A free roommate food rules agreement template
Plus a list of 65 of the best bits of advice on food rules issues
It’s taken me about a month to research and write this. Finding out information and experience from loads of different roommates, situations and lots of online research.
This is on top of the 4 years I spent with roommates at college and 7 years being roommates with a friend.
I believe I have now created the best possible guide, but it will of course continually evolve as I find out and learn more.
This guide is in 5 parts:
- Roommate food rules agreement template
- Advice on how to use it
- General food rules advice
- Whether you should buy food communally, or each roommate buys and uses their own
- How to communally share food
A roommate food rules agreement, or the most formal possible arrangement, is needed when everyone is not close friends that already know each other. The aim is to create boundaries.
Roommates often share basic staple needs foods like milk and eggs, but not treats like chocolate or beer.
Roommate Food Rules Agreement Template
Use this as a separate agreement, or part of a roommate agreement.
We recommend having a full roommate agreement.
Every tenant respects that each tenant owns their property. A tenant will only use the property of another tenant, with the full and explicit permission of the owner before they use it.
There will be no precedents, just because a tenant has agreed to let someone else use their property before, does not mean they can use it again. A tenant can change their mind with no notice and decide not to allow another tenant to use it anymore.
If a tenant uses the property of another tenant, they will be responsible for it. If it is damaged while being used or borrowed. The owner will be fully compensated with a prompt replacement of the same item and size or reimbursed in full.
The use of any personal property is not part of any rental payment agreement and does not increase or decrease the rent paid by any other tenant.
Things which are harder to separate maybe bought communally. This list may include and is not limited to, trash bags, toilet paper, cleaning products, cooking foil and so on. These supplies are for cooking and cleaning and do not cover anything deemed to be food.
The tenant who buys these will:
- Be prepaid an equal amount by each tenant.
- Keep a log of all items purchased with a ledger showing date, description, and cost.
- Receipts will be kept with the ledger in a pre agreed visible place for all other tenants to see.
If not part of the communal scheme below, food belongs to the roommate that purchased it.
Like any person’s property. Food must only be consumed or used, having received the unequivocal permission of its owner, before consuming any of it.
Each tenant will get their own equal sized space for storing food, both in the refrigerator and outside it. If separated space is not available, then tenants will use their labels to identify their food.
If tenants choose to cook a meal together, they may decide to share food ingredients, but that does not set a precedent for other occasions or situations.
Roommates will promptly clean up their kitchen mess after they have used the kitchen.
If such a scheme is operating. Some basic needs staple foods may be bought communally, such for example as milk, eggs, etc.
Roommates that want to participate in this can ask the stock ledger administrator in writing to go on the official ledger and pay their equal share. Roommates may opt out of this with 2 weeks notice.
Only roommates who have opted into this and have paid in full all that is due may consume these foods.
By signing this, I acknowledge that I have read, understood and agreed to this document.
Advice on how to use the template
1. Why you should have a written agreement
It removes the excuses a roommate can use for doing stupid and selfish things, such as:
• ‘I didn’t know.’
• ‘That’s not what we agreed.’
• The many other excuses that roommates may use.
Also if your roommate does anything they shouldn’t, you can prove this is not what was agreed and is not acceptable.
2. Your roommate has to sign the roommate food rules agreement, before they move in.
If your potential roommate needs more time until they sign it. Then it’ll delay when they can move in, or mean someone else gets their place if they do it before. Don’t budge on this one!
If you do it after they’ve moved in, your roommate may refuse to do it, or start wanting parts of it changed.
You have lost your negotiating position, that they need to sign and agree to it, so can move in.
If a roommate is not happy with these conditions, why is that? Do they want to steal food?
It could be a sign not to have them as a roommate, and they’re going to be trouble.
Of course, you may think your potential roommate is right, and you should change the food rules.
3. Read through the agreement with your roommates before they sign it.
If they have not read and understood it, it’s useless.
It’s to make sure they have read and understood it. If your roommates haven’t read and understood it, they can’t do what it says.
Also so they can’t use the excuse that they never read it, or ‘whoever reads this stuff.’
Them agreeing to it in reality and not just on paper is important because the police and courts will not enforce if a roommate is taking your food.
2. Roommate food rules are not enforced by court judges or the police
If you’ve suffered damages, such as having to pay the full rent because your roommate hasn’t been paying their share. They also signed a roommate agreement showing the amounts they should have paid. Then the damages will be enough that a judge will probably rule in your favor.
Loosing out because your roommate has been taking food from the refrigerator, or not paying their share of the communal food, will probably not be seen as important enough for a legal court to spend its time on.
This means that roommate food rules agreements are more for all the roommates to have everything in writing, so nobody can lie about what they agreed to.
If someone breaks the rules, you can then point to what is in the agreement.
The police and roommate food rules
The police will not arrest and take a roommate to court, just because they’ve been eating your food.
This is because they know the courts, will not listen to such a case and prosecute your roommate for it. To prosecute your roommate, the police need the legal courts to make prosecutions.
As shown above, the courts will not listen to and prosecute cases that are about a roommate eating another roommate’s food.
If your roommate has stolen your stuff of a higher value and sold them on eBay, like your computer. You may have a case the police will take action on.
However, sadly it gets more complex than this, because you may need proof it’s yours, and they stole it. Such as an independent witness, paperwork and some other evidence.
As a result, the cases we have seen have not resulted in the police being able to do anything.
The full scope of how the police enforce these things is beyond the scope of this article.
From what I’ve seen. In the end, it’s best to make sure you have carefully selected roommates. If they’re thieves, get them out, or you get out asap.
I know someone who had a roommate that seemed great, but then they developed a gambling habit. We were all shocked when this roommate soon got out of control.
However, as they also did things to other people outside the home, it was this other stuff that got them into jail.
Generally, if a roommate is behaving that badly at home, they’re misbehaving elsewhere too and this may be what gets them in trouble with the police.
3. How to adjust and edit the agreement
Be careful about modifying it. Does your roommate want these changes, because they don’t want to behave correctly?
Once one roommate gets their changes, will everyone want their changes as well? Especially because the first person got something which serves their interests and so now, the others think they should get things as well.
Each roommate wanting their own changes for their own self interests, can lead to a mess, conflicts and hard work for everyone.
If you decide to make changes.
• Cross out a part of the agreement and have all signatories put a signature by this change.
• Delete or edit the text directly before it’s printed.
Please make sure your changes are legally sound.
For example that the changes are not unfair, like saying one roommate gets more than another. It could be seen that you have given the men more than the women, or show a roommate is being victimized.
The changes to the agreement could contain things that get in the way of a person’s legal rights and so on. The contract will be seen as onerous (too harsh) which would stop it from being legally valid.
As said above, a court will not enforce roommate food rules, because they are not seen as important enough. However, you should still behave legally correctly, as if they would. So that roommates take it seriously, believe it is fair and go along with it.
General roommate food rules advice
1. Clear food storage boundaries
Roommates need to have at least one shelf in the cupboard and the refrigerator, just to themselves.
Splitting shelf levels in two, one side for each roommate, doesn’t work well. When there’s loads of food, stuff blends from one side to another.
It creates an excuse for a roommate to ‘make a mistake’ and use someone else’s food.
When each roommate has their cupboard or shelf, then ‘These shelves are mine, and these are yours.’
Make it clear whose shelf belongs to who, label them if possible. So a roommate cannot say they forget what is what. It may be easy for most people to remember, but there’s often one who says they’ve forgotten.
Alphabetic first name works well, with the top starting with A. So Aaron has the top and Pete has the bottom.
If each roommate can have their cupboard door, everything behind that door is theirs. Then it’s even more apparent than shelving.
Also, other roommates tend to take food from other roommates less often, because they can’t see it when they open their cupboard door. ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’
A refrigerator door shelf for each roommate
The main storage area of a refrigerator is easy to create boundaries in for each roommate. It all tends to go wrong with the shelving in the door.
People don’t think about it.
Worse of all, the shelves in a refrigerator door:
• Usually, don’t line up with main back shelving in the refrigerator
• Some of the door shelving is not high enough for taller things
• Have more staple foods and condiments in. How do you separate three different tomato ketchup bottles of the same brand
So make sure you label these refrigerator door shelves as well, to show which roommate has each one.
First discuss with roommates if they have any tall food items, as they might need the tallest shelf for them.
If more than one roommate has tall items and only one refrigerator door shelf can do that. You may need to share that shelf, label it as a shared shelf and have each roommate put labels on their food in there.
Food hygiene in the refrigerator
A good roommate food rule is that all roommates need to keep their part of the refrigerator clean. If their food spills, they have to clean up all the other parts their spillage affects.
Same for if their food goes old or off, so it leaks or stinks the place out.
There are things that restaurants do, which many people do not do, as they’re not aware of them, but are a good idea.
The only roommates that tend to do them though, are those who work or have worked in the catering industry. As they’ve been trained, done a lot of professional food handling and realize how it all works.
For example, raw meat should be kept on the lowest level of the refrigerator, by itself. So it can’t leak onto other food below, and if it leaks onto the shelf, no other nonraw meat food is there.
Raw meat has loads of dangerous bacteria. Other foods in the refrigerator may not need cooking for you to eat them, or only need warming up. So if you then eat those other foods and the raw meat juices have spilled onto them, you’re eating the dangerous raw meat.
Also once roommates touch it, they’re spreading this bacterial around the place.
For this, all roommates should have their raw meat on the same bottom level, so everyone has to label theirs.
2. How to label food
If you don’t completely trust your roommates, or they’re a bit absent minded. I recommend putting labels on your food with your name on.
It’s more evident when someone is stealing the food that they are taking your stuff. There is no doubt about it!
The named labels have a psychological effect on the thief that they are stealing something that ‘has someone else’s name on!’
The named labels are a nuisance to write though. You need to put your name on every one unless you are organized enough to mass print your name on lots of labels. Also, as named labels are bigger, they are more expensive.
The easiest and cheapest way is if each roommate has small colored stickers of their own color, instead of having your name on them. Little dots are the most popular, and you can find them in most office stationery stores.
Then you put a key showing each roommate’s sticker color on the fridge.
The big nuisance is if a food package gets wet from condensation in the refrigerator and the sticker comes off!
The practical reality is that labeling food is such a nuisance that roommates don’t do it unless they live with loads of other people. As then keeping track and accountability of food is more difficult.
Having separate shelves for each roommate to store their food, is so much easier to manage and have.
People also only tend to do it, if there has been a person stealing it.
At this point, though you have a thief in the place and things could be getting more serious.
To avoid food labeling, each roommates shops at a different store or buys different brands
Then it’s clear who’s food is whose.
Everyone knows the store they go to and what brand they buy.
Of course, it only works if people are happy with the store and brand they have chosen. Also, there are enough different stores in the area, and brands there for people to do it.
Label the shelves and not the food
Labelling shelves are so much easier than putting stickers on everything and can be a decent halfway house.
If you have a real theft problem it won’t be enough, but to keep things organized, so each roommate knows who’s is whose, it is.
Just put your name label on the kitchen shelf you have and level in the refrigerator.
Of course, the freezer won’t have shelves in the same way, and all your food will be together, so you will have to label the food in there.
Use a sharpie pen instead of labels
I love these pens and markers. They can write on wet and oily surfaces.
Instead of the hassle peeling off stickers and writing on them. Also, the nuisance of them coming off when things get wet and so on.
Just write straight on the food packet.
Personally, I only write on things where the ink won’t get mixed into my food. Like the stuff with thick plastic packaging, such as a solid margarine tub.
Using these pens instead of the hassle of labels is so much quicker and easier!
Enforcing the labelling rules
Some roommates have both communal food for sharing and stuff people buy and use separately for themselves.
The roommate who buys stuff for themselves stores it on their shelf in the refrigerator, or shelf in the cupboard.
You could make the roommate food rule, that everything without a label is communal.
If someone has something they bought just for themselves, then they have to label it. If the roommate didn’t label it and someone else eats it, it’s their fault for not labeling it.
Of course, the spirit of being kind is important. Hopefully, roommates won’t be mean and eat something they know is someone else’s and not communal, because the person forgot to put a label on it.
If you find your roommates are taking off food labels from your food, or rubbing out markings to eat it, that’s just theft.
3. Discuss it all up front
Once roommates get used to certain habits, it’s harder for them to change. Like a ball rolling down a hill that builds up speed, going faster and faster.
If things are not going right, you hear things like:
‘This is how it’s always been done’
‘This is how we do it’
and other things where they say the status quo is the right thing to do.
Legally it’s called setting a precedent because that’s how things have always been done. It’s happened before, so you have accepted it and so implicitly said you said they could have that.
You’ve set up expectations and understandings that it’s okay and normal. It’s unfair of you to change the rules, as it’s like you promised and agreed to them. You took part in them the previous times without objecting.
So talk about it up front. The best time is before people have even started living in the place.
It’s also much easier to agree on the roommate food rules before people move in, as no one is yet guilty of having done something wrong. People have a harder time backing down if they’re guilty of having done something. As they may have to admit that they were wrong.
Admittedly though, some of the roommates will still want to change the rules to their advantage.
You then have to think about all the roommate food rule problems that could come up when you are roommates. This is to remove the excuses they can make later on, such as ‘I didn’t know,’ ‘It was not agreed’ and so on.
So have everything you agree written down, to remove these excuses. Like having minutes of a meeting.
Examples of roommate food rules to discuss
Agree that if a person is late with a payment, every day each roommate will remind the roommate who owes the money for payment.
If you are one of 10 roommates, that is a lot of reminders!
It’s a good idea for each person to remind the person separately because it shows the person who owes money, that everyone knows about it.
When all the roommates do that, the person who owes money cannot say that they are annoying, as they agreed to it in advance.
Everyone is personally accountable for their actions and has to take responsibility. No excuses!
Roommate food rules discussions will help you find out what your roommates are really like
It helps to show if they are selfish, kind, generous or just crooked. This is because roommate food rules are about real actions and what they have to do.
You may find it’s an opportunity to see if you should be roommates with these people.
I have often found young newly trained lawyers are the hardest and most annoying. Sometimes they try and negotiate all they can and are a nuisance about it. They have learned all this contract stuff and want to be clever.
The older lawyers have learned better than this, so don’t do it. Basically that when you are difficult, it has consequences, which does not create a pleasant living environment.
