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please help cure me - i always make too much food!

  • d

no matter if it's just eating at home for dinner or making food for a party, i'm always so worried "there won't be enough for everyone." a theme my mother repeated every time we had company.

now, however, i'm tired of always having leftovers. so what's the solution? should i make 4 oz servings of meat for each person and the serving size of pasta on the box or what? i feel like that just won't be enough! are those serving sizes real? i'm not overweight at all - but feel like the amount they "say" you should eat isn't what people really eat. for example - 2 servings of soup or chili per can? no way.

does anyone struggle with this or have any solutions?

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  1. ha it's a Jewish disease. There is no cure. My mother always said if there is nothing leftover she didn't make enough!

    3 Replies
    1. re: smartie

      Well, it's an Irish affliction as well. I always make extra, so I portion the extra out and freeze it for later meals for when I don't fell like cooking.

      1. re: MIss G

        well - i guess it's good to know it crosses all cultures b/c i'm a mut and it's just drilled into me. the freezer idea is good - but my apt. is super small, so sometimes, i don't have room to freeze. but - i maybe i can organize more efficiently!

      2. re: smartie

        LOL we have the same mother, and I'm not even Jewish, but Hungarian/Ukranian. My MIL is the opposite, she makes teeny tiny portions. I do think I'm the happy medium. When making pasta for my Dh and I for example, I make 3-4 box servings. For meat/fish I make about 8-12 ounces for us both. I actually don't mind leftovers for lunch the next day ( my husband won't really eat leftovers) so I do kind of overstimate. If i think we don't have much of the protein (i.e. only 8 ounces of fish) I will overcompensate with the sides by serving bread or making a potato/rice dish just in case Dh is very hungry that night.

      3. I really hate to waste food. I find that keeps me from making more than I care to eat later.

        1. Well, yeah, really, the "servings per can" is either misguided or idiotic (or both).

          Insurance against having too little: have an "extra" or two on hand that you can either serve or not serve, depending on whether the planned meal is really truly too small. A cheese course, perhaps, or a dessert wine, or good bread and butter, or berries (or cheese) to make the dessert more elaborate (picture cake or pie with/without ice cream and/or cheese and/or fresh berries).

          1. Part of my problem with making too much food is not cooking with a recipe - in which case, when I am at the store, I always purchase too much of each item (not wishing to run out of anything while cooking) - and then I go ahead and cook everything I have, not wanting to waste the raw materials. This happens no matter how many times I have cooked a particular dish - it's as if I have some sort of memory block that won't allow me to learn my lesson, and only buy the 1 carrot I need, instead of 4!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Morticia

              that's a good point. i rarely cook with real recipes - except baking type things - and so always just throw whatever i've purchased in.

            2. I have notheing to add except- a)- I feel your pain, and b)- it's not just a Jewish disease!

              My mother always made way too many different dishes, and I always make too much of whatever I make.

              I am blessed in that we all like leftovers here.

              1 Reply
              1. re: EWSflash

                Same here. I think I would get the bends if I didn't overcook. I welcome leftovers, and if I was reallllly excessive, I freeze the food.

              2. That is our family's affliction as well. For all those who don't have a Foodsaver, I strongly suggest getting one. It makes it easy to freeze, the food keeps a really long time, and the flat bags are easier to fit in a freezer. I usually make 2 different meats, and of course always want to have enough so that if each person there only ate 1 of them for their whole meal, I would have enough. I have smartened up over time, and do a little better with sides, I usually keep one meal worth of each in the refrigerator for the week following, which I like. You have to look at it that you worked so hard doing it, you now have a break by just being able to heat up. I freeze the rest and take it out on those days that I just don't feel like cooking after work.

                4 Replies
                1. re: robinsilver

                  Nice to see that you impart good advice for in home as well as out of home, dining :-}

                  1. re: Tay

                    Thanks, I'll take that as a compliment unless you were joking about it. One can never tell.

                    1. re: robinsilver

                      I'm from NY.. Everyone knows we have no sense of humor (:-} )
                      Not long ago, you gave me excellent recs for dinner in the Westbury area., and now this thoughtful post.
                      Trust me: It's a sincere compliment :-}

                      1. re: Tay

                        That's my backyard, so I know all the places. Of course everyone has different opinions of some of them. Thanks.

