I live in Dubai. Often, I take home-cooked food to workplace and I can’t eat all of it.

A few weeks back, I asked my colleague if they wanted my lunch because I had already eaten from it. They minded that and said that’s not a proper way to share the food and that it is rude.

So what’s the proper wording or phrases I could use to share my (leftover) food with someone? People think of it as a rude gesture, like they are homeless or something. And I never mean it that way, of course.

  • 4
    I think this is less a matter of being rude and more your colleage's concern about the germs, especially if it is something you have taken a bite from already.
    – Pharap
    Aug 10, 2017 at 18:38
  • The polite way doesn't come in a single day instead, after a friendly contact you can do. it takes a week of time to be in a good friends mode with it comes to colleagues. Have a good day! Aug 11, 2017 at 5:45
  • Which is your concern here: to share the food, or to prevent food waste? If the latter — and I at least applaud you for your diligence, — then I possibly have an answer for you. Aug 12, 2017 at 12:15
  • I've cleaned up some comments. Answers should be posted as answers, where they can be voted on by the community - not comments.
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 12, 2017 at 21:41
  • I'm going to solve your question because it needn't arise; if you find you have too much food, such that you feel the need to give it away, why not simply bring less food with you? Aug 14, 2017 at 13:31

9 Answers 9


It is difficult to share "leftover food" assuming you mean the food you just had during lunch and did not finish. (If you meant the leftover dinner from yesterday, you can skip to the dialogue part.)

Besides hygienic reasons, it can come off as rude or misleading - it could be seen as passing your unwanted food to someone else. On that note, you should try offering the food to your colleague before digging in.

I suggest that you let them know what ingredients are in it (for preference/allergy) and show your intention. E.g.:

"Hey, would you like to try some of my lunch?"

"It has (ingredients...)"


"I packed too much food today so feel free to help yourself" (or offer a container/utensil to share the food)

"I made too much food yesterday so I brought them in to share with others. Hope you enjoy!"

Last two lines works as an additional inviting gesture for being polite and letting them know they won't be causing you trouble for eating your lunch.

  • 10
    I suggest that you let them know what ingredients are in it (for preference/allergy) times a thousand - this is not something you want on your hands! Aug 10, 2017 at 20:23

First, do not offer food that has already been on your plate or has been touched with your eating utensils (fork, etc) after you've taken a bite. For this to work it needs to be clear that the food you're offering hasn't been touched or eaten from directly - you served from a storage container onto another dish, ate from that dish, and your eating utensils haven't gone back into the food in the storage container.

Second, in sharing a meal you are sharing your company, not just food. Make it clear before you start eating that you have more food than what you'll eat, and others are welcome to it so that the offer is made before you start eating and 1) they can clearly see the food you're offering is untouched and 2) they will be eating with you, these aren't leftovers after you're done, these are elements of a shared meal. This should allay any fears about hygiene, as well as prevent them from feeling like you're doing charity or just getting rid of food you don't want.

Third, you need to judge how much you're going to eat prior to serving yourself, and only take what you plan to eat. You can always move food from the storage container onto your dish later, but you can't take food from someone else, so take what you need, offer the rest, and only take more if they've declined your offer or if they didn't take the remainder.

If those conditions are met, then a simple invitation should be enough, offered any time before you take your first bite:

I packed too much food, this (gesture to the container where the remainder is, perhaps describe what it is if it's not obvious) is available if you are interested.

When finished, pack up everything and thank them for spending time with you.

  • It's not leftover (Which is what the OP asked) if it hasn't been touched now is it? Aug 12, 2017 at 12:42
  • @ojonugwaochalifu Possibly! It depends on your definition of leftover.
    – Adam Davis
    Aug 12, 2017 at 12:44
  • I guess so. But the OP is asking about food that has already been touched. Aug 12, 2017 at 12:46
  • @ojonugwaochalifu It wasn't clear to me whether they are bringing leftover food to work, and then eating some themselves and offering it to others, or if it was a completely new dish they've prepared that they brought to work. Nevertheless, my answer doesn't attempt to answer your variation of the question - how to offer food from your own plate when you've finished eating to others. In that case I'd say, "You don't" and then I'd suggest that if this happens often you adopt my answer and instead always offer food from serving dishes that you haven't eaten from.
    – Adam Davis
    Aug 12, 2017 at 12:48
  • I see your point now Aug 12, 2017 at 13:04

How to politely ask someone if they want to eat my leftover food?

I don't think you can. You can share. Bring food specially cooked for them. You wanted to be nice and avoid wasting food. I don't believe it can be done with what's left on one's plate though.

Otherwise, I don't think many people will appreciate being seen/treated as poor, peasant, villein or cottager. Because that's how they'll feel when offered leftover food, as it was common centuries ago.

It comes from the middle-age (at least in Europe). It may also have been widely spread in many other countries/cultures in the world. Here are some related readings:

The Feudal System

The giving of leftovers in medieval England

NOTE: Others have already mentioned the factors such as hygiene and allergies, so I'm not repeating that.

EDIT: When I first wrote this answer, OP neither mentioned the culture nor the religion. After some research, I think that maybe they have seen what was meant to be nice as just rude.

Charity (the third pillar of Islam) is given by Muslims to seek forgiveness. The underlying purpose is to assist other Muslims who are in need (it can be about money, clothes, food...etc). Discretion is advised and even favoured when it comes to giving charity. In other words: charity should be given discretely.