4. Even if your roommate has run out of food, they ask before using yours!
This roommate food rule is needed to stop the problem from growing. It starts tiny, with them taking one small part of something and grows from there.
It also removes the excuses a roommate can use when doing it.
The standard thing is a roommate says they had no food left and they’re hungry:
• No shops were open at midnight
• You were asleep, and they didn’t want to wake you
• You were out, and they couldn’t get hold of you
• They get paid tomorrow and not have any money for food
• How could you let them starve
Often the truth usually is, that they saw you had something delicious and couldn’t help themselves!
The answer is all roommates agree in advance to have spare food, so they never run out. This is just part of being organized and sensible.
Which is why normally the same selfish, unorganized and nonsensible roommate keeps running out of food.
If a roommate is not so good at self control, or budgeting and might spend all their money before next payday. So they have no spare money for food. The roommate buys spare food that lasts, like cereal and tinned food and set it aside for emergencies.
5. People who share their food usually are family, or in a relationship
This statement is to show why your roommate does not have the right to take your food.
People might share the dinner bill when going out for a meal as friends, but that’s to be social.
People in a household share the food when they are family, or in a relationship. Close friends may do it a bit, but only for certain things.
When people live in separate apartments, they don’t share their food with people in other apartments.
Places, where roommates share food and are not family, usually are in a relationship. Otherwise, they have food rules to make sure things are fair.
Like a workplace cafeteria where everyone gets equal servings of food or has to pay for it. Unless the company has free food as a perk to attract workers, or get them to work more extended hours as they don’t have to go out for food.
If someone is with living with a person they care about, like family or a someone they are in a relationship with. Then they are happy if the other person gets more than them, as it’s a person they care about and look after. Hopefully, they do the same in return for the first person as well.
If a roommate thinks they have a right to your food, make it clear you are not their parents and not in a relationship with them. You live in the same apartment, but that’s it.
Of course, it’s nice to give people food as charity and kindness, but it’s your choice to give your food if you choose to. Not for someone else to take it from you.
6. Politeness is important with roommate food rules
Politeness is being respectful and considerate of other people.
It’s often seen as just outer behavior, and people can be polite without genuinely being respectful and considerate.
This is not politeness though. To be genuinely polite you need to care about other people truly.
Learning and being taught how to be polite is also important. Just like it is an advantage to have been taught anything.
Politeness creates a culture that makes everything more pleasant and runs properly, including how people treat other people’s food.
Your roommate being VERY impolite
If your roommate is going through your stuff, like your toiletry bags, using your shaver and so on. Without having asked you if they can use them.
It’s not just impolite; it’s theft!
Politeness is them asking ‘Please may I use your shaver?’
They only use it, if you have said yes and you are genuinely happy for them to do so.
If you are not genuinely happy for them to use it, they should be able to hear it from your voice. Then politely not want to use it and not push you about it.
It may seem odd that I am writing something so basic, but after having been with a strong willed and unpleasant roommate and seen other people with the same. I can see how easy it is to think they are right and you’re wrong. It’s like getting stuck in the bubble of their self made delusion.
Especially if they say, you are the one being mean and selfish as you are not helping them.
People are helped because they deserve it, not because if they are selfish and don’t deserve it. What does your roommate do to help others?
Sometimes it helps to create your personal space
If your roommate is using your food, often they are using other things as well such as your toiletries and shaver.
Alongside this, they are also encroaching into your personal space. Like leaving their stuff on your bed.
Create personal space with all your things, to change the culture.
Defining personal space with them is a powerful place to start. It’s like how animals define their territory. People at work put personal things on their work desk, or a teenager puts posters on their walls.
Put things in your personal spaces that show they’re yours! Objects that show the border between shared space and your space.
You are making it clear that although you may share the place. Each of you have personal space in there and it matters!
They have no rights to your personal space and the things in it. You have no rights to theirs.
7. Creating an atmosphere of fairness, honesty and integrity
It’s amazing how if one person is honest and fair it spreads. People get affected by it and feel like doing good back.
You are also setting a good example.
When you focus on being fair, honest, affectionate, respectful, generous and good. It’s far more potent than any roommate food rules.
I have found the spirit of doing right, is more powerful than written rules that without a good spirit, roommates try to get around.
It creates a roommate living situation of honesty and integrity. That intangible factor that makes everything work!
Likewise, if you are selfish and take all you can. People think ‘what’s the point’ and are selfish back.
Being stingy by counting every nickel and dime, to make sure you are not giving anything away, also doesn’t help.
Doing things correctly can create friends for life. They remember that you’re a good person, not a selfish, stingy one.
If you do something unfair, like spend less on the shared communal food than your roommates. Your roommates will remember things like that for years and years, especially as roommate food and budgets are such a personal thing.
People also talk to others, and so your reputation spreads.
Also if you are selfish, fewer people will want to be your roommate, or you will only be able to get other selfish people as roommates.
Sorry, to say this, but it seems to be the intangible factor that makes roommate food rules succeed or fail. People often think it’s chance, but I have found it’s about how people behave.
8. Reinforcing the food rules culture
If you all buy, store and consume food separately. It creates a culture that people’s stuff is theirs and not for sharing.
You can all reinforce this separate ownership culture, by everyone washing their dishes and cooking themselves. The culture is of people living separately, and they take responsibility for their things.
It helps show that you all do everything separately and this reinforces other things, such as roommates buying and using their food separately. It’s theirs and not for sharing.
When roommates sometimes cook together, they may like to share ingredients or buy them together. Doing it this way shows it’s an exception and only done when roommates are cooking communally.
9. A good Resident Assistant (RA), can resolve roommate food rules problems for you
If your roommate is using your food when they shouldn’t be. You have tried to resolve it with them directly, they don’t change their ways and you are at college. Definitely go to your Resident Assistant (RA) about it!
Also consider what else your roommate is doing that you have not yet noticed!
Things an RA can do
Many students have not shared with anyone before, and it’s their first time leaving home. A big reason RA’s are there is to resolve things caused by this and the other problems that often come up.
You may not want to report them for theft, but if the RA is good, they can help in other ways. Such as telling you what to say, how to deal with it, mediate for you and make it clear what your roommate is doing, isn’t acceptable behavior.
I’ve even known some RAs to have written agreements for both roommates to sign, with severe penalties if either of them breaks it.
Also by getting an RA involved quickly, they can see your roommate is bad news and get you a new room, with a new roommate if needed earlier on. If you get them involved later on, it will take longer for them to realize this.
Many difficult roommates are so charming that other people don’t believe what bad news they are. It takes time for the truth to come out and to prove it.
If the RA finds you a new room with a new roommate, before you move, check out your new roommate first. Ask others who are staying nearby and so on.
Make sure they’re not equally as bad as your current one. Which is why the new room has a spare bed as no one else will share with them either.
Although maybe your new roommate has issues that may bother others, but don’t bother you.
If your RA is not helpful
Sadly there are loads of bad RAs out there.
The good RAs care and want you to have the best possible university experience. The bad ones don’t care.
• Don’t want to bother unless they have to
• Don’t take food theft seriously as they say it’s not important enough
• Say they haven’t witnessed it themselves, but how can they unless they are going to live in your room
• Take the side of the thief because they are friends
• Say there are two sides to the argument
• Even blame the victim instead of the thief.
If this is the case, put as much as possible in writing, take notes of what’s happening as things go on. Your notes can be used to legally prove your version of events at a later time if needed.
At a later date, people can say you have forgotten what happened. So the notes need to be written as soon as possible after any event, so you can show that nothing has been forgotten.
Then slowly go up the college or university staff hierarchy, until it gets dealt with.
One university only dealt with it seriously once a roommate’s parents had to come and take their son out of there. The university could then tell it was going to get serious and legal. I hope you never have to get anywhere near this point.
The best thing at each stage is to try and get the college or university to change your room. Always starting by being nice to your RA, so they want to help you.
10. The more roommates you have, the more rules you need
If there’s just two of you, it’s quite simple and easy. More likely you can both talk to sort out any problems.
Three roommates makes things three times more complicated, than if a person lives by themselves. Four roommates make them four times more complicated and so on.
With more roommates, there are more people for discussions. So they get harder and more complicated. Eventually it becomes like a small company or organization.
If one person doesn’t obey the roommate food rules, there are so many people and complications, with things that can come up in discussions. Enforcement of rules is the easiest way.
The more people there are, the more roommate food rules you need.
This is because:
• You need more systems to communicate what you should all do. Such as having well organized food storage areas for each roommate. Regular formal meetings so things can be discussed with all the roommates.
• With monitoring that everyone is behaving correctly. If there are two of you and some food goes missing, then it’s easy to know who did it. With more roommates, it’s harder to hold everyone to account.
• More things come up, as there are more people for things to happen with. Like if a roommate doesn’t throw their food away and then stinks out the refrigerator. This needs another rule for when food will be thrown out by others if it has gone off.
11. Locking your food away
If your roommates have been using your food without permission and you have not been able to stop them. The best option may be to lock it up.
You may find that you also need to lock away other things like your pots and pans if your roommates use them without your permission and not clean them after.
If you share the room
There are loads of compact lockable refrigerator models available online or in shops. Check it has a frozen food section if you need one, as some are just designed to keep your drinks cool.
If you already have a refrigerator, but it doesn’t lock. You can buy locks especially designed for securing refrigerators for just $20.
They come with sticky plates to put on the door and side of the refrigerator and a lock to join these plates together.
Lockable storage boxes also work well for storing items that don’t need to be kept cool or frozen. Of course, if you have your own room that has a lock on the door, you can keep your things in there.
If you have your own room
Get a compact refrigerator; they can fit under your desk and have enough room inside to store four days or more of food.
How to explain to your roommates why you have locked your food up
The first thing is not to bring it up, only talk about it if they ask.
There ‘s no need for your roommates to know. Bringing it up and telling the truth, is just humiliating them as you are saying they take food that is not theirs.
If they ask and you think it’s needed to avoid conflict. Diplomatically say it’s to stop confusion as some of your food was going missing, or you find it more convenient to have your refrigerator. This means you are not directly calling your roommates thieves.
Never accuse people, there is nothing to gain, be diplomatic.
By taking your food and other things to your part of the place, there’s also more space for everyone else.
It can be useful to have tried a few times with the roommate food rules, before locking up your food. It proves you tried and it did not work. So are left with no other solution.
It’s never as nice because you are cutting yourself off and making yourself more separate from the others. However, this may be needed.
If someone protests too much, is it because they want to eat your food????
12. Things to help create a good spirit
Caring about each other and helping to create a good spirit amongst your roommates, is the most powerful way to create a good living situation. It’s even more effective than roommate food rules.
If you have some food that you won’t be able to eat before it goes past its end date. Tell your roommates so they can use it, or have a place in the refrigerator that you can all put the food you won’t use, and others are allowed to take from there.
Usually, a roommate that lets food go past its dates is the least organized one. They do not even realize their food has gone past date.
They should let other roommates say if they notice an item of theirs is soon going to be past its expiry date. It means the roommate who owns it can make sure they use it, or let their other roommates have it if they won’t.
13, Your roommate is the landlord and insists on their food rules
Usually, the landlord feels they can set the roommate food rules, or at least have a stronger influence on them as it’s their place.
Also if you move into a place and a roommate has been there before you, they often feel they can set the rules because ‘it has always been like this.’
However, that depends on the person who’s your roommate and how nice they are.
Find out what roommate food rules work for you though and maybe do them in a way that does not upset how your other roommate likes to do things.
Compromise, negotiate, lateral think and find solutions! It’s amazing how you can find a solution to an impossible problem.
A good way is to include issues not related to food, so you are negotiating about your whole living situation. Like saying you will get your roommates deliveries, go out at certain times to give them privacy, let them use your Netflix account, or other things to help out in return.
14. One roommate being the ‘master tenant’ can also change things
All the roommates should be on the lease and responsible for paying the rent. It means they’re all responsible.
If you are the master tenant, only you are responsible for the rent and place to the landlord, university or whoever you’re renting from. If the rent is not paid or the place is damaged, the landlord comes after you and not your roommates.
If your other roommates are not on the lease, you have to get the money from them. If they don’t pay, it’s your problem.
Being the master tenant can change the relationship with your roommates, and affect everything you do in the place.
How to do the signed agreement with your roommates
It’s essential to have a roommate agreement. If at some point they won’t pay you the rent or pay for their communally shared food, it could be the only thing that makes them do so. The same if they damage the place and so on.
Roommate food rules are not legally enforceable, and a court judge won’t care about them. However, a signed agreement shows what was agreed, and they should go along with what they approved.
A judge will care about more significant and more quantifiable things on there, such as if your roommates won’t pay the rent, so you had to for them.
You still need to use a written, signed agreement for roommate food rules for if things get out of control. You are the one that needs to do this, and it’s in your interests.
You need to discuss the things on the agreement with your roommates before they move in. You will be negotiating your side, and they will negotiate theirs.
It might be the only thing you have to rely on if your roommates don’t behave!
How to behave as a master tenant
You need to make sure your roommates don’t see you as a pushover.
Like a teacher who on the first day of school didn’t discipline any pupil that played up. Now they know he or she is a pushover and makes their life hell.
Being a master tenant changes your relationship with your roommates; you are their landlord.
The key is not to go overboard with the rules you will enforce, but you apply the ones that matter to you. If you are so strict about everything, you may not get everything.
You still have to win them over, be positive and like a friend. You are still living together. However, the fact you are the master tenant will almost always be there in your relationship. They have to pay you money, and that affects things.
It’s a balance. You have to be not so lenient that your roommates walk all over you. Not so strict that they hate you.
Make it clear which rules you believe are important you will not bend on. Which you don’t care about, and people can do what they want.
Like you care people don’t steal food and pay their rent on time, but aren’t too fussed if someone leaves their bike in the main room, as long as it’s in the corner.
It stops you being the annoying, overly restrictive, a pedantic person people hate and want to rebel against.
15. If your roommate is stealing your food
Often people don’t find out very quickly that their roommate is stealing their food. As they trusted their roommate and so haven’t been monitoring things to notice, or don’t believe their roommate could be doing it.
Your spirit bottle has a bit less alcohol in, a block of cheese is a bit smaller, or a bit less jelly in the jar. Your roommate steals things that are a bit harder to spot.
Often it starts there, but their greed and complacency make them go further.
You might need evidence because other people may not believe you, it might be so people such as an RA can act on it, or your roommate could deny it until you show them the evidence.
