30 March 2010

Out of portion control

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Food, Random

I’ve mentioned before that I’m very conservative with money. Okay, I’m borderline cheap.

I find that I’m really cheap because I want to make sure my money has value. I hate wasting money. And I don’t run around spending money in a crazy way because, rent has to be paid!

So if I’m not getting a value for my money, I’m hesitant to spend it.

Case in point: food.

I love restaurants with big portion sizes because I know I’m getting a lot for my money. This could mean a gorge-fest for $9.99 or leftovers, aka two meals for the price of one.

Large portion sizes, plus my cheap nature, are a lethal combo for me.

Sometimes my brain cannot distinguish when I should stop eating or it won’t automatically tell me to cut the meal in half for leftovers. And this leads to yummy leftovers or my stomach so full I could nap for two days. I hate that awful feeling but sometimes, I can’t stop myself.

I don’t seem to know when enough is enough.

It’s a sick mentality. I even sometimes feel cheated when there isn’t enough food for me to take home because it’s a properly portioned and balanced meal.

For example, last week we went to Blackbird for Chef’s Week and had a lovely meal. Yet for my money I felt almost a little cheated because it wasn’t heaping platefuls of food. It was a good size serving and I was full and satisfied after, without feeling like I needed to puke. And I felt…cheated? That is seriously wrong.

I’ve battled this for a while, trying to savor and enjoy food rather than shovel it in as fast as I can so I can be off to the next thing. I grew up a fast eater and I’m still that way now. I even still struggle with making healthy food choices because it may cost a bit more whereas fast food is, well fast and cheap.

Since I’ve started Kitchen Adventures here, my grocery bill has gone up a bit, collecting ingredients for my pantry and trying new foods and recipes. I love it, but a little part of my head is like, “your grocery bill IS GOING UP, how much longer are we doing this?”

I have no idea what prompted this post, maybe a mix of jeans being snug this weekend and Jamie Oliver’s ABC show.

I don’t really even know if I have a question to ask everyone. So tell me if you have struggled with portion control or how you rationalize the increase in your grocery bill for healthy foods. Heck, even if you have had trouble making healthy choices when dining out or grabbing food on the go!

New movie review is up: Alice in Wonderland in 3D. YES! (Note: I’ll be calculating the Macy’s giveaway entries this week and will post the winner shortly!)


  1. I received 1 st http://www.lowest-rate-loans.com when I was 32 and this supported my relatives very much. But, I require the collateral loan again.

  2. Bing says:

    I am so similar. I love being able to have leftovers to to take with me, but when I’m really hungry I know that I totally overeat. I am also a fast eater, so I tend to devour my food, then maybe grab seconds. About 20 minutes later, I feel like I’m going to explode. If I would just slow down and actually let my food hit my stomach before I tried to eat more, I think I’d be able to avoid feeling so overstuffed.

  3. Mega says:

    As much as I love Blackbird, their portion sizes have always stunk IMO. Then again, I’m always hungry.

  4. If you put it on my plate, I’ll eat it. I don’t have a lot of portion control :(

  5. MinD says:

    I’m not one for leftovers, ever, so this isn’t necessarily a problem for me. When I go out to dinner, I’m splurging in general. If I don’t have the money to truly be eating out, I shouldn’t be. End of story.

    When money is tight, I do what’s needed. Whether that’s foregoing lunches out and buying a loaf of bread, some sandwich meat and cheese and having that each day or feasting on Ramen for a week, it’s what I have to do. I try not to stress about money as much as possible – and that’s tough in general – but when I have extra, there’s no reason to be so tight with it, for me anyway.

  6. jenn says:

    i LOVE huge portion sizes, however my waist does not. :) i always do that in restaurants – look at the menu and order what comes with the most food (fries, sides, etc.) but that is insane! i’ve finally stopped doing that and it has made a huge difference. :)

  7. Allison says:

    It’s funny that we will spend money on fun activities but we are dumbfounded by the price of food. My bill has gone up, mostly because I’m buying better food, including meat.