From: Muslim Aid

  • I'm not sure many people will think the OP is handing them food because the OP thinks they are poor. It was common centuries ago, but times have moved on since then.
    – Pharap
    Aug 10, 2017 at 18:40
  • 1
    Well, I can assure you that the England of this century does not consider that to be the case. Offering one's leftovers might be seen as a bit offbeat, but it is far more likely to be seen as an act of kindness, friendship or simply not wanting something to go to waste.
    – Pharap
    Aug 10, 2017 at 18:54
  • 1
    @Pharap : really ? From one's plate, in which you ate from like OP did ? I am speechless... didn't think it could be, at least I'll have learned something new today, worth remembering just in case...
    – OldPadawan
    Aug 10, 2017 at 18:59
  • 2
    @Pharap In the UK, sharing food "from the same plate" within a family, or at least within group of people who live together permanently, is quite different from offering to do that with a co-worker. Many people know very little about how their co-workers live, outside of the work environment. I wouldn't consider the OP's offer "rude" but I would assume he/she had been brought up in a completely different culture from mine (British), and I certainly wouldn't accept the offer! If it was repeated on different occasions, I might think about explaining to the OP why it wasn't being accepted...
    – alephzero
    Aug 10, 2017 at 21:05
  • 4
    This answer is based on a specific cultural phenomenon which probably isn't present in the OP's culture (Muslims in the UAE). I'm not sure how relevant it is to the question. Aug 11, 2017 at 15:26

I wouldn't ask this of a coworker or peer. The reasons are fairly obvious. There may be fears of hygiene, allergies, etc. Plus the problem of insulting someone by suggesting that they don't have enough to eat.

If I were to do this, it would be with a homeless person, preferably someone who has already approached me as a beggar. In this case, they've asked you for money or "gifts" and you offer them food instead. In that instance, and only in that instance are the above-mentioned issues offset by the fact that someone really doesn't have enough to eat.

I was in Mexico City carrying home some uneaten bread from a restaurant. An old woman approached me and asked for a "regalo," (gift). I offered her my "pan" (bread). She accepted it gratefully and ate it in front of me. I'd rather give the bread to the woman directly than let her fish in out of the garbage bins.She asked for money and I gave her food.


Don't present it as something lesser

If someone told me

Do you want this food, because I don't want it

I could imagine that I would consider that impolite.

Instead present the food as something better, not something you would like to dump and need someone to be the trash can. Try this (and mean it!):

Hey, I am really happy with how my lasagna came out yesterday and I brought some. Would you like to try?

Normally I would recommend you to share the food, and not give all of it away as again that may suggest that you don't want it for yourself.

Top dog eats first

A more subtle problem, that may or may not have been relevant in your situation, is that instinctively less important people eat later.

So if you were to offer to share food (even in a clean way) AFTER you already started to eat it (or even after you allocated an amount to yourself), unconsciously the person may feel like he is being placed beneath you by getting the food from you 'at your convenience'.

Therefore, I would ideally recommend you to agree whom you share it with before even putting something on your own plate.

Note on your situation

All this assumes a fresh start, as you already had a rough start with your colleague it may be good to first wait a while (until the moment is pretty much forgotten) and then ease him into it. For instance:

Hey, I am really happy with how my lasagna came out yesterday and I brought some.

And only if he actually shows interest, you will then gently offer it to him. If he remains neutral, just try again some other time.

  • I hope you register an account so that you don't lose ownership of your posts.
    – NVZ
    Aug 11, 2017 at 11:34

It may be due to a different culture, but as a high-school student in Hungary, while eating with people I know, if I have leftovers I just say something like "Hey, does anyone need a sandwich/piece of meat/cake?" Someone usually takes it, and noone feels offended. Probably because I don't refer to the leftover as "leftover", rather just as "food to eat".
Eating leftover of others may feel somewhat degrading. Hell, even the word itself is degrading. This way I just offer a bit of my food. Even if they well know it's (or it'd be) a leftover, it feels much better to accept food I have than food I want to throw away.

Note that very few people would eat from a dish of food (like soup, pasta etc.) you already started consuming, and offering such a dish is indeed frowned upon.


If I'm not sure I'll finish something I'll slice it into halves and put it on a separate plate/container before I start. That way, I can offer whoever wants to finish it completely untouched food.


I honestly don't think there is a polite way to put this in a peer environment as I extrapolate your workplace to be. Exception perhaps where people observe there is an untouched source container that you served yourself from and which you are making available, and they are really hungry or forgot their own lunch or money.

You will likely succeed in not giving offence only where the recipient is living a more marginal existence as Tom Au noted above, and is truly grateful for your laudable willingness to share or donate.


You say the impression you're getting is that your coworkers feel you're offering them handouts as though they are homeless. I don't think you're reading their reactions correctly.

You said...

I asked my colleague if they wanted my lunch because I had already eaten from it.

And they replied...

That’s not a proper way to share the food and it is rude.

That has nothing to do with how you worded your offer!

Yes, you could improve relations by not saying the reason you're offering it is because you've already eaten from it, but the real problem to your dilemma is much more fundamental than that.

If you eat your lunch the way most people do (taking your spoon from food to mouth to food to mouth, over and over, until you're no longer hungry), then it is not hygienic to give the rest to someone else. The remaining food will have your germs and saliva and partially chewed food particles all through it!

My suggestions:

  • If this happens "often," just take smaller portions of food to work with you;

  • If you intend to give some of your lunch away, then put what you think you'll want to eat on a plate and reseal the rest in the container you brought it in, and offer your leftovers that way;

  • Better yet, bring two containers – one for you to eat from and one for your colleagues to try (then they will each get a plate and pull out how much they'll want).

If you do this, then we can get back to your original question: "what’s the proper wording or phrases I could use to share my (leftover) food with someone?" I would say something like this:

Hey, guys! Would you like to try my [name of food]? I brought an extra container for you to share! Just get a plate and dish some out. Enjoy!

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