Some people are so shocked and surprised their roommate is stealing their food. They do it to be sure themselves.
It’s best to collect the evidence before you do anything, as if you may need it. It’s a problem if you have blamed someone and can’t prove it if you need to. Especially if your roommate then says you have standered them.
Once you think it might be happening. Take pictures and notes of your food, focusing on the bits that your roommate is most likely to steal.
Make sure your photos have dates in them, or as part of their file name. When your roommate takes from these things, take a picture of the change, or if it has gone completely.
You are building up evidence and a case!
Once you have evidence they are stealing your food
If you feel you can discuss it with your roommate and resolve it then do so. You may find that they lie that they’re not stealing anything and you need to show them the evidence to prove it.
Only show your roommate the evidence if you need it to. Show them copies and not the originals in case they try to take it off you.
Your roommate could turn nasty once you show that you have been gathering evidence, so it may not be a good idea. Make sure you don’t do anything to affect their privacy; you are only monitoring your possessions and not anything about them.
If your roommate is bad news, they could react badly if you bring this up with them and are unlikely to change their ways. The best thing is to move out, because sadly from what I have seen, the police and courts are not interested in someone eating your food.
If your roommate is stealing more valuable stuff, like your computer, the police may get involved. However, you need real proof and possibly an independent witness. You might have to get a friend to spent time at your place to be a witness that you had something one day and not the next.
Most people don’t change. You don’t have any powers of prosecution or arrest, so you’re not going to have an effect of on them.
If you are at college or university, this evidence can be useful, especially if the RA is not taking things seriously.
A lockable compact refrigerator and lockable storage box are probably the way to go in the meantime.
You could talk about it with your roommate, even offer that you share food, each paying for half of it. Maybe that’s just how they like to live. It depends on if your roommate is just generally useless so eating your food, or an actual thief.
Usually, the best thing is to move out though. Unless your roommate is doing something tiny, like sometimes helping yourself to something small every so often and thought you wouldn’t notice.
Deal with it quickly
Tell your roommate about it, or if you think that will not be productive, move rooms, as quickly as you can.
When a thief sees they’re getting away with stealing, they usually get bolder and steal more. Some even think taking your stuff is the usual thing they can do and it becomes like their right.
If you catch it when it’s small, your roommate is more likely to back down and confess, as it’s not such a big crime. Like they cheekily ate a bit of your cheese one evening when you were out.
If you leave it for 6 months, they might even say ‘why didn’t you say earlier.’ Your roommate is still in the wrong, but when what they were doing was small, it might have been easier to solve. You could have had a chat and possibly worked it out.
Worst of all, the longer it goes on, the angrier and annoyed your roommate may get when you bring it up. They’re used to being able to take your food and don’t want you to take that away.
You might be the one that explodes and brings it up when you never planned to because you’re getting so annoyed with your roommate stealing your food. You should have brought it up with your roommate or moved out earlier. Then you are also seen as not being in the right.
If you don’t act appropriately earlier, you might act inappropriately later on.
Whatever happens, if possible give yourself a few hours or days to calm down and think how you will deal with it, before you do so. To make sure you deal with it in the best possible way.
The main things is not to procrastinate. Especially important if you are someone that hates confrontation and drama. Deal with it now before it may get bigger.
You could talk about it with your roommate, even offer that you share food, each paying for half of it. Maybe that’s just how they like to live. It depends on if your roommate is just generally useless so eating your food, or an actual thief.
Usually, the best thing is to move out though. Unless your roommate is doing something tiny, like sometimes helping yourself to something small every so often and thought you wouldn’t notice.
Excuses not to accept
If it’s your food, your roommates should ask you for permission before using it. If you’re away, they should call or message you.
The problem is that when you live someone, and they insist they’re in the right, it’s very easy to start to believe them. Speak regularly with your friends for them to show you that what they are saying is not acceptable.
These are some excuses roommate might use for eating your food, none of them are acceptable.
• I ran out of food and was going to replace it.
• You were away so I thought it would go to waste.
• If your roommate uses your food item, then replaces it with something not as good or smaller. Like if you have a large gourmet item and they replace it with a smaller one of a generic brand. They need to replace yours with the same thing!
If they have such low integrity as to use any of these, you are better off sharing with nicer roommates. Also with people like this, their behavior often gets worse!
Even a five year old knows not to use someone else’s stuff without permission.
16. If you eat a roommate’s food
If you eat your roommate’s food out of confusion with everything in the refrigerator, working out what is theirs and yours.
Coming back home late at night with a hangover, or none of your food is left.
A friend comes over and eats some of your roommate’s food.
Whatever the reason. Immediately admit you did it before you are found out, better still, tell your roommate before they even get home.
It’s far worse if a roommate comes home and finds out as a surprise. This annoyance makes it even worse.
Say sorry and mean it.
Then make up for it, or more than makeup for it. Promise never do to it again and of course, never do it again.
Buy the item you used up. Preferably get something else as well on top to say sorry, like a beer.
Do it quickly, so they’re not out of the item for when they need it, preferably even before they get home.
The big thing is not to lose your roommate’s trust and to make up for what you have done.
We all make mistakes. The question is if we take responsibility for them.
Your friend comes over and eats your roommate’s food
Immediately tell your roommate that your friend did this, it was not you.
You are sorry though, know it’s your responsibility as your friend and they came over because of you. So will immediately get a replacement.
It might be because:
• Your friend says they didn’t know it belonged to your roommate. They should still ask you before eating stuff, even if it’s yours.
• They’re greedy
• Have no experience of living with a roommate and so no understanding of the protocol
• They don’t live there and see it as not their problem
It can make you rethink a lot of things about your friend. Maybe they aren’t the good, honest person you thought they are.
17. If sharing with strangers, set roommate food rules from the start
When sharing with strangers, you know less about what your roommates are like. Are they good honest people, or selfish freeloaders?
They may seem lovely at first, but I find you only know what someone is like from their actions.
Just because someone is fun to be around, doesn’t mean they are honest.
With strangers, you need to set more boundaries from the start
Roommates can start lovely, but they can’t keep up their facade for long. Then you find out what they are really like.
If you’re sharing with strangers and things don’t go well, it’s harder to set boundaries later on. A roommate who is taking more food than they should and other things will try to resist food rules coming in.
Set boundaries from the start. Be careful about how you do this. Don’t say to your roommates; it’s because they might be thieves.
Say it’s because you want to make sure they have the best experience by things you do things correctly. The roommate food rules are to make sure you do things correctly, as you want to make sure you behave properly. It’s not about them.
You say it’s for them to get the best experience from you, as you know what have you agreed to.
If they don’t want it, say that you will do the work to set it up so they don’t have to do anything.
In any case, they will know it’s for you as you want it. You are just being polite. Make sure your roommate doesn’t lose face or are publicly embarrassed by it all.
However, if they don’t want roommate food rules, insist on it.
If they don’t want them and resist a lot, what are they trying to do? Maybe they don’t want to behave correctly?
18. Still be cautious about roommate food rules when sharing with friends
It’s different sharing with friends as you know more about them. You have experienced with they’re like.
If you have been on holiday with them, you will have a better idea of what they are like. Did your friend do the dishes and behave honestly?
If you haven’t been away with them or shared a place, you might be in for a surprise.
If you have just seen them for a few hours every so often for lunch or dinner, you will not have seen how they really are.
You may have thought they were honest, but from seeing how they are as a roommate, you find they are not always. They sometimes eat your food and don’t do the dishes.
It’s similar to how people sometimes go into partnership into a business with a friend, and they are shocked how their friend behaves.
19. Are your roommates up tight or easy going
Uptight roommates may care if someone else uses more of the food than they do. Easy going ones don’t care.
This makes a big difference with roommate food rules and how you all enforce them.
Even worse is if your roommates don’t have a spirit of generosity. Cold hearted people are less pleasant to be around.
Is your roommate uptight about getting all they can for themselves, or ensuring things are done properly, and that’s what matters.
Ultimately, choosing the best roommates is even more critical than having complex roommate food rules. Get the right people, they do the right thing, and you will not need to also refer to the rules. Always good to have the rules there though.
You don’t want lazy roommates.
Being easy going can easily be confused for being lazy. An easy going roommate is tolerant of other people, and how things are going, they aren’t lazy.
Lazy roommates are a nuisance as they don’t do anything. They don’t bother to do the food shopping, keep things tidy, and stuff falls apart.
Micromanaging is not the answer
Proper roommate food rules are good and so is precision. However, micromanaging can make things complicated and impossible. Each time a problem happens, instead of balancing and compromising the rules. It’s easy to try and resolve the issue by making them more complicated.
The roommate food rules then become so complicated, people don’t work with them properly, and they become irrelevant.
The food will never divide up totally evenly, some people will get more. If a roommate can’t accept that and gets stressed by it. They shouldn’t share food and must get their own.
20. Roommate food rules aren’t the answer, living with good people is
If you’re spending lots of time on the roommate food rules, then you are living with the wrong people.
Worst of all, each time someone does something stupid, adding a new rule for it!
Rules will help but not solve everything.
Bad people will try and find more ways to take things and be selfish. Moving out and living with good people instead is the best way to go.
You need to live with nice people who care about the spirit of caring about others, more than the little words of the roommate food rules.
If your roommates are not nice people
If you think they might back down and behave. Make an ultimatum that your roommates need to change their ways or you will move out. Then if they don’t change, move out.
If you don’t think your roommates will change when you say this to them or will be unpleasant, as they’re very nasty people. Don’t even bother to give them a chance. Just quietly and subtly move out anyway. Most people don’t change.
No need to make a drama out of it. If your roommates don’t want to change their ways, it won’t get you anywhere. Just leave as easily and smoothly as possible, but still stand up for yourself if needed.
No point in fighting over this, people will do what they want to do. If you blame your roommates and they don’t want to change, they will find excuses and blame you. It might even inflame the situation.
Roommates will often disagree, but good people help others as much as possible and compromise.
Living with selfish people is never worth it. They do more harm than good. In the end, it all goes wrong.
Roommates need to be
I know this is just a list, but I found this helpful when looking for a roommate.
Honest, caring, generous, respectful, and kind.
It also helps if they’re mature and don’t behave like juvenile children.
Reliability and the kind of person you can rely on is also essential. Any signs of them being unreliable and run a mile!
You want the kind of roommate, that when taking it in turns to do the communal shopping. Thinks about what their other roommates needs and wants, not just about themselves. Takes the initiative to help out and is not a burden.
There are times you will need your roommates to help and do things for you. Like waiting for the plumber to come and to let them in.
Chasing roommates to do things is a pain. It’s best to have roommates that do things without you having to ask.
Also, work out if you want to be social with your roommate or lead separate lives. If you want to be friendly with your roommate, then get one who does too. If you don’t want to be social with your roommate and they do, it can be a real nuisance.
Tolerant of other people and their different needs. When living with roommates as everything happens in such close proximity, it’s your home, and you are doing so much together, this is essential. Along with the ability to compromise.
I know this stuff is obvious, but when looking for good roommates, I find it’s good to have something to focus on.
With roommates like this, roommate food rules are easy.
You have to interview and meet a lot of people to find such a person, BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT!
21. Make sure you are merciful with the roommate food rules when needed
There are times that a roommate will have had some bad news, like a death in the family, break up with a partner and so on.
If they break the roommate food rules in a minor way that doesn’t hurt other roommates, it’s time to be merciful.
Why am I saying this?
Because being harsh on someone in these times is not just nasty, it can lead to hatred and lack of goodwill from your other roommate. The kind of thing they don’t forget, especially if they are going through a hard time like a bereavement. This makes things harder in the future.
Of course, being merciful is not for roommates who are always breaking the rules, and this is just another excuse. The type of roommates who talk about their needs and not about how what they do affects others.
When you are merciful and so don’t enforce the rules. Make it clear that it’s an exception and why you are making this exception. Also that you are making the exception because your roommate has adhered to the rule correctly in the past.
When your roommates are not merciful
I have seen this one; it’s so petty and upsetting.
A friend told me how her roommate was really happy that her national team was coming to town and she was given a last-minute ticket. This meant she could not get the food that night and it was her turn.
She said she would make up for it and my friend trusted that she would.
My friend thought people should be merciful and others should get their food that night. Others did not though, and they were jealous of the roommate getting a reprieve.
So even if you think you should be merciful, say what you think is right. However also respect you may not be able to do it, if your other more petty roommates kick up a fuss and it could explode into further problems.
Pathetic isn’t it.
And we wonder why we don’t live in a better world…
22. Have a process for clearing out old and unused things in the refrigerator
Refrigerators in shared rooms and apartments always end up with unused food that goes off. They use up space, are smelly, dirty and unsanitary.
Roommates often don’t throw it out as they think the food belongs to someone else when it’s theirs. Especially when it’s the same product as other roommates use or something generic like an apple or a vegetable.
Funnily, roommates often think another roommates eats that kind of food when they don’t, and it’s their stuff. My roommate often used to think I ate lots of vegetables, so they were mine when they were his. Not helped by him not being able to remember which refrigerator shelf was his and mine.
The best techniques I have found are:
• Before each weekend, or another set time. All roommates get together, go through everything in the refrigerator and throw out what’s gone off. Usually, one person takes charge of this, and the rest say yes or no as they go through it.
• If a roommate finds something that’s past its use by date. They put in a special place in the refrigerator for one week. If it is not claimed after a week by a roommate moving it to their part of the refrigerator, or eating it, it’s thrown out.
You may decide not to put this in your roommate food rules signed agreement, as roommates may want to change how they want to handle this. It means you can all change it without needing to formally alter the agreement (by signing and dating by any alterations), or all doing a new one.
Put up a very visible sign in the kitchen saying this roommate food rule and how you will all handle it. So when their food has been thrown out, no one can say they didn’t understand.
Put a joke on the sign as well if you can, to make it more palatable.
It’s good to do a clear up in the freezer section as well, but you usually don’t need to do it as often. Every three months is more than enough, as things last longer in the freezer and so go off less often.
23. If someone buys too much food to fit in the refrigerator or freezer
It’s easy to go over the top when buying food, also when cooking it.
If a roommate buys so much that it can’t fit in their part of the refrigerator or freezer. They will either put it into your space or have to leave it out.
Your roommate can get upset about THEIR food going off.
