Service of Portions: How Much is the Right Amount?

September 14th, 2017

Categories: Food, Waste

You can’t miss the bus stop poster sponsored by [photo above] on Third Avenue which declares “Every American Wastes 290 pounds of food a year.” It continues, “Cook it. Store it. Share it. Just don’t waste it.”

And the website is full of tidbits such as a family of four “loses $1,500 a year on wasted food.” Percentages of wasted foods include 50 percent of seafood, 48 percent of fruits and veggies, 38 percent of grain products, 22 percent of meat and 20 percent of milk.

According to its website, is a © of the Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC]. The NRDC describes its mission “to safeguard the Earth, its people, its plants and animals and the natural systems on which life depends.”


A friend shared an experience that illustrates the issue. Over Labor Day she attended a catered party for 70 at a home in the Hamptons—salmon, all sorts of bar-b-q, salads, dessert bar–and was shocked at the amount of leftover food. Not a scrap was subsequently eaten by the large family and their guests because they had other engagements over the weekend, she said. She suggested to the host that next time he coordinate with the caterers to arrange for a hookup with a charity to donate leftovers at the end of a party.

Compost collection @ NYC farmer’s market

We have friends who make enough food for an Air Force squadron when they have company but they send guests home with goody bags filled with toothsome treats. We made three delicious meals out of what we were given the other week—nothing wasted.

Another dear friend serves barely enough for two when there are four at his table. The conversation is generous and we enjoy the evening but admit we grabbed a snack when we got home. My parents had a friend like this. She followed suggested portions on packaging to the letter. My dad always ate before going to dinner at her place.

What steps do you take so as not to waste food? What, if anything, do you find yourself throwing out most? Do you make more food than you expect people to eat when you have company or do you try to make just enough?



10 Responses to “Service of Portions: How Much is the Right Amount?”

  1. Donna Boyle Schwartz Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: We’ve been known to send people home with doggy bags…and we have a good-sized freezer, so if we know we’re not going to finish leftovers in a timely manner, straight into the freezer they go!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Good planning Donna.

    Once, as an Air Force wife and newly married, I gave a cocktail party and yet served serious food [a turkey, cheeses etc]. I was nevertheless picked clean…doubt there was a dab of Ketchup left in the fridge when the guests left. The base was in the middle of nowhere and it was after hours for the base exchange so there was no dashing out for more. I was mortified. Never again!

  3. ASK Said:

    When first married, I would never cook for than 8 people at a sit-down dinner, everything else was catered. Anything left over went into the freezer, but that rarely happened…I must’ve been good at figuring out quantities. No one ever left hungry.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A friend of my parents was a surgeon who shared his office with a general practitioner. The surgeon was one of the most generous people you would ever meet but not his office mate. One of the stingy-related stories we heard was that the GP and his wife would invite a bunch of people for dinner and carve up one chicken into small pieces, leaving one decent piece. When the platter arrived at his place he’d say, “Well, if nobody else wants it….” and help himself.

    I’m married to someone who only in the last few years would even look at a leftover much less eat it. In the case of our friends’ goody bags, he will eat the magnificent meat cold the next day and then make a hash should there be any meat left after that. After Thanksgiving, he’ll eat the turkey and stuffing but none of the rest. It’s my joy to eat most leftovers–except for soggy green salad that has been sitting in dressing.

  5. HB Said:

    Until old age, I was always overweight because I liked to eat, ate too much and never exercised if I could possibly avoid it, but “Remember the starving Armenians!” are the words I remember hearing as a child each time I didn’t eat everything on my plate. I soon learned to be careful when I was helping myself not not to take more than I could comfortably consume. On the other hand, except for Thanksgiving turkey and the like, we seldom ate leftovers and I don’t recall doggy bags ever being in use.

    (An ancillary to this was my mother’s recollection of the time when my aunt and her husband stayed with us during the war when food was scarce. He was a Southerner by birth, and had been trained to leave generous “leftovers” on his plate as my mother indelicately put it, “for the help.” Each time he did it, it drove my mother wild. Curiously, this uncle, a doctor, was extremely helpful to her later in life.)

    When you think about it, in the battle for human survival, after air and water, I can’t think of anything more important than food, not even sex. Man can live without that, or sight, hearing or even being able to sleep for that matter, but not without being able to eat. No wonder I find what and how I eat such an important element in how I lived my life.

  6. Debbie Kunan Said:

    Debbie wrote on Facebook: Have learned over the years to scale back considerably depending on the occasion. Leftovers that can be shared or frozen (refrigerated) is not wasteful. Extra desserts go to my bldg staff or coworkers

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    In the Hamptons example in the post the refrigerator was jammed with leftovers–none of it touched. Both shocked my friend.

  8. HB Said:


    I heard about the starving Armenians though I wasn’t quite sure who they were at the time but we ate leftovers. My mother was a wonderful cook and she’d do all sorts of creative things that made the revisited food delicious. If a store-bought cake tasted bad, she’d twirl it into a pudding that was memorable. But like everyone, she tossed food as well, but not as much as those figures reported today. If living through a war where food is scarce, many people tend to be more careful although I’m sure that some go the opposite way: If food was hard to come by at one point they want the feeling that there’s a ton available.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Starving Americans threaten to become a growing embarrassment, especially should projected policies against the helpless and elderly prevail. Over and above showing gratitude for ones good fortune, even a modest donation to a local food bank and/or community kitchen will help. If able to stretch a dollar further, the international community appreciates all the help it can get.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    In a nutshell a great suggestion.

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