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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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As caretaker for my mother for over 7 yrs, I couldn’t keep up with all the outings she wanted to make to get some items from the supermarket. Finally I put a stop to the madness and once a month I have her make me a list of what she wants. I order the groceries on-line with a favorite store and I go pick everything up and deliver it to her house. We put the food away and I make notebof what she has duplicates of, so I don’t order it again next time. And that’s it. Once in a while she needs more salad ingredients, but I pick it up and bring it to her. It was becoming compulsive - and now we don’t have the anxiety of her need for having things in the house that she doesn’t need. No duplicates either. And I am much calmer and not running for her anymore.

She used to walk to shopping where she used to live and when I cleaned out her house when she sold it, there was so much food waste - with duplicates and triplicates on everything. 2 freezers filled with so much meat and she never made any of it!
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Make sure to feed Mom something filling before you go shopping, if you can.
Sounds like you need to start making some decisions for her or refuse to take her with you.
I am finding my Mother is returning somewhat to her childish ways so I treat her like a child when she acts like one. Not my favorite thing to do !
Hope the best for you.
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How old are they? My grandparents lived through thw depression and many other food-insecure times. They had two fridges and a freezer. It took me years to figure out why. My mom picks EVERYTHING at the store too since her own home was sadly understocked right before I moved her in here. Mine never was and she lives here now. Maybe you can steer her to the more non-perishable items? It never hurts to have a backup. Also I purchased a bunch of plastic takeout containers for when I know we can't eat, say, a whole chicken. Just shred it up, cover in broth (stops freezer burn) and freeze. You can save the bones for stock too.
You might also try something I do for myself, set her her own spending limit for "treats" and give her a calculator. She will have to make a decision instead of being impulsive.
Otherwise just know that your pets are probably really happy about the situation :D good luck!!
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Yes. She's old and should eat whatever she wants to. As long as it's her money she's wasting and not yours, so be it. Sorry, living with a similar situation and I have had to resign myself to it too.
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This sounds familiar to me, too. We could not keep a plastic lid and container set together; food was left in fridge without plastic wrap; bought multiple packages of flour and sugar and pasta which all went unused. Also my mom continued to cook 'for an army' in spite of the dwindling number of housemates. It was never a cup of dry rice, rather, you just make the whole bag, and then you end up wasting most of it. There was no winning on this.

When we had to move mom out of her house we took a huge amount to be donated to a local women's shelter, but that was mostly canned and packaged or frozen food. With these kinds of sweet foods your mom wants it's now or never.

You can either continue to let mom go shopping once a week, or you can curtail it. (And why are you shopping 5 or 6 times a week?) Maybe she just wants to be out and about? What about mall walking? No buying!

Is there an activity that you can get your mom involved in, to redirect her? What about baking a cake or cupcakes or cookies once a week? It can be from scratch or a mix, it doesn't matter, but maybe that is something she might enjoy?

Otherwise, is she still able to walk or do any sort of exercise?
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This may come from depression-era mindset where the person needs a lot, else they don't know when they can obtain it again - or maybe never. This is almost bordering on OCD behaviour.
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I think of it like this: imagine all the food that is stressing you out was stacked up next to all the other food that she had during her whole life before this became an issue. Now imagine if some of the food that is being wasted now was able to have been enjoyed little by little years and decades ago. Maybe this is one of her regrets in life? Maybe she wishes she indulged herself (or had been able to). I say give, nurture, be affectionate, love her in any way you can while you still can.

P.S. If dementia is involved I believe in adapting to my loved one because adapting and learning is over for them.
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Lol, same mother here. It’s her money so I don’t care. When we take her to dinner, she orders soup, a huge entree and sometimes dessert. Eats the soup , the rest goes with her to her ALF to sit in the fridge til housekeeping tosses it where btw they provide as many meals a day as you want plus 24/7 bins of fruit, chips, pretzels, cookies,
ice cream bars, ice cream cups and popsicles etc ,coffee, a cold beverage in a cafe on every floor that she never ever visits but wants to order and pay for from Target. She has eaten junk food her entire life. She’s 92, there are way more things to battle than her not cleaning her plate.