Maybe they cooked a large amount, wanted to put it in small packs and freeze it for use throughout the week.
What about other people though! They have their space in the refrigerator too.
Like all roommate food rules, you all have to agree this in advance.
A roommate food rule for this:
‘If a roommate buys more than can fit in their part of the refrigerator or freezer and there’s no space. They immediately give that food to a homeless charity or the other roommates. If it’s a type of food that needs to be cooked to consume it, and the other roommates don’t want to. The roommate that bought it has cook it.
If a roommate kindly lets another roommate use their part of the refrigerator or freezer, it does not set a precedence.
That roommate has to ask the other roommate if they can use their space in there each time and every time they would like to use that space in the future. The roommate whose space it is, always has the right to say no.
A roommate who has lent space to another roommate can always tell that roommate to move their stuff with no notice, even if it will cause their food to be spoilt. As that roommate is doing the other one a favor and should not be at a disadvantage for having done so.’
How to enforce this rule
Basically, it’s the fault of the roommate who bought too much food, it’s not fair if other people then don’t have room for their food in the refrigerator or freezer.
Food shouldn’t go to waste, even if it means the roommate that bought it has to cook it themselves and give it to others.
The social shame that makes them not do it again. It’s a powerful motivator, and your other roommates won’t want their food going off as there no room for it.
However many people do better when they haven’t lost face, so if you can emphasize the honor and niceness that they have let other roommates use the food they have bought too much of. It can work better all around.
Also how good it is if someone else lets another roommate temporarily use their space in the refrigerator or freezer.
If a roommate has to give away their food as there’s no room for it, you will need to be tough if needed. If you let someone get away with it once, you won’t be able to enforce it in the future!
If you come home to find another roommate has used up your space in the refrigerator or freezer.
Now there’s no room for your food.
So your food doesn’t defrost or get too warm, as there’s no space for it. You can take theirs out, and the roommate who bought too much, should make sure everyone else gets to use it.
That’s why these rules need to be agreed in advance.
You can see if another roommate will let that person use their space for the food. It’s not your job to go too far with this one, and you are doing them a favor they should be grateful for.
Roommates can get upset if they have bought food and it will go to waste. It’s their fault and people being allowed to get away with this one, can lead to diva behavior.
Of course, if you have spare space and another roommate would like it, that’s nice of you. However you should always have your space to use in the refrigerator or freezer if you need it, it’s yours.
If you all need more refrigerator space and there’s none left
You may need more refrigerator and freezer space, and so you will have to buy another one. Compact refrigerator prices start from about $125, and there are some great ones out there.
Without this, roommates get frustrated and end up buying more home delivery takeout food. Not ideal, the extra cost of this soon adds up, and it’s healthier to make your food.
People don’t think they will, but when it’s late, and they’re hungry, it’s the practical reality.
24. Enforcement of the roommate food rules
If the milk is getting low and no one finishes it or leaves just a little at the bottom. It’s because your roommates don’t want to be the one that finishes it and so has to buy more.
You then end up with loads of food that’s almost finished, like it has nearly all run out.
It’s a sign that you are all not enforcing the roommate food rules properly!
Or you don’t have a system where people have to pay equally, no matter how much they use. The method of people just buying something when they finish it is being exploited and so has become unfair.
Maybe your roommates are the kind of people who are seeing what they can get away with. Using food and not replacing it. People exploit the system even more, when there are more roommates, as there’s less accountability.
When they get away with it, they take advantage.
The problem grows and grows until it becomes their habit. One or all of the roommates believe they can have it their way, are used to getting away with things. Even think it is their right to use stuff, not go out shopping and not pay for things.
Make sure all roommates pay an equal share of the communally shared food. If they decide not to use as much as others, it’s their choice.
If one time someone doesn’t pay their fair share. All the roommates must remind them of the food rules agreement. If they don’t pay their fair share, they’re not allowed to use the communally shared food until they contribute equally.
Don’t get drawn into childish arguments
Don’t let your roommate draw you into childish arguments if they try to do that. Such as if the roommate who is breaking the roommate food rules uses childish excuses.
It just gets silly. Show how stupid their arguments are with adult replies. Don’t spend ages answering stupid things they may say. Your roommate is just playing games to use up time and thinking they are getting away with it.
If the roommate tries to use arguments that are not talked about on the roommate food rules agreement.
You have this written agreement, and it says certain things. Let the agreement do the talking and not you. So you quote the agreement.
No need to justify it, all the roommates stick to it, and it’s what was agreed. Roommates like all people should honor their agreements.
At what point do you throw them out for breaking the roommate food rules
If your roommate takes from the communally shared food, but they’re not paying for it. That’s theft!
Especially if they did it once before and you reminded them not to.
Usually, the police won’t enforce that one as they see it as being too trivial. A judge certainly would not see it as significant enough to prosecute for. It’s a good enough reason to get your roommate out though!
A roommate food rules agreement is essential here because your roommate cannot say that food was included as part of the deal when they rented the place.
Then you can go through the proper route for throwing a roommate out.
If a roommate needs help
If a roommate has a history of always paying the rent and generally helping out. One day for personal reasons, they need a bit more time to pay their rent. The roommates may all agree to help.
However, that’s a personal choice for all the roommates to make, as they are all paying for it. There is no one else subsidizing the roommate that needs help. The extra rent will have to be paid by the other roommates.
If you are doing this and making this exception, it needs to be written down, so everyone understands the terms and the person you are all helping cannot say that something else was agreed to. Like the roommate who is getting credit, saying they were told one month when it was actually one week.
The document needs to say that it’s being lent out of goodwill and not out of any obligation. What date the payment is due by, how much you all lent them, what date it was lent, and what happens if the roommate doesn’t pay it back on time.
All the roommates need to sign and date it, including the person who is being lent money.
If it is a significant amount of money, you should get legal advice if you want to be sure this document will hold up in court.
Also, make sure the roommate can pay it back. If the rent is almost half of their salary, it may be ages until they can get that much money to pay you back and not be possible.
Your roommate may think it’s possible, but if they have a history of being short of money and borrowing it from people, you need to be especially cautious.
Don’t be a walkover
If someone breaks the roommate food rules and you let them get away with it. You’re educating them that they can break the rules and get away with it.
People often do all that the things that they can get away with. Especially the kind of people who take advantage.
An example is. An experienced teacher with a new class, in the first lesson of the year, knows that many of the students will see what they can get away with.
The teacher must immediately discipline the first student who tries to do anything naughty. If the teacher doesn’t fairly discipline that child immediately. Then the other children will see they can get away with things. It’s tough to come back from that, and the teacher will get hell for the students for the rest of the year.
Same with roommate food rules. Once roommates see you are not enforcing them, some will take advantage. Then make a big fuss when you eventually start implementing them again.
If you enforce them from the start, when people are new and wondering what being your roommate is like, that’s the time to enforce them. There are no habits or precedents at that time.
If you have let the enforcement of the roommate food rules slip. It’s hard to bring them back, but possible. Stick it out, stand your ground and you will get the other side. The most persistent will win.
If you say you are going to enforce a rule, enforce it with no exceptions! At this point, you need to reliably and consistently apply the roommate food rules, until they become almost as consistent as gravity.
25. Roommate food rules can be used to cover more than just food
Loads of items that are not food can be shared communally using the roommate food rules and often are.
Cleaning products, supplies, trash bags, kitchen roll, toilet rolls, dishwashing liquid and so on.
You can choose to use the communally shared food rules for these as well. It works well because the less different sets of rules you have, the easier it is to manage everything.
It works because:
• Roommates tend to be happy using the same products, whereas food is more personal.
• They are a smaller amount of the spend, so less contentious
• Not treats and things that one roommate could binge on.
26. Roommate food rules can cover more than what’s bought
They can cover doing the dishes, as this is about how you all consume food and handle it.
People should wash up as soon as they have used something, or finished the meal the items were used to cook it with.
Clean out the oven after they have used it and always leave the microwave spotless inside.
Little things like how roommates should squeeze sponges out immediately after using them, so bacteria doesn’t build up, or they go moldy.
This stuff usually is not in the roommate agreement that you all sign. It’s agreed verbally, and a sign is put up in the kitchen if needed.
Otherwise if needed it’s part of the cleaning rota and guidelines document which is an excellent idea to do!
The best thing to do though is interview roommates if you can before they move in. To make sure they are people that naturally do these things. That’s so much easier than having to chase roommates to do what they should be doing and the work of enforcing the rules.
You want roommates that are like you, if you do this stuff then you want roommates that do them too. However, if you are a lazy and unhygienic slob, you may find roommates that do this stuff and so insist you do them also are very annoying.
27. Interviewing roommates to ensure they will stick to roommate food rules
Far more important than roommate food rules is what your roommates are like. If they care and have decency and integrity, you never have to bring up the roommate food rules.
If they don’t care and have integrity, you will constantly be having to remind them of the rules and enforcing them. Even then they may not follow the rules or continually finding ways to evade them.
The most significant difference between the people who have no food rules problems with their roommates and those that do. Is that the experienced roommates interview and screen loads of and loads of potential people.
It’s a bit like on a tv talent show, how they see so many acts to make sure they have found the best one.
You want the kind of roommate that gets on with behaving correctly. Sometimes people choose a roommate because they are fun and have a great personality, but after the third broken promise, it wears pretty thin.
How to interview for how your roommate will be with the food rules
I have found it best to ask:
• About the things that most people don’t like to do, such as chores. Asking if they do the dishes right after using them, how often they clean things, tells me a lot about what they will be like as a roommate.
• Questions about how they buy and organize their food. Do they buy loads each each shopping trip, or a bit? Use healthy raw ingredients and make stuff themselves, or get junk food deliveries?
• Look at how they behave when I give them a cup of coffee. Do they take it into the washing up area when they leave and clean it themselves, or leave in a messy place on the table and for me to do it.
• Are they stingy with money, or generous? If a roommate has no problem spending money, they will buy all the food needed. If they’re short of money and very tight, they’ll wait for their other roommates to do so.
• Do a first interview and a second one another day. It’s amazing how in the second interview, I realize how wrong my judgments were on the first one. Often because I have seen by then how much better some of the other people were.
It’s a balance of being nice to make sure they want to be my roommate, but also showing where my red lines are.
In the end, a person that’s good at roommate food rules will want someone else who is good at roommate food rules. That’s what finding a match is all about.
If they do want things organized, they will want a roommate who wants that too. Are you okay to also put loads of effort into the food rules, or would you like to be a roommate that is not so strict about these things?
It’s important to show them your roommate agreement, ensure they have read it, and they know you will enforce it. Read it with them if you need to and ask them questions about it along the way, to ensure they are taking in the information.
That means if the rules are not right for them, they are more likely to go elsewhere. Of course, you do it as nicely as possible, but it still needs to be done.
A trick to get the truth in roommate interviews
I find that potential roommates usually are trying to work out the answer to the questions in the interview. Like a quiz where they want to win the prize of being chosen to be a roommate.
Even if they are not so keen on renting the room, no one likes to be rejected.
I need to know the truth about the roommate though.
So I pretend to be very casual, like whatever answer they give is fine. Once the interviewee gives an answer which means I would not want them to be a roommate, I pretend what they have said is fine.
Then they go further and further telling the truth because they don’t realize that they gave the wrong answer.
Interview lots of people to get the best roommate
I found that I have to interview at least five roommates to find one that is good at looking after things. Of course, the rub is that once I have seen someone who does behave well, they’re looking at other places as well. So I have to interview way more than five potential roommates.
On top of that, loads of people book themselves in to come for a viewing, and almost half don’t turn up. As they’ve booked themselves into so many other viewings.
The percentage that turn up to view the room depends on the economy at the time. If there’s a shortage of places in town, then everyone turns, and the rooms go quickly. If there are loads of rooms in town, it’s the opposite.
It’s easy to be lazy or hope for the best, but that has a high chance of things not going as well as they could. Often people think they will interview loads of people, but then don’t bother.
If I’m helping someone who’s a Master Tenant on the lease, or owner of the property find a roommate. Being the Master Tenant they’re responsible for the rent and the property, or it’s their property. I’m especially careful with finding them a roommate and discuss with them why I’m so careful.
Having a bad roommate can do more harm than good!
28. Often you can’t be your roommate’s friend
I have seen so many people, especially when they are the Master Tenant or the landlord, try to be the roommate’s friend and then get walked all over. Roommates take their food, don’t pay for communal food in advance, on time and so on.
Goodwill is great, if your roommate is honest and places a higher value on your friendship than money.
However I’m sure you have at least one friend that you love hanging out with, but would never want to employ, do business with and you know can be a bit opportunistic.
You like hanging out with them, but that’s it.
If you are friends with your roommates, you are relying on their goodwill. It’s harder to be disciplining and an authority figure, because then they’ll hate you when you do, so it’s harder to be friends.
If roommates are taking advantage of your friendship, you can’t be roommates and stay friends. Maybe they’re friendly, to try and get away with stuff!
Whether it’s roommate food rules or anything related to renting. For some people, money makes friendship go out of the window. If your roommate has chosen to exploit you all they can, they’re no longer a friend. Then it’s a business arrangement and not friendship. You can bend a bit, but be careful.
I have just seen so many roommates get walked all over when they want to be friends and the other roommate wants what is best for them financially. Their roommate places a higher value on money than friendship.
Sometimes you have to be the landlord, Master Tenant, or a roommate just for mutual financial convenience.
Not a friend, as they take advantage.
Sad but true!
29. Even if roommates are rubbish with food rules, it’s still better than living on your own
You may find your roommates take advantage of the food rules and other things as well. However, even with this, having roommates is still cheaper than living on your own.
The cost the communally shared food that they take more of than they should, or do other similar things. Only increases your total food costs by about 10%.
This amount of money is far less than how much you are saving by sharing a place. You’re still better off having roommates.
It’s so easy to get stuck on principles that a roommate uses more condiments than you do or some other issue.
In life, you will get ripped off, lied to and so on all the time in some way. It’s just part of the deal.
There’s plenty of rubbish things going on if you want to look for them, but then you are just spending your time with the rubbish.
In life, look at the bigger picture, enjoy, make the most of things, create, make the world a better place, look at the good things in life and do good.
30. Roommate food rules arguments
Arguments often happen because someone has crossed a line. Interestingly though you may think it’s about the food rules and maybe the other person thinks that as well.
