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Au pair/live in nanny house rules

(14 Posts)
lemonandhoney Sun 05-Jun-11 13:26:51

I have a Canadian au pair (probably a live in nanny, actually) starting next month. I am putting together a household manual, and wondered if anyone had any gems they could share with me. I've covered guests, responsibilities, emergencies and so on, but am really struggling with what to say about food - what if she eats me out of house and home? I am after some rules that will make it easy for her to follow and keep my food budget within a reasonable level e.g. I will provide food for you to eat at breakfast, a light lunch and a meal with the children, plus food at the weekends. Is it fair to say that if she's out I don't mind her taking a sandwich but am not prepared to pay for her to buy food out? And what about weekends? How do people manage it? Do you ask for a meal plan, then buy what's needed? It's just me and the dcs at the moment, and I don't usually cook a "proper" meal in the evening - I'll just have soup, or eggs or something. I don't want to starve the poor girl.

Grabaspoon Sun 05-Jun-11 14:07:15

As a live in nanny my boss would go shopping each week and buy a selection of food to eat - I was more than welcome to eat anything I chose but wouldn't eat what I percieved as "hers" Ie if she bought a bag of donoughts or a big bar of chocolate grin

We would eat a main family meal in the evening such as chilli/spag bol/fjajitas etc so filling.

If I was about at weekend I was asked if I wanted to join them for a meal but usually made something of my own etc.

I didn't eat in my room bar a couple of biscuits or a snack type thing. I would only take water upstairs and remember to bring the glasses down.

lemonandhoney Sun 05-Jun-11 16:38:36

And what was the arrangement with paying for food? If you made something yourself, did you expect her to pay for the ingredients?

I am going to ask her to eat with the children on the days she has them (assuming she isn't going out in the evening). It's more the weekends I was thinking about...

Grabaspoon Sun 05-Jun-11 16:48:54

It was a mix - I would go into the cupboards and use the pasta/potatoes/a pasta stir in sauce or I would just pick something else up if I fancied something we didn't have or if something looked yummy in M&S.

lemonandhoney Sun 05-Jun-11 16:56:26

OK. I think I will ask her what sort of staples she wants (cereal, juices, fruit and veg etc) and make sure I always have those in the house, plus the components of a meal (pulses, onions, canned tomato, some meat in the freezer) then let her buy anything else that she needs. I've no objection to her eating whatever is in the house - I don't tend to have a big stash of secret chocolate!

ChitChattingagain Sun 05-Jun-11 20:04:54

If its live in, then food is usually provided, isn't it? So basic food is just fine, but please allow some spoils for her, it wouldn't be fair otherwise. Perhaps give her a small budget for her choice of spoils?

JennyWren Sun 05-Jun-11 20:26:14

We have a slightly different situation with our au pair because we do usually cook an evening meal as a family. At breakfast and lunch we offer the same selection of cereals/toast and sandwiches/fruit etc that we have. In the evening our au pairs eat with us after the children have gone to bed, and keep a portion for our children to eat the following day. If the au pair chooses to eat elsewhere, that is fine - I just ask that she let me know in advance so that I don't prepare unneeded food - but I don't pay for her to eat out. If she goes on a day-trip, I am happy for her to take a packed lunch but again, I don't pay for her to buy a meal out (unless we are going out as a family and then we would all have a packed lunch or I would pay for us all to eat in a cafe etc.).

On the occasions that I don't cook a meal in the evening I invite her to raid the freezer for a frozen portion of something I've made previously, or to prepare a dish for herself - I ask when they arrive what they prefer to eat in those situations and keep a small stash of suitable pasta sauce pots and individual pizzas etc to suit.

If I were in your situation and I were routinely asking an au pair to prepare a meal from scratch for the children but did not plan to cook myself, I would ask her to cook enough for herself when she cooks for the children. I would say though that I didn't mind whether she ate at the same time as the children (although I do ask that they sit at the table and encourage good tble manners and so on) or reheated it later. Personally, I find it too early to eat at 5pm with my children and so usuallky eat later.

