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What's the rule in your house regarding restaurant leftovers?

I have a fifteen year old son, who left to his own devices, will consume everything in our refrigerator. He's 5-7, 135 but has the metabolism of a hummingbird.

And he likes leftovers.

My wife and my younger son like to bring leftovers home from a restaurant. And they don't like it when "their" leftovers are eaten before they wake up in the morning or before they've come home from school or work.

Personally, I always seem to order just the right amount, because I never or rarely seem to have any leftovers.

But, whose leftovers are they really?

In my childhood home, leftovers were fair game. I think they were anyway.

The theory (I think) was this:

Anyone could order more than they could eat just so they could have something they want to eat the next day. I distinctly remember ordering two quarter pounders when I was like 10, saving one for the next day, then having my mom tell me I had to share it with my brother. She felt that he could just have easily ordered a sandwich he wasn't going to eat to save for the next day. That he ordered the right amount for his dinner, didn't mean he shouldn't have half a quarter pounder the next day (I guess that would ba an eighth pounder.)

My wife thinks that leftovers belong to the leaver. At least for a day. In other words, you bring home leftovers, you get 24 hours to eat them. After that, they are community leftovers.

That's the way we do things in theory, she is the boss after all, but hungry 15 year old son has the impulse control of a tiger shark and often violates the unwritten rules. This leads to conversations that begin with "Who ate my lasagna? and and with someone's bleeding and me having to take away someone's guitar for a couple of days. Or with something broken.

How do you handle the leftover question? When to "my leftovers" become "anyone's leftovers?"

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  1. I agree with your wife. If it was on your plate, and you bring it home, they are your leftovers. :)

    1. My girlfriend's leftovers are hers. My leftovers are hers too.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ESNY

        My kind of man! :-) That's pretty much the general rule in our household and I'm sure my husband would tell you the same!

        He's still pissed at his mom for eating a piece of peanut butter cheesecake that I left him in the fridge while he was napping, oh, about three years ago! It was clearly not meant for her- piece of cheesecake in a styrofoam container with napkin and fork neatly placed on top.

      2. leftovers are for the original "owner" unless specified. I look forward to my second acts and would be very disappointed if they had disappeared during the night.

        That was the general rule growing up too - I just, after 20 years (over drinks :-)), "admitted" to a family member being the one to sneak her hallowed leftover gingerbread cookie (and she immediately remembered the incident!)- we all got a good laugh!

        1. You make me happy to be alive! You've succinctly posed a seemingly simple question that reflects the existential queries of our times.

          Why didn't your brother order an extra quarter pounder (or two) when you were ten? Was it lack of information, perhaps information that you withheld from him? Was it his altruism? Belief that you would share the next day?

          Same with your younger son. Is he trying to be like you? Doesn't he know that his brother (your older son) operates on a zero-sum game?

          Are you unwittingly or wittingly re-creating between your sons what happened between you and your brother?

          HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Sorry!

          1. Leftovers belong to the person who ordered them! In my family your little brother would have been punished for not planning out his own future meal. Okay, probably not. Mom was all about sharing, but she would have chastised us to order more next time if we were all going to fight over the burger the next day.

            Then again, we're Chinese, so food is usually family style and leftovers belonged to whoever got to them first. Food that one person brings home from a restaurant is definitely off limits, though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Pei

              "Then again, we're Chinese, so food is usually family style and leftovers belonged to whoever got to them first." We're not Chinese, but our leftovers usually are, and they're usually brought home from a meal with the extended family or friends, which muddies the issue. Mrs. O is most often the one who paid our part of the tab, but I'm the one who eats lunch at home during the week. If I have alternatives and/or if she has requested that I save something for her, I'll let the stuff sit for a day or two. Otherwise, and especially if it's two spoons of this and a dab of that (since unlike her I'll quite happily throw everything in one bowl and nuke it), I have no compunctions about taking it.

            2. In our house leftovers belong to whoever finds them first. This mine/yours business is alien to me. I wouldn't touch my roommate's food but family is different. That said if this is going to cause major strife, perhaps you could designate a "no-touch" area where people can leave foods unmolested. or maybe you can leave a lot of other (cheap) food as bait for the ravenous teen boy so he eats that instead.