But sometimes it’s not…
It can be about who’s in control, who is the alpha male or alpha female. It can be a whole host of other things as well.
The first thing to do is listen and ask questions. Not jump to conclusions. Then if possible compromise.
Try and keep things calm. If possible wait until the emotion has gone, everyone has calmed down, before reaching any conclusions.
Conflict resolution techniques are very valuable here.
If your roommate is always arguing and you’re sure you are not in the wrong. Make sure you are not roommates with a bully, if so and they won’t back down. Move out!
Being roommates with someone who bullies you, never goes well.
31. If your roommate is your landlord and giving you a good deal on rent
If your roommate is giving you a good deal on the rent, and you want them to keep it low. A good way is to be an easy going and helpful tenant!
It will make a massive difference to them. If one day they do raise the rent, it might be because you managed to annoy them somehow, such as when you lost your temper about something.
Part of being an easy tenant is not complaining and being easy going, such as if you end up paying a bit too much for your shared food.
Your roommate may like it if you are nice about these things. It creates a good atmosphere and means you are more than a friend, rather than someone who is trying to get as much as possible out of them.
See if you can be useful to them as well. Such as getting and paying for a nice dinner that you eat together as friends in front of the tv, cat sitting, waiting for deliveries, or whatever else your roommate values.
When food should be bought communally, or each roommate buys and uses their own?
1. Some items are better off being used communally
Items like kitchen towel, aluminum foil, bin bags and so on are better off being communal.
It’s just too inconvenient to have separate ones for each person.
There tends to be less conflict with these disposable items because people don’t tend to use too much due to greed.
It’s not stuff that other roommates tend to take more of because of greed or selfishness, although they can be wasteful. You may have food that looks tasty and so other roommates eat it at 2 am when they come in hungry. No one gets excited by paper kitchen towel.
Unless they’re a bit crazy!
2. Staple foods being communal
I personally only communally share kitchen consumables like kitchen towels, sandwich bags, aluminum foil, and bin bags. Not food items.
Some people have the essential staple foods as communally shard food as well.
Staple foods are the basic ‘needs,’ like bread and milk.
Non-staple foods are ‘wants’ that you don’t need to stay alive, like ice cream.
They share these staple foods, as they trust their roommates, or if they are friends with them and don’t mind if sometimes they use more food than them.
Eggs, oils, milk, butter/margarine, spices, condiments and things like that are often bought communally and shared.
Roommates often share staple foods, because they’re:
• Foods that people share from the same pack, like a large box of eggs.
• More likely that everyone uses the same thing, like with milk.
Roommates don’t share non-staple foods because:
• People can get greedy about them, and so take more. Even finishing them entirely. When you see tempting foods, it’s not hard not to eat them. Once you start eating them, it’s hard to stop. Addictive treats like chocolate, chips or beer.
• With prepackaged meals, people like different things making it harder to buy the same thing for everyone and share.
Some roommates may do better out of it then others
It’s never perfect. Some people never use some of the things that are bought, like if you only drink soy or some other special milk. You don’t tend to drink milk much or use tomato ketchup.
Also, some people eat more than others.
Roommates can get annoyed that another roommate eats more of something and they have to pay for it, but they often miss that they eat more of a different thing. So it more or less balances out.
Also one week one roommate eats food that costs more than what the other roommate ate. Other weeks it’s the other way around.
Some roommate who are all friends, like-minded and enjoy going to the grocery store., put equal money into a container and go there together. If one roommate wants something the others wouldn’t use or is more expensive, they buy those items separately.
It works best with easy going and nice roommates. Whatever happens though, some roommate food rules are needed, whether they are formal, or agreed to casually.
The main thing is to talk. Also to only communally share foods if you can cope with some inequality.
It might be that some roommates want to be part of the collective buying and usage of food. Others want to be out of it, and that’s fine.
As long as people are getting what they are happy with and compromising as much as possible.
3. Reasons not to have communally shared food
If the roommates have:
Different incomes: It means you will each probably eat different foods.
Different schedules: For example, if you’re out more of the time, you will probably eat less food.
Different lifestyles: Will cause you all to want different foods. Such as if one roommate is a fitness freak and eats loads of healthy stuff, or trying to build muscle so consuming lots of protein.
Another roommate may live off pizza. Meat is expensive, and a vegan roommate may not want to be subsidizing another’s red meat.
You have loads of takeout, and they eat from the grocery store. Which means you are just paying for all their food.
It can be as basic as each roommate having different food tastes and these foods are important to them.
Roommates’ preferences can be very detailed. Such as the many different types of milk, fat-free, 1%, 2%, organic, skimmed, semi-skimmed, soy, almond, lactose-free and so on. Especially hard if your roommates are like spoilt children!
Having communally shared food works best when you all eat the same things. Something that can be quite limiting.
You don’t need to save space: So you don’t need to share food communally. There’s no problem if you have more milk cartons, tomato ketchup bottles in the refrigerator, as each roommate has their own ones.
Whatever happens, it means each roommate has less space for their food and will have to go to the food store more often to stock up, but this may not be a problem.
Someone eats more: This is rare, but people who do lot’s of hard physical manual labor, or have a high metabolic rate, tend to eat more. If they are a reasonable person, this can often be resolved by them contributing a bit more of the money.
It can be that you are out a lot as you go to parties and work away from home. They are unemployed and spend all the time at home, so have all their meals at home.
It makes things more complicated: You will need some kind of system for how much to buy, what to buy and ensure that everyone does things fairly. I show you the best systems later on in this guide.
The more roommates there are, the more complicated this can get and the more problems there can potentially be.
If roommates are short of money, they can argue more over food
Sharing food costs can be cheaper if it means you can share the cost of joining a discount store such as Costco or Sam’s Club. However, if roommates are very short of money, they can get desperate and argue with each other over it.
People never know how they will behave if they don’t have enough money for food until it happens. Being really hungry, or starving is unpleasant.
There’s an old saying ‘Even the most stable country is just three meals from a revolution’. Once people have not eaten for three meals, it’s amazing what they will do to get it.
If roommates are really short of money so may not be able to pay for the communally shared food, it can be best for them to buy their food separately and consume it individually, to avoid arguments.
A roommate can argue with you to give them food for no money; the grocery store will not be such a pushover.
Even if communally shared food works for a short while, it can end badly if your roommate is the kind of person that’s often short of money and things get really desperate. Often they’ve borrowed all they can from friends and cannot get any more.
Of course, some people when they are really short of money still behave well. It does depend on what your roommates are like and what relationships you have with them.
If roommates are not generous with each other about food, letting others have more on occasions, knowing that the others will be good to them too at a later date, or just because they care. Roommate relations don’t work as well.
Also, if you are a skinny person that doesn’t each much and on a very low income. Maybe you can’t afford to buy food communally with your wealthy roommates that like to buy the best things.
Not all roommates want to share
It comes down to shared values and if you like to share and do things together.
Do you all want to live communally, cook and have meals together, or live more separately? This is both an economic viewpoint and a social thing.
The biggest reason to do things separately is if one roommate acts like a parasite, taking but not giving!
With lots of roommates, sooner or later some roommates will want to do things separately. Like if they get a boyfriend or girlfriend and want to spend time at their place. They won’t be around much to consume the food, and it’s unsure how their partner will eat when they come over to your place.
Then a smaller amount of roommates will be left using the communally shared food. A smaller group of you sharing and this other person not being part of it, can still work out fine if it’s what everyone wants and behaves honorably.
If you have loads of roommates, everyone likes sharing, and just one roommate is ruining things. Like if that roommate often has friends around who then eat all the communally shared food, or takes advantage in other ways.
Best to sort out this out quickly, than damage the communally shared food system that everyone loves. Before the resentment between roommates grows.
The worst thing is to leave the problem, or do the cowards way out of stopping to share food when it’s something people love to do.
Sometimes you will want food, but it’s run out
If you get your food yourself and are organized, this won’t happen.
With sharing it can easily happen that you want something, but it’s run out. Especially annoying if you’re going to make something and only one ingredient has run out.
Are your roommates sensitive enough to not eat something if it’s almost gone? Then no one will eat it.
The delicate balance between buying too much so there’s spare and trying to predict what’s needed.
Some people put loads of milk on their cereal and others hardly any.
When people complain that someone uses more food, like drinking more milk than everyone else. Often they’re actually complaining because they finish things without asking and then others needed it. It’s not actually that they consume more!
Also, it can be because everyone didn’t plan properly and so buy more of that thing as that roommate drinks more of it. Even if they have less of something else in return. So it made everyone run out of it until the next shop on the weekend.
Running out of something when people want it, often causes conflict and animosity.
It’s not your personality type
Managing roommate food rules with you sharing food is extra effort and work. It just is, and things will happen.
If it’s going to get you annoyed, it’s not right for your personality and budget. Don’t do it.
A roommate leaches off the system or tries to freeload
Yeah, talk about negative! If you are good friends with people and they are nice people it should be fine. However, if it’s a large group of you who are not friends, you’re roommates just for convenience and to save money then it’s different.
Things start well, but someone eventually tries to see what they can get away with and leaches off the system. Especially if they’re having money troubles, which a lot of people have at one point in their lives.
The roommate sees if they can delay paying in their share and wait until the roommates ask them for the money. It can become like a debt collection situation where you have to chase them. These roommates try and see if you will buy the food and they won’t have to.
It’s good to have the following roommates food rules:
• All roommates pay for food in advance, before the regular store visits. There should also be a side contingency budget for in case things cost more than expected. Then you don’t have to go around roommates urgently getting more money quickly. In reality, this is rarely done though, so roommates pay the others back. There’s a risk of bad debts though.
• If a roommate hasn’t paid their share, they are not allowed to have any of the food! Best to agree in advance that there will be no credit!
Giving credit can go okay once or twice, but soon there is a situation where someone cannot or does not pay back. Then it can get ugly.
If someone does owe money, don’t be passive aggressive about it. As everyone gets annoyed and frustrated. Be open and honest about the situation, so it’s out in the open.
Also, make sure it’s never more than what your roommate can reasonably be expected to pay back. Like if it’s more than 10% of their salary, it’s hard to pay back and make ends meet.
Especially if they owe more, because they’ve borrowed from others as well. Best thing is to never lend money to people that regularly borrow it from others.
A roommate is oblivious to everything and useless
This is different from intentional theft, or freeloading. The roommate is just useless, one of those airheads who gets nothing right. They’re not trying to be nasty, just useless and everything they touch falls apart.
They rummage through the refrigerator like when they lived at home with their parents. Have no idea of stock control, or saying when something has nearly run out.
It just needs one roommate to be oblivious to everything and useless to break collectively buying and sharing food. It’s like a chain with a broken link.
The answer is just to cut this person out. They have to buy and use their food, and the rest of you share, it’s their problem. Sadly this is not always what happens. So it just breaks, and everyone splits apart and buys their own.
Unless the rest of you are strong and choose to hold it all together yourselves. You know this person makes the system a bit of the mess, but it’s still better to have it nonetheless.
It’s often not totally fair
There are so many factors which make one person more expensive to feed than the other. Like if you buy a packet of chicken breasts, and after a few days your roommate has eaten most of them and you just a couple.
How much meat one person eats, as it’s is more expensive than other things like cereal. How often each roommate is at home compared to the others. A roommate gets a boyfriend or a girlfriend and stays at their place more of the time.
So one of you will end up paying more and using less. Personally, I tolerate a bit, but sharing food doesn’t work if it’s going to get stupid. Unless your roommate is willing to pay more as they eat more food.
Good, generous people or friends may do this. If not though, it’s time to have roommate food rules that you each buy and use your stuff separately.
Resentment can destroy a roommate situation
If someone believes something is unfair, it can lead to them becoming resentful. This resentment can be like a poison that seeps into every part of roommate life. People start being upset about things they previously would not have cared about.
So if resentment from any issues with sharing food comes in, see if you can find a thing that is both fair and everyone agrees with.
If not, change to people having food separately, before the resentment affects people’s interaction and harmony with all the things, not just food rules.
It can break friendships
Arguments over money can break friendships. The underlying issue is if you and your roommate value friendships over money.
People often think that they will, but it’s incredible how many don’t once there’s a real money issue.
Resentment, frustration, stress, unfairness and all kinds of things can destroy a friendship.
For many people, when money comes into it, friendship can go out of the window. It’s often surprising and unexpected when a so-called friend does this to you, and that’s what makes it even harder to cope with.
Roommate food rules are of course about smaller amounts of money, which make it less likely, but things can still happen.
In this case, I recommend making sure you don’t do anything that can damage your friendship. It’s an even bigger tragedy if a long-standing close friendship is broken. Share as little as possible, and that includes food bills.
Even if you have the best roommate food rules, your roommate can still view some little things as being unfair.
Immediately start buying and using your food separately. You may even find it’s best to stop being roommates, so you preserve your friendship.
So many people get taken advantage of when sharing food communally
With all the advantages of communally sharing food, there’s a risk you will get taken advantage of. You might not, but there’s this risk.
That’s why many people decide not to do it. Let’s say that over time you have quite a few different roommates, some may be great, but others won’t be. Just like all people in real life.
So not sharing food is seen as a safe option. Of course, roommates can be nice to each other and let them use each other’s food on occasions, but that’s just one off things you can stop doing if things get out of control.
You don’t want to be that close friends with your roommate if they become clingy and a nuisance
Sharing food and communal meals are signs that you want to be close friends and behave like an ‘urban family.’
However after you have been roommates for a while, you may find you don’t want your entire social life and other things to be based around your roommate. You would like to have other friends, hang out with a different peer group that your roommate may not get on with, or that does different things to what they do.
If you have committed to roommate food rules where you share food and have communal meals. Your roommate may believe you are best friends with everything, and you do everything together. Even that they can share all your stuff.
This can get really annoying!
4. Reasons to communally share food
Save on bigger pack sizes: You can buy big pack sizes, of things you would never use all of if they were only for you. Like rice, pasta, ketchup. Even better, you can then save money by going to the massive discount places with pack sizes designed for catering companies.
It’s amazing what you can save when you buy in bulk, like the massive packs of toilet roll that last forever.
Membership of a discount store: Such as Costco or Sam’s Club. You all get the massive bulk buys of kitchen towel and other things. Only one of you has pay to be a member and the rest contribute to their membership cost.
Save space: Food takes up lots of space in the refrigerator, and you don’t have it to spare. Using communal things food-related items is more common where the roommates have less space. If you don’t have much space, communal sharing of foods may be the only option.