So I work on a plan of one breakfast, one light lunch and one cooked meal each day, eating the same things as the children. Do you think that would work for you?

Strix Mon 06-Jun-11 12:31:57

We operate a grocery list system. She puts it on the list. We buy it with next week's shopping. We do not run out and purchase things on demand. I (or DH) do the shopping. There is a weekly budget, which is not to be exceeded. So if someone puts loads of expensive things on the list (and that goes for everyone, not just nanny/au pair) it might be that not all of them show up at the door. For example, we seem to have turned into a bunch of Evian adicts -- right down to the 6 year old. If the shoping is too high one week, we might be drinking tap water that week.

The au pair can take cash from the kitty if we runn out of essentials (bread, milk, etc.). But I don't like people to let perfectly good food go off simply because they preferrred something else for tea.

StillSquiffy Mon 06-Jun-11 14:25:19

We do same as Strix but we have a mean little bit in our contract that says that whilst AP is welcome to request anything, we reserve right to not purchase it if too expensive and we also reserve the right to ask them not to eat certain foodstuffs (eg sweets) in front of the kids.

Though why I still have that in the contract, having lost the food battle with my kids years ago, is beyond me...

fraktious Tue 07-Jun-11 10:19:57

strix do you reckon they drug Evian at the source? It's the only acceptable still water in this house too.

jendifa Tue 07-Jun-11 11:04:15

How old is she? Is she used to cooking for herself (ie whilst at university) or is she only used to someone at home cooking for her?
I used to eat with children Monday-Thursday and with parents on Fridays. If I was about at the weekend they asked if I wanted to eat with them, and occassionally I did. Usually though I prepared something for myself as i didn't want to make it awkward for them.
Often during the week MB was suggest things to eat, as she shopped on a Saturday. I probably could have requested something, but didn't.

MLWfirsttimemum Tue 07-Jun-11 12:10:15

Our au pair eats with us, and what we eat, at breakfast and dinner. Both DH and I work, so she eats lunch on her own at home, and I make sure there are lunch ingredients in the fridge. I ask everybody in the family, including the au pair, what they fancy eating the following week, when I plan our shopping and 'menu' to give me ideas for what we are going to eat (but may veto them if unpractical or I don't feel like cooking it!).

I've told her she can request anything she particularly wants, like any other member of the family. We pay for her meal if we have a take-away or go out as a family but if she eats out on her own, she pays for it herself. I've asked her if there is anything she doesn't like in particular so that I can avoid cooking that (mustard, apparently, so that's quite easy, actually)

Every morning I tell her what we are having that evening and we agree what she can prepare in advance, then I'll usually finish the actual cooking when I come back from work and we'll all eat together.

It helps that our au pair is very flexible and adventurous when it comes to food!

lemonandhoney Tue 07-Jun-11 12:56:41

Thanks, this is all really helpful. She's 22, and has told me that cooking is one of her favourite activities - she's sent me some suggested menu plans for the children which sound delicious. I'm going to suggest that she adds what she wants for the week to the online shopping order (within a fixed budget) and we'll be flexible about evening meals. I suspect we won't overlap that much in the evenings - I'm out a fair amount, and she has lots of friends locally.

Katy1368 Tue 07-Jun-11 17:27:02

When I had a live in nanny I did a similar thing to Strix - I would go shopping once a week and we had a chalk board in the kitchen where she would put up a list of requests. We all had a variety of cereals/milk/bread/tea/OJ etc- to choose from for breakfast and enough bread/cheese/ham/eggs for lunch. Again if she cooked for DD she was fine to eat some herself. I also used to buy stuff for the freezer like pizzas etc- that she could help herself to. I accomodated most of her requests but obviously if caviar had turned up on the list I may have had a quiet word! We didn't do family dinners all together so she would cook and eat in her room or her living room. Eating out was her own business and I certainly didn't pay for that.

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