              1. Remember those seagulls in 'Finding Nemo'? MINE! MINE! MINE!

                1 Reply
                1. re: mnosyne

                  omg... LOL that is EXACTLY what my daughter does! She also puts her name on the leftover box with a skull and crossbones!

                2. Maybe I'm lucky ... no one in my home can stand anything another person orders. So we're safe.

                  Except my older son won't even eat leftovers HE has ordered.

                  As for delivery pizza ... it's fair game for anybody, and such a temptation to order more than we can eat (when there's a good "twofer" deal) so we can have some for tomorrow - so I have to order one that everyone else dislikes.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: wayne keyser

                    I agree about pizza, fair game. Chinese food and everything else is the property of the orderer/original eater.

                  2. Mrs. O and I generally agree that leftovers belong to whomever dragged them home, but unless there's a meal's worth of something fabulous and enough for two, I usually wind up with them, just because I'm more interested in "real food" at lunchtime than she is, and that's when this stuff typically gets eaten around here. In fact, when she's working she often brings home half of whatever she got for lunch just for me: half a chicken quesadilla, half an order of roast chicken and pita and hummous, three slices of pizza. I wouldn't dream of discouraging her...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Ha! Just noticed that this was an old thread. Okay, sure sign of age, the old guy's repeating himself... talk about leftovers!

                    2. How different cultures think about leftovers! Years ago in Greece my friend and I took home our respective pizza leftovers. 'Personal' pizzas, at least 14' in diameter, not too personal, really, wouldn't you say? Yet savoir vivre dictated that you either eat your own pizza - no shared plates in that kind of a restaurant (not a 'pizza parlor, clearly, but a posh italian restaurant) or you just politely... leave the leftover. In my case, that leftover wasn't much to speak of. But my friend's pizza was almost untouched.

                      My sister couldn't believe we asked for 'doggy bags'. 'What are you going to do with the leftover pizza'? -- She actually, truly, wondered. It had never happened to her before, since it was a faux pas at the time to take leftovers home. We said we were going to have it for breakfast.

                      Next morning, as indeed we were warming the pizza in the toaster oven, my sister called to verify we were having it for breakfast....

                      To this day, many years later, she cannot fathom leftovers the next day. Then again, she doesn't have leftovers. She makes sure she orders as little as she would eat. This is actually possible in Europe, where the portions are at most 2/3 of the US ones - most often really less than half of our portions.

                      BTW - we doggy bagged HER pizza too that day. She was just going to let it go to waste. It was great for breakfast, as I recall.

                      Leftovers supposed to belong to whoever ordered the food. 'Supposed' because that's my friends made up rule. I hardly ever have leftovers, but I am the one claiming it all. Hence the 'rule'. Said rule got appended to 'after 24hrs leftovers fair game' (i.e., I can eat them). The rule had to be appended after many many petrie dish experiments, many many uneaten greenish moldy food 'things' - uneaten leftovers fallen into oblivion were poisoning the air in our refrigerator...

                      My best friend in Spain is an excellent cook and being a full time mother and wife, she cooks two different meals a day, aside from breakfast and mid-day snack (and we are not talking bread-cheese-ham here, we are talking a full course of tapas for mid-day snack, different items daily).

                      Her two men, husband and son, spoilt to the hilt, will not have the same food for a second meal. This means, if there is any food leftover, she is the only one who would go near it the next day, or even at the next meal. She can't even 'incorporate' any leftover food to the next meal...

                      When I visit she freezes the leftovers of the entire time I am there and packs them for me for the plane home. I have solicited numerous jealous looks and comments on the flights with my great smelling and looking food next to the poor choice called airplane food.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mimika

                        I used to work in a Thai restaurant in the UK.
                        The food was wonderful and served on family style platters. (and more than enough food for even the hungriest of diners)
                        The English NEVER asked for the leftovers...never.

                        This was great for us staff because we would eat off done platters all night long!!!!!...(Sounds gross but the food was untouched because diners put the food on their own plates)
                        AHHH what a job!!!
                        (I learned how to cook a darn good curry while I worked there too!
                        Oh and taught the head chef how to cook a good Bolognese sauce!)

                        Whenever we had Americans come in - Someone on the staff would inevitably say : "You watch - I bet they ask to take home the leftover food!" - and sure enough if always happened!