But I too wonder why on earth you go to the grocery basically every day. Maybe take her to a movie or something instead sometimes. Or when you get home freeze what you know she won’t use. My mother and stepfather did that as well. Groceries continually but ate out every day because they were too tired to cook after shopping for groceries. My mother never went hungry a day in her life but imo it was out of boredom
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Familyslave Jul 2019
see my reply to the other person who asked that.
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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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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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Make a list of those things and keep a little weekly inventory so you have it at grocery story. It actually comes in handy for you to shop with, too. Or, tell her make a grocery list of her own day before shopping day and then you can take her to pantry and show her you put pudding on the list, but we have 4 of those. Don't scratch off the list, just put a 4 next to it. Then she'll remember when she gets to that aisle.

On the roasted chicken type things, cut it up when you get home and put pieces into little sandwich bags in the freezer. Easier to get a sandwich amount out when she wants it.

You may never get it completely under control, but perhaps can keep her more on track if she is actually making the list herself and comparing it to what you have plenty of already. The extra refrig could also 'break' and then she would be more limited to space to keep things.
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I see what you’re saying. It’s not about the actual food they buy, it’s about the amount. My mother is 93. Her freezer is full of food, yet she wants take-out food often. She doesn’t drive anymore, so I can control her food hoard to a certain extent. I only shop for her once a month and I buy what she will need for the month. She makes out the list. I couldn’t take being a part of this hoarding situation anymore. I do check to make sure she is heating and eating things from her freezer before I bring in take-out for her. I limit this take-out to once or twice a month.

It bothered me so much with all the wasted food until I decided to rein it all in. So much better now. Not perfect, but better. She has always been a food hoarder, so I can’t blame it on old age. It’s just that she depends on me now to bring the food in and I don’t let her hoard. It was my time too that was being used up in this hoarding situation. Crazy thinking is my thoughts to it all. It was so mentally unhealthy being a part of it for a while until I woke up and realized I had some control over this.
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My husband is a compulsive grocery shopper as he gets older - as was his mother. (He was not this way when we were first married.) I think it's "retail therapy" for him, because I can assess his emotional state by how much food he buys and hoards. We have enough food stockpiled in the basement to survive Armageddon. If I toss some away, more just reappears within a couple of days.

