Talking About Food With Your Roommate Can Be Awkward, But These 5 Strategies Will Help

by Julia Guerra

Unless you’re an adamant foodie making up recipes as you go, snapping foodtography, and constantly talking about how ah-mazing the pasta sauce was the other night, you might not even realize just how important food is to you. That changes real quick though, especially when you're fresh out of college living in the real world without a meal plan at your disposal, or mom and dad footing the grocery bill. Even if it sounds trivial to you now, you need to figure out how to talk to your roommate about food while your living situation is still new because there really is proper etiquette to adhere to when preparing and purchasing your own meals.

Imagine this: You’re coming home from a rough day at work, daydreaming about the mouth-watering orange chicken you saved for tonight's dinner. When you pop your head in the fridge, not only is there no full container waiting for you, there are remnants of the sweet sauce dotting your roommate’s favorite plate in the sink. Busted. If only you'd had that quick chat about apartment food etiquette, right?

According to doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, if your roommate — whether they're a friend, loved one, or stranger — doesn't bring up "financial responsibility for food, responsibility for food, and [who will be] preparing food," it's up to you to start the conversation.

"This will give you a foundation for what you both know has worked and not worked, and what areas you are both sensitive to when it comes to [food]," Dr. Forshee tells me in an interview for Elite Daily.

First, she explains, talk about expectations around who is going to buy the food, whether or not you want to share food, and any and all responsibilities surrounding what goes on in the kitchen. If you're nervous, here are a few fool-proof ways to talk to your roommate about food without igniting major conflict.

Talk About Food Prior To Move-In Day

During my freshman year of college, I signed up for one of those all-inclusive meal plans that allowed me to swipe into the cafeteria and eat as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. I didn’t really bring food back to the dorm, but when I did, it was usually something small, like a few pieces of fruit or a candy bar.

One time, my mom bought me Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (my fave), so I put them in the fridge in our room and went about my day. When I went to grab some chocolatey goodness for dessert that night, the package had already been torn open — and I knew exactly who'd done me dirty.

Now, had my roommate just shot over a text to say she was craving peanut butter doused in chocolate and needed to borrow a cup for a fix, I would have gladly shared my stash. But there was no ask, and no thank you. This, my friends, is exactly why Dr. John Mayer, clinical psychologist at Doctor On Demand, suggests having the food talk before move-in day.

“If you address the subject from the beginning,” Dr. Mayer tells Elite Daily, “it sets expectations for the future and tells your potential roommate a great deal about you,” i.e. that you don’t like sharing your dessert.

Approach The Subject Like An Adult

These big decision-making conversations are so much more than problem-solving. How you approach the situation and the other person involved says a lot more about you than just your spending or eating habits; it’s a testament to your character, as well.

Say you sit down with your roommate(s) to hash out the details on who buys what in the fridge. If you try to dominate the conversation, are reluctant to compromise, and use body cues like rolling your eyes or crossing your arms, you’re going to come off as difficult and rude. Instead of moaning and groaning, Mayer suggests an alternative strategy.

“I teach people to assume a ‘business-like’ demeanor when they approach the subject,” he explains to Elite Daily, meaning you should always try to come across as a team player. After all, “living together,” Mayer adds, “takes teamwork.”

Buy Your Own Food Any Time You Can

Lucky for me, after the disaster that was my freshman year of college, I was blessed with roommates who didn’t steal my food (their friends did, though). But once I was in my senior year, things were actually really different: Every one of the four of us in my suite bought and cooked our own food most weeknights.

What’s more, I never once asked anyone to pick up a gallon of milk for the apartment while they were out. We didn’t really share food, either, unless someone made an excessive amount of leftovers. This wasn’t because we didn’t get along, or that each one of us followed a different meal plan; that’s just how it was. And you know what? It worked.

“I would insist on [always] purchasing and shopping for your own food,” Mayer says. “It sounds so quaint and convenient to lean on the other person ‘to pick up a few things,’ but it’s a seductive trap that eventually leads to conflict down the road.”

See, asking a roommate to grab this or that means you owe them, and if you can’t spot them as soon as you get home, and that becomes a pattern, there might be some tension there.

Label Anything And Everything That's Yours

You know, hindsight really is 20/20, friends. I went into my freshman year of college thinking that labels were rude and that it’s so much easier to just share. Well, that whole what’s-mine-is-yours policy might properly function between two consenting roommates, but clearly, when suitemates are involved, things get messy real quick.

Now, if you toss leftovers in the fridge, and you really couldn't care less whether or not someone eats them, hats off to you. But, if you’re someone like me and kind of territorial about your food, label everything and anything you buy or make because, according to Mayer, eating someone else’s leftovers can only end one way: "roommate doom.”

Set A Good Example

That little life lesson your parents and teachers taught you, the one about how treating others the way you want to be treated will result in mutual respect? That definitely goes for the items in your pantry and fridge, too, Mayer tells Elite Daily.

To put things into perspective, let’s just say your cravings are running wild and the only piece of chocolate in the apartment that can satisfy the taste is the last frozen Thin Mint left of your roommate’s sleeve — you know, the one her 7-year-old niece sold her at the beginning of the semester. In the name of satisfying the urge, you dig in on your own accord, having no doubt in your mind she’ll understand.

Fast forward a few months later, and your roommate’s in the same kind of dilemma. Except this time around, the only thing that can bring her solace is the last slice of homemade apple pie your mom made for Thanksgiving. It sucks, but what can you do? Next time around, Mayer says, “model great behavior,” and know your boundaries.