The more people you have, the less space there is. Imagine six people all having their tomato ketchup bottle in the refrigerator and 6 of everything else as well!
With ten roommates it can become essential to share at least the basic staple foods communally.
People with lots of roommates, sometimes think each person can store all their food separately at home in the refrigerator because they do it at work.
It might be possible there because it’s a different situation. People at work are only storing their food for that day, or the day after. Also, it’s just for one meal such as lunch.
The food in the refrigerator at home usually is for many days and most of the meals each day, plus snacks, treats, drinks and so on.
Sometimes getting another refrigerator is the answer though. It was in my case.
Save shopping time: Saves shopping time as only one roommate needs to do the shopping each time.
Used before goes off: Items like spices are best used when fresh. Having more roommates means they get used more quickly and are not left about so long.
When you buy for yourself, food can go off before you get to eat it. With roommates sharing, it gets used so much faster and so this tends not to happen.
No worry from other roommates eating your food: Saves on people being worried that a roommate took their food. You are having a hard time separating foods, and each roommates’ looks the same. Like if everyone buys the same brand of eggs.
People cannot say that another roommate used their eggs, as they are all communally shared.
You are not picky eaters: Some people live to eat, and others live to eat. If you and your roommates are not picky eaters and not that fussed about what you eat. Then sharing can be a way to reduce the chore of shopping, as you are taking it in turns.
Creates a sense of friendship and community: Eating together, cooking together and buying food together all help develop a sense of community. This can be a lovely thing, especially if you are new in a city and don’t know other people there yet.
As an example, the opposite behavior of stashing and hiding food away from other roommates creates less of a communal and friendly atmosphere.
It’s not essential though, and you can still go shopping together and pay for your food separately. What matters is that everyone’s happy.
5. Having communal meals is fun, social, you get better meals and save money
Cooking, preparing and eating meals together can be a fun social experience. It’s easy to also put the food in packs for you to all have lovely lunches to take away.
Eating meals together brings roommates together and creates a team. Problems are also talked about and resolved before they can become a problem.
It also saves money. You can have great dishes with just the cost of the ingredients, ready-made meals always cost more than only their ingredients. You also save money from being able to buy with bigger and so cheaper pack sizes.
People I have interviewed have said, and in the online forums I have read. Where roommates eat meals together, there are fewer problems from roommates taking advantage of the system, such as taking food they shouldn’t. This is because roommates are eating together and so know each other more. It’s like eating as a family.
If you are cooking just for yourself, you may not bother to do nice recipes. It’s just too much work. However, when people are cooking for others as well as themselves, people do bother, and it is a pleasure to see other people enjoying what they’ve made.
You can have great recipes that one person would never do for themselves as it would be too much work.
Can you hear the sound of world peace?
Roommate food rules for communally cooking meals
The only one I’ve seen work is when people cook with others because they feel like it. Then other people cook for them.
People do it because they like to cook or it is a social thing that happens from time to time.
Often it starts out happening a lot and then less so as people make other friends and life goes on.
Cooking communal meals usually is best left casual and not part of the roommate food rules agreement, unless you all want to live as a commune. Only communally purchasing of foods are part of the rules.
The other more formal solution is if you each take it in turns to cook. You get the benefit of having a meal cooked for you and then it’s eventually your turn.
Taking turns to cook works well if everyone appreciates a home cooked meal, then understand they have to do it when it’s their turn. A formal rota on the wall is essential for this.
Some roommates are better cooks than others, but as long as people try and others don’t get too demanding of the ones who are not naturally such good cooks. The person cooking is, of course, having to eat it as well.
If one or roommate is a great cook or bakes, you’re all in for a treat.
Signs that communally cooked meals aren’t going to happen
Some roommates don’t want to be friends with each other. They have their own lives, like to eat on their own, or are loners.
Communally cooked and eaten meals happen less commonly when people moved into the place on different dates. Such as one person has been there for many years, another for half a year and you just moved on.
When roommates are more transient and move in and out at different times, it’s harder to organize and get agreement on things.
I have found it’s the insecurity that different people will move out at different times. People are not sure when and who will come in to live there next.
Regularly communally cooking meals together, happens more when you have spent lots of time being roommates with someone and you know you they will all be there for a long time.
You know that person wants to do it, but you cannot tell this about the next person that replaces them.
You may still make friends with another roommate though and do it with them, but not all of them. Also, you may make friends with your roommates, but not share and cook food together.
The best thing is to be generous and kind when possible, like letting people use some of your sugar for free. It increases the speed that people bond, open up and trust each other. Especially if they have had a bad previous roommate experience.
A great way to use up leftovers
There’s always some leftovers when buying food, stuff that’s about to go off. Either you bought too little and so run out of food, or you buy too much, and some things will go off if not used up.
If any of you can cook, communal meals are a great way to use these up. For example, you all get together one a set day and mealtime each week to make something, using these ingredients that are about to go off.
If you don’t eat it all in your communal meal together, then it’s left in the refrigerator for people to have bits of it the next day.
This can be an excellent motivator for roommates to do a communally cooked meal at least once per week.
Parties are great ways to create communal meals
Say to your roommates that you’re going to all have a dinner party, bbq or anything like that.
People love parties.
It’s a great way to create communal meals that you all shop, cook and do things for together.
You can make it a regular thing. Once people get into the habit of it being every Wednesday evening or whenever you do it, it becomes normal.
Always make it easy to do, with little fuss and drama. Make it happen in an impromptu way without any barriers. No big talk about roommate food rules, have fun and do it together.
People will want to have fun and be included.
One person may not contribute or pay their way, but they just get sidelined and given the cold shoulder by the others, until they pay their way and are let back into the fun. It may sound a bit harsh, but it’s the only way that’s fair on everyone else.
Who knows, you may even become the fun place where everyone wants to be!
6. Communal shopping trips bring people together
Communal shopping trips are great for roommates who have the time and want to bond together. Communal meals help roommates to bond and build friendships with each other.
If you are all new to a town or a place, it’s a great way to build up a team spirit. It can be especially valuable when you’re in a strange place that you don’t know.
Just like when going out to a restaurant, when going to the food store, you each pay an equal share at the till.
Whether you just split the food into three at the cash till then each person puts their chunk through separately. Otherwise ask the person at the cash till to split the bill so you each pay a third, and apologize for the inconvenience.
You may hate doing communal shopping trips with your roommates and be very pleased they aren’t part of the roommate food rules. They may shop differently to how you like to do it.
Like if they spent ages going around the store, debating everything and you want to get out of there.
How to pay
You can have one person paying at the till, and then you all pay them back.
The easiest is if you ask the cashier at the store nicely if they will accept an equal percentage of the payment from each roommate. If you work out the math for the cashier, for what each person pays, they usually are fine with it, as it’s not that much work for them.
Of course, you have to ask nicely and have fun with the cashier about it.
‘You get more with sugar than with vinegar.’ So far I have never met a cashier that won’t do this, I presume that one day I will though.
7. Communal pack lunches
You all take it in turns to make the communal pack lunches for everyone.
So if there are five roommates, you only need to make lunch every 5th day.
Each person might make something different, so roommates get variety and not the same thing each day.
Once you start making a packed lunch, it doesn’t take much extra time to do it in larger quantities for other people. Compared to doing it every day for yourself.
Just like the chefs in restaurants, you learn how to make things simple and easy to do in larger quantities. Like making a stew in a large pot.
A friend of mine who worked in a sandwich shop put slices of bread in a row and buttered them all in one go. It’s just one of the many time-saving tricks that caterers know.
Someone needs to take the initiative to propose the idea and recommend how you should all organize it, but if it works, it can be awesome!
8. Roommates buying their own food, usually works best
It starts so well; everyone is positive and happy about the utopia they have created. Everyone is sharing.
However then one person:
• Eats more than everyone else
• Eat the more expensive things
• Has guests over who eats stuff as well. This guest is not a friend of everyone else
If you are friends that have known each other for a long time and trust each other, then this is less likely to happen.
With just the two of you as roommates; if one of you costs much more in food, the other one is far more put out. Compared to if there are loads of roommates, so just one expensive person is diluted by the greater number of total people.
People typically share food because they care about the other person and so don’t mind if they get more. They also know the other person will help them in different ways if they eat more food. A bit like how people share with their boyfriend or girlfriend,
It works when you have a full life together, one person may eat more food, but the other helps in other ways. You genuinely care and love each other.
If sharing food is done to be economical, it can start well, but only if each person stays generous and no one takes advantage. It can work with one roommate that you know well, but with more roommates or a new one, it can go badly wrong.
Sometimes the person who most wants to share all the food is the person that will use the most!
9. Sharing with friends you know and care about, is very different from sharing with relative strangers
When having roommates who are not old friends or people you care about, operating roommate food rules work very differently.
I was roommates with a close friend for seven years, and it was a lovely experience. We had a good time, and I fondly look back on it. Same for many people I know who have also been roommates with close friends.
With people you know less well, roommate food rules are needed though. You’re not yet sure what the people will be like, and you may come to depend on these rules.
Living with roommates you know usually is so much easier. You all care about each other and have relationships you don’t want to ruin.
You’re happy for your friends to eat your food, as long as they ask first. You do things for each other and even buy each other presents. It’s just a different dynamic.
You let your friend eat some of your food as you care. It is also knowing that they will repay the favor some day. If they are short of money, you understand and help them out, knowing they are probably not taking advantage of you.
People often talk about their idyllic roommate lives, full of sharing, caring and doing things for each other. Then they say in disbelief that other people’s experiences are not the same. I then find out the people with idyllic roommates lives, are those who were friends before they became roommates, or are family!
It gets closer to this idyllic perfection when the roommates did not know each other beforehand but become friends while living together. However friendships and relationships take time to build, so it’s never the same as long-held deep friendships that started before becoming roommates.
Some people don’t want to be friends with their roommate though. They want their privacy and separate lives.
Being roommates with family is usually the easiest relationship, such as brothers or sisters being roommates. Many people don’t get on with their siblings, but if they have chosen to be roommates, they probably do. Especially if they decided to live together, after having left living with their parents. They did it from choice, as they could have chosen to live with others.
The big thing though is if you are roommates with good people who care, that’s number one!
10. Sometimes having communal food is pointless
With my roommate it would never work, we don’t eat the same things. He loves cheese and goes through loads. I try not to touch the stuff, as I find it addictive and can’t take that much fat. He only drinks soy milk, and I have normal.
He buys expensive branded foods, and I buy the cheaper ones.
He buys prepackaged junk food and home deliveries, whereas I try to keep cook from raw ingredients as it’s cheaper and healthier.
For some people though, they share eggs, sugar, milk, salt and spices and that works well if they all tend to use the same amounts.
It goes on…
11. Sharing food is great socially, but not always economical
Sharing food can lead to wasteful spending and food consumption.
A roommate may eat more food and more of the expensive stuff, than if they had to pay for all they ate themselves.
Let’s say four roommates are sharing all the food.
If a roommate eats more or more of the expensive stuff than they usually would. It only increases their part of the food bill by a quarter of the total.
If they were paying for all of it, by eating more or eating more of the expensive stuff, they would be paying for all of the extras.
If all roommates do this, the food bill seriously increases! It encourages wasteful food use and wasteful spending because each roommate only pays a quarter of the extra.
Often it takes roommates a long time to realize that this is going on, maybe they never do.
Where it can work though
If you are friends with your roommate and you trust each other, it can work. You don’t abuse the situation because you care about and value each other.
It’s also about creating a sense of community.
Also if everyone knows they save time and money from doing it communally. As there are less shopping trips, and you can buy bigger pack sizes that are cheaper per amount of food. People have a greater motivation to make it work.
If there are lots of roommates, so it’s harder to hold people to account, you don’t know each other so well, and you are less sure about them. It’s best to do things separately. Each person gets their food, and it’s theirs.
Then if you get on with someone, you can give them food if you would like to and build up a friendship, or friendships with everyone. Maybe you will share food between the two of you.
12. Some cultures share food more than others
When researching this article, I found that roommates from some cultures share more than others. This affects how roommate food rules are chosen and the best way to do them.
For example, in India children often live with their parents and grandparents, even when they’re adults and have children.This is not about saving money. It’s about family values.
Some cultures have a greater tradition of sharing and cooking food together as well.
Roommates from the Middle East, South America, India, and Italy tend to share their food more, eat communally and buy their food communally.
Whereas roommates from countries such as America and Britain tend to do things more separately. They buy their food themselves, store it separately and eat it separately. If there is a lack of storage space, or it’s cheaper to buy their staple foods together, they may do it; other things they tend to purchase separately.
This is an average that can be found in some places and not others. Of course, there are loads of American and British roommates who share all their food and cook it together. Likewise, there are loads of South American, Italian and Middle Eastern roommates that buy, store and eat their food separately.
How to communally share food
1. Communally shared food goes on a separate shelf
It’s very common for communally shared food to get intermingled with everyone else’s.
When roommates move in, they’re told what food is communally shared. Then at least one person forgets, makes wrong assumptions and after a while, it goes wrong.
If you’re communally sharing food, make sure it has it’s own shelf in the cupboard and level in the refrigerator.
If there’s no room for the communally shared food to have a whole shelf in the refrigerator and cupboard, get a plastic box or container. Then put the food in it, and put the box in the fridge.
When having apart of a shelf for the communal food, eventually it gets mixed in with the other food.
It just takes one person to mess it up, and it all starts to go wrong. Not only do they get incorrect with what food they can eat. When putting food in into the refrigerator, they put it in the wrong place as well.
2. Be flexible to change what foods you all buy
Roommates will often change what they want to buy, such as people changing brands, sizes or the things they like to use.
It can be because they find something that’s better, get bored of having the same thing each week, or many other reasons.
Which is why a list of the exact items you will all buy, cannot be in the roommate food rules agreement. As otherwise, it’s too hard to change them.
The agreement becomes so rigid, that it’s not what people want and you all don’t keep to it.
As a result, it breaks.
There will always be some things that someone doesn’t want to share, like their soda.
Everyone needs to be flexible and compromise, or it falls apart.
3. Which foods are communal
Communally shared foods should only be the things that are not indulgent, people don’t get greedy about, and all the roommates use.
Eggs, condiments, eggs and so on. Also products like bin liners, toilet rolls, and cleaning materials.