Sometimes one needs to pick and choose their battles. You are not going to change your mother's shopping compulsion, which is a form of addiction. It could be worse - she could be on QVC shopping network almost every day.
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With my mom I used the "Doctor says" approach. I'd tell her the doctor said she can no longer drink sodas and can have only 2 sweets a day. She had been buying as if my dad were still there and would help her eat it all. Candy, cookies, cake, sodas, ice cream. OMG! And it turned out when I took her to her doctor, he did tell her she was pre diabetic, so I had backup and could point to the directives he gave. She opted for 2 bowls of ice cream every day and I replaced candy with nuts and fresh fruit. I did have to let her drink juices because she was so used to having sodas. But it was way better than before. Now in assisted living they let her have whatever she wants and she always wants sweets. I have to remind them every couple of weeks that she is not to have so much of the sweet stuff. She also at first would buy meats and potatoes as if my dad were still there and it would go bad. I learned to go through the frig and freeze half the meat. Eventually, she let me help her at the store decide what she needed. But there were so often the "there's nothing in this house to eat" comments. Nope. Not much junk food, but there's fruit, carrots, and nuts for snacks.
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my2cents Jun 2019
My mom had 5 kids so when everyone was home, she had to shop/cook for 7 people. To this day, I cannot make a small amount of mashed potatoes or potato salad because I learned to cook for 7 people!! When I make soup, I start off in one pot and it grows to the largest soup pot available (thankfully it's a good freezer item). I still buy meats in large quantities, but divide it up and freeze it. Mom is 95 now and checks out the grocery ads each week to tell me the sale items and where they are. She no longer cooks, but the grocery ad selections indicate she would still buy the large quantities!
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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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Familyslave Jul 2019
There are a few reasons:
1. I prefer to buy fresh produce, which doesn't last as long as other foods
2. Mom asks for something that often and it's always something we don't have. I try to put it off but it's easier to just go along.
3. I don't have time to shop the whole store, so I grab small amounts. I drop Dad off at noon mass but it's only 30 minutes and he's always late arriving. The store happens to be closer to the church than home, so I go while he's in mass. If I'm late picking him up, some of the older ladies at church will fret and wring their hands and berate me for making him wait.
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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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My aunt does the same thing. Then she has dollar hamburgers at McDonalds for breakfast and dinner. She hates fruit or vegetables. Then she spends half a day at Walmart and comes home with chocolate muffins and chocolate candy. Yes she still drives. However, she can’t see over the dash. I can’t do much about that until I talk with her doc. Stickler is that she won’t see her doc with me there. I can’t talk with Doc by myself. There are many other issues as well. By the way, please don’t feed your dogs the chicken bones. The bones splinter and are very sharp. Anyway, makes for a good meal for dogs and cats if just the meat. If there is so much waist of food, and its not out dated, maybe a food bank would well come the extra food. Take care....
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This can be a sign of Dementia. Hoarding of any type.
Does she live with you?
If so cut her shopping trip with you to once every other week. If she asks if you are going to the store tell her you do not need anything this week.
Is she pushing her own cart or putting her items in yours?
If she places items in your cart take a few things out and leave them as you go through another aisle or if you can distract her at the check out tell the checker you changed your mind on these 3 items. And then remove the duplicate items or the most perishable ones.
Your other option is take many of the items that you can example the boxes of pudding, cans, packaged candy and the like and return them the next time you go to the store.
The chicken by the way can be turned into soup or chicken salad or casseroles. Or even frozen no need to give it to the dogs and cats.
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I agree with some of the posts here. If it's her money perhaps just let it go. As a caregiver, I deal with the same issues with my mom regarding food and I also handle her finances. As long as it does not get too far out of hand financially I dispose of some of the food that's not eaten. Is it wasteful? Yes, but she's 81 with lung cancer and I've had many useless conversations regarding the waste. Someone below had mentioned "do not let her go on shopping trips with you". I disagree. Not totally sure of your total situation but if it's something she enjoys then let her go. Perhaps you can work out an arrangement where she would only buy half of what she has in her cart. It's frustrating, I know because I see my mom order a big dinner and then take 3/4's home to never be eaten but it's one of the few pleasures she has at this stage of her life. You do your best but maybe let this one thing go since you probably have larger worries that are more important. Just an opinion.
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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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Do you live with your parents? It sounds like an exhausting job and I hope you have some help or get some soon. I do know that when I shopped for my MIL (with her or without her), before she passed away a couple of weeks ago, I used to have an idea of if she already had something and I just didn't buy it but she was a very quiet lady and would never yell or anything like that. I tell my husband all the time after reading these posts that no matter how irritated we would get at her, or her husband for never ever putting his foot down with her, that we had it so easy compared to so many people on this website. I do agree that the older they get the more they love their sweets. My husband wasn't nearly as good as remembering what she had plus he had a really hard time saying no so when I would go to their house, there would be cookies and candy in just about every cabinet. He just doesn't mind throwing away old food like I do!
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Maybe clean out the pantry and fridge and sit down with her and do a simple food plan and promise to keep them stocked and in containers. Keep it simple!
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It is not clear if she lives alone (in which case you can't control this) or if you take her shopping with you. If you go, YOU decide how much of what to buy. Let her rant and rave - after you tell her in firm, not uncertain terms, this wasting of food has to stop and is going to stop immediately. Start controlling what she wants and how much. And do occasionally have some of the things she really likes. But do NOT let her go to the stores with you. Ask her what she wants and make a list but buy only what makes sense. It is a horrible sin to waste all that food no matter who pays for it. And this especially applies to meat. An animal gave up its life for food and the least a person can do is eat it.
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maggiepie Jun 2019
It's nice you think of the wildlife. Remember that "people" food has a lot of nasty things in it (preservatives). Wild animals can't process it well. Yea ..It's yummy to them but is bad for them. Maybe you can convince your mom to spend the money she would spend on extras she can buy some wild bird seed or ears of corn. She might like watching the critters too.
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If it's paid for by your parent's money - there is little you can do, so do the Serenity Prayer - if you can't change it, learn to live with it.

