It, Chapter Storch
Hacking the Back-to-School Hand-Me-Down (plus GIVEAWAY)

Summer Cereal Wars

We're currently getting the back deck and wood trim painted, which is one of those homeowneryship things that costs like, ALL of your money and leaves you with...well, everything pretty much looking exactly the same as before. (They're also power washing the siding, which has grown slightly greenish since we moved in, so we at least get to Make Yellow House Yellow AgainTM.) It's a very unsexy unfun home improvement, and it's taking forever because every day it starts raining right after the crew shows up. 

(That has got to be one of the All Time Top 10 Most Exciting Paragraphs I have ever written in the history of this blog, no? Perhaps later I shall set up a live video feed of the freshly painted window trim so we can all watch it dry together.)

This morning they asked me to remove all the window screens, which I did, while the cats looked on in escapist glee. I of course managed to injure my fingers not once, but twice in the process, and drop one screen down the side of the house. ("HEADS UP!" I yelled to absolutely no one below, for no discernible reason.) Then I grumbled and cursed out the number of windows this house has, which now seems quite excessive, and I'm wishing we went with the split level that didn't have any windows, just drawings of windows. 

(Poor Jason never got his Man Cave, either.)

I am writing about this because there is literally nothing else happening. The kids are all home and alternately keeping each other amused and driving each other insane. A small war broke out this morning because Noah ate the entire (GIANT SIZE) box of Cheerios I just bought on Tuesday and nobody else got any. He says it's not his fault that a) his brothers sleep in a lot later than he does, and b) his daily "breakfast" tends to run from 9 a.m. to oh, 1:30 p.m. or so.

I see his side in this but also: TUESDAY. I just bought that cereal on Tuesday. I CANNOT AFFORD THIS KIND OF BRAND-NAME CEREAL CONSUMPTION LIFESTYLE. Imma start rationing out gruel up in here, Oliver

(I do buy cereal in bulk, and bought a whole bunch of storage containers to keep it fresh and/or pantry moth free [don't even get me started*], but all three of them steadfastly refuse to eat any cereal from the containers. Once the cereal is out of its original packaging -- box OR bag -- it simply becomes invisible and unappealing. And so the storage containers have simply become where cereal Goes To Die, until I tell them that I'm not buying any more cereal at all until they eat it, goddamn it you hollow monsters, at which point someone "accidentally" leaves the lid open and it gets stale and/or moth infested.** So I guess it's a plus that Noah ate the Cheerios that fast?)

*Okay, I got myself started. We've had an on-and-off pantry moth problem for what feels like forever now. I probably buy a set of traps for every box of cereal or bag of flour we bring home. Every time I think we've conquered the last of the annoying little fuckers I spot another one, which means we'll have a dozen of them within 24 hours and it's time for another fun round of "pull everything out of the pantry and cabinets and figure out what they've gotten into now, hurl the offending package into the trash while gagging because oh God, did I eat any of that recently, scrub everything down, then once again beg my human offspring to SEAL SHIT UP CLOSE LIDS USE BAG CLIPS STOP EATING JUST ONE POP TART THEY COME IN PACKS OF TWO AND I KNOW YOU'RE HUNGRY ENOUGH TO EAT TWO POP TARTS OKAAAAYYYY????"





Amy in StL

I had pantry moths in my house in Iowa. I'm so glad I didn't have kids because I got rid of everything that was infested and then put everything else in ziploc bags in a different cabinet and left that cabinet bare after the great bleach washing. I can't imagine how frustrating it is to get rid of them with others not cooperating the the plan.


What is it about the cereal storage boxes making the cereal inedible? I bought them because my kids are incapable of resealing a package (which is a whole other rant...why can't giant cereal companies put their wares in ziploc bags?) and I thought the containers would keep everything fresh and tasty AND show how much cereal is left. Instead, the second the cereal gets decanted, it becomes invisible, just as you describe. FRUSTRATING.

Karla Brizzi

They probably think if they can't see their cereal in its original packaging, you might be trying to sneak some suspicious, generic version into your hermitically sealed storage containers. Don't worry--school will start soon!


Did you check where ever you have the cat litter? I had a wheat hull litter that I loved... so did pantry moths! Woke up to see the litter MOVING one day... still kept buying it for a couple years after that because you know, the environment and it smelled way better than clay and didn’t track HOLY CRAP MORE PANTRY MOTHS! They had also snuck inside the wicker outer box around the litter box. All of it had to be thrown out. Then I switched back to clay...


Pantry months HATE bay leaves. I used to just buy a pack of the dried ones and scatter a few around until a friend gave me an entire branch from her tree which now hangs like mistletoe at the top of my pantry. It's dried completely now and still no pantry months!


My aunt sticks a whole head of garlic into bins and bags to ward the bugs off (no need to peel and it can sit on top).
I do hear that if you decant cereal into fancy dispensers (with a spouts at the bottom), then suddenly label-less cereal becomes magically appealing.


Maybe you could keep one original packaging and (very discreetly) put the bulk bought cereals back into it before breakfast ?