People should separately buy anything that is indulgent, treats, big, or that not all of the roommates use.
For example, each roommate probably likes to eat different ready-made meals. If there are tempting treats like chocolates, it’s hard for a roommate to see the packet, have one and then not finish it.
Also not the more expensive and special stuff like special deli meats. Otherwise, one roommate often eats the expensive things, others eat the cheaper stuff and eventually, people get resentful.
It’s good to sit down with a list of foods. See which ones everyone will use and make those the communally bought and used ones. Any foods that not everyone or most people use, you don’t purchase as the communally shared ones.
Everyone will have to compromise a bit on this, as not everyone will use everything and people will use each food type a different amount.
4. Rules for purchasing food
Four methods work best for who purchases the communally shared foods. Best to chat with your roommates to see which one everybody wants to choose.
I recommend you sit down with your roommates and discuss the choices with them. Please do put in the comments below this article, if you find any others that work.
Usually, the one that works best is that option that fits the temperament of the roommates, and how you’re all interacting with each other.
a. One roommate does the purchasing, and another creates a ledger:
One roommate does the purchasing. You could call them the ‘purchasing roommate.’ They also get the money from the other roommates. When they get money from a roommate, they give them a receipt. The receipts from all their transactions are kept on display for everyone to see.
Another roommate uses the receipts to create a ledger of what the ‘purchasing roommate’ bought and how much money is left. You could call them the ‘accountant.’ This ledger is also left on display for all the roommates to see.
This is a standard accounting stock control system. The person handling the money is not the person overseeing it with the paperwork and checking the receipts.
The ‘purchasing roommates’ does the work and the ‘accountant’ checks that all is above board.
The roommates pay into the collection container at the beginning of each week, and the ‘purchasing roommate’ handles this container. Each person gets a receipt from them when they pay into it.
If the collection container gets low, all the roommates have to top it up equally, before the end of the week.
The collection container makes it easier, more systemized and less embarrassing to ask for money. The roommates who do the purchasing and the ledger, do less of the other chores to make up for this work.
Some roommates have the collection container just left out and not held by the ‘purchasing roommate,’ it depends on how casually you want to do this. If there are more than four roommates, or you trust them less, I recommend you make the collection container more secure with proper paperwork, or things can get out of control.
b. You take it in turns for who buys:
The most secure way is if each roommate has to spend the same amount of money when it’s their turn to do the buying, to ensure that everybody contributes equally.
No good if you are generous and at the end of your week there’s still food left over, so the next roommate doesn’t have to buy as much. Then this next week your roommate is stingy and doesn’t buy much, so the person the week after them has to buy loads.
That’s why the best method is for everyone to spend the same amount, then if it seems like food is getting wasted from over buying, you slightly decrease the weekly spend.
You also agree which items and size will be part of your stock system, like if you always buy this size and brand of tomato ketchup.
It’s pretty rubbish if you buy a large bottle of quality tomato ketchup. Then when it’s your roommate’s turn, they buy a small container of the cheapest grocery store budget one that you hate.
You might like to agree about other things as well, like which toilet paper to buy, maybe none of you want the cheap but horrible hard stuff.
The simplest way is for you to have a rota for who does the buying. Swapping each week if there are two of you, every three weeks if there are three of you and so on.
c. You split who buys what
The least popular way, but for some people the only way as it’s simple.
One roommate buys meat and vegetables. The other buys everything else.
You can also split for other things. Like one person buys the toilet rolls and kitchen paper. The other roommate buys all the other cleaning products.
You would need to agree between yourselves how this would work, who buys what. Then regularly going over the bills together until it balances out. Maybe even paying back the person who spent the most.
When you have a way that work’s in the long run. You need to agree on what kind of quality of stuff you will get — for example, the cheap budget meat or the expensive quality stuff.
Some people use this method to split who buys cleaning products like bin bags, toilet rolls and so on as these don’t cost so much in total. So there’s fewer arguments and disagreements.
d. You all buy food and keep the receipts
Then at the end of the week or month, you add up all that each roommate has spent on food. All roommates then pay back the people that spent more than the others.
e. Purchasing stuff for baking
If a roommate is going to bake, such as they are going to make a cake.
They can only use the shared communal staple foods for this if it’s pre-agreed that it’s for all the roommates to eat and the others would like to eat it.
If not, the roommate who is going to do the baking has to buy the ingredients themselves separately.
5. A roommate is stealing from the communal food
If you have loads of roommates that you don’t know so well. It’s possible that a roommate takes some of the communal food and sells it on the side.
One person I know found their spirit bottle liquid levels magically getting a bit lower and other things, as their roommate thought they wouldn’t notice.
Roommates often don’t notice as they never believe this person would do that. Even when they have reasons to be suspicious, they don’t think it could be actually happening.
If your roommate is stealing food, they usually are stealing and selling other things as well, or it soon grows into them taking more than food.
The best way to prevent this is to buy large items that are harder to resell because you will notice more when they are gone.
For example, buying tomato ketchup, mayonnaise, toilet rolls and other things in large catering sizes.
Such as the large-sized jumbo toilet rolls you might find used at commercial premises.
It’s easy not to notice when a regular sized toilet roll goes missing, but if you use a large one that lasts over a week. You will see more if that goes missing.
Then you also need to decide if you are going to get rid of that roommate or stop having communally shared food, so all buy yours separately and lock it away.
6. Talk about the rules for how the shared food will be used
Where will you all store the communally shared food? So you’re all happy that can you conveniently get to them and know where they are.
Roommate food rules may be needed to cover basic hygiene. Like only using a clean knife with the butter, so bread crumbs don’t go in there. The bread goes stale before the butter, and the butter is then less hygienic.
To say these basics may sound weird, but loads of people don’t do them or even know many of them exist.
You probably shouldn’t write in the roommate agreement, detailed information that explains what a person should do to be hygienic with food. That would make things too complicated.
Write something like ‘All roommates will ensure they maintain high hygiene and cleanliness standards with everything they do. Including promptly cleaning up after themselves.’
Then if needed have a separate document stating what hygiene rules people should do, there are plenty of food handling guides available online. However, this should not be required; it’s best if can ensure a roommate understands basic food hygiene and will do it, before you choose them to be your roommates.
7. Eating something that another roommate was looking forward to eating
This is probably the most significant trigger that causes roommates to stop sharing food or buying communally!
It’s funny how if another roommate eats someone else’s bland and boring thing, then they don’t mind.
If they eat a precious treat belonging to another roommate that they have been looking forward to eating, don’t get that often, or really like. Such as precious meats, alcohol, chocolates, ice cream and so on.
They come home, and it’s gone, so they can’t have it!
Your roommate gets really annoyed. They want to eat it now, it can’t wait, and it’s gone! It hits a certain visceral point.
This tips people into being angry, annoyed and more guarded with their food, almost like a provocation to conflict.
So roommates need to be especially careful with other people’s more precious foods and treats. The ones they value and are really looking forward to eating.
If you do it eat it by, make sure you tell your roommate before they get home. In case they have been looking forward, thinking and salivating about eating it all the way home. Then they get to the refrigerator and…
8. Financial roommate food rules, for purchasing the communally shared food
It’s good to have on the roommate agreement, whether you will each buy your food, or if you will all share some of your foods and supplies communally.
Put on the roommate agreement either:
• For foods and food-related supplies that we will share, roommates will pay an equal share of the cost. Payments from all roommates will be paid in full before we need or plan to purchase the items.
• Each roommate will buy and consume all their food and food-related supplies separately.
These are the same whether it’s one roommate that always does the purchasing, or you take it in turns.
However, there are certain things NOT to put on the roommate agreement, as these can change a lot over time.
Each time they change, you have to amend the agreement with everyone agreeing to the changes. Such as:
• The cost of the foods and supplies. These vary so much with inflation, market prices and so on that it’s impossible.
• The exact items that you will all buy, as what the roommates like, pack sizes and products available change.
• How regularly and often you will make the purchases other details like that.
The essential thing is that people will pay for their fair share and make the payments in advance. Chasing people for money is a pain and leads to friction amongst roommates.
In reality, most roommates don’t tend to pay the roommate that bought the food advance. The others need to pay back the same day, or the day after the food was purchased. There is a risk of bad debts and bad feeling as a result.
The proper way to manage the money
One roommate keeps a petty cash tin. They collect the money from each roommate and gives them a written receipt. It can just be a message from their phone confirming they’ve received the money.
The person that does the shopping and holds the petty cash is different from the person that holds and checks the paperwork.
That’s standard accounting stock control. One person holds the money and another person checks and keeps the paperwork.
It means the roommate who is holding and using the money, cannot change the paperwork to cover up any crime. The roommate with the paperwork never gets to touch the money, and checks over the person who is holding and using it.
So the person who gets the receipts from the roommate with the money is checking that the person who buys the food, is actually buying the stuff and the receipts all add up.
If you take turns to go to the grocery store, the person who looks after the paperwork and checks it still does not do it on their turn. This is to make up for the work they are doing watching over and checking the paperwork. They should be creating a ledger each month and checking it properly for all the roommates to see.
Some roommates decide that everyone will give a bit of extra money to the people that do the shopping and organizes the petty cash, for them to keep. Just so they are happy to do the job and to say thank you for doing it.
The important thing is to keep everything tidy and organized. A mess is where financial fraud or mistakes tend to happen, and can be created on purpose by people who want to cover it up.
A simple way to manage the money
If there are four roommates or less, you can have the simpler method of just a tin in the kitchen. People put money in it each month. Roommates take it in turns to buy the food, put their name on the store receipt and put it under the tin, or another prominent place like by the refrigerator.
If you know your roommates less well, somebody needs to check it all and create a ledger.
The proper way to manage the money above usually is only done when there are more than six roommates. With this many roommates, controls like these are needed because it’s less often that everybody is communicating and seeing each other at the same time. There’s also more relationships between people to hold to account.
The ledger helps to hold people to account.
A simple public ledger
|1st Jan||Toilet rolls||Jim, $20||$5||$5||$5||$5|
|7th Jan||communal food||Stacey $80||$20||$20||$20||$20|
When a roommate buys something, they put what they have bought as a new row in the ledger. Then everyone else has to pay them back directly.
When a roommate buys something, they put what they have purchased as a new row in the ledger. Then everyone else has to pay them back directly.
Once all the roommates have paid back the person who bought the food, that row is crossed off.
The ledger should be kept publicly in a prominent place for all to see, so it shows who has not paid.
This is how it works:
Date: The date the roommate bought the food from the store.
Item: What they purchased.
Paid by: The person that bought the food and paid for it with their own money.
The remaining columns: There is one column for each roommate. The amount of money spent by the roommate that did the purchasing is split between the roommates. When a roommate has paid, the amount of money is written in the row, under the column for that roommate.
So if in row 1, Stacey owes a quarter of what was paid which is $5. $5 is put in there when she has paid it to Jim.
Once everyone has paid back Jim, a line is put through the first row of the table.
You can simplify it further, by having just one row for each store receipt and the receipt is left clipped to the ledger. Roommates can then look at the receipt for more details.
Always have another tin with spare food money
If food cost less than expected, that’s great. Funny how it’s usually the other way around.
When things cost more than expected, it causes problems getting money from the roommates a second time and often somebody gets upset. You need the money now, or you cannot buy the food.
So always have a contingency amount of spare money in another tin, about 30% more than what you expect to need in any month, and it’s collected at the start.
The tin sits there when needed and if it ever gets down to 15%, is topped up with a new collection.
If there are more than two roommates, or you might have strangers coming in, one roommate safeguards and is responsible for it.
So if the food costs $400 per month, have $100 sitting in the tin for if needed.
Something many new roommates don’t do, but then get they short of money one week, cannot buy what’s needed and soon see why they should do this.
A great learning experience!
Allow people to split off and buy their food separately
A roommate may want to split off from the communally shared food and buy their own separately.
Maybe they’re finding a roommate is not being fair with the shared food, or want very different foods, such as if they become vegetarian or have a particular food type needs for an allergy.
So I recommend you put into the roommate agreement. Something like:
• Roommates have the right to change from using the communal foods to buying and using their own. If a roommate does this, they have no rights to the communally purchased food.
If your place has a space shortage and that’s a reason you communally buy food, maybe you need to add:
• If a roommate changes to purchasing and using their food, instead of paying their share of the communal food. They must store this food in their part of the accommodation. They are also liable and have to pay for the necessary items to do this, such as a compact mini refrigerator.
I’ve even known two people who are roommates with loads of other people, split off together to share food between just themselves. They did this because their needs were similar to each other and different from everyone else’s. They bought healthy food, and the others were buying junk food.
It’s essential that the other roommates are tolerant of different roommates having different needs and wants, so they can split off and feel comfortable to do so. It creates a much better roommate living experience
Roommates pay as soon as they get paid
Hopefully, everyone gets paid from their job, or other sources of money, around the same time, like at the end of the month. You all pay into the cash tin, immediately after receiving your paychecks.
This is to make sure roommates haven’t spent their money on things they didn’t need or got tempted into buying. So now they’re broke again.
Lending money by letting roommates pay later on, may go okay a couple of times, but sooner or later it goes very wrong. You get a bad debt that the roommate can’t or won’t pay back.
Communally shared food for everything, not just the staple foods
Some roommates want to do communally bought and shared food for everything that everyone eats, not just the staple foods.
A way to make this possible can be if the roommates estimate what everyone else has. This usually is easiest when people have very noticeable differences, such as a roommate has:
• Special protein shakes
• Vegetarian when the rest are meat eaters
• Certain foods because of allergies
• Other such distinctive things
As food bills can fluctuate so much and there’s no one to subsidize if the budgeting underestimates the food cost. It’s best for the person that’s more expensive to feed, pays a higher percentage of the total, and the person that costs less to feed pays a lower percentage.
Like if one roommate pays 60% and the other 40%.
It only works if roommates have eating habits that are mostly the same and are respectful and generous to each other.
Also really value the advantages of sharing, more than how it can mean one person may get more or less from it.
If you have a roommate who whines about their payment
It often starts with a whiny and self-entitled roommate that complains about their payments for some reason. They don’t use something, someone else does, and they still have to pay for it.
It all sounds reasonable, and you make compromises.
However, if this person was selfish and demanding, and it’s something others would have tolerated. Knowing that they do well from the financial arrangements in other ways and it’s just better to be nice.
