What’s In The Box (Habit: Leaving Empty Boxes in the Freezer and Pantry)

From the section on House Rules

Back when we lived in Portland, my wife and I learned of this amazing gourmet cookie called “Ugly White Chocolate Raspberry.” We could only get them in Seattle at the time, so when we visited friends up there or made an occasional shopping trip, we would always pick up a few boxes, bring them home, and keep them in the freezer.

Craving a cookie one afternoon, my wife opened the freezer and began to search. “Where are the cookies?” she asked.

“What cookies?” I responded, trying to sound innocent.

“The gourmet ones we bought in Seattle.”

“Oh, those cookies. They’re in the freezer, last I saw. Did you check?”

“Yes,” she said


“The box is there. It’s empty.”


“Honey,” her tone carried the exasperation of a point that I was missing, “we had two boxes of those cookies. There were eight cookies in each box. I ate two of them. What happened to the other fourteen?”

“Uh, not sure.”

“Do you have any ideas?”

“Yes,” I said. “Next time we go to Seattle, we should buy four boxes. They keep well in freezer.”

“Agreed, but why is there an empty box in the freezer.”

“Not sure.”

I guess I did eat the other fourteen cookies. My wife tried to make them last. With less self-control, I downed one maybe every other day or so, going through the boxes in less than a month. (Okay, in about two weeks.) My wife was disappointed to discover I’d eaten the cookies. However, it was finding the empty box in the freezer that bothered her more.

It’s happened before. She once had two cereal-box size boxes of her favorite Japanese treats (Pocky) in the pantry.

“You ate all of them,” she said.

“No. There’s a whole ‘nother box in there.”

“Why didn’t you throw away the empty box?”

“It’s empty? I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, right.”

I do know I’m not the only person who does this. At work one morning, I opened the freezer in the break room to store my meal until lunch. I saw a few boxes of Dove bars there and moved them around to make room. One of the boxes was empty. When I later mentioned the empty box to some of the women in my office, they all chimed in, “It must have been a guy.”

Then one of them grilled me. “My husband is the same way. Why do men do that?”

I thought about it briefly. “We’re embarrassed. The treats should last longer than they do. By leaving the empty box, we hope the women in our lives will not notice that the contents are gone. We figure we’ll throw the box away in a couple of weeks.”

“Bull$^!t,” one responded. “Men are just lazy.”

I tried to defend myself. However, I was done before I started. “So, Walt,” one said, “what’d you do with the box?”


“There’s a garbage can next to the fridge. What’d you do with the box?”

I admitted I’d left it in the freezer.

At our current house in Georgia one morning, my younger son asked for a breakfast bar. I went to the pantry, grabbed the box, and discovered it was empty.

“We’re out,” I said. “How about some yogurt or cereal?”

Overhearing, my wife said, “We can’t be out. There’s a box in the pantry.”

“It’s empty,” I said.

“Who ate the last cereal bar?”

My older son confessed. “I did, Mommy.”

She looked at him sternly. “Next time. Throw away the box, please.”

I tried to stifle a laugh. My wife then smiled at me and said, “He’s definitely your son.”

Postscript: For those interested, the above-mentioned cookies are called “ugly,” as something in the baking process turns them green. They are still great and especially so just out of the freezer. A link to Cougar Mountain Baking Company can be found here. Pocky can likely be found in any large Asian foods grocery store nationwide.

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