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Thanksgiving Leftovers etiquette

I was debating on whether to send out a mass email telling folks that there is a strict 'No Tupperware' dish policy this year. Thanksgiving is always held at my mothers house every year - she and I do all the cooking. With the exception of 1 aunt making the potato salad, 1 cousin making a cake & bringing soda, and 1 sister-in-law bringing greens. Outside of that, my mother & I do all of the rest. We cook enough for 30. Everything you can imagine. Well last year, at the end of dinner I noticed a few people going outside to their cars and bringing in BAGS of their own tupperware. 1 cousin loaded a family size tupperware dish with dressing, along with other tupperware filled to the gills with other fixings (plus she took the rest of her cake that was left). Forgot to add that she also made a huge separate plate for a boyfriend that was not able to attend. Everyone filled up their personal tupperware with so much food that we didn't have any leftovers for ourselves the next day. Is it rude to tell people no tupperware allowed this year? We want family to come and eat as much as they want, eat 2 or 3 plates of food if you can, but not to take anything home...

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  1. Not rude at all. Leftovers should stay with the host unless offered. If you don't offer, and they shouldn't be grabbing. If they need to be told, they're the rude ones, not you.

    1. Wow, that certainly is different.

      We're usu. left with so much leftovers we're begging people to take it with them (with or without tupperware in tow). Never a big fan of leftovers (maybe for a day or so on Friday, but that's it). Can't even donate the darn things.

      Maybe your guests can come over to our house?

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Ditto - last time we hosted our extended family Thanksgiving (and we're talking about annual 40+ person sit-down dinners), we stocked up in advance on those cheap single-use food storage containers and encouraged everyone to take home some leftovers.

        1. re: BobB

          Single use is one thing, but family sized Tupperware is another!

      2. I would say that since you bought it, prepped it, and cooked it; you should be able to say where the leftovers go. I would say at the end of the meal that if anyone would like some leftovers you will happily allow them to take what is left after you and your mother fill your Tupperware. Take what you want and leave the rest on the counter. Tell everyone, after you take what you want that you are now officially off duty in the kitchen and anyone who wants leftovers can clean the kitchen too.

        3 Replies
        1. re: misslinnea

          This is exactly what I was going to say.

          How rude!

            1. Now that is a toughie. Since I instruct people to bring "take-out" containers b/c we can't possibly eat all those leftovers (and don't want to), I'm happy when they do. But everyone is always careful about not taking the last bits, asking, etc.

              What you describe sounds pretty rude. OTOH, I think sending out an e-mail as you describe
              sets a tone for a celebration that's at least ostensibly about sharing and giving thanks. I can't imagine bringing my own containers unless someone told me to or taking anything home unless it was offered, but I can imagine being offended by a pre-emptive e-mail.
              I wouldn't do it. You risk offending a lot of people because of the bad manners of a few.

              I'm sure others will weigh in w/some creative solutions to being cleaned out of all the leftovers.

              1. Sounds like a precedent was set many years ago and gotten out of hand.
                Seens like the 1 cousin is the main culprit and everyone is competing with her. Maybe take her aside and tell her to take it easy.

                Friend of ours doesn't like leftovers of any kind, so when they host they supply those sectioned foamed take out containers. Maybe supply those and tell each family they can take home "one" of those take out container of leftovers.

                Be a bit of "tough love" to stop the leftover party cold turkey.

                Whatever happens, I'm dying to hear the outcome Friday morning.

                1. Don't know if it's possible in your setup, but I'd hold back some of the stuff I wanted to keep - throw it right into the fridge from the start or something. Don't carve the turkey at the table, and hang on to a leg or a breast, etc. Either put aside some of the fully cooked sides or have a second set of them ready to go for the next day. I'm saying this partially tongue in cheek and partly because if I were in your spot, I might give it a try.

