis to refrain from eating “your” food simply because you think they should. Do hide your food if you are going to get this upset about it. It isn’t worth ruining family harmony because “his kids” are consuming your personal food items.

    • Justme

      My mother used to divide up the leftover mashed potatoes into two separate containers with my name on one and my brother’s on the other after that one time we physically wrestled over the last bit left in the fridge. But then again, we were kids and siblings….so fighting over food is more understandable.

      I would say maybe you should just be more proactive in your grocery shopping? Don’t wait until your precious orange juice is completely out but instead buy another jug when you see it’s running low?

    • Fabel

      I would buy a mini-fridge and, I dunno, hide it in your closet or something. Stock it with the items you NEED to have for yourself, & then don’t touch the communal refrigerator items. Seriously, sticking notes on everything is going to end very badly for you.

    • Lesley

      I agree with the other posters that your kids may feel unwelcome if they open the fridge and all the food has post-its. Can you just buy a mini-fridge and keep in the garage/storage room or something for your food? It would be easier for them to remember don’t take food from that fridge without permission, because they are just used to taking food from the regular fridge.

      • rebecca eckler

        not a bad idea!

      • Blooming_Babies

        I have this problem with my own kids and we do this. It removes the hostility and allows for a simple out of sight out of mind option.

      • Sara610

        I really like this idea.

    • Andrea

      I can’t imagine what it would feel like for me to open the fridge in my home (as a child) and find that things have my step-mother’s name all over them. Because it’s not like I am feeling quite insecure already, what with my father moving in with someone else (not my mother) that already has a daughter (who apparently can do no wrong) and then has an adorable baby boy with her (something that was very obvious he wanted). Not that I would feel displaced or anything, what with me not being able to get things off the fridge lest my stepmother went bezerk.

    • Jess

      I’ve read your other articles on your fiance’s children- and I know you really love them so this isn’t a me/them situtation.
      But be aware- for pre-teens the lady their daddy was dating can morph (in their eyes) to THE ENEMY very quickly.
      Just sit them down and say “hey I love it when you guys are over- but can you do me a favor and leave me some food- otherwise I’m starved in the morning.”
      I’m assuming you have them on a rostered baisis- so what’s to stop your fiance from getting more orange juice and eggs the night before they come over?

      This is parenting situation as well- do you guys really want to co-raise a pair of inconsiderate brats who just take-take-take?

    • brebay

      You have to pick your battles with blended families, and this just isn’t worth it. If it’s that big a deal, buy a dorm fridge for your bedroom, which is about right considering you’re acting like a teenager.

    • K.

      Get yourself a 6 pack of Diet Coke and a couple packs of M&Ms and hide them underneath your bed for an emergency stash. Get a can of frozen OJ and leave it in the freezer for other such emergencies–teens will never take it upon themselves to make the OJ from frozen. If your kids eat the last of something, send them down to the local store to get it for you when you need it (as our parents did whenever we brought the car home on empty).

      OR, put on your big girl panties and either deal or get into the car and make a special trip.

      Either way, stop acting like you’re twelve.

    • Kathy

      I have four kids and a husband so I understand your dilemma…to a point. The first thing you must do is to LET IT GO. Don’t take it as a personal affront when the kids (especially the step kids) finish the orange juice. They aren’t doing it out of spite. Buy a second fridge, put it in the far reaches of the basement and buy your must-haves in bulk. If the reinforcements are not convenient (ie, in the kitchen fridge) the kids are less likely to finish them. If this doesn’t work, find an alternative that is appealing to you but not them. Switch to pineapple juice if no one else likes it. Buy liquid egg whites or vanilla diet coke if it means the kids won’t touch it. This may just be one of those issues you have to compromise on and honestly, if this is the biggest bone of contention in your blended household then I would count your blessings.

    • Ann

      Labelling food was a way of life growing up with 2 brothers. Today with a 23 year old son we continue to label anything ‘special’ both in the fridge or on a shelf – otherwise it’s ‘fair game’ and you can be sure it will be eaten before morning!

    • Jamie

      Am I the only one whose kids don’t have free-for-all access to the kitchen?

      • JAN

        Do your children need permission before they eat? May I ask what their ages are? Yes, my four year old asks (generally b/c he needs help getting the food) my nine year old can already cook basics and doesn’t need to ask to fry an egg or drink a glass of OJ.

      • CBB

        My child is three and is allowed to fix certain snacks for himself. (We keep the stuff he’s allowed to self-serve in an easy-to-reach location, along with utensils.) If he heads to the kitchen and we don’t want him to eat anything at that time (it’s almost dinner, we’re about to leave, etc.) we just tell him not to get anything right then.

        Personally, I believe that not being highly restrictive of his eating and letting him display some independence now will help him establish healthy eating habits in the long-run. Just my opinion.

      • C.J.