                      2. Hmmm...In our house the High Judicial Seat ( = Mom, = me) declares that everything in the fridge/cupboards is free-game, unless it has been designated for some use within the next week.(The High Judicial Seat lets everyone know.) Leftovers (takeout or otherwise) sometimes get *leftover* because each person thinks someone *else* wants it. Result: wasted food. If anyone in our home really, really, really, REALLY wants the take-out box, that person can write their name with a Sharpie on the box. Otherwise, it's up for grabs.

                        We do this more with home-made leftovers than takeout, actually.

                        Oh, and we do it with a 6 foot 4 inch, 220 lb. college freshman(also a leftover fiend). It's scary, but we manage. Tell your household to mark their territories, and mark them well. Communication.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cayjohan

                          That's what we used to do at our house. Except putting your name on the box was not enough, you had to also write, 'Please do not eat' and make sure that was punctuated with a smiley face! :o) otherwise, the other family member would just say, 'hey, thanks for leaving those leftovers in the fridge, they were great!'

                        2. In our home, after everyone has had a chance to taste/have their portion of the original dish, it's fair game.

                          1. In our house, the entire fridge, freezer, and pantry are "fair game," including leftovers.

                            That said, if you want to reserve something for yourself, all you have to do is tape a note to it: "mine" "Steve's" "poison" etc.

                            1. If I ordered it, I have to eat it before it spoils! Self imposed rule!

                              1. The resto leftovers stay at the resto. We either eat it there or leave it there. There is a rare time when there is anything worthwhile to bring home. If there are constant leftovers then you are misordering, or overordering and wasting money. Just order what you want to eat, eat it, or leave it.

                                You are training your kids to overorder and therefore take advantage of the eat-out syndrome. If Johnnie is ordering an extra Big Mac or a 32-oz steak just to take it home for the next day, you need to train him not to spend extra money.

                                If they want to spend your money, then it's not their's but is fair game for anyone. If the are real kids, they'll stop this altruism pretty quick. "I'm not carrying that burger just so someone else can eat it." (BTW, watch where they take the bag if the fridge is communal, bugs in the bed are nasty).

                                On the occassion we have leftovers (usually from pizza and chinese take-out) it's communal since the meal was communal. I have wondered to the fridge mid-day on the day after and stared at an empty box of Gen Tsao, a frown crosses my face. :-((. Too many other MAJOR issues to worry about raising kids.

                                Oh well, it's just food and i hope someone liked it. :-))

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: jfood

                                  "If there are constant leftovers then you are misordering, or overordering and wasting money. Just order what you want to eat, eat it, or leave it."

                                  That is some twisty logic! I say food ordered and left is wasting money, but extra food taken home for a second meal or snack is frugal. Restaurant portions are often inherently "supersized," especially for the very young and old.

                                  1. re: The Engineer

                                    OK so I was a little aggressive and given the early hour I was a lot less than clear.

                                    Let's break into two areas. My mother, for example, goes out and takes the leftovers home with her and eats them for days. Very thrifty for 80. Taking leftovers for this reason is a great idea and is not in the misorder, et. al. comment of mine earlier.

                                    On the other side of the coin is the example in the OP in which children overorder or misorder in hopes of scarfing another take-out meal on their folks. This behavior should be worked on so that the kids understand the value of a dollar. If they are allowed to perpetuate the meal over the next 24 hours, that's a bad behavior pattern and falls into my misorder comment.

                                    The grey area in between is where we get a little slippery and whether it's a misorder or a result of super sizing depends on the circumstances. We could probably both construct a 100 different sets of circumstances where we agree on 80 and disagree on 20 on whether it is frugal or wasteful.

                                  2. re: jfood

                                    Misordering? Overordering? How about I order an entree but the portions are too big? That's it, just one entree....I don't think that's overordering.

                                    To me, leftovers are owned by the person who ordered them - I'd flip if someone ate my leftovers on me!

                                    1. re: JaneRI

                                      Seriously. I'd loose it. Maybe I'm an unusual case because my very favorite, dream-about-it restaurant serves ungodly huge portions. (This restaurant evolved from a hole in the wall run by one Puerto Rican guy and catering mainly to a young, artsy, hippy crowd who mostly needed the food.) I would BURST if I ate more than half my entree. It goes home with me, and God help my husband if he touches it.