    Why are we willing to splurge on purses but put crappy food in our body?

  8. Hal says:

    I have always spent far too much on my groceries because I do eat mainly healthy and try to eat organic and fresh, but I’ve always justified it becuase this food is going into your body and making you the person you are. All those pesticides and chemicals and “fake” ingredients that are in junk enter your body and do absolutly nothing but eitehr sit in your body or hurt your body. I prefer to keep my spending down in other areas of my life and not skimp on food because basically my clothes are just looking pretty and temporary, but my body is mine for my entire life, it deserves the best! Plus the longer you eat healthy the less you’ll want the bad foods… And when you then have them, you feel like crap! good deterence to me :)

  9. Stephanie says:

    I definitely have issues with portion control. Often at a restaurant, I will think “Oh! This is so much. I can take half home” and somehow I eat it all and feel so sick. I also don’t like to leave food on my plate at home. I have been really working with myself to put smaller portions on my plate and even leave some if I’m not hungry. Your post gave me an idea for restaurants. Why not split it somehow on another plate or ask for a box right away and then I won’t be tempted to eat it all? Thanks for the idea!

  10. Her says:

    My husband and I usually share a meal–it’s cheap! And this may be too earthy crunchy for you, but I’ve taken my own Pyrex box with me to Mexican food places (HUGE portions!) and put half the meal in before I even start eating.

    Just know this–no matter how much cheese there is on a plate, you can *never* eat too much of it. ;)

  11. barbetti says:

    When we moved here, we initially ate out A TON. Like, every day, one of our meals was out somewhere. But with the meal reciept + tip + tax…it got to be ridiculous. So now, we eat at home. Granted, for three people, we spend almost $600/month in groceries. (But that includes formula and baby food.) When we were eating out, I felt like we were spending a lot more, though, so while our grocery bill has gone up, our eating out budget hasn’t stretched beyond its limits like usual.

  12. nic says:

    SWEDISH FISH! I have serious problem knowing when to stop eating them. In fact, I DON’T know when to stop. I buy them as a treat to myself. I buy them two bags at a time and they don’t last more than a few hours.

  13. ugggh! i’m little and i don’t eat that much, so portions in restaurants are usually like 4x what i eat. i hate how big they are! because i hate servers being like is everything ok, when i’ve only eaten a bit, when really it is great, just it as masssssive!

  14. Chelsy says:

    I don’t have a problem with portion control at all…in fact, I often feel like I am wasting my money when I eat out because I can’t finish all my food and I hate leftovers so I don’t like taking anything home with me. Well, unless it’s pizza. And then I gorge hardcore. But most of the time I would be more than satisfied with half the amount of what I’m given at a restaurant. In terms of food, I think something is “valuable” if it’s a treat. Like a meal at a really nice restaurant, a pastry from a favorite sweet shop, etc.

    As for groceries…I have yet to figure out how to eat really healthy and keep the bill low. For the two of us, sometimes it costs just as much to make a healthy, fresh meal at home as it would to eat out. Because of our busy schedules I end up tossing produce that’s gone bad frequently which is a complete waste. Mainly we’ve tried to cut down on meat…buying only high-quality meats and eating less of them and then eating more lentils that are high in fiber and protein (and they’re cheap). Fruit is my weakness so I’m always spending way too much on that.

  15. katelin says:

    i always have a battle with portion control, i have a hard time stopping eating anything i love. lately i’ve been better at leftovers because hey it’s lunch but i totally agree it’s hard to stop sometimes.

  16. A Super Girl says:

    I’m horrible with this too. I’m quite cheap, and you know the pricey places are all about “presentation” and so you feel like you’re paying for nothing. I like to think you’re paying for the experience — which is a lot nicer than any ol’ all you can eat Olive Garden experience.

    As for the grocery bill thing. It may be going up, but you are probably still eating cheaper than you would if you were eating all those meals out.