Then, as this person now has some advantage, others get jealous. They find other ways that they are hard done by, and everyone has a complaint about something. It just gets so complicated and annoying with all this friction and discussions that need to be done between all the roommates.
When this happens, it’s just best to say that people can pay their even split of the food costs. If they don’t like this, they can use everything separately and not be entitled to the communally shared food. It’s the only way that stops the arguments.
Conversely, you may have to make the roommate food rule that if a person wants to have something different in the communally shared food, that no one else will use. They also have to pay for it separately.
It’s a shame though when someone is like this. It’s just nicer if everyone can be kind and generous to each other and those are the roommates you want to choose and have.
10. How to do Stock control for roommate food rules
I recommend using this simple sheet. The more complicated ones become too hard to use, and so roommates stop using them. It just becomes more work than it is worth.
A simple and easy stock control system is excellent and prevents so many problems.
It’s essential that it’s visible and easily accessible to all the roommates, so everyone can see it and is accountable.
This is how to use it:
Item: Keep it simple; write the item and its size. I tried putting another column in for size, but that made it seem more complicated.
Spare: How many should be in stock as a spare. If it’s something that you all use a lot and doesn’t go off for a long time, like cereal. It’s best to have more spare. If it’s something that goes off quickly and you use less, then have less spare. You could say that the last item you have needs to be at least half full and that is fine as a spare.
Down to spare: A person puts a check here when they have finished a pack, and you are just down to the spare. Maybe you check it when the last one you have is only half full. So you have to buy a new one.
Name: The name of the person that wrote it. Only needed if you have lots of roommates.
|Item||Spare||Down to spare||Name|
|1 Liter milk||1 carton||Check||Helen|
|2 litre OJ||1/2 carton||Check||Sam|
|500 g butter|
You have a first column for what you buy, and a second column for what you use.
Then a third column where you do maths of the amount bought column minus the amount used column, which equals the total in stock. You also do a regular stock take, where you count what’s in stock and how it matches this third column.
The stocktake shows how reality differs from what is in the third column. It’s easy to make mistakes as things are bought and used, also to help spot possible fraud by a roommate.
Using a full stock sheet can seem like a great roommate food rule, but a lot more work than the simple method. So, in the end, many people don’t bother unless there’s six roommates or more.
That’s why I put the more straightforward stock sheet above, where people enter a row when they use some food, and so the roommates need to get a replacement on their next food shopping trip.
11. Tips for stock control
It takes a while to learn how to do stock control, but it’s worth it.
At first, you won’t get it right, especially if you have lots of roommates. It’s a new thing to learn and a skill. Please don’t give up. Eventually, you’ll learn from experience, and it will all become obvious.
The primary learning curve is pack sizes and finding out the number of spare things that need to be in stock.
You’ll buy too much, and things will go off, or buy too little and run out.
A roommate may look like they won’t use much milk, but drowns their cereal in it.
Another roommate goes crazy with the tomato ketchup.
Even once you think you have it perfected. Sometimes people fancy eating more of something, and at other periods, they feel like eating less. However with stock control systems in place, you still get it far more accurate than you would without them.
Other challenges are if a roommate is useless with stock control and it’s down to you and another roommate to do it.
Normal life stuff…
Still better to have a system which helps in some way, than the chaos of no system at all.
Keep it accessible
By having the stock control sheet in the kitchen, right in your roommates’ faces, they’re more likely to use it. Sticking it to the refrigerator is a good place.
Whiteboards are also great, and people love to use them, which makes the stock control system even more likely to work.
Some roommates will use loads more food and stuff, get over it
Some roommates will use lots more food and other things. Like if one roommate always works from home and you are out most of the time.
This also affects other communal purchases such as toilet rolls and kitchen paper.
It’s so tempting to try to make the stock system more sophisticated to deal with this. To create a stock system which calculates how much more your other roommates uses and so show how much more they should pay.
It just doesn’t work. The complications doing this create such a massive overhead of work and problems, that everyone ends up worse off. The administration and systems become so complicated that they never work or get used properly.
If you want that roommate to pay more, either they do so voluntarily after you talk about it, maybe even doing some calculations together. Otherwise, they should buy their food separately.
12, Tools to organize receipts, payments and collecting money
There are loads of great ones out there.
Splitwise: Very popular and the app I would choose. It enables roommates to split payments. You can also adjust the amounts owed by each roommate at the end of the month, for who bought more of something. It also integrates well with Venmo and Paypal.
Check: You put all the bills in here, take screenshots of the amount owed and send them to your roommates.
Venmo: Your roommates put money into the app, and you can charge them for their share of the food. Venmo sends reminders to your roommates, and it’s all nicely automated. The app can also be used to share utilities and other things which is fantastic.
Some people don’t like how Venmo is built on a social networking model, so people can see who’s paying who. To stop this problem, set it to Private or put a “.” when you make a payment. You can also choose not to sign up through Facebook.
Billsup is another one that I have read good things about, but not tried it.
I would choose Splitwise, as it is the most popular one with the most users. Quite a few phone apps for roommates to split bills have come out but then closed down. It’s a nuisance if your history and data are on an app and then it’s discontinued.
As Splitwise is quite big, even if the company behind it wants to stop running it. There are so many users that most likely someone else would be happy to buy it or take it on.
With these apps, roommates can:
• Split food items for who uses each thing
• Enter when they use something
• Itemize receipts
They can be a bit of a pain to set up, but so worth it once you get going.
With these apps, if one roommate uses most of the milk, they pay most of its cost.
There are loads of payments systems out there for paying roommates, but they don’t have features to organize splitting food costs. Amazon payments is good because you earn points!
If a roommate doesn’t use the app properly
If a roommate doesn’t enter data properly, as long as the others do, it becomes clear who is the person not entering data.
If this person does not use it properly as they are too lazy, don’t expect them to change. This roommate needs to pay what was left over from the data entered by the other roommates.
Google Sheets in Google Docs
The free Google Sheets in Google Docs software is excellent. One roommate creates a spreadsheet template and sends the others a link so they can use it.
The beauty is there’s no learning curve like with some apps.
The downside is that one idiot can mess it up if they want to because everyone can write on it.
You can reduce this problem by protecting and locking some of the cells on the sheet, so others can’t edit them. Also by taking backups and saving them as previous versions, so you can go back to them if anybody messes it up.
Keep it simple
It’s very tempting to want more features and so make the spreadsheet more complicated. You add more maths, columns, data cells and so on.
It takes time to create it, then loads more time fixing the bugs and problems that appear in such a sophisticated spreadsheet.
In the end, none of your other roommates can understand it and find it complicated. So they don’t use it.
If it’s complicated, your roommates will probably find little bugs in there as they use it over time. In the end, no one trusts it.
To prevent this from happening you can do loads of testing of it using fake data and so on, a bit like how developers do it on software projects. However, is it worth it just for roommate food sharing rules?
Like all roommate food rules, it needs to be transparent and straightforward. So everyone can get involved, understand and trust it.
A good way to have Google Sheets
This is probably the most complicated I would make the file:
• One tab for expenses, such as food.
• Another tab for bills, such as utilities.
Then in each worksheet:
• A column for the date.
• A column for what was paid for, eg. $50 at the store for food.
• A column to write who paid the bill or expense.
• A column for each roommate, to show who has paid back the roommate that paid the original bill.
Each month, the roommates pay back the ones who paid more than the others. Once that is done, you mark those rows as paid.
Another way is to use the ‘Simple public ledger’ higher up this page.
If roommates buy things for themselves to use and not to share, they are are not included here. When roommates go to the store, they should buy the things that are just for themselves on a separate receipt, or cross them off the receipt they get.
Going old school
Sometimes the old school method of putting money in a jar, and keeping the receipts under it with a simple ledger, is used as it’s so easy and convenient.
I still recommend taking a picture of each receipt with your phone though, just in case one goes missing.
Magnetic whiteboards are brilliant, and you might decide to do everything on that! The magnetic whiteboards are best because you can use stick your receipts to it too.
It’s clear, simple, visible for all to see and fun to use, so people get involved. There’s less work reminding people for money as it shows so clearly on the board. My last roommate and I chose to use a whiteboard.
You put their name on the board, with the amount they owe. When they’ve paid, you put a line through the amount they owed.
To use a whiteboard, you need roommates who you trust, because they can rub things out so easily! If you get suspicious though, take pictures of it at various times to show they’ve been rubbing things out.
Put the receipts in an old fashioned bill organizer. These are mini stationery drawers that go on a desk, and you put the bills in. If you can all organize thing well, they go so much more smoothly and efficiently.
Also, people that don’t want to pay tend to take advantage of any disorganization in the system! So keep it tidy and organized.
13. Coming home and THE FOOD YOU WANT IS FINISHED, is usually the biggest killer of roommates communally sharing food
You get home and none of the shared food left is left in the refrigerator, or you were looking forward to eating something, and it’s all gone.
Someone finished it and didn’t immediately buy more. It takes time to go to the grocery store and back, or get it online.
Maybe your roommates can’t cope with a proper stock system and buying
additional stuff for when you all run out.
This might make you want to buy your food separately, but they say you should share.
The best argument back is ‘Sharing is about giving your food to others, and they also give theirs to you. You share it, you give a portion or go halves. That’s got nothing to do with someone taking all your stuff and you being surprised by nothing being there when you get home.’
So if someone tries to give you that guilt trip say:
Benevolence is giving, not taking.
If they’re taking, they are the ones not being benevolent.
If a roommate doesn’t just take part of a piece of food, they take all of it. They’re not sharing.
If your roommates can’t share, it’s time to have roommate food rules for everyone to buy food separately.
If you eating a piece of food, means there will be none left, ask the others before you eat it
Like if there’s just a small slice of cheese left, you eating it means there will be none left. If you can’t buy more before eating it, ask the other roommates first.
A surprisingly simple, but essential roommate food rule. Best to agree to it before you start being roommates, or as soon as possible.
Let’s say there’s only a bit of milk left. If you drink it all, then there will be none left.
By asking your roommates before eating it, you come to a diplomatic and friendly solution. Maybe you will go halves.
If your roommate is the kind of person that will not ask before finishing it, as they know they will have go halves and not be able to eat it all. Maybe they don’t ask as they don’t think about others or care.
Get a different roommate!
14. Have food rules for when guests stay over
This can be a crasher who is there for a few weeks, or a roommate has friends over.
Your roommate could have guests over who eat your food. You only realize it later on. Maybe your roommate also didn’t know their friend was doing this.
So when you start with a new roommate. Agree in advance, that if a roommate has friends over, either:
• They donate equivalent to an extra person.
• They buy food especially for their friends to eat, no using the communal food.
If your roommate has friends over every so often and they eat a bit of food, then I would tolerate it. Like if they come over for a coffee, with milk and eat some cookies. It’s nice to be hospitable and create a sociable atmosphere.
If your roommate has friends over a lot, who eat full meals or stay over, it’s different. If they use eat than just a bit of food every so often, insist on your roommate buying separate food for their friend.
So it’s okay for friends to come over for a coffee, or once a month stay and eat from the communally shared food. However, if their friends do it more, your roommate has to contribute in full for the extra person or buy separate food for their meal.
15. If a roommate is a chef, pay them to create meals
If you all eat microwave meals and don’t cook with fresh ingredients, you can all save loads of money by one of your roommates cooking fresh meals for everybody else.
Not only are loads of microwave meals unhealthy, but they’re also SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN JUST BUYING THE FRESH INGREDIENTS.
I’m not talking about the posh ingredients, just the basic stuff like potatoes and spices.
If there are 6 roommates, and you pay one roommate a bit for their time to make a meal, or that roommate pays a bit less for the food costs. It only takes that roommate half an hour, and you pay them half an hour’s salary. You will all save money, and your roommate will like getting the money.
If your roommate is a great chef and they love cooking for you. Your roommate will be so proud of what they do and motivated to produce great things.
The big thing is to make your roommate feel good for cooking the meals and being a great chef. Compliment them when they are creative and try new things!
Your roommate should make sure they cook simple recipes that create less washing up. So it’s easy, and they’re happy to do it.
If you are the kind of person that just eats Doritos, one of your roommates is a chef, or likes to cook. Please do this!
16. To keep it simple. All the utilities, rent, food and so on, are in one payment
This keeps it nice and simple.
You also have a contingency budget for if there are problems, best if it can be a month’s money in advance.
You have the shared food and other shared costs in the same budget as all the other bills, such as rent, utilities and so on.
You also put the money collected from the roommates and paid out in bills on one ledger, that you have next to the refrigerator.
17. Joint accounts are more hassle than they’re worth
It’s tempting to create a joint bank account for buying food. Especially if you’re doing online food shopping, or using discount clubs such as Costco or Sam’s club.
However, it can be more hassle than it’s worth.
People you know less well, or even people you know well, can play and do things on the account that’s also in your name. Imagine if they took out credit when your name is on the account, or messed around with it in other ways. It can affect your credit score and cause loads of other problems.
As roommates tend to be relatively transient, the account will need to be changed and closed down within months or a few years.
So it’s best if one person buys something using their account. Then prints out or emails the receipts to others as proof and everyone pays them back.
18. Eater meals
It sounds complicated but really isn’t.
Each time a roommate has a meal from the communally shared food, they put a check on the whiteboard.
Then you add up all the checks, and each person pays their percentage of the total.
It makes things more flexible. Sometimes roommates use the communal food and sometimes they don’t. They are not tied to it!
Some people do eater days, so you check when you have eaten two or more meals from the communal food that day. If you eat one meal a day, for two days, it counts as one day.
It’s a bit like when you go to a buffet and only pay if you eat a meal.
19. Every month go through the bills and make sure no one is being ripped off
Make sure you do this sooner rather than later. If someone is paying too much, it can add up over time to a lot of money. Nobody wants to compensate that person later on as it’s added up to so much money.
Then it gets difficult…
Things always go wrong somewhere. Somebody is paying for stuff that they don’t use. Something is being bought communally that only one person uses and so on.
Just go over these all your food costs as a group once per month. Sort out problems early, before they have gone on for a long time and cost lots of money.
If someone doesn’t want to get involved, make sure you send a message or something in writing like an email. That if they’re not going to help check everything, you cannot take responsibility for if anything is not in their interests. Also, they can’t complain later on and want things back retrospectively, if they in hindsight find out something was not as they wanted it to be, or thought it was.