                                      1. re: danna

                                        Word. I'd cut a bitch for taking my leftovers. You can ask, and we'll see where it goes from there.

                                        1. re: JaneRI

                                          HA HA HA! Yes. I nearly became an only child several times due to my brother's "(someone else's) dinner for breakfast" style of eating.

                                          1. re: BrunchOrBust

                                            JaneRI, my sentiments exactly!
                                            I adore leftovers and if I can't finish a good meal I'll ask for a to go bag and have it later. I'LL have it later.

                                            In our house we each have eminent domain over our leftovers, with one caveat. Young son won't eat anything that's more than a day or two old, and I know that we have a rockin' awesome fridge that will keep it another day, so if it's teetering on 48 hours old, I will scarf it down and not apologize. Watched that boy let too many fabulous leftover dishes go south to let that happen on my watch for the most part. I'm a pretty good cook, but i've cooked enough for long enough so that sometimes the best thing in the fridge is the one I didn't make and therefore may taste new and exciting.

                                            Of course, I don't go leftover grabbing if it's clear that my hosts don't normally bring home things. And there was my uncle Walt. He'd make sure we had the best ribeyes or lamb chops his southeast Illinois country club had to offer, but Shep (the dog) got the leftovers. I didn't take him seriously at first but soon learned to- he tallied up what Shep got after we got home. BTW- Shep was an awesome dog and never begrudged anybody anything. Stray border collie pup, picked up on the golf course of said country club, landed in heaven (many folks said if there was an afterlife they'd want to come back as Walt's dog) and was a really, really good unspoiled (somehow) dog his whole life. I don't blame Shep, but I missed a sh!tload of awsome steak and lamb chop leftovers that I couldn't eat that night... wish I could do it again, Aunt Gin and Uncle Walt have both been dead a long time and they were as much or more fun than you'd think a small-rich-southern-Illinois- bunch could be. And then some.

                                  3. Communal meals=communal leftovers, i.e. Indian, Chinese or Pizza delivery.

                                    However, if I bring leftovers home, then I hope to have first dibs the next day.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Moonpie

                                      This is how our household works also. And after day 1, they become fair game.

                                    2. Bring home food?

                                      An individuals food is rather quite personal in my upbringing, and is off limits to anyone else, with the ultimate respect it deserves.

                                      It is a big deal with an individuals - family rushed lifestyle. I sometimes get "stalled" right middle of eating something. Somehow my body was in a rejection mode and I wasn't enjoying it. I will save it for later or when I can better enjoy it. Please, I need that food to complete the cycle to make me feel whole again.

                                      Another way to put it, whatever the family cooks up is fine, and is to be shared. I bring something home, that's my road kill, my opossum.

                                      See the point?

                                      1. whoever reaches the fridge first!

                                        If I don't eat them for hubby or cousin the leftovers will lurk in the fridge until they're growing fuzz and I'm annoyed :D So get your backside out of bed and make like you're going to enjoy them (getting a bowl of cereal or a box of crackers doesn't count!) and I won't interfere. Otherwise, DIBS!

                                        1. Communal meal= fair game (usually still mine because I eat anything for breakfast)

                                          I'm one of those who thinks about how it will be as a left over when ordering a main course. I have even been known to order 3 dessers just so I can take two home. I will purposely order my steak rare so that when I heat it up for breakfast/lunch the next day it won't be over cooked. I love eating at the Prime Rib because from that one dinner I am able to squeeze out breakfast and lunch the next day. My family knows better than to touch my left overs without permission.

                                          My SIL's family is the complete opposite so my bro and his wife constantly argue over leftovers. In that household not even writing your name on the food is enough protection.

                                          1. They are mine unless I tell others they are fair game..but if I had kids at home, who didn't go out with us, I'd happily share with them.

                                            1. There was an absolutely hysterical story on Good Food (KCRW, Saturday Mornings) this past weekend, which was an interview with mother/author Georgia Orcutt on her cookbook titled "How to Feed a Teenage Boy." Your description of your son as a "tiger shark" brought this story to mind :-)

                                              Here's a link if you want to check it out. It's the last story in the hour-long program.