  17. When you first get your plate at a restaurant, go ahead and section it off in half or thirds if it’s super-huge. Then tell yourself one portion is for your meal and the rest are for leftovers. If you set the boundaries on the front end it will be easier to stop before you go overboard.

  18. Miss Britt says:

    I have struggled with portion control my ENTIRE life until about two weeks ago when I started following a plan that calls for:

    6 “meals” a day, one every few hours
    a “meal” consists of one serving of a protein, one serving of a complex carb
    add one serving of a vegetable to a meal 2-3 times a day
    a “serving” is generally the size of your fist or the palm of your hand

    That last part has made such a huge, huge difference for me. And I couldn’t BELIEVE how much more than that I’d been eating!

    Also – I ask for a box at the beginning of my meal now. :-)

  19. andhari says:

    The portion here is smaller than in the states so I don’t have this problem often. But in some restaurants, I DO ask them to pack home the left over. Or sometimes even order a really big entree and an appetizer to share with a friend.

  20. Cheryl says:

    Easy…when I spend more on groceries, I go out/order in less. In the end it saves money. I tell myself.

  21. SarahBeth says:

    My boyfriend has the same attitude as you “quantity over quality” while I also struggle with portion control. So we’ve been able to find a good compromise… Whenever we go out to eat, I immediately split my meal in half and give the extra portion to him. That way he gets full and I abstain from eating WAY too much, it’s a win win!

  22. Kate says:

    I struggle with portion control mainly at restaurants. I’m usually pretty hungry when I get there (obviously) and I fill up on bread or chips or whatever they put out before my main meal comes. By the time the entrees arrive, I’m already half (or more) full. I’m trying to get better, though, and part of that is paring down how often we go out to eat. Now that I’m cooking more than ever before, we eat at home more often and I don’t let myself get so hungry that I want to overeat. Plus, what I’m making at home is often a lot lower in calories, salt and bad fats than what I’d order out. So there’s that. As for the grocery bill, once I amassed a lot of pantry items, I noticed my bill leveled off. And I don’t mind paying a little more in grocery bills if it means I’m not paying out all that money at restaurants. Shopping with a list is also really important to me — I shop with a list every week and I’ve gotten to the point where I can fly through the store(s) without noticing all the items that aren’t on my list. Keeps me out of trouble (like buying Double Stuf Oreos!). :)

  23. I go out to eat at nicer places – but share an entree with a sister, friend, or Mike to save money. Plus, that MORE than fills me up most of the time!

  24. Nora says:

    One of the tricks my friends & I do when we go out? Ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal, and put half of the plate away before we even dig in. The servers usually look at us like we are crazy but this way we get two meals and don’t stuff ourselves into oblivion (which we still do from time to time). This trick only works where the portions are huge, not so well with appetizers.

    Over the last few years I’ve really slowed down the rate at which I eat. usually the last person at the table eating :)

  25. Cass says:

    I haven’t really had much of an issue w/portion control, but I think that’s because my eating habits were set decently when I was younger. My gma & I would eat tiny meals throughout the day and it wasn’t until I got older that I found out that was how you were SUPPOSED to eat. After years of people complaining I’m not eating enough. :-)

    But I’m working on training my BF to think like this, I have to remind him if we have Oreos etc. you can only have a max of 3. He looks at me like I’m crazy.

  26. ha i’m crazy about our food budget and i have a RECIPE BLOG! it drives my husband crazy but i don’t like to let food or money go to waste so i’m kind of anal about it. for the two of us though we manage to spend less than $200/month on groceries…this is the first month we went over and it was due to some extra entertaining, weekend guests, and a $22 rack of lamb!

  27. Erin says:

    I guess I haven’t noticed my grocery bill being higher than usual because I’ve always preferred to cook at home rather than eat out and I haven’t really changed the way I shop. That helps with portion control, too. If I only eat out once a week then it’s more like a special occasion and I allow myself to eat as much as I want. I don’t mind if it’s expensive and small portions if it tastes good and keeps me full. I just hate when it’s small portions and expensive and I’m still hungry afterward!