                  I'd be worried about offending family/guests with a Tupperware moratorium, even if it is awfully presumptuous to come to dinner with empty containers - heaven forbid you become the new version of that woman whose detailed Thanksgiving instructions get circulated every November. I totally agree that leftovers should be offered, not commandeered; but I also know that families can be, uh, interesting.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: harrie

                    I wouldn't serve all 30 people worth of food on the table at once. Serve just enough food for everybody present at the table, and bring the empty bowl back into the kitchen for a refill. You should be able to tell whoever wants to fill up a plate for boyfriend to hold back until everybody present gets their fair share.

                    If there's less abundance of food in front of people's eyes, I assume they'll be less inspired to help themselves. But yes, family members can be interesting.

                  2. Kill 'em with kindness. After the meal, say, "Now we'll take all this into the kitchen and get it put away, no no, you just stay right there and put your feet up, Aunt Selma!" Then go in the kitchen, put together a few paper takeout boxes full of A LITTLE BIT of the leftovers and stash the rest in your fridge, in your containers, preferably the fanciest tupperware and/or dishes you've got. When it comes time for people to leave, say, "Who wants these leftovers? We packed them in paper so you wouldn't have to return our tupperware! Here you go, Aunt Patty, you enjoy those mashed potatoes!"

                    You bought it, you made it, you should get to have the leftovers if you want 'em. But it's no use pissin folks off before they even turn up by sending them an email that'll inevitably be read as "Mine! My food! Hands off!" no matter how graciously you word it!

                    Good luck! :)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: LauraGrace

                      My thoughts exactly! Portioning out care packages is the way to go, and the paper takeout boxes are a terrific idea.

                      To the OP, I'm a bit surprised that family members would really bring their own tupperware. As a host, I wouldn't dream of sending a guest away empty handed after a meal, but if someone was that presumptuous I wouldn't have a problem telling them "no"--whether I wanted any leftovers for myself or not.

                      1. re: iluvcookies

                        My BIL always brings his own Tupperware, I think he's trying to be nice. Although he never brings anything else, except himself!

                    2. I agree with all the others, keep what you want and then let them have whatever you don't. I used to make all the big parties, and everyone wanted leftovers, especially the ones that don't invite you over their house, or bring something to contribute. As one person said, don't put it all out at one time, or put out the appetizers first, when done put away, etc.
                      I'm the one always doing the holidays, and it gets very expensive. I used to give a lot of stuff away, but have stopped doing it. They are welcome to eat all they want, if there are somethings that I don't want, then I offer it.

                      This reminds me of a time that one of my cousins brought a boyfriend, and he brought a 6 pack of beer. We didn't serve it, because it was a religious holiday, and we don't serve alcohol on that day. When they left, my cousin and bf came in and took the beer back because it was not drunk.

                      You have to be true to yourself. The reality is that they will get over it and forget about it, but if you give in, it will be bothering you for a long time. It's already bothering you. GL

                      1. This reminds me of a similar family situation....my uncle invited the family to a pig picking (I had to work so didnt attend). When it was time to serve the food, my uncle told everyone that they were welcomed to eat as much as they wanted but no food was to be taken home. This bringing their own covered containers and eating then taking home food had happened at his house before. So, he set them straight, which I don't blame him. He prepared all the food and asked no one to bring anything.

                        If I were you, I'd follow my uncle's example...I wouldn't send out an email, however, in my opinion, it's tacky and would ruin the mood on the holiday but I'd tell everyone to help themselves and don't be shy about filling up their plates. If your guests are unable to finish what's on their plates, they can take that home. Then I would put ALL of my leftovers away. I don't agree with you having to put what you want in the tupperware and put it away before the vultures swoop down and take everything else. I wouldn't offer them to take anything besides maybe some dessert if you have enough but that's it. Either you put a stop to it or it's not going to stop and then you can't complain.

                        That said, we always offer the guests leftovers but they rarely take anything more than dessert.

                        1. I'm sorry to hear that but I think the problem is that you have allowed your gathering to grow too large. If you were dealing with your siblings, spouses, nieces/nephews and parents I doubt this would happen. Sometimes when the group gets too broad people forget their manners.

