January 11th, 2008
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In the past few weeks, there have been quite a few posts on here about food hoarding, sneaking food, and the frustration that parents face, when dealing with such behaviors. For some children there is a legitimate fear of running out of food, so they stash some just in case, while for other children, sneaking treats is nothing more than a control battle.

This is something that we have dealt with in our own home for quite some time. When my adopted stepson was very young, there was often very little food. While he always had something to eat, there were quite a few times in his young life, when what was available for consumption was not necessarily desirable, nor filling, so when we first began finding food wrappers in his room, I assumed that he had a fear of not getting enough to eat, even though our cabinets were always stuffed with plenty of good things to eat.


However as time went on, it seemed to be more of a control issue. It is still unclear if the behavior of him taking food is a control battle in the sense of he isn’t going to allow others to tell him when and what he can and cannot eat, or a control issue in the sense that he has extremely poor impulse control and if there is no one to see him do something, he is going to do it. If he wakes up in the morning for school, and no one is in the kitchen, he doesn’t think twice about going through the cabinet and eating an entire box of granola bars, or perhaps an entire package of cookies, which is as frustrating as it is expensive.

The last time I went into the cabinet, only to discover empty packages of snacks that had just been bought, I had run out of cheeks to turn, and gathered up all the prepackaged snacks and set them on the counter. I retrieved a box from the garage, and called my adopted stepson into the kitchen and asked him to help me put all the snacks in the box. While we did that I explained to him that I was tired of having this issue, and he began to well up saying that he was too, but didn’t know why he kept doing it.

I told him that this was not a punishment, this was the only solution that I could come up with since neither of us could figure out why he keeps taking so much food at every chance he gets. There are always fruits, veggies, cheeses, lunch meat, yogurt, apple sauce, and other such treats available, yet those are never raided, it is the junk, so the prepackaged junk was leaving, not just for him but for everyone, we will simply no longer keep in lying around the house. After we finished packing up the junk food, we went food shopping together to pick up some snacks for the house that were not going to land anyone in the dog house.

All their snacks are now foods that must be prepared, which I was worried about at first as that adds quite an extra load onto my plate, but it has worked out beautifully so far I must admit. No longer are we finding empty wrappers stuffed into every conceivable crevasse in his room, but his complaint of being hungry all the time has gone away as well. Instead of coming home and having a junkie snack, and then sneaking snack after snack that does nothing to fill him up, he comes home and I make the two of them a nice hearty snack, that keeps their belly full until dinnertime. Part of his issue seemed to be legitimate hunger, yet his poor impulse control was not allowing him to make good food choices, leaving him consistently hungry no matter how many calories he stuffed into his face.

Now that the temptation of the prepackaged snacks are gone, I have noticed that the entire family is eating less, yet is not constantly hungry, many of us it would seem, were eating for the sake of eating. Now before I get bashed up and down for denying my children the pleasure of oatmeal cream pies, cookie bars, or sticky sweet sodas, let me assure you that part of this deal of removing the junk food is that they still get these snacks, just not entire boxes of them. Once or twice a week, after my adopted stepson and I pick up the little guy from school, we stop at 7-11 and they may pick out a drink and a snack. They really seem to enjoy this, it seems to make the snack that much more special. The two of them roam through the isles carefully inspecting the candy, donuts, and chips, eyes filled with excitement as they scan the packages until they gaze upon that one that sets their heart all a flutter.

For us, our battle with food sneaking has only ceased when we removed the temptation from the home, without removing their favorite treats from their lives. So far everyone seems happy, as well as less hungry, and I am enjoying preparing their after school snacks much more than I initially anticipated. It makes me feel wonderful to whip something up for them while they sit and do homework, and has allowed us to form a wonderful, relaxing routine in the afternoons. Who knew prepackaged foods could be so dangerous to have around the home, and that a home could be so much more harmonious without them!

6 Responses to “Food Stealing, Hoarding and Pre-Packaged Snacks”

  1. Kelly says:

    “Who knew prepackaged foods could be so dangerous to have around the home, and that a home could be so much more harmonious without them!”


  2. lmg1567 says:

    A simple solution that restores harmony to your home!! I keep thinking we need to simplify and we have taken baby steps, but the draw of “easy” prepackaged is strong.

  3. We did the baby steps thing too, and it just didn’t work for us, we kept slipping back. Once I just made the decision to have no more individually wrapped junk, it was actually easy to not buy it, and the fact that snack time has been so wonderful has only made me more determined not to bring junk back into the home on a regular basis. I do buy some healthy frozen snacks, but the entire box is one serving. Instead of pizza bites, we have a whole wheat organic pizza that I can cook up for both boys. It is still an easy snack as it is already a prepared food, but since it is one serving and needs to be cooked in the stove, I know that no one will go in and eat it up when I am not looking!

  4. ljoury says:

    I have this problem with my daughter, now 8, adopted at age 3 from a russian orphanage. At first she hoarded her favorite foods behind the chair in her room (pickles, croutons, and yes, popsicles, when she was too young to understand the laws of thermodynamics). The past few years, she has taken to going on strike for real food at dinner, knowing full well she can sneak down and raid the kitchen. I tried my best to purge the cabinet of packaged food, as I would often find an empty bag of cookies (sometimes she left just “one” of something, and she never threw the bag/box out either). Whether it was my protein bars, or chocolate, I went ahead and got rid of it. Then one day I went to make a cup of hot chocolate, to find out that she ate the raw chocolate powder. And she ate the crystal light dry too, anything she could get her hands on. And being the social outgoing child she is, people buy her cookies, she trades for goodies at school, etc. I didn’t realize how bad it was until we went on vacation (and had to resort to locking the chocolate bars in the hotel safe, since she binged on them during a previous vacation, my husband loves dark chocolate). On vacation, she ate. Real food, every night. It was amazing.

    Also, every year her teacher comes to us and asks us if we are feeding her enough (she is on the thin side). Apparently she throws her lunch away and tells the teacher she has nothing, in the hopes she can better deal it. The last few years, I have to start the new year by addressing the food issues with the teacher up front, so I don’t look like I neglect to send her to school without a snack or lunch. He also steals money from my wallet to buy candy.

    Lately she has taken to hiding her food in strange places, such as down the wall behind the living room chair (a plate full of pasta), or she tries other tricks. Then she proudly announces she has eaten real food, can she have dessert now.

    I guess it is time to consult a professional, but I was wondering, if talking about the importance of lying/stealing, the trust issues, and the reason we eat well, have not worked, and punishment does not work, I don’t know what to do. Any ideas?

  5. apples says:

    My problem is not the child hoarding, my problem is my husband (the stepfather) taking the LAST lunch snack or the LAST of lunch meats or items used to make a sandwich or the LAST can of Chefboyrdee and not carrying. Then he wonders why my child hates him and I get frustrated. He does not contribute to the grocery bill AT ALL, and we are both unemployed and he has no desire to seek reemployment. So, I am the one footing his bill as well.

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