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Mom asks to go food shopping with me once a week. I go alone 5-6 times a week. I buy produce, rice, and whole grain cereals. When Mom goes she buys cupcakes, caramels, candy, cookies, and frappuccinos, usually several of each. I am NOT looking for a "let them eat whatever they want" versus "why do you even have junk food in the house?" debate. I just try to strike a balance on that.


What concerns me is the waste. I try to make sure we have some of everything because it's inevitable that she will want whatever I didn't buy. She's obsessed with the worry that she'll run out of cupcakes or candy, so she gets more before she's eaten what we have.


Before I arrived, they bought a new fridge and kept the old one so they'd have room for everything, even though there were only two people and Dad barely eats. She buys more food than either of them can eat and he tends to buy things he used to like but now forgets to eat. Neither of them replaces lids, tops, or covers the food with foil or saran. Food goes bad either because it dries out or there's just too much of it.


Mom likes to buy a whole roasted chicken, but then only wants a chicken sandwich once. Two weeks will go by before she wants another and by that time I've fed the chicken to our dogs and cats so it isn't wasted.


Night before last, she bought 3 boxes of instant pudding even though we already have 3 boxes at home that we've had for 4 months.


Do I just resign myself both to the madness AND the waste?

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I have had to back several times and rewrite this because I am so upset over it. It touched a nerve in my psyche. I guess I am just venting, I don't have good answers for Familyslave except to encourage her to stop being one.

I was born in 1933 during the depression. My mother went 3 days without food in 1931. That marks you. Then in 1940 both my brother who was 2, and I who was 6 were very ill, grocery stores were not open the hours they are now. My dad was working long hours out of town and not home when the stores were open. My mother didn't drive and we ran out of food. She had to leave both Bill and I alone to go to the store. I vividly remember her turning off the gas and electricity at the meter, and the water outside the house. Then warning us not to move off the couch unless the house was on fire, she hurried to the store. She swore that would never happen again. She stockpiled food. Every summer we would can a years worth of food.

When I left home in 1952, I was determined to make it on my own. I was still in High School and I went hungry at the end of every month. I remember not eating lunch (no money and no food). My friends would want to share but pride wouldn't let me.

For those of you who have never gone hungry, because you had no money for food, you can't even imagine the effect it has on you. At one part of my life, I had to have a little food with me all the time. If I went two blocks to get gasoline, I would have an apple or banana in my purse, it was a security blanket.

That said, I hope to God I NEVER have to live with either one of my children or have to depend on them. All the health food addicts don't seem to remember that your parent lived to 90 or something eating what you consider junk food. Also, when you have lost all your family of origin, all your friends, your body is failing, you are in pain all the time, taste, hearing, sight, is going or gone. All you have left is eating, who cares? All of the "I don't allow them this, or allow them that" grates on me.

That said, it sounds like her mother is maybe in dementia and if she has hoarded all her life, it isn't going to stop now.

The Serenity Prayer, is a good idea.

Regarding the Chicken, I like the idea of using the leftovers, we do it all the time. I love chicken and dumplings.
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Reply to MaryKathleen
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PureeMasterFlex Jul 14, 2019
I agree if someone is used to eating a certain way it's mean to suddenly make them go vegan or all junk food or anything drastic. That's just wrong. I have also gone for days without food in the past and I know what you mean about having that backup plan. I used to get so hungry at work and think to myself "but I can wait till I get home, if I eat that soup now there will be no food in my desk!" Irrational sure, but I understand. I would never turn down food. Being afraid of hunger made me chubby. That being said, my mom always wanted a balance. She hated the food at the place she was before I took her in and it was all junk food. She gained 10lbs with me eating the same things she always fed me. The source of her problem was too much garbage food. I think that's just as mean as no sweets at all. We wouldn't force a vegetarian to eat a steak. We should try to fit their needs into our lifestyle not let our lifestyles dictate theirs. My mom loves hearing "this was your recipe" as much as some people love "lets get take out."
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Mom may have been raised in a family where there was not enough money to buy so-called “junk food” . Now that she feels she’s in charge, she can buy all the junk food she wants, and apparently does. However, leaving food out to spoil attracts many kinds of unwanted bugs and other vermin. Do they have cognitive deficiencies? I suggested a while ago to someone with much the same issue that while someone took their loved one out for,unch, someone else go to his house and clear out much of the food they knew he would never eat. Would they remember if you did that?

Can you offer to go shopping for her? Then conveniently “forget” to buy five of the six dozen cupcakes she wanted. Or, you buy the chicken occasionally, give her one or two pieces and freeze the rest. Take her to lunch instead of shopping if you know she doesn’t need anything. That way she’ll still be getting out.

And, you know what? It’s ok to put your foot down. When she loads up her cart, tell her, “No, Mom, you don’t need all that.” And put it back. Let her be disappointed.. Let her be angry. Make sure she has enough food and treats, but not to extreme excess.
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Familyslave Jun 21, 2019
Along with their other personality disorders, obsessiveness is one. I have forgotten on purpose and by accident to buy her junk food. But Mom always remembers that she asked for more cupcakes. She will not forget.
She also obsesses over going with me. I understand; she's bored and lonely and it's fun for her to get out and nothing else is of interest to her.
Mom's got a memory like an elephant. If she buys two bags of caramels along with the cupcakes, sweet rolls, choc bars, coffee cake, and donuts, and I put it all on the counter where she can see it and access it all day every day, but put one bag of caramels away, she'll ask me about that bag 10 days later.
LOL.
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Here are a few more suggestions:
1) Sit down with her before you go shopping and make a list. Only things on the list can be bought. The arguments come before the money is spent, not when you get home and try to put it all away.
2) Or, when you get home, put the things that aren’t needed to one side and say that you are taking them to give to charity because there’s too much to get eaten. If you ask around, you will find somewhere that takes fresh food as well as packages. When your mother sees what is being given away, she won’t be happy, but it will make it all a bit more real for her. And it’s not as wasteful as letting it go off.
3) Or, agree with her a budget to spend, and put that much money in her purse for the trip. She may not buy the ‘right’ things, and she may be embarrassing at the checkout, but again it shows her how much more she is buying than she agreed before hand.
4) Or, refuse to take her shopping with you.
5) Or, shop on line and get it delivered.