                                              Here's a link to Ms. Orcutt's new cookbook:


                                              3 Replies
                                                1. re: DanaB

                                                  ...Very funny to those of us who have raised sons! Thanks, DanaB.

                                                  1. re: liu

                                                    I have no kids, but the story had me laughing out loud as I went on my walk that morning. I grew up with brothers, so could relate. I was listening to it on headphones, and was enjoying the story so much, I wondered if people walking by thought me a little kookie ;-)

                                                2. In our household, leftovers belong to whoever's meal it originally was, but after about two or three days, they become fair game for anybody. Not that we ever formally established a rule...that's just the way it tends to work.

                                                  The reality is that if the leftovers were that good, the original owner would typically eat them pretty quickly...so anything in the fridge after two days was probably not going to be eaten by him/her, anyway...so they usually become Dad's (my) lunch.

                                                  1. wow your all so civilized and democratic...

                                                    It first come first serve, no saving!

                                                    1. In our home, leftovers from family style / banquet type dinners are pretty much fair game - whoever wants can take, and usually folks are considerate enough to only take a portion so others can also have some. Otherwise, the leftovers belong to each individual (respectively). If an owner of leftovers relinquishes ownership of his/her leftovers (either expressed or implied thru non-consumption over a few days) it also becomes fair game. Often, Mom will come home from lunching w/ coworkers toting leftovers -- half of whatever she'd ordered, as a treat to split with the rest of the family; so we know that just because food is packed as "leftovers" doesn't mean there is no intentional plan for its consumption.

                                                      We also have a leftover/food thief in our family... only he's called Dad. Fortunately, Dad usually eats what he sees in front of him (stuff in plain view) and does not go digging around much for other stuff. So our solution is to always have basic snack stuff as well as the not-too-treasured food items in plain view while hiding the good stuff.

                                                      1. For me and my wife, ALL leftovers are communal. This does not mean they're fair game, it means the expectation is that they will be shared, unless one of us explicitly declines.


                                                        1. Your question is less about leftovers and more about how to get your son to follow "house rules".

                                                          If he wasn't violating the "leftover rule", it would be another. Deal with the rule issue and nevermind about which rule it is over.

                                                          1. >>> And he likes leftovers. <<<

                                                            Geez, PaulF. I totally missed the implications of that line.

                                                            Like, can he cook for himself or wants to eat something convenient?

                                                            You see, when I left home my dad told me a situation where my one brother went through a food raid phase. Dad caught him nibbling on the other brother's and sis's food bags.

                                                            Dad gave him a crash cooking course and then started him out with a good cookbook. Well, needless to say the dogie bags dwindled, because eating out soon was getting replaced by home cooking. Before long they started picking nights when they took turns cooking.


                                                            1. My short answer is leftovers don't last more than 24 hours in our house...e.g. last nights restaurant chicken breast
                                                              is today's chicken salad sandwich lunch.
                                                              We're hungry hounds, what can I say?

                                                              Beyond that, we have two golden rules in our house:
                                                              1) When in doubt (about leftovers, the last Coke, the last slice of cake) ASK first before scarfing


                                                              2) If asked to share, do so smilingly

                                                              These were handed down by my mom who would employ the dreaded Stare of Death if we were rude about food. By the way, The Stare of Death is a great tool when teaching manners.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: thegolferbitch

                                                                YES! One of my most vivid memories of being punished as a child was over my (attempted) refusal to let a young guest have first dibs on the ice cream treat selection. (I can still picture the cup of green sherbert I did NOT want)

                                                                I think i got a spanking for that one (+ the threat of no more playdates which was nightmarish to an only child), however normally the Stare of Death was all it took. My mother also had an advanced weapon, the Two-fingered Wrist Pinch of Death, a firm pressure on either side of my forearm, about an inch above the spot where she had me convinced that my pulse would stop beating if I didn't cease some behavior immediately.

                                                              2. It depends. We rarely order separate dishes - we prefer sharing, which could complicate the leftovers deal. But we have this tacit rule that since I'm vegetarian, I get first dibs on the veggie/tofu dishes.

                                                                When we do each order our own, everyone keeps their own leftovers. At least, unless someone asks you for them and you agree to share or hand them over.

