Sunday, December 28, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

It should come as no surprise to readers here that I hate, positively HATE wasted food. For my parents, who had known great want during the camps in WWII, the idea of throwing out food was just not possible. Nothing ever got "lost" in the wilds of the refrigerator; every little bit contributed to another meal down the road.

I imagine that most people manage to use up what they have cooked for regular meals during the week. The problem arises more with special occasion meals and occasions. No baalabusta wants to be seen as skimping on the food she serves to guests. Tables groan under the weight of the goodies on them. But then the guests leave and the baalabusta is left with the quandary of what to do with the mega leftovers. Some of those leftovers will clearly become part of the week's food offerings. Some of those leftovers freeze well, so they are put away for later use. But inevitably there are going to be items that no one wants to see again, whether now or later. What can be done with those leftovers that need to find a home quickly?

If they are items that came from a takehome food store, there are yeshivas and food programs that will take the food. Our local Ezras Achim will take care of the distribution should you have this type of food available. Ditto for items still in their packages. So, try your local group and see if they can help you out.

But what about food that has already been cooked, and cooked in your home? Most yeshivas and shuls will not take in home cooked food. Do you have a neighbor/family member that you are close with and in whose house you have eaten before and vice versa? Consider switching leftovers with them. Consider sending home "care packages" with some of your guests. Gift a busy neighbor with an already cooked meal or a dish or two.

And then there is this. The following question was asked of our Rav and was also asked of a Rav in the LI area: can you donate food to non-Jewish organizations? Both Ravs said yes, if it is not food that can be donated to Jewish organizations. Our area has a number of non-denominational food kitchens that feed the hungry. This time of year, and because of the economic situation, they are feeding more people than ever before. You may look at that home cooked food that you don't know what to do with as a problem, but these community organizations look at that food as a solution. Someone I know made a simcha and the caterer prepared way more than was necessary, food she was going to have to pay for. She donated as much as she could to the Jewish organizations that would take food from this caterer. The rest a friend took over to an agency that feeds the homeless. A mitzvah instead of an aveira.

No matter what the reason for that leftover food, there is someone out there who would welcome it. Tossing food in the garbage should not be an option.


G6 said...

I find that more often than one would think, guests are happy to take small care packages home with leftovers from the meal.
(Single guys of course, can be persuaded to take *LARGE* doggie bags {grin}).

Anonymous said...

When my older son was still at home I had a solution for the leftovers. He would invite a group of his friends over for melave malka or even a late supper during the week and the leftovers would totally disappear. Doesn't work the same way with girls unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Not exactly but sort of related should be don't make a lot of new items when you are pretty sure your family doesn't like the ingredients or won't go for them. usually my big leftovers are these experiment dishes.

mother in israel said...

I would add:
1. Learn how to cook appropriate quantities, so there is extra but not too much. Sometimes there are cancellations, but many home cooks don't make an attempt to estimate correctly.
2. Make sure most items can go in the freezer afterward, and that there is room for them.
3. And G6's idea is great too. If the guests will eat it in your house, one hopes they will eat it at home.

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone even ask a Rav if it's permissible to donate food to feed the hungry, Jew or gentile?! That people would think this was a question worth asking if disturbing. That they couldn't figure out for themselves yet more disturbinb.

Knitter of shiny things said...

I agree with Anonymous 3:25, and was thinking pretty much the same thing. Why is it even a question as to whether or not you can donate food to hungry non-Jews?

ProfK said...

Anonymous and Knitter,
I don't think the question asked was so much if you can feed hungry non-Jews as the question was centered on the food in question being kosher. What our Rav said was that you first try and find a place to give the food which deals with people who only eat kosher food, since there are fewer places that feed people with this requirement. If there is still food left over or if there is no Jewish organization that will take the food then there is no problem in donating it to feed any hungry people. Those who are not Jewish or non-frum will eat any food given to them; those who are frum will eat only kosher food. If you have kosher food to donate the order of donation is frum places first then followed by general feeding places.

SuperRaizy said...

Very good suggestions. When I planned my son's Bar Mitzvah, I made sure to give the leftovers to a food gemach in the neighborhood. It always makes me sad to see a lot of leftover food at parties, knowing that there are families who could really use it.

Lion of Zion said...


we go away a lot for shabbat to friends and have taken leftovers home with us.


i agree that people need to think more about how much food they prepare. since not everyone cares about the "moral" issues of wasting food, it should also be presented as a financial issue. especially when cooking for guests i find that many people cook too much (in terms of number dishes and total amount)


"can you donate food to non-Jewish organizations?"

great post, but i was extremely perturbed by this question. the explanation above doesn't help much. not that i disagree with the rav's answer, but i simply don't understand the whole שאלה to begin with.

too many people think that it is אסור to help goyyim or even people who aren't frum.