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Advice on speaking to AP about food

(21 Posts)
ancientgeordiegirl Sun 16-Oct-11 23:36:36

hi I need advice on how to tactfully speak to my newish AP about food. I have had 3 au pairs before and never had this problem. Basically when she arrived 6 weeks ago I asked her what she likes eating and have made sure I buy things she likes but now i feel she is taking advantage and don't know how to talk to her about it. I don't like feeling like this as I am not a penny pinching person but the amount of food she eats means I am constantly having to do extra top up shops etc. I know that bed and board is part of the deal but at the same time feel I need to address this before my DH and I start feeling resentful. Any advice on how tactfully to do this would be much appreciated!

catepilarr Sun 16-Oct-11 23:39:14

do you feel she is eating too much? or demanding fancy stuff you wouldnt otherwise buy?
there was a thread called somethig like my ap is eating me out of house and home some time ago....

JennyWren Sun 16-Oct-11 23:57:47

How do you normally feed your au pairs? By that, I mean do you normally cook a meal to include them or do they totally prepare their own food? We have our au pairs prepare their own breakfast and lunch (of the cereal/toast and sandwich/fruit etc type, just as we have) and make them a portion of our meal in the evening.

I make it gently but firmly clear to our au pairs when they arrive that they are welcome to help themselves but to respect that certain items are planned as ingredients for meals and not as a snack "because I'm hungry", and that one basket of stuff is just for the kids' lunchboxes. I also say that I'll buy up to two 'special items' each week as treats for the au pair - in the past that has been extra yoghurt and chocolate biscuits, extra yoghurt and sparkling water, extra yoghurt and... (get the drift - German girls seem to eat a lot of yoghurt!) Sweets etc. are their own responsibility to buy. But they know that what I have bought has to last the week, and for shared items, we all have to be mindfull that other people will want some too! That sounds draconian and it isn't in practice. They can help themselves to as large a portion of a balanced meal as they need to fill them up (a long story, but I did object when one (short-term!) au pair would take two portions of protein but no carb, and then complain she was hungry...).

When you say that she takes advantage, what exactly do you mean? I think that larger portions are OK, but snacking between meals because (and leading to - chicken and egg) she isn't eating properly at mealtimes might be a different story. If she isn't eating decent normal meals, is it because she doesn't like the food you're preparing? If you're on your fourth au pair I guess that something has triggered this mismatch in experiences - is she from a different county, with a different eating culture?

ancientgeordiegirl Mon 17-Oct-11 00:27:05

Hi Cate and Jenny it's mostly the quantities of stuff she eats. I hate listing it out but breakfast will be bowl heaped with crunchy granola stuff then topped with 1 banana, 1 kiwi, any other fruit in fridge (blueberries / strawberries etc) and a mullerlite yogurt! That might sound ok to you but now strawberries are out of season my DH and i never eat them they are for the children. Lunch is always a salad with ham or a salmon fillet or a can of tuna - the problem I had re the salad was that she was routinely using a whole avocado just for her then mixed salad, carrot, red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers etc. I tend to use more expensive ingredients like avocados more sparingly such as only using half if I was eating a salad by myself. She then grabs some fruit and maybe another mullerlite yogurt to take to college. Supper is usually another mega salad with some meat and then another mullerlite yogurt and more fruit. She is obviously getting her 5 a day and is eating healthily it's just that I'm noticing things in the fridge go really quickly. At weekends she always takes packed lunches with her when she goes to meet friends - none of my other au pairs did that they used to buy themselves a snack or something. More annoyances are things like the biscuit tin been emptied and her not telling me so I can buy some more and also crisps etc going very very fast from the store cupboard. I know written down it sounds mean but honestly I'm not. The big difference is this AP is older than the others but I feel she is lacking sensitivity as to what is normal to eat in a family. All my APs have been from south America so I don't think it can be a culture thing.....

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Mon 17-Oct-11 00:30:00

Go to Lidl. Get lots of yogurts and cheap salady stuff, ham etc.

harrietthespook Mon 17-Oct-11 08:05:02

My AP is doing something similar at the moment. We've never had this problem before either. The trouble is that she is not having dinner with us very often, preferring to eat before we come home (and in her room), but she is using items DH and I would have shared (with her!) as part of a meal together. One of her things is eating a whole avocado herself as well! And requesting berries etc. I don't think she has ever done a grocery shop herself, this is part of the problem. But I also don't think it would occur to her that £4 for a punnet of blackberries is expensive. When her boyfriend came the other weekend they polished off an entire package of parma ham in one go.

