Seemed like an appropriate topic for Valentine’s Day.
Despite being a minimalist in regards to some areas of my life, I often fear food scarcity. I still overbuy out of fear of not having enough. It’s that part of my fear that is not having confidence in myself and my ability to take care of myself and others. And I don’t mean overbuy based on some stringent standard of not buying anything or very limited amounts.
Instead, I fear going hungry and running out of food. Somehow, I think we won’t have enough food if we don’t buy everything we might need. I get four crowns of broccoli when two will do. Logically, I know I could just make something without vegetables (gasp!) if I run out. Or that I could order in or pick something up. Doing that occasionally is not the end of the world or the end of my budget.
But I still worry that I’ll run out of food.
And, also logically, I know that I can freeze vegetables or other food that we haven’t eaten before it will start to go bad. I don’t waste food. Wasting food is a taboo looming large in my brain. I don’t throw out good food. I want to cry when I throw food out for any reason (which definitely exacerbated my OCD when I was worried about food poisoning!).
It’s an example of scarcity mindset that doesn’t always get talked about. Even though I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family (we got into the middle class around the time I started middle school), and we didn’t always eat the healthiest of food (Hamburger Helper, anyone?), we always had enough.
This problem of food hoarding for me really started after college when I had to take the bus or subway everywhere and I could not always go to the grocery store easily. When I made it there, I bought as much as I could carry. I didn’t buy a lot of milk or juice because of how heavy it was (and how much it cost).
I also wasn’t making very much so I privileged vegetables over everything. I avoided eating out because of how expensive it was in the District of Columbia. On top of the high cost of meals, there was not only the tip, but a 10% prepared food tax! I was shocked and made every effort to make all my meals.
When I left the District to go to graduate school in the middle of rural New York, I still didn’t have a car and was able to bus to school and other necessary places. However, the bus went very irregularly to the large Wegmans on the highway, and the most convenient store was the tiny organic grocery store in the center of town, which I could not afford.
One especially frozen February—the coldest since 1976—a friend visited me and we went to the Wegmans to get groceries to cook together. We spent an hour and a half waiting for the bus to take us home, because it was an hour and 22 minutes late. We couldn’t go back in the store, because we couldn’t see the bus from inside and we didn’t know when it would come.
We were so cold by the time we got back to my apartment that we stood in front of my little space heater for half an hour. If we would have had rideshares or the money for it, we would have done that.
Thankfully, after that experience, I made friends with a fellow student with a car who loved going to Wegmans. He gave me a ride every so often. As a result of the unpredictable nature of these rides, I stocked up for weeks when I got the chance to go. I filled my refrigerator even though I was just cooking for myself.
Even now that I have a partner with a car and we can go to the grocery store every week, I worry about us running out of food. I overbuy, thinking that’s better than not having enough. I’m trying to learn that we’re not going to run out or that if we do, we can eat something frozen or order in or even order groceries in.
This even has influenced when and how much I eat. I try to eat breakfast in case I don’t get the chance to eat lunch late at or all. I try to eat things before they go bad. I usually clear my plate. I’m trying to reteach my brain that I can leave food on the plate. I can have them for leftovers. I can freeze food that I haven’t eaten yet.
I am working on this because I know that this fear is part of my OCD and is interfering with how I can live a healthy life. I know that doing this makes me feel in control and that is soothing, but it’s not good in the long run (or budget friendly).
Does anyone else experience this type of relationship with food or something else? Do you worry about having enough? Do you buy too much when you can? Do you have other fears stemming from OCD or anxiety that you try to control or alleviate with these kinds of actions?