Q: I’m a single mother of two wonderful daughters. As I go to school full time and work full time at a “just until I get through school” job, money is exceptionally tight.
When purchasing food at the grocery store, my thoughts are always, “How many meals can I get out of this?” Usually I purchase food that I can prepare relatively cheaply with enough to have leftovers and meals to take to work or for my daughters’ school lunches. Things like potato chips and cookies are for “filler days” when we take sandwiches to work/school.
My daughters know this and are very judicial when they snack. They might have only a handful of chips or one cookie, when they might actually want half the bag of chips or five or six cookies, because they know it goes for our lunches for the week.
The problem I’m having is when my kids have friends over to spend the night. I make a dinner, and they’ll take large portions but not finish them. I watch them throw food away and think, “That could have been my lunch for Monday.” Or they will ask for a snack and take large portions, much more than necessary. Sometimes a whole package of cookies is eaten in a night, and we’re stuck for the rest of the week without sweets.
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We have bottled water to take with our lunches, and I constantly find the friends will want a bottle of water, drink half of it, and then throw it away, or worse, drink only half a bottle, leave it somewhere and get another. As my daughters and I always refill the bottles, not only are they wasting the water, they are wasting a bottle I might have refilled two or three times at work.
How do I address this behavior with my daughters’ friends? Am I going beyond my limits as an adult to stop a child from taking larger portions of food if I know they won’t eat it all? How do I address another person’s child when I ask them to eat only one cookie or tell them they can have only one bottle of water?
I don’t want to be the “food police,” but every time I see my daughters’ friends wasting food, I can’t help but feel a little upset. I know that they probably don’t know they’re doing it, and many of their parents make much more money than I do, so I’m not sure it’s my place to correct their behavior.
A: Dole out the portions for your young guests, telling them that they are welcome to seconds if they finish. Put cookies in bowls and water in glasses instead of leaving out packages.
Miss Manners is pleased to say that this solution not only solves your problem, it is also correct (and has the added bonus of quieting naysayers who are opposed to the extra step of dirtying dishes). Food and drink packaging should never be seen outside of the kitchen.
Now you have a practical reason to overcome your very legitimate fear of being inhospitable to guests and offensive to their parents.
Q: Is it rude to get up from the dinner table and ask for the check at a restaurant?
A: If it is for the purpose of paying for guests who might otherwise have felt responsible for doing so, Miss Manners imagines you will be forgiven.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.