I haven't said anything to her unless it's impacted on the DCs/running of the house - when she finished off two pints of milk during the course of the day and didn't tell us and we got home after the shops had closed, hence sending DH on a mad dash the next am, I had a word with her about forward planning! This seems to have worked.We've had a lot of visitors in the less than two months she's been here (2 this w/e alone) and for the second one I did say can you please arrange to sort your own dinner out. Because it's getting ridiculous. APparently the other AP families don't allow visitors (esp her boyfriend) so initially we were thinking it would 'equal out' but it isn't. Also they aren't in London.

harrietthespook Mon 17-Oct-11 08:09:09

Sorry I didn't give you a solution I just ranted myself.

We've done something similar to loopy loops - lots of fruit and veg, plenty of pasta. It kind of works, but there is a lot which is also uneaten when she goes for other things instead. If it's a treat I tend to buy and eat it the same day...

I guess I'm marking my space here.

Ben10WasTheSpawnNowWeLoveLego Mon 17-Oct-11 08:09:57

Is the problem that the items that they are eating aren't expensive or "special" in the countries that they come from? <not knowing anything about South American cuisine>

ancientgeordiegirl Mon 17-Oct-11 13:19:16

Thanks for your replies there doesn't really seem to be a way of dealing with this tactfully and I guess I maybe just have to bite the bullet and talk to her re certain things e.g. The more expensive fruits and tell her that in the winter as they are expensive they are for the children only. I know from looking at old posts she is not that bad in comparison to some of the horror stories in here but I don't like the feeling that I never know what is going to be in the fridge or not! Sadly I think that unless I can sort it out it will mean that I will ask her to leave me earlier than originally planned (she was already in London so it's not as if she specifically came to AP for my family). I was hoping to keep an au pair till next Easter/summer as I am studying and my youngest will start part time nursery in September but if I can't get on with this one can't really face the hassle of "breaking" in another AP again and disrupting my DCs who do find the whole AP changeover upsetting.....

ancientgeordiegirl Mon 17-Oct-11 13:21:46

Yes Ben I think that there might be something in what you say but my AP has been in London since last November and had a period of living by herself doing cleaning jobs so she must have gained some awareness of how expensive food is!

xmyboys Mon 17-Oct-11 13:46:56

Can you have a break from some of these luxury/more expensive items for a bit? Or buy home brand yoghurt etc.
Or perhaps create a shelf in the fridge for get food, if she is older she wouldn't starve from not being able to feed herself.
We had one Aupair who I gave an allowance to and she looked after all her own food.
I would but milk, bread and cereals to share and she never took advantage. (one did, she ate just this and never used her budget to buy food, she did not last long)

lunaticow Mon 17-Oct-11 21:08:00

I'd just buy cheaper stuff and if she wants other, more expensive food, then she can get it herself. Buy what is in season. She might not have any idea how expensive her diet is. I had an au pair who lived off Activia yoghurts and berries/soft fruits. In the end I just stopped buying them and she started eating oranges, apples and pears.

Strix Tue 18-Oct-11 07:55:39

I would install a weekly shop which happens same day every week, and tell people there are no top ups except for what I would term basic staples. If people plow through all of something (I.e. Avocado) then the next one will arrive at the next scheduled grocery shop. Apply this rule to the whole family so au pair doesn't feel singled out. In my house, groceries appear on Thursday, my budget is about £150, and I try to accommodate everyone's requests. But if the budget is exceeded I do make cuts. Staples in my house are milk and bread, which au pair is free to top up with my credit card. Anything else can wait.

kelly2000 Tue 18-Oct-11 15:07:40

Why not give her her own shelf, or tell her that she cannot make seperate meals, she either has what you have or not.

ancientgeordiegirl Thu 20-Oct-11 18:37:32

Well my AP has been om holiday since Sunday and our fridge is still really full with me doing less top up shops - actions speak louder than words I think she has just eaten her way out of a position ......!

dikkertjedap Thu 20-Oct-11 19:31:44

Sorry, but I do think you are being mean. She is part of your family now and should be treated as such. Her position is not the same as yours and your husband, if you had an older daughter you would not tell her that she could not have strawberries etc. I think the way to go is to limit how much she can have, e.g one box with some fresh fruit/veg specifically for the au pair. I would also suggest that you eat as much together as possible, with her eating the same as the rest of the family. I don't think that there is anything wrong with her taking a packed lunch in the weekend.