                          1. This reminds me of stories I heard when I was wedding-planning about family members walking off with all of the reception decor (e.g. centerpieces, floral arrangements, etc.) at the end of a wedding. Maybe that's the custom in some places, but it sure sounded rude to me - as does the situation you described. But I would feel ungracious having to call them out in an email. Do you have another family member or preferably a couple who would understand your position and could spread the word informally? And if that didn't work, you could even ask this person or people to quietly talk to anyone who showed up with Tupperware. I would think that would be the best option.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: aching

                              This is exactly what I was going to say.

                            2. The key to dealing with this things is just to act normally, and not like you've been thinking about how to handle it for a week.

                              When you see people taking everything just throw out a "Oh, hey! Leave some for the cooks over here!" get out your tupperware, and fill it up.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Raids

                                yours is the absolute best answer by far!

                                1. re: DGresh

                                  Most etiquette questions can be solved by a two step process: (1) don't be a jerk and (2) say what you're thinking.

                                  Admittedly, I'm horrible at this in real life - total mind blank instantaneously occurs at all extreme lapses of social norms. Fortunately, my husband's great at it, so I let him articulate all the "woah, hey, what do you think you're doing there? Come on now!" commentary.

                                  1. re: Raids

                                    Awesome, seriously. Your first sentence is the quote of the day.

                                    1. re: Raids

                                      My husband is so good at saying what he's thinking that I have to try to be extra polite. He's pretty funny most of the time, luckily. I just let him know what annoys me and he takes care of it, to the amusement of most.

                                2. Wow I've never heard or seen anything like this. I can't believe people bring their own Tupperware; how rude! Like someone else mentioned, was this a practice that was encouraged years ago or when the group was smaller and now it's out of hand?

                                  Not sure how I'd handle it. You could start putting things away in your own containers, but maybe they'd raid those anyway? I hope they don't just dine and dash. I like the suggestion of telling your guests they're welcome to take what they want after you've put away leftovers for you and your mother. To me Thanksgiving leftovers are better than Thanksgiving dinner and if I was the host I'd be bummed to no have a turkey sandwich the net day.

                                  Also if "everyone filled up their personal tupperware with so much food....' you're making too much food! Maybe next year save yourselves some money, work and aggravation and scale back in volume or tell your guests next year you'd like to share the cooking. I think if they're family and are comfortable enough to bring their own tupperware you should feel comfortable enough to ask others to bring the mashed potatoes, veggies, pie etc!
                                  Hey please post back and let us know how you handled it!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Island

                                    I can't even taste the food properly on Thanksgiving day, and really look forward to lunch and dinner the next. Everyone sitting at the table had better enjoy it there.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      Agree coll. If I'm cooking and smelling it all day I couldn't be less interested in eating, but next day, nothing better than a turkey sandwich and left over stuffing.

                                  2. In situations like this, we take the preemptive approach. Once things start to wind down, I go into the kitchen and start portioning leftovers for takeaway. And we don't do it in tupperware, we do it in plastic zip bags. So if someone really wants leftovers, they need to grab a baggie or two. If someone brings their own tupperware, I tell them they can take as much as what is in a baggie. This way, folks realize that anything in tupperware in the fridge is off limits, and they realize we intend to eat what we made.

                                    1. If you really want to send out an e-mail, you might put something in it like - due to the economy and cut backs, we will not be making enough leftovers for take home this year.

                                      2 Replies
                                        1. re: boyzoma

                                          That'd just encourage the snarky gossips in the crowd to broadcast how you were going broke and couldn't afford a 'proper' thanksgiving meal.

                                        2. Perhaps next year you shut down your food kitchen and let someone else feed the masses. Sounds like you've done your part!

                                          1. Beard1 OK ya gotta tell us; what happened this year? Did the guests show up with loads of Tupperware and clean you out again or did you protect your leftovers? Do tell!