Not that I’m defending poor pantry etiquette (I do a lot of Field Marshal bellowing to the effect of “shut the goddamn packet I’m so bloody sick of stale weatbix!”) - but it should be noted that pantry moth larvae CAN CHEW THROUGH PLASTIC AND CARDBOARD FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THEY ARE SO AWFUL THEY ARE BASICALLY SATAN. Yep. So even properly sealed packets (even unopened packets!) are at risk. It took us five years to get rid of them - I finally had to just get over the waste and throw out most of our pantry staples. I live in fear of their return.


FREEZE ANY grain products brought into the house for at least 48 hours. And use a stick with cotton on end to clean out any hole that would allow you to adjust shelves. Yes, remove the shelf and wipe down all sides. YES, HORRID pain in life. Boring too. Check for ANY edible by human or animal items inside house. (I knew a case of cat treats, and kitty litter for sure, and yes, you are freezing ALL grain containing items pasta, quinoa, corn starch, rice, poptarts.) Then the BIG horror: No grains of any sort in house for at least 1 week totally moth free. After which YOU declare no consumption of unfrozen grains in original containers. All such items in containers with seal tight lids, no boxes ever in house because they come with issues from the store. Yupe. From the store. Sorry!!!!!!!
SO MUCH SYMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING AND .... experience. Believe me, pantry moth is icky but when you pull out an and see it is covered in tiny worms .... well. nuff said.
Please keep writing. It is hard times out here and you bring such joy and grounding and support. You are a gift to many many people who you have never met. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

Amy B

+1 to all Rose's comments, unfortunately. And in addition to all that, the children must be trained that if they see ANY sign of infestation, they must 1) THROW THAT ITEM AWAY, DIRECTLY INTO THE OUTDOOR TRASHCAN and 2) immediately notify you so you can re-start the decontamination process. Sorry for the all caps shouting, but it became necessary once I found out that the 11 year old boy-child was picking up packages of pasta, being grossed out by the sight of moth eggs and/or larva, AND THEN PUTTING THE PACKAGE RIGHT BACK ON THE PANTRY SHELVES. Are you kidding me child? If it's gross and you won't eat it, throw it away, don't put it back on the shelves so the creatures can hatch and re-contaminate the whole damn house.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure our number one source of infestation is the closest/cheapest grocery store, or their warehouse - I now inspect every package of rice just in case.


Try filling up the old Cheerio boxes with the no name!


Pro tip on stale cereal (or crackers, croutons, whatever): ~15 minutes in the oven at ~250 makes it fresh again. My kids (who caused the staleness because closing a bag is brain surgery, apparently) didn't believe me, but basically think I'm magic now.


We've stored flour in the freezer for years. Friends are always confused but that one time we got flour weevil's was enough for me. Into the freezer the flour goes (same with our compost in the summer).


On the Cheerio issue, you might try buying several smaller boxes at a time, rather than the supersize. Then keep all but one at a time hidden away.

As to the pantry moths, I've never had them, but we have dealt with recurrent weevils. We finally figured out that the issue seemed to stem from occasionally picking up things from a little corner store that didn't have much turnover on cereal and such. When we stopped buying anything from there that might harbor them, the problem disappeared.

Susan Johns

Ugh, I feel your pain on the moths. Freeze EVERY GRAIN that comes into your home for at least 48 hours. In the meantime, pest control has those cruel little glue traps to catch the ones that already exist. I hate those fuckers.


My two sons (now BOTH officially not teenagers) got affectionately dubbed 'the locusts' around the time they were Noah's age. 'Oh, unemployed parent, you just spent 15 bucks on a gallon of milk and two giant bags of cereal at Walmart yesterday, what made you think it'd last 48 hours?' was my life for about 5 years. Older son now has a modest income, so he pays for all the milk and cereal he consumes!


Try an experiment: cut off the front of the cheerios box and tape the whole picture (or as much as will fit) to the front of the actual cereal bin. That might solve the invisibility/unappealingness problem for you. Kids are often super visual, as you've noticed, and making the entire box into a label might do it (or not, but it's a very low energy/cost experiment).

I sympathize with your pantry moth problem, we are engaged in the Fruit Fly Wars, and there is just no keeping those fuckers down (although my husband is much more of a culprit than my kids at this stage).

Sarah Soper

Our pantry moth problem came from our bird food and then, the car. Snacks are no longer to be consumed in the car which has helped. I confess that part of the problem was me: I am diabetic so I always try to keep emergency food around in case of low blood sugar, which encouraged them pests to find us. I hear you on the rabid consumption of food, too. It is ridiculous how fast they blow through whatever I buy to feed them. For a couple of weeks it was hot dogs and buns, I just could not remember to buy enough to last more than four days.


You need one of those plastic containers that you can just pop the whole box into. Yes, it's lazy but yes, it keeps the kiddos interested.


I still remember the August--7 years ago--that my two kids went through 5 gallons of milk in three days. My husband and I don't drink milk, so it was just the two kids, ages 10 and 13. I was beyond frustrated, and refused to buy more milk until the next week, when I normally would have gone grocery shopping again.
I feel your pain.
The last week or two of summer before school starts were always just me in survival mode, barely hanging on to my sanity.


This reminds me of a episode of Roseanne where Darlene finds out she has been buying the cheap cereal and dumping it into the name brand box!!

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