I think that you are lucky that you have a good au pair. Clearly, if you simply cannot afford the extra food, that is another business and then you may be better off with sending your kids to a childminder/nursery/before&after school care etc.

livsmommy Thu 20-Oct-11 22:08:41

You are seriously going to get rid of her because you think she eats to much??

ancientgeordiegirl Thu 20-Oct-11 22:10:33

The thing is that I have been an au pair and have had 3 other au pairs over 2 years so i do really work at including APs in our family. This current AP is the only one we have had this problem with so does that suggest I am mean or she is taking advantage? In any its now rather academic as with her being away this week on holiday I have had the chance to take stock of the situation and we have decided that we are going to stop having an au pair as it will make a big difference to our weekly budget. I have had the opportunity to see if I can juggle the school run, after school clubs, bedtime and studying etc and it has worked out ok I am more frazzled but tbh that is a price worth paying as don't really ever feel relaxed in my own home with AP - in fact my dd (aged 3) seems much happier and has asked me not to get another AP. I am not going to be unreasonable and will give lots of notice but think will speak to AP when she and we are back together after half term.

fedupwithdeployment Fri 21-Oct-11 14:04:18

I totally understand your situation...we have had one AP who ate and ate and ate. And it drove me mad. I couldn't eat with her - she gave me issues. In fact I lost 5 kgs when she was with us. We gave notice, not just because of the food, but because she was hugely overweight and had absolutely no energy.

I hope it works out for you.

ancientgeordiegirl Fri 21-Oct-11 20:04:19

Livsmommy - not just getting rid of her because of food - it's more a matter of chemistry and the fact that she is quite lazy - not pulling her weight in the house - I don't ask her to do much but she doesn't even seem to do what she's meant to do without being asked twice. When she came to interview for the job my old AP (who was leaving us to get married) went around with her and spoke to her in Spanish (both old AP and new AP are Colombian) telling her all about the job and what it entailed (not much helping me keep kitchen/living area tidy, keeping DCs rooms tidy, and helping mind younger children when I take older one to after school clubs etc) - I do all cooking for children and wouldn't expect her to do any laundry or cleaning apart from in Kitchen. We also said job could involve up to 2 nights baby sitting a week (1 mid week and maybe one on Friday or Saturday) - tbh this rarely happens as we don't get out much. Anyway as I said this was all explained clearly in her native tongue and written down in a schedule so she could understand (her English is very basic) - yet the first time I asked her to babysit on a Saturday she got very sulky and then asked if she was going to be paid extra.....In 6 weeks she has babysat 2 Saturdays and about 3 other nights so hardly excessive! I know that in the grand scheme of things she's not that bad and I completely trust her honesty etc but because of these niggles it's probably just motivated me to realise I don't really need an AP anymore as my DCs are a bit older. I had planned on going without an AP from the summer so she's just pushed me to get my self organised 6 months earlier.

dik - This AP is 30 and has lived in London since last November so it's not as if she is a young 18 year old living a way from home for the first time and as such I expect her to be more thoughtful than a younger AP when it comes to food etc.

chloeb2002 Fri 21-Oct-11 21:32:23

Ive had a few au pairs and they are all differnt.. especially with what they eat.. however i do treat them like family members and as such I only buy what we all eat. If berries are in season then i buy them and we all enjoy them, kids too, im unsure why you would give your kids stuff your ap doesnt get? i understand the lunch box issue, i just freeze sandwiches , cheese strings and yogurts ready for the week ahead ( we are in Australia so very strict lunch box contents and warm climate) I cant appreciate how expensive avos are.. sorry.. 8$ a punnets for berries just wouldnt be bought here! maybe frozen ones? Sounds more like maybe the problem is she doesnt fit in and therefore smaller issues have become bigger ones? One ap we had while i was on mat leave was the same.. she was im sure lovely.. ate huge amounts and rarely with us! but in hindsight it was more my issues at the time ;0)

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