You are not going to change this situation without there being some fuss, and it’s up to you to choose which is the lesser evil. Best wishes – it would drive me up the wall!
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
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katiekat2009 Jun 21, 2019
Good idea! Utilize one of the online services where order is ready for you when you get to the store.
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i deal with the same issues. Dad lives with me and I take care of meals but sweets/junk is on him. He tends to buy in bulk as well and we’ve talked about waste but it doesn’t stay due to LBD. When I buy him a roasted chicken, once he’s had one serving, I make chicken salad with it - I add raisins and apples with mayo - and other than having to remind him it’s in his frig for lunch, he eats most of it as he says he loves the sweetness in the salad. I check his food dates regularly and remind him that the food has to be pitched in x no of days. I freeze a lot of the cookies etc and then remind him in the store when he goes to buy in bulk that he still has x no of “product.” So far, it has cut down somewhat on the waste. Truth is, snack shopping is one of few things he can still do that makes him feel independent so I let a lot of it ride as long as there are no bugs - the freezer really helps! Good luck!!
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Reply to Barsenault60
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I guess I want to ask why do YOU do 5-6 times a week? Is it an apple falling not far from the tree? Just trying to have a better understanding.
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If you can keep the receipts I would consider taking some of the unopened food back to the store since you shop there several times a week. If she pays using cash, credit or debit card it is usually simple to return items unused and in original packaging and free of dirt, oil, or other substance on the outside of package.

If I was successful getting the food back to the store, I would try to place some small plastic containers toward the back of the fridge so food would not get buried in the depths of storage shelving. Later I would work to clear the backside of cabinets where boxes of pudding are stored, beginning from the top shelf and working down toward the most accessible shelving. This may help rotate the food to reduce the waste. Gradually reduce storage space without leaving any empty spaces.
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Reply to Houseplant102
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This sounds so much like my mom, for a minute I thought I wrote it. My mom has always hoarded everything, but the thing that causes the most trouble is the food. She did not grow up poor, but did grow up during WW2 when there was rationing, so maybe that's got something to do with it, although it has worsened over the years. When she was still living alone, she would stuff her freezer so full that it wouldn't shut properly and she stuffed towels around the door because it was leaking. Couldn't shut her cupboards in the kitchen due to 12 bottles of ketchup (which by the way turns black when it's about 7-8 years old), 24 cans of soup, 8 bags of sugar, etc.

When she came to live with me, she'd squirrel away boxes of cookies, crackers and cereal in her bedroom until it became moth infested. We were fortunate not to have mice. When she went to live at memory care, they allowed her a reasonable little stash of goodies in her room but she overdid it and her room became overrun with ants, prompting them to throw it all away. I thought for sure she'd have a stroke, she was so angry. Now they have a shelf that is just for her stuff in their dry storage area off the kitchen and she has to ask when she wants it. They check the dates and throw out whatever goes bad. Her latest obsession is little cans of chicken salad with crackers. When I take her shopping, she tries to buy 8-10 cans at a time. I've been putting my foot down lately and making the facility the bad guy, as in "Mom, they won't let you bring all that in - they don't have the room to store it." God help them if even one can goes missing. She'll know. She can't remember her own birthday or where she put her hairbrush, but if one can of chicken salad is missing, she will know.
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shad250 Jun 21, 2019
Lol, Interesting story
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Maybe can donate not-yet-expired things to a local food pantry?

My MIL is like this. Still mentally and physically intact and almost 80, but no memory of what food she buys. She lives alone. Her pantry is overflowing with canned goods and boxes-- an army could walk in and they'd be set. Once she asked me to clean it out for her, which I didn't mind doing. The second I tried to toss anything, I was met with "that's still good!" or "that hasn't gone stale!". Ummm yes, your opened bag of cereal from 2016 has indeed gone stale. She didn't even notice a can had exploded and was dried up, stuck to the shelf!

I don't get why she asked me to clean it, when she wasn't willing to part with anything. She's not a hoarder either. Just has the "I'll pick up a can of tomatoes while I'm here at the store" idea and forgets she has 3 cans at home, and she seldom cooks.

Anyhoo. Maybe collect recent receipts from the store trips, add her items up and show her how much she has wasted. Once she sees the numbers that may make it more "real" to her.
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shad250 Jun 21, 2019
Lol
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Yes resign yourself. I have the same with Mum though I have managed to persuade her to buy say, a fee slices of chicken breast rather than a whole chicken. Also cakes etc with longer life on them. I try to catch fruit & veg before it’s off & make smoothies so there’s less waste. Ultimately it’s so tricky because you don’t want to control or take away their rights & independence but it’s frustrating just the same. I have a strong bottom line with these issues now...Is anyone going to be hurt, unsafe or drop dead because of it? If the answer is no I let it go. I think when she’s gone I would be wishing I’d not worried or fussed so much about these things & that makes it easier for me to let go too
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Reply to RachCreed
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I am the elderly mother that is driving you crazy. Once the elderly lose their independence they want to be sure they do not run out of anything. It's a security blanket of sorts. I saw Edward's answer and I like his solution.
If it is her $$, please allow her the luxury of a settled mind.
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