                2. I also hate to waste food and do not have much food storage. For groups up to about 10, you need to make realistic guesses as to how much people truly eat specific to the individuals and what else you are serving. Serving sizes, etc. really don't consider what the entire menu consists of. Try to be observant and over time, if you are really motivated, you can make better estimates. I do not worry about not having enough food nor should you. There is always ice cream for the non-sated. There is an acquired art to it.

                  1. For parties, I also tend to overcook. I would be totally embarrassed if I ran out of food and would fear that my guests would think I'm being cheap.

                    For dinners at home, I think I've learned from over the years how much we can eat. I generally cook items such as soups, casseroles in larger batches so I have leftovers. I don't have the time to cook all the time. However, for other items such as pasta, fish, etc. I try to make just enough. I also don't pay attention to serving sizes on packages as everybody has his or her own idea of what's appropriate. My dinners tend to fit on a salad plate while DH's dinners tend to fit on a dinner plate. I find it ridiculous to have a uniform serving size. People's intakes vary greatly depending on size, how active they are, etc. A lot of it is practice. You may want to try underestimating (if you're always making too much). If you don't have enough, you can supplement your meal with fruit or something like that until you're start getting the hang of perfect portion sizes for you guys.

                    1. I never look at it like making "too much" food. I always make a lot of food, even if it's just for our small household. We freeze some for ourselves (for use on "work days"), and bring some over to our friends, family, and neighbours in easily freezable packaging. Often, the packaging comes back to us with someone else's extra cooking, which is fantastic! When our family has a party (which is quite often), there is always a pile of food leftover, and what we'll often do is ask everyone to come back the next day for leftovers, or invite them to bring some home. We feel so fortunate to have so much food and to be able to share it.

                      1. I'm trying to train the OH out of doing this - he habitually cooks too much, throwing another couple of handfuls of pasta in because the regular portion doesn't look like enough. Why not try cooking from a recipe or using suggested portion sizes (by weight/volume) when you're cooking at home, and you can then judge whether you need to scale up/down a bit for entertaining? That way you'll get a better visual sense of a portion size, and if there's a bit of trial & error you're the only one who'll see it! The suggestion of having some extra stuff on hand, like fruits, cheeses etc is a good one. I tend to measure carb and protein portions, but I don't worry too much about sauces or dishes that I can easily freeze, and I always make generous portions of vegetable sides. It may seem small, but reckoning on 175g-200g protein per person per meal, and 75g-100g (dry weight) carbs really is better in terms of your health and budget!

                        1. I tried the opposite once where I intentionally made less food. There was still plenty of food to go around but I was so stressed leading up to the dinner party (and during) that it wasn't worth it. I've gotten bad enough with overcooking that after guests have left, I'll find food that I had made and forgotten to serve. As leftovers go, I provide tupperware and pass it all out. For every day home cooking, I like leftovers for lunch.

                          1. My Dh, bless him, makes not just too much food but too.much.food. Whether he's shopping for the two of us or a party, it's embarrassing (and not to mention wasteful and expensive). Yesterday we had 5 other people over for lamb chops, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach for dinner while watching the Masters. Everyone ate heartily but I ended up putting about 15 chops in the freezer, have about 10 that were prepared but had no room on the grill and sent about 15 that were cooked home with people.

                            1. jfood rarely has leftovers during the week if little jfood does not decide to hit the gym after work. He shops on the way home and the weeks menu consists of chicken, fish and sometimes meat. The menu is dictated by the store's weekly specials. That does two things, one it gives a nice variety and 2 it keeps the inventiveness of the weekly dishes fun.

                              For example a whole chicken feeds the 3 jfoods nicely, fish filets or shrimp is fine. Last week there was a special on Char, and the family loved it. Just need to know the poundage for your particular eaters. Always have a salad on the side with the greens washed, spun and bagged, the tomato always cut to order, the cucs, peppers and cheese added to individual plates.

                              Not big on starches during the week since the inuslin kicker sends some into a pasta-coma mid evening.