        We do the same thing, we are not restrictive about food at all. The kids have free access to the kitchen. We don’t even restrict junk food, they can eat junk and drink pop whenever they want. We do talk about the effects healthy and unhealthy food has on your body and why it is important to have a healthy body. My kids rarely choose pop or koolaid, they drink more water than anything. They usually choose one unhealthy snack per day, usually a granola bar or a couple of cookies, the rest of the time they choose healthy food. I believe kids won’t make a big deal out of junk food if we don’t. I figure if they think they can’t have it they are more likely to want it. Besides, they have to live with their bodies, better they learn to be responsible for them now so they will know how to make healthy choices without me standing over them.

      • Venessa

        So true! I am doing the same with my kid – teach him to make the right decisions early on and encourage healthy eating habits.
        I feel that if you are too restrictive now, the kids might grow up and develop bad habits like binge eating once they can finally access food on their own.
        It is the same with any habit I think..the more restrictions you put on them, the more they want to rebel.

    • meg

      Is talking to your future stepdaughters not an option? The passive-aggressive post-it note system works well enough for annoying roommates you will never see after the end of the semester, but these are your children, too, if this guy is going to be a permanent fixture … You honestly sound kind of resentful of him bringing them into the family. (If you marry this guy, they ARE your FAMILY.)

      Also, why can’t you discuss a more equal division of labor?

      It sounds like you’re having major communication issues. You don’t need a method for dealing with those evil orange-juice stealers. You need to figure out why you can’t discuss your frustrations without getting hostile and starting a “grocery fight.”

    • Byron

      All this possessive sentiment is poisonous towards a happy family setting. You’re complaining here about young girls, children, eating too much.

      Yes, yes, a few decades ago people would complain about their kids being picky and not eating anything, now we have people complaining about kids eating “their” food. This just…reeks selfishness to me, sorry.

      Just buy more food, a lot more, 4 times more than you’re buying now. Buy enough so that even if they DO eat as much as they can, there’s always gonna be some left for you. If you need orange juice this much, buy 3 gallons a week. Even if it ends up going bad and you have to throw some away, it’s comparatively insignificant to poisoning your relationship with your family and those poor little girls whose only sin is to eat well and drink too much OJ.

    • Kat

      I don’t come from a blended family, however, by the age of 9 I was aware certain things simplyl weren’t mine and if I wanted it I had to ask. Like chocolate milk, my brother,me and my dad all LOVED chocolate milk. So mom bought a gallon of milk for my brother and I to share and a half gallon for my dad. I knew even at 9 that wasn’t mine and if for some reason we were out my brother and I had to ask and if the answer was no…it was no. While I think the post it notes isn’t the solution I also think that someone needs to talk to these kids about just taking what they want (as well as not putting one sip of OJ box back in the fridge). And when did gets get a free for all on soda and snacks? I was NEVER permitted to just take a soda or snacks without clearing it with my parents before hand until I was a teenager and had proven I wasn’t going to chug 6 sodas because I could.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      I don’t have kids but I do have a similar grocery shopping/food issue. My fiancee and I eat different things for the most part, and while our first arrangement living together was “I buy for 2, cook for 2, and you do the dishes” it became clear that was causing some friction in our relationship. Both thought the other got the wrong end of the deal, someone ate all the chicken, etc. Rather than argue about it, we now shop together physically but keep our foods for ourselves and do our own cooking and dishes (except I do end up making meals for both of us sometimes, because I enjoy it).

      My friends think this is very strange, but it works for us. And that’s kind of my point. Post-its seem passive aggressive to some, but work as an overall system for others. Separate food for a couple seems tedious to some, but works for us. As long as it isn’t done vindictively or isn’t met with frustration, sometimes things like this can work in everyone’s favor.

    • glowgirl

      I come from a blended family with a step-father who is very…greedy…when it comes to what’s in the kitchen. Even still, and he’s almost 70. He has always made sure he gets the first, and biggest, portion. He’ll even push ahead to serve himself before very young children or guests. If there are treats in the house, he’ll take much of it “before everyone else gets to it” even if others go without. When I was little, he would sit with a liter of ice cream and eat it in front of us, no one else allowed to have any.
      He has taught me about selfishness, and I’ll find myself acting the same way sometimes. To this day I still have to consciously keep myself in check if I find myself acting very selfishly.
      Just remember, things like this always go beyond the today.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      I had this same issue with housemates, and what eventually happened is everyone labeled their stuff, and there were no more issues. If the kids/fiancee want milk or OJ or eggs, they can buy their own.

    • Been there…

      Find something that they don’t like and make it your favorite. I have 2 stepsons and they constantly eat up everything unless I buy a special kind just for me!
      We also have a backup frig in the garage. I buy 3 gallons of milk at a time.

    • from,omegle

      this is stupid why can people not share more proof blended familes dont work