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Do You Ask For a Doggie Bag? An Easy Way to Reduce Food Waste

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Do You Ask For a Doggie Bag? An Easy Way to Reduce Food Waste

Have you ever been in this situation? You’re out at a great restaurant with friends and you’re sharing a bunch of small plates.  You ordered too much food and there’s still about half a portion of that delectable cauliflower with peas that you were just too full to finish.  There are also a few slices of that chicken that would go so well with the cauliflower for lunch tomorrow. But you feel a little funny requesting a to-go box when you’re out with friends. Who would get the leftovers? Would they think you’re gross taking home leftover food from plates you all shared?

It’s one thing to request a “doggie bag” if you’re out with your family – that’s easy.  But many people find it embarrassing or tacky to do so when out with a group. I know I’ve felt that way in group situations, and have sometimes left perfectly good food sitting on the table because I felt embarrassed to take it home or didn’t want to haggle over who would take what home after an evening out. What a waste!

Taking home leftovers from restaurants is an excellent way to reduce food waste and save money, plus save yourself a little effort making lunch or dinner the next day.  Restaurant portions are often too large and sometimes we get carried away and order too much of it, especially when dining with others.

Here are a few solutions to reduce restaurant plate waste/reduce food waste that we all can consider:

1) Reduce over-ordering: Order a few dishes and then wait to see if you still want to order more food.

2) Pre-pack leftovers: Consider packing up half of your dish before you overeat.

3) Be sly: Subtly ask the server to pack up the leftovers and then offer them to your dining companions first. If they don’t want them, they’re yours. (I find it helps to tell my friends that I can’t stand to see food go to waste so I want one of us to take them home. Invariably they agree with me, and we were just being shy about it.)

4) Do it yourself: Consider sticking your own to-go container(s) in your bag for the restaurant to use to pack up leftovers.  This cuts down on packaging waste, too.  (This might be too much for some of us to contemplate doing in a social group, so maybe best saved for family outings.)

5) Talk it up:  As the meal comes to a close, talk up all the good ways you can imagine using the leftover food during the next few days.  That’s probably all it will take for them to get on board, and then you can split the remains.  If they don’t bite the bait, then the whole thing is yours, guilt free.

When I asked friends on social media if they are ever hesitant to take home food from restaurants I was surprised—and heartened – by how many of them had absolutely no problem with it.

“There should be no shame or ick factor associated with doggie bags. Leftovers rule and they help reduce food waste. It’s a win-win,” according to Washington, DC based food writer, Nevin Martell.

“I can’t imagine it being embarrassing. It’s a great way to enjoy a delicious meal a second time,” said dietitian Jill Weisenberger of Food and Nutrition Solutions in Newport News, VA.

“Never! Just did it at a fancy business dinner. I was proud not to let the delicious ribeye go to waste!”, reported Phillip Johansen of Santa Barbara, CA.

“I never hesitate. I ordered the food because it appealed to me, and I paid for the whole serving. If I feel too full to finish it, maybe I’ll enjoy it the following day for lunch,” said Michelle Stern, a teacher and creator of What’s Cooking with Kids in San Rafael, CA.

After writing this and discussing this with my community, I’m emboldened to be even better about taking home uneaten food when we go out with friends.

So what about you? Could you be better about reducing your food waste at restaurants or in other parts of your life? Please share your commitment or thoughts below. 

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