                                                                1. To my mind, leftovers belong to the original orderer. They belong to that person expressly for at least the next whole day. After that time, one may inquire as to the original orderer's intentions (and abide by them).

                                                                  AND, if I was the original orderer and REALLY wanted my leftovers to stay safe, I would mark them with my name, skull & crossbones, etc. Perhaps even a note stating that anyone who scarfs them will have to replace them.

                                                                  1. I like the 24 hour rule. After one day, leftovers should be fair game. I remember being 15 and eating everything I could get my hands on. It's not your older son's fault--he's being controlled by hormones.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: ajs228

                                                                      thanks ... yeah, I know it's not his fault -- I actually find it sort of funny when I'm refereeing another "who ate my leftover bhindi masala" match.

                                                                      The kid plays football and baseball in high school. He burns fuel like the Apollo 11.

                                                                      Truthfully, I'm thankful he's a good eater. He very, very rarely eats fast food and isn't that into sweets and dessert. He's just a leftover guy ...

                                                                    2. Wife insists on reheating leftover pizza, while the kids and I say NOOOOOOO! Leftover pizza, like leftover fried chicken and low mein is always best cold and makes for a most excellent breakfast. Seems like everything else we bring home ends up sitting in the fridge for a week and then gets tossed - unless there's a good piece of steak or pork that can be recycled into a new dish.

                                                                      1. I never, ever eat leftovers. When I bring anything home from a restaurant it is always for other people to eat.

                                                                        1. In our house (just me and my husband) any leftovers belong to the original owner, if separate restaurant dish leftovers are brought home. We never argue about this. In practicality I mostly end up with it because I'm usually home at lunchtime and he's not and I can never persuade him to bring "his" leftovers to the office. That's assuming I like what he ordered which is not always so. OTOH I tend to have a smaller appetite and he is a member of the clean plate club so the leftovers are more often "mine."

                                                                          With leftover steak or some other big piece of meat, I won't bring it home unless he wants it, because he will eat it cold and I won't and reheating tends to overcook it. Plus the congealed fat makes me lose my appetite.

                                                                          I'm actually surprised that it's so easy because I grew up with an immature jerk of a stepfather who was very territorial about food. My brother and I used to get punished if we ate "his" food and good luck knowing exactly which that was. Just another excuse to torture us and create conflict where there didn't need to be any - or more precisely, exert power.

                                                                          1. EAT IT QUICK 'FORE DAD DOES!

                                                                            1. Oh this is wonderful! Three sons and a husband are you kidding me! It's finders keepers at this house, and they usually never make it 24hours. Funny... I could of swore I brought home leftovers...I have been known to hide things in the vegetable drawer, they're on to me now though...

                                                                              1. My husband's restaurant leftovers are his, and my restaurant leftovers are also his. But he ALWAYS asks first. Always. Home-cooked leftovers are anybody's, but perferably his as well, and if they don't get eaten and have to be tossed, it's his fault.

                                                                                1. If I bring home leftovers,ill eat my leftovers.I dont want old slobber from someone else,unless its my moms slobber,that I can handle.I could see if it was your wife and you asked her if it was ok to eat.

                                                                                  1. Whistle or you lose it

                                                                                    1. Generally, I have to say, if a left over is in the fridge, it can be eatten unless specially marked "please don't eat me." Then again, its food so I'd rather it be eatten than spoiled.

                                                                                      Most of our eat-out meals are chinese of one form or another. In that case, everyone gets a share but honestly, nothing lasts too long. I confess that at dim sum, we gleefully order like pigs, knowing all the leftovers will come home and we will eat them for dinner or I will stuff it all into the pups lunch boxes the next day.

                                                                                      In the future, I am sure to have your situation. My son is just 9 and about 5 foot or a little less. He inhales food and is permanently hungry. But honestly, even if it was a "special" leftover, I'd still rather he eat it than it gets pushed to the back and forgotten.

                                                                                      That said, I know a guy who left a piece of chocolate cake [an uneatten dessert from dinner] in his fridge on the day the cleaning lady came. And she ate it. Of course, all day at work, he was dreaming of his chocolate cake only to find NADA when he gets home. He was livid. I didn't get it. You want cake, go buy cake.

