Yesterday, I ate out. I had soup for lunch. Nothing new there, you might think. It was very tasty and I enjoyed it. The photo below is not the soup I had.

I had quite fancied a small bowl of pasta, but it became tricky.

In turn, that set me thinking.

On the menu, it mentioned that small portions were available only in the “Children and OAP” section (bit of an odd coupling). It specifically requested that no one over the age of 12 ordered from the children’s menu unless they are classed as an OAP.

My friend, with whom I was lunching, is technically an OAP although she does not self-identify as old; however, I am technically not an OAP. More on that below.

So, she enjoyed her small bowl of pasta, and I opted for soup.

I appreciate small portions is a financial issue for food establishments. Restaurants are under no obligation to provide a specific menu; they often offer smaller children’s meals at a price reduction because they use them as a ‘loss leader’. However, they understandably want as many adult people as possible to spend more on large portions, even if it is too much to eat and most of it is wastefully left on the plate.

There is nothing illegal about offering OAP lunch deals, but why, instead, is is there not simply a ‘small portion’ section on any menu, regardless of age, for people with smaller appetites? Problem solved.

Portion control

Lots of people choose to control their portion size, not simply because they are older or younger. They may be on some form of special diet, have a medical condition, have small appetites or simply feel hungry but not hungry enough for a large plate of food at a given time. There may be financial considerations. Under £10 might feel more acceptable for lunch than, say, £15.

Regardless of appetite, portion size affects how much you eat.

people eat more from larger portions even when they are not particularly hungry and even when the food doesn’t taste very good.

Really, there is no ‘one size fits all’ portion. A 16-stone manual worker needs different levels of food intake to an 8-stone sedentary worker, for example.

My usual answer to the conundrum seems to be to have a side dish or starter instead of a main course; alternatively, it is possible to order one main meal and two plates, because most restaurant menus do not have a specific rule about that.

There is a whole Money Saving Expert thread on this and even a great snippet from an episode of Ricky Gervais’s After Life.


Back to the complex question of what even is an OAP? If I am 68 but feel younger, what am I? If I am 65 and access a private or occupational pension, am I an OAP? Do I have to have proof of a state pension to be entitled to request a small portion (at the small portion price)?

In a few years time, it will be even more problematic. For anyone born in 1960, the state pension age changes month by month.

Date of birth Date State Pension age reached
6 April 1960 – 5 May 1960 66 years and 1 month
6 May 1960 – 5 June 1960 66 years and 2 months
6 June 1960 – 5 July 1960 66 years and 3 months
6 July 1960 – 5 August 1960 66 years and 4 months (1)
6 August 1960 – 5 September 1960 66 years and 5 months
6 September 1960 – 5 October 1960 66 years and 6 months
6 October 1960 – 5 November 1960 66 years and 7 months
6 November 1960 – 5 December 1960 66 years and 8 months
6 December 1960 – 5 January 1961 66 years and 9 months (2)
6 January 1961 – 5 February 1961 66 years and 10 months (3)
6 February 1961 – 5 March 1961 66 years and 11 months
6 March 1961 – 5 April 1977* 67

Perhaps it is time to rethink labels, to reconsider how food is presented and what provision is made for people who are between 12 and 66, who are not being difficult, but would simply like the option of a smaller plate of pasta (or whatever) than is offered on the main menu, without it having to be a guilty pleasure.

Image from Ageing Better

Your thoughts are welcome.