RE: 2 refrigerators: The day I met my DH, he had 2 refrigerators, one for "on sale" fruits. 34 years later, we still have 2 refrigerators, only now I've lost DH. I would be totally lost without my 2nd refrigerator and for a few years we actually had 3, one was out in the carport! I am a Peanut Butter Addict (I admit it) and when I found a sale on Peanut Butter, especially at a Discount Grocery, I buy it! The fridge in the carport was full of peanut butter and before you ask, yes, I ate it all eventually. I also keep my "dry goods" groceries like pasta and dry mixes in the 2nd fridge. I live in Mississippi and it helps to control not only spoilage but also I don't have to worry about bugs.

But now I freeze my peanut butter : )

P.S. I do Not throw out food - I put it outside for wildlife to eat if I no longer want it. Throwing away food is a Sin to me. Feeding wildlife is more like giving back to nature.
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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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I have this same issue with my mother and father. They both eat very little, and they are loathe to throw any leftovers away (though they don't cover/wrap anything either).

However, food shopping/cooking is one of my mother's few pleasures, she just loves going and browsing. It's one of the few things that I can entertain her with. And prep/cooking keeps her busy in the house, though it has to be supervised.

Food has always been a big part of their lives and there isn't much enjoyment left in their waning years so I'm not fighting this battle. They have money, it's theirs to waste. I let them buy/eat what they want, but they don't eat a lot of junk so I don't have to worry much about that at least.

I feel exhausted most of the time so I'm letting this issue slide.
I understand your frustration though. Can you surreptitiously remove things from the trolley as she puts them in? Would she notice?
I used to leave big things in the back of their cupboards (boxes of pasta/tissue) so that the cupboards always appeared to be very full. It didn't always work, my mum started putting coffee under the bed! :)
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I've experienced this before with mom.
Unfortunately , you will have to cut mom out of the shopping trip.

Create a reasonable list with her weekly, and you must do the shopping.
Made life so much easier.
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Sometimes the electric company will pay you a small amount for a working unneeded fridge.
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Bit of a rock and a hard place you find yourself between, eh.

It's up to you to decide which is the lesser of these two evils. Myself, I'd go for the disciplinarian approach and stand over her until she'd written a list before we set off, and turn purple if anything went in the trolley that wasn't on the list, and plan menus minutely. Your mother, in any case, is *always* going to want what isn't in the cupboard - I don't blame her, I've just sighed and huffed myself because I don't want Bourbons or shortbread with my cup of tea, today I want custard creams and there aren't any - and so unless you bring the entire store home you're stuck with that problem anyway, and so you might just as well put up with moderate background grumbling. But you may not want to be dictatorial about it, and you may not be a habitual list maker yourself, either.

Or, you could put the (emptied, clean) containers all together on the kitchen table and make them look at the fifty dollars they're content to throw away each week.

Or you could try ecological or global food distribution based guilt-tripping. I don't myself think it's their fault that children in Eritrea or the Yemen are dying of starvation but I do think we perhaps owe it to them at least to be mindful of our good fortune.

Does your city run a food waste collection and recycling service?
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freqflyer Jun 2019
CountryMouse, are custard creams the same as custard tarts? I remember in the BBC show "As Time Goes By", Lionel loved his custard tarts :)
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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 2019
Lol
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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 2019
Lol, Interesting story
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