                                                                                      1. I've lived in three situations where the leftover rules might be different: 1) With my family (including teenage younger brother and my dad, who was the "tiger shark"), 2) with a boyfriend, and 3) with a roommate.

                                                                                        I almost always get leftovers at a restaurant... I just can never eat everything! Even with that, I'm pretty notorious for being bad about eating them... I either forget about them or don't want them (my theory, though, is that if the food's going to get thrown away, I might as well bring it home where it will have a chance to get eaten).

                                                                                        But even in all three situations, my personal preference is: communal-style meals belong to everyone (this includes leftovers made at home, even if not all the family members ate the meal). If each person ordered a personal dish, those leftovers are THEIRS for 2 days or so (one day might be better, depending on the household), then they're fair game... BUT the person who wants to eat them should still double check. It's just polite.

                                                                                        I can't tell you how secretly disappointed I was when I went into the fridge at my family's house one day and found that the amazing leftovers I'd been obsessing over but saving had been eaten by my little brother. Of course, I was glad to share with him, but... asking is the safe way to always be sure!

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: laliria

                                                                                          In our house the rules are as follows

                                                                                          Leftovers of the family meal are up for grabs by anyone excpet when someone has made a specific reservation on them, this reservation can be either exclusionary (i.e. "dont eat that") or limitng ("you can eat some, but don't finish it"). If no such message is given it is assumed that whatever it is is not planned to form another family meal, though of coruse it can show up in a leftover meal if no one has eaten it as of this time (for example if Mom has made a roast beef for dinner, I am free, the next day to use it for lunch , and indeed to continue to use it for luces until I have used it up if I so choose, provided mom has not told me to leave it alone so that she can serve it for another dinner, but if she decieds to serve it for another dinner and I have'nt already used it up she is free to re use the rest. As a corollary it is considered good form in our house to inform others if you have used up something or ideally if you are going to use something up, so that unexpected conficts do not occur.

                                                                                          Leftovers of somthing ordered by a specific person remian the property of that person unless they specifcally tell you its up for grabs. However this only extends until such time as the person is no longer in a position to eat the food at that point it becomes pubicly available (i.e if we order in Chinese on a Saturday, I cannot eat my sisters leftovers on Sunday unless she specifically tells me i can. However if we order in on Sunday I can eat her leftovers on Monday as she doesn't take them to work with her and the next time she could sit down and eat them would be the next Saturday, by which point they would be spoiled.
                                                                                          Just as one shoud should inform someone if one is going to use something up, we also insist that in many cases someone inform the family members if one thinks something has spoiled and should be discarded, just in case it is something that they are not famialr with and have misjudged (like some smelly cheeses). Alsoafter some frustrating icideds mom has struck a dela with me that she will not throw out and Heirloom vegables (espeically tomatoes) if if the are rotting without my approval (so that I can save the seeds if I wish)
                                                                                          Moderately imperishable foods (like brownies or cookies) which are alotted specifically to people remain that persons, however if the person in question fails to consume said item within a reasonable period (two weeks is our normal cutoff) it becomes up for grabs as well (though asking is still considered good form)

                                                                                        2. What a great thread you have started Paul. People have so many takes on you having to share your quarter pounder with your brother. I think that it was awesome that you planned ahead at such a young age, and I think it should have been yours and yours alone. Planning ahead is an awesome life skill. If I really want a leftover I will tape a note on top of it, but this is rare. And if I don't eat it promptly I'll announce that it's up for grabs. It is a shame to let delicious food rot. I have heard of lots of other leftover fights from my friends. With my friend John's family it is usually about pizza. Once John ordered his pizza with a lot of extra garlic knowing his parents don't care for it. His dad ate it anyway. The latest pizza debacle was this past summer. John loaded up on extra goodies from pizza hut as he was planning on an all night gaming fest. Warhammer online I think. But when I drove him home his dad was still up!!! It wasn't safe to bring his treasures in the house. So I had to sit there in his sun room waiting for his dad to go to bed so that John could bring his treats from pizza hut into the house from my car. His dad always always goes to bed by midnight. But this time he stayed up til one am. I kept dozing off. It was really annoying. But John got his late night pizza pig out and didn't have to share. I got two slices from one of his pie for my service. I did understand where he was coming from. But next time John, you can hide your pizza out in your mom's gazebo or something!! :)

                                                                                          1. In our family, left overs become communal. With that said, whenever sister in law and her son comes over, they'll eat everything in the fridge and cupboards and leave you with the empty packages. So is that fair? No but it's their lack of respect for everyone else as well as being cheap so they don't have to cook. Seriously she admits she's cheap so she'll come over and eat.

