In my house growing up food was a precious commodity. It was how my parents showed love, it was how we celebrated, how we grieved, it brought us together. And something that precious was never, ever, to be wasted. When you finished your first serving, mom would offer you more. Dinner wasn’t over until all the food was gone.
Over the years, learning to leave this mindset behind has been extremely difficult. The thought of throwing food away is repulsive to me—even the thought of putting it away for leftovers leaves me a little unsettled. I rapidly project myself into the future and try to plan exactly who is going to eat the leftovers and in what quantity so I can mentally zero out the food balance sheet (Daniel is a godsend for any leftover anxiety I may have, since he loves them). But when I find myself eating just to finish my plate, or eating for the sake of not wasting, I try to remind myself, you are not a garbage disposal. The food I don’t need to eat can either end up on my body, as pounds, or in the trash. And while both scenarios are a sad, unnecessary waste, I get to choose where the food goes.
If you struggle with this, too, the best thing you can do is figure out how much food you or your family need and prepare the right amount. Of course, sometimes you may be in a situation where that isn’t possible—and waste is more or less inevitable, in those cases, it’s important that you eat the amount of food you want to eat (or, the amount you know you should eat). If any food is left over, pack it up, bring it home, and put it in the fridge. Maybe someone will eat the leftovers; maybe no one will; that’s OK. You tried. Whether you’re throwing food in the trash or forcing food you don’t need or want down your throat, you are wasting it, because you are not a garbage disposal.