  28. Shannalee says:

    Just wanted to say I so relate, both with eating out and with spending money on groceries. I hate it, but I know I could spend verrrry little and still survive (albeit be unhealthy!!) and so sometimes I feel like that’s what I should do.

    I like what the commenter above said about how food is one of her priorities – I think that is a good mindset. I don’t spend as much on clothes and hair and so on (and, not to mention, if I’m investing in good food now, that’s less to spend on health care later) so maybe it’s OK to invest more in my diet. I don’t know. These are things to wrestle with maybe. It’s nice to know you are doing it too.

  29. poodlegoose says:

    This is exactly how I feel too. I blame it on my southern upbringing when I was never allowed to leave anything on our plate. And I was continuously sent to pizza buffets with other teenagers and we had contests. I usually won, but one time, I had the extraordinary record number of 26 pieces. Eating was like a status thing for me when I was little and for some reason, it carried over with me to my adult years. Dunno why, and my metabolism would probably thank me if I’d stop eating so much.

  30. Kez says:

    I have ALWAYS had “big eyes” when it comes to food. I have this fear that I won’t have enough food despite the fact that my natural body type (note – not the one I have now) says I should be able to survive quite happily eating like a sparrow.
    My jeans are tight and I fear I’m going up a dress size this year.
    I am going to have to start changing the way I think.
    I try to tell myself to stop when I’m satisfied or to just eat a little bit and if I’m still hungry then I may eat some more.
    It’s tough!!

    Ha. Just made myself sound like I weigh 5000kg. I actually only need to lose 5kg but it feels like 5000.

  31. Lil' Woman says:

    When I eat Velveeta Mac and Cheese, it’s like my brain turns off any type of control and I gorge till I feel like I’m going to burst

  32. One of my biggest struggles is remembering to stop eating when I’ve had enough. And I have the blubber belly and thunder thighs to prove it. It’s just so difficult when I’ve baked something or have made a nice fried something or other and I want to eat a brownie for breakfast and leftover greasiness for lunch. I also do feel very guilty about throwing away food. It’s so irresponsible!

  33. Nicole Marie says:

    When making the effort to buy more fresh, whole foods I justify the higher cost by thinking it as saving money in the future. You know how it hurts a bit to sock part of every paycheck into your retirement account, but then you think of how much that money will grow by the time you’re 65 and then it feels worth it? To me that grocery money is the same thing: what I spend now on good food I’ll save countless times over in the future because (hopefully) I’ll have avoided preventable chronic health issues. It’s investing in myself in a tangible way, which I find pretty satisfying!

    As far as portion co trol goes, I’m still working on the guilt that I feel when I don’t clean my plate despite knowing how much better it feels to stop eating when I’ve had enough instead of too much.

  34. Caz says:

    Be glad you don’t live in Australia!!!

    Food here is SO expensive (more than double from America) and restaurant meals it’s not unusual to see a $17 burger and fries in any generic pub. Furthermore, in Melbourne we’re not allowed to take food home (doggy bags) so anything we don’t eat gets tossed. Hugely wasteful if you ask me!
    That being said, our portion sizes are relatively normal compared to North America but still sometimes larger than you can eat.

    Whenever I go back to North America to visit I’m SHOCKED by how huge the portions are and how cheap the food is. Nowhere else in the world pays so little for food.

    While I do spend a lot on groceries ($100/week for 2 people), none of it is processed and it’s all fresh produce, whole grains, lean meat etc. But it’s one of my priorities and I make sure I cut down on other expenses such as mobile bill, internet, hair cuts etc.

    Then again, when it’s something you’ve grown up with forever, I can see how the mindset would be hard to change!