                                                                                            1. My GF would love this thread! See, most times we are at restaurants, she will stop eating when she is full and I put the mental "clock" on her plate. If she doesn't eat or move anything for 60sec. I swoop in. If for some unknown reason some food does make it home, she pretty much understands at this point that the moment she closes that fridge door is the last time she will ever see it! :-)
                                                                                              That being said, I eat out at great restaurants and have great street food for lunch almost daily. She doesnt have the opportunity to go out for lunch, so I will get an entire meal of her liking and bring it home. It truly is an exercise in self restraint to not eat meal #2 before she gets home from work, but most times I manage!

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: nkeane

                                                                                                Sounds like true love nkeane. Chowhound style.

                                                                                              2. Leftovers from the restaurant are for my husband. Period. It's a battle I won't fight.
                                                                                                If I got home from work the next day and my leftovers were still there I'd check him for fever and a pulse.

                                                                                                1. Leftovers in our house usually go to me, but I ask first. My husband gets a staff meal at work, whereas I take my lunch to work everyday. So I get first dibs on leftovers either from home made meals or from restaurant meals.

                                                                                                  1. I love this thread, it's fascinating.
                                                                                                    Growing up it was never an issue. If it's in the fridge, someone might eat it. But that said, everyone, even the teenage brother, was almost always polite enough to at least do a basic shout out to the house "anyone gonna eat this pizza?!" before scarfing it down.

                                                                                                    Skip ahead a decade or two to me shouting out to my new live in boyfriend "you going to eat this sandwich you brought home"- followed by him running out from the office, horrified. "Bu-bu-but that's MINE?!"
                                                                                                    "Yes," I said confused, "but do you want it."
                                                                                                    "It's mine."
                                                                                                    "Are you going to eat it?"
                                                                                                    "Ok, ok," as I slowly placed the container on the counter and backed away with my hands up.

                                                                                                    It's Novemer. There's still a half a roll of Thin Mints sitting in our fridge. They've been there since March. I know better now than to throw them away. They're his.

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                      His response reflects an attitude or approach to life that makes me wonder about the longevity of your relationship. Good luck however it turns out.

                                                                                                      1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                        Dang hyacinthgirl I hope you have a big fridge. No statute of limitations huh?

                                                                                                        1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                          My husband - of 8 years - does this territorial leftover bit.
                                                                                                          It comes from his family eating off his plate all of the time (they're wackos) without asking, never having enough food in the house, mom/dad never cooked, so they ordered pizza 4X week (not kidding), ..he's kind of like a hoarder with food items.
                                                                                                          So, he has major food issues - MAJOR. I don't touch the leftovers - they may get tossed eventualy - but, it's something bigger going on besides just selfishness.
                                                                                                          On a related note, he absolutley will NOT share food either - like a caged animal. I've gotten him to start sharing a pizza in the last few years (he won't eat a WHOLE pizza, but will have "his" pizza even if it's the same flavor/toppings as mine).
                                                                                                          PS - he is in therapy at my insistence. Going out to eat costs a fortune for us!
                                                                                                          Happy Holidays! *my fridge is bursting*

                                                                                                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                                                                                                              My BF and I avoid this conundrum by the simple fact that I'm vegetarian - therefore, all veggie leftovers are mine, and all meat ones are his. Sides and snacks, we share.

                                                                                                            2. I have an 18 year old son - and usually any leftovers disappear overnight. If it's something I really want for myself, I hide it (doesn't take much effort - if it's not right in front of his face, he'll miss it). My daughter knows to hide anything she wants, too. Otherwise, I expect for it to be gone when I wake up. It's just what it is.

                                                                                                              1. It sounds like you need a secret mini fridge specifically for hiding away leftovers ;)

                                                                                                                Seriously though, they belong to the person who ordered them.