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Aug 7, 2014 12:52 PM

Wasted food due to guest taking too much -- any solutions?


So here's my situation. My husband and I get together with a group of friends every other Sunday and most of the time, I provide at least some of the food. We and another member of our group are part of a meat-based CSA so a lot of times, we will combine one of our shares for me to make something that will feed a crowd of 8. For example, last time we got together, our friend and I each had a share of brisket that we combined and I made BBQ brisket sandwiches, homemade baked beans, and corn on the cob. Other times with appropriate cuts of meat, I have done stew with homemade bread. Sometimes we grill out, especially if we have sausage, and I'll do veggie kebabs and rice on the side. etc. The meals are very casual and relaxed, serve yourself style.

Another member of our group is a woman who, earlier this year, had surgery to alter her stomach. She had a gastric sleeve put in place, which is supposed to reduce how much she eats. Here's my conundrum. She still tends to take rather large portion sizes, nearly as large as the rest of our group (who, besides her and me, are all guys with very big appetites), eats maybe half of it (at most) and can't finish the rest. If I'm lucky, her husband will finish her plate for her, but sometimes by the time she has decided she is done, he has already gone back for seconds on his own and he doesn't want any more, so her plate will sit and the rest of her food gets tossed at the end of the day. Wasted food, especially food that I have put the time and effort into preparing, is at best an annoyance of mine, and is quickly growing into more than that. If it was something that happened a few times right after her surgery, I could understand as she was learning the limitations of her intake. However, it has now been several months since her surgery, and she consistently makes comments like, "Well I'm sure my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I won't be able to eat all this, but that's okay." and I just want to tell her "Actually, it's NOT okay."

I don't think it's a matter of her not appreciating how a home cooked meal is made. She frequently watches me in the kitchen and often offers to help. I know she does some amount of cooking herself. She, and the rest of the people in the group, always look forward to the meals, partly because they all work fulltime jobs and don't always have a chance to cook home cooked meals for themselves (a lot of them just don't have a lot of cooking knowledge, either.) I work from home, and a lot of dietary restrictions (lots of allergies, severe lactose intolerance, and a chronic stomach disease) have forced me to learn to be a pretty good cook and I cook about 95% of the food that me and my husband eat (not that I mind, even before my slew of dietary restrictions I liked cooking, for myself and for others.) I like to make food for people and I like it when the food I make, makes other people happy. When everyone leaves at the end of the day, I always get a lot of "thank yous" and "the food was great" and "we really appreciate the meal" from everyone. Everyone's plate is always empty...except for her's.

So, is there any good way to approach this? Should I just not let it bother me? Would it be really rude of me to ask her to take smaller portions, and that she can always go back for seconds if she does want more afterword?

  1. First of all, I think you and your friends have a nice schedule of dinners--nice idea! And it's clear you are a thoughtful cook and host.

    I wouldn't tell her to *not* go back for seconds/take smaller portions.

    I wonder if her taking too much might be a psychological thing...a reinforcement that the "new" her eats less. She may know the correct portion size for her, but still like visual proof of her satiety. I don't know---just speculating.

    To have a gastric sleeve means she likely had health-threatening issues with food. I say don't pick at it, even though you are right to be concerned with the waste. Would she/husband accept a "take-home" container of the food? It sounds like your cooking would be just as good the next day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinehurst

      I couldn't have said it better. She is undoing years of habit in estimating portion size and resultant effects on her satiety. It apparently got out of control and medical intervention was needed.
      She'll learn eventually. For now, she needs encouragement and compliments on her progress.

    2. It probably wouldn't bother me but since it does you--have you asked if she would like to take her leftovers home? That may be snarky but it's not as rude as asking her to take smaller portions. You would tell a child to take a smaller portion, not an adult who is, presumably, your friend.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gourmanda

        this is a good idea -- then at least they'll get eaten and not dumped in the garbage.

        1. re: gourmanda

          This was my thought as well. It would potentially avoid waste and might provide a way to at least express your frustration over the issue.

          It definitely can fall in the snarky/passive aggressive camp - but I don't think it has to. It may also kindly indicate to her how much she's misreading the portion size.

        2. Telling someone who has had this kind of surgery to take smaller probably not that nice to do to a guest in your home.

          I'd either ask if she wants to wrap up what she doesn't eat or just let it go.

          1. If all your guests really enjoyed the food, yet left 1/4 cup of whatever on the plate, it would also go to the trash bin, as waste. In this case, one person's uneaten food takes that place.

            If she's a good friend, that friendship is worth more than a comment on how she serves herself. As pinehurst indicated, she's still dealing with her personal issues around food. The surgery didn't resolve those, and she'll need time to work those through.

            And as others indicated, there's always the offer to take home the food she didn't finish.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mcsheridan

              <there's always the offer to take home the food she didn't finish>

              I wouldn't do that with my friends or family members….why would this be any different? To ask them, when they were finished with their meal, if they'd like to take the leftovers? Really?

              1. re: latindancer

                if you were to ask *everyone* it wouldn't be weird...but to ask just one person, yes, definitely wrong.

                (at my big dinners, I always buy a package of foil takeaway containers from the local Asian grocery -- somebody always wants to take something home, and there's far too much for us to keep, so everyone knows to take whatever you want to take.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  In the case of the OP there's 'intention' involved, an agenda.
                  In the case where I'm telling my guests there're are containers available if anyone wants to take food home there's no intention involved.

            2. If she's a true friend you should be able to tell her not to take so much.

              6 Replies
              1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                I can't imagine telling an adult how big a portion they should take.
                That's not a friend, it's a parent.

                1. re: monavano

                  and a controlling, micro-managing, parent at that

                  1. re: monavano

                    I reconsidered. You guys are right.

                    It would probably aggravate me somewhat though if somebody continually took too much. I do plated dinners >90% of the time though so I'd never really worry about this.

                    I'm also young and fairly frank with my small close-knit group of friends I invite for dinners. I suppose it might be different if everyone was like 40+ and whatnot though.

                    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                      As I get older, I realize more and more that discretion is truly the better part of valor and to think carefully before I say something I *think* needs to be said.
                      In the big scheme of life, the amount of food that this guest "wastes" doesn't really mean a hill of beans.
                      Plus, this person is within a year of major, life-changing surgery, so patience here is a bigger virtue.
                      Not making sure no food goes uneaten.

                      1. re: monavano

                        Agreed, honestly, I tend to agree with those in older generations on issues like this anyway. You're right, surgery like that is probably a big deal both physically and mentally.
                        Guess if the "wasting food," is what aggravates me there are plenty of other bigger fish to fry with regard to that, instead of the small portion one person does or does not eat.

                        Had a friend over for dinner the other day. She didn't finish some charred padron peppers on her plate and when I was clearing the plates later I ate them, delicious. Problem solved.