  35. the whole portion control thing is exactly why I HATE buffets. I can’t stand watching other people’s gluttony. I feel no need to try to see how much food I can shove down my throat to get my “money’s worth.” I much prefer a restaurant with regular portion-sized meals.

    and if I go to the grocery store and stock up on my own groceries (even though I live at home, there are certain foods that only I like to eat), I cut down on eating out that week.

  36. ps. I refuse to go to buffets anymore, because the “value” thing gets most everyone. I actually prefer “high-end” restaurants because their portion sizes are typically normal, and what “The Cheesecake Factory”, “Friday’s”, and similar is too much. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve worked on it. Pizza is still a weakness, as the serving size is not 3-4 slices…*grumbles*.

    I usually choose to spend my calories on stuff like rich cheeses and meat. Most everything else are veggies. Bread is limited to whole grain, fresh, and no HFCS. I’ve found that eating this way and then eating crap actually punishes me, as after I had a BigMac I felt like I was going to hurl.

  37. Portion control is a HUGE issue in America.

    As for my grocery bill….it sucks, but I try and buy “healthy” food (lean means, organic veggies, fresh bread, etc). Pre-plating can help with portion control. Most people don’t understand what their body actually needs…..but it is usually less than what you feed it.

  38. maris says:

    In regards to the spending more money for healthy/cooked food, I think it totally depends on your priorities. I would rather spend a little bit more money on quality meat, dairy and produce and conserve in other areas like clothes, shoes, purses, etc. I rationalize that food goes IN your body, so nourishment isn’t an area that I scrimp (also, you know, the fact that I WRITE about it is another justification).

    As far as portion sizes, I also feel that good food is more satisfying: one piece of GOOD cheese or dark chocolate is way more satisfying to me than 5x the amount of crap, so I eat less, it lasts longer and it all evens out in the end.

    Also – if you’re spending more money on groceries you’re probably spending less on meals out, no?

  39. eemusings says:

    I am the same with buffets – but am learning to stop before I get sick!

    It’s hard to justify the rising grocery bills, but I’ve decided to budget $10-20 more for healthier and better quality foods. Think of it as an investment in your body.

  40. mandy says:

    I definitely agree that I am the same way. I am super cheap and if I can get two meals for the price of one, I’m happy. Once your pantry and cupboards have the basics, your grocery bill will go down some. Its the initial stocking that hurts, though fresh food are a bit more expensive. I love farmers markets in the summer and fall.

  41. Kay says:

    i must admit – when i visit the US i am always shocked at how big the portions sizes are compared to here in canada. everything is SO BIG! and with all-you-can eat this and that, it seems like people are conditioned to eat large portions…(though i always do an IHOP run because we don’t have that here…but i can barely finish it…)so these large portions are ‘regular’ – on top of the ‘finish your plate mentality’ which i think everyone in north america heard as a child – it’s no wonder portion sizes can get out of control (as you put it).

    i live on my own too and while i’m not the healthiest eater on the planet i do cook for myself quite a bit – and enjoy doing so. i think the cost, that you mentioned, is really only as you get started and begin stocking your pantry with the various spices and storable ingredients that you may not have had. after that – i think it’s actually cheaper (and better for you) to cook healthy foods on your own…couple of veggies, meat/fish, fruit – you can buy this weekly or biweekly and it’s much cheaper than buying junk food that won’t leave you filled.

    oh, and a tip for portion control – at least when eating at home – eat your dinner on a small plate instead of regular sized plate. you can fill it and when you finish it you’ll feel like you ‘cleaned the plate’ though it’s a smaller plate ;) so win-win

    oh, and you can also buy meat when it’s on sale (or you know when the put a sticker half off on it because it expires in a few days) and freeze it. as long as you properly seal the bag it’s in you can freeze meat for 6-12 months! i buy lots of my meat like this :)

    oy, i always write novels….

  42. I struggle too. I think its because our perception of portion sizes has been warped since day 1. “Finish your plate as there are starving children in Africa.” Well, if I am full I shouldn’t finish it. I blame our parents. Just easier! Kidding, kind of.