Why I Buy Two of Everything

Wooden kitchen cabinet full of food products

Beyond my husband’s irritating tendency to get involved in a lengthy outside chore exactly when it’s time to nudge (read: endlessly nag) the kids into doing their weekly vacuuming and room cleaning, there aren’t many bad things I can say about him. But for the life of me, when it comes to food and toiletries, I cannot understand his reluctance to maintain any sort of reserves or backup.

When we first moved in together, he was visibly startled when I came home from my first trip to the grocery store to stock our painfully bare pantry, and unloaded the bags. I had bought two of things. Two bottles of olive oil, two rolls of aluminum foil, two cans of nonstick spray.

“Why two of everything?” he wondered aloud.

I explained that as we used up the first one, we would have the second one on hand. Then on the weekly grocery trip immediately following the opening of the second one, I would buy a replacement. This method ensures that we’ll never (or only rarely) run out of something. The look I got was similar to the one he as a native New Englander gave me the first time I put a bottle of Log Cabin syrup in the cart instead of pure maple.

It said, “What the fuck are you doing?”

Over the years, we’ve had this conversation about everything from Ziplock bags to hot dog buns. It’s not something we go through very fast, it’s perishable; we’re tying up our cash.

Seriously, that’s his argument.

We’re tying up our cash.

When I point out it’s pretty much a sure thing that we’re going to use the second bag of flour in which I carelessly “invested” a whopping $2.69, he just sighs.

This is something I’ve heard about in other men too. Years ago a friend of mine bought half a dozen rolls of dental floss because they were on sale for an insanely low price. Her husband found them on the shelf in the bathroom, and was as perplexed as my own husband is at the idea of anyone buying multiples of a consumable good. To protest her action, each morning he would rearrange the containers in a new configuration—a pyramid, lined up like dominoes, etc.

What makes this reaction to my low-grade stockpiling strange is that my husband loves going to Costco. Having a backup bottle of ketchup is financially risky, but apparently buying paper towel a dozen rolls at a time is logical and desirable. I think it’s because I pay regular retail for the ketchup, and he pays Costco prices for the paper towel. If I wanted to deal with gallon jugs of ketchup, which take up more room than all of my surplus cans of diced, whole, and crushed tomatoes put together, that would be acceptable. The fact that we’d have to find a way to get the ketchup into a reasonable sized bottle, or use it directly from the massive trough in which it’s purchased and embrace the very real possibility that some child will attempt to pour ketchup directly from said trough onto their hot dog creating a mess of epic proportions, is not a consideration. We’d have saved money!

I should have realized that he would be like this. Not just because he’s a guy and this seems to be a guy thing, but because his father had a similar peculiarity. In my father-in-law’s case, it was a lack of willingness to accept that driving 45 minutes to buy something that’s on sale for twenty-five cents off—even if you buy five or six of them—isn’t actually a bargain. Between the money he’d spend on gas, and his own time (which admittedly was pretty cheap, because he was retired, but still it was worth something) he was likely losing a couple of bucks every time he “saved” one. But that logic never sank in.

After eighteen years my husband reluctantly goes along with my system, even if he occasionally protests it. He’s also never admitted that it’s actually helpful when he uses the last quarter cup of sugar, and there’s another one pound bag in the pantry from which he can scoop the other quarter cup the recipe calls for. And I’m not sure if it’s just absentmindedness, or a passive-aggressive display of disapproval when he forgets to tell me he opened the backup package of something, resulting in my not replacing it and, if I don’t somehow realize it’s been opened, our eventually running out. Somehow I always seem to be the one inconvenienced by the absence of the peanut butter or soy sauce. And when I ask, “Why didn’t you tell me you opened the second one?” about all I get for an answer is a shrug.

My guess is he was hoping I wouldn’t notice and he would take the three dollars I hadn’t frittered away on redundant food items and invest it in Apple stock.

Tracy DeBlois has a husband, four children, a dog, and a full-time job. Her work has appeared on In The Powder Room,  the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop website, Ten to Twenty Parenting, and Babble, and she is a contributor to “I Still Just Want to Pee Alone,” an anthology edited by New York Times Best Selling author Jen Mann. She blogs at Orange & Silver, providing a humorous glimpse into the never-settling snow globe that is her mind. Her days are spent answering questions about the location of her children’s belongings, figuring out what’s for dinner, and reminding everyone that socks without feet in them do not belong in the living room. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.