                              1. Yes. Instead of going by what's on the box, pay attention to how much you actually eat and you'll be able to adjust in a few dinner parties or a few dinners at home for just the family. It won't all happen overnight, but if you start cooking to the amount you consume instead of how much of each ingredient you buy, the leftoevers will start to decrease immediately. Also, buy less of the ingredients and try to plan or at least sketch out meal ideas for however many days between grocery shopping trips. My wife and I get groceries about once a week and so we will make plans for what our dinners will be for the next week before shopping. We don't constrain creativity or market freshness by committing to, say, green beans before we see what looks good but we will know how many days we need fresh vegetables for as a side or as a main dish. None of it is as hard as it seems like it'd be (I was very skeptical, thinking that I'd want to just be creative every night). Turns out if you just say "fish tacos" you can still be very creative....you get the fish that looks good, pick some cabbage or spinach or lettuce based on what looks good, decide about avocado and so on. But if you know what you're cooking, more or less, for the week it can help with what you bring in the house in the first place. For example, if I know I'd only use the avocado for the fish tacos and we'd really only eat half of it, then I can decide if I'm going to make something else with avocado (topping for chicken or another fish dish, small amount of guacamole as a snack, etc) or skip it.

                                Its an admirable goal and I'd urge you to keep at it instead of giving up!

                                1. Fiance won't eat left overs... I do, but unless reinvented nope. So I normally make exactly 2 servings for recipes, or if it is easier to divide I will make 3 serving, but then we normally have 1 leftover serving which I will take as lunch. I find on recipes it is a pretty good guide. I would not follow the ones on nutrition labels though.

                                  Recipezaar has a thing on the website that will let you change the serving size and it will change the ingredient amounts at the top for you.

                                  You can also get computer recipe software, I have MacGourmet, that you can enter your recipes in that will do this, I put a lot of my made up recipes in there and change the portion sizes accordingly.

                                  We generally though are satisfied with 1 serving of a recipe per person, although sometimes I will add extra veggies that if I have leftover I can throw into something else.

                                  1. I don't have that problem, but I always had problems down sizing a recipie to cook for one. Williams Sonoma has a set of magnets for $15 or so that break down the measurements. They have weight, dry and wet. They are fantastic and have helped me completely reign myself in. Don't know if it will totally cure it for you, but it helps me.

                                    1. My husband makes a whole box of pasta for the two of us. Sometimes we eat the whole thing - sometimes not (always regret when we do). I've tried to get him to divide it, but he won't.he says its so cheap why not make it all? It's a very bad habit.

                                      1. eeehhhhh. I cook. Alot. I don't eat leftover anything ever but my dad and Jake will, as well as the neighbors and Jake's co-workers. They LOVE when he comes to work with the large containers for lunch!

                                        1. My mother makes too much food and it drives me crazy.

                                          They way I keep from cooking too much is by limiting the amount of protein -- usually 3/4 pound total for my husband and me and then have a lot of vegetables. Since I love vegetables -- I can eat a whole head of lettuce, a pound of spinach (or kale or collard) on my own -- I always finish all the vegetables. I also limit the amount of starch -- if it's pasta, I cook 1 1/2 servings; for rice and other grains, I only cook 1/2 cup.

                                          1. My husband even invented a term for this affliction.

                                            He calls it "over-wogging" (Not offensive, given my heritage)

                                            1. I always make more than is eaten. Luckily, my hubby works from home and enjoys the leftovers for lunch everyday. Perhaps if I didn't make such fatty food (lots of butter/cheese), we'd both have smaller waistlines.
                                              I grew up in a household where there was never any 'extra' food. Leftovers didn't exist. There was nothing to snack on. So, when I finally got my own place and was in charge of my own pocket book, I vowed I'd never be hungry again, at any hour of the day or night. There would always be food of every kind in my kitchen even if that meant throwing out food that had gone bad.
                                              Is that too Gone-with-the-wind-ish?

                                              1. Me too. So, make something that freezes well and you will have a supply on hand of lasagna, moussaka, chili, seafood chowder, beef curry, sliced meat in gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetable casseroles, cake, whatever. There will ALWAYS be a night you will be glad of the convenience. And so what if you are generous to your guests? Beats the lady who invited us to dinner some years back and served one chicken wing per person.

                                                1. I don't mind making too much food because I just use it to make home-made TV dinners.

                                                  But if you're truly serious about reducing how much food you cook, the only sure fire reliable way I know of is to get smaller pots and pans. That's what I do when I'm certain I absolutely do not want any leftovers. Works like a charm!