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Organic/expensive foods and au pairs

(31 Posts)
sagalsmith Wed 13-Nov-13 23:16:48

My last au pair that lasted only 2 months cost us an average of £80 extra a week. We were constantly out of butter/bread/leaves/milk. Lots of Green and Black chocs went missing too. That wasn't the main cost but it was mostly our expensive eating habits that we try very hard to maintain and naturally now have to take account for her. Everything I buy is usually discounted but meats are at least free range, if not organic, thin skinned fruits/veg the same. If I can't get the quality I like, I tend to buy from markets (better taste for me) and soak in vinegar/salt solution to remove pesticides etc. Its my choice to feed my family this way. It is very expensive and I really shop around to keep this sustainable. I have a new au pair now who keeps mentioning white fish once/week and lots of fruits. Fish has been a problem for me as the quality that I like is sooo expensive so normally resort to reduced to clear when I have the chance-so not often. Its very annoying to have to think of what we eat as most meals are for 2 or 4 and steaks work out very expensive. I was also considering an 'alcohol from the home' off limits rule and chocs we buy are for us only rule (she has a card to buy herself stuff- I check all receipts).
Her first meal here was soooo huge (pasta) that it was more than what my 6f2'' hubby and me and 2 kids eat combined- that was my next day's lunch and kids lunch gone. So I'm feeling a bit cautious. Also I specialise in nutrition and wellness and she's wondering why I do what I do, so seems a bit odd to ask her to eat something that we prefer not to for our family. But the cost could spiral out of control and after a £700 spend last month, I'm concerned. Any thoughts?

sonlypuppyfat Wed 13-Nov-13 23:19:37

One person ate £80 of food in one week?

thepobblewhohasnotoes Wed 13-Nov-13 23:35:28

The au pair is meant to be part of the family. Either allow her to share your expensive food or buy stuff you can afford to feed more people.

What's the problem, I don't quite understand?

thepobblewhohasnotoes Wed 13-Nov-13 23:38:20

She's not specified expensive white fish has she? Just get her some not ridiculously expensive fish and cook it for her while you have something else. Once a week, not a massive bother.

nocheeseinhouse Wed 13-Nov-13 23:50:52

She's part of your family, not a servant. You like nice food, so does she.

Perhaps you need to rethink what you can afford, foodwise?

LUKYMUM Thu 14-Nov-13 01:24:14

I buy white fish from Iceland which is cheap. I think it's hard to have an off limits rule for food unless it's for lunches. She could feel really left out.
It's tricky. I realise because they're younger their appetites tend to be bigger sometimes. To be fair pasta is cheap though. You might need to downgrade the brands you're currently buying.

MrsCakesPremonition Thu 14-Nov-13 01:45:35

Your au pair is a family member while she stays with you. Your family now has an extra adult to support and I'm afraid you will need to adjust the whole families eating habits to reflect that.
It is part of the cost of having an au pair which needs to be considered before choosing your childcare option.

MrsCakesPremonition Thu 14-Nov-13 01:45:56

family's - sorry.

SoldeInvierno Thu 14-Nov-13 09:10:09

You should have thought about this before you hired her. She eats like a young adult and you need to be able to afford this. She also eats what you eat. She's not a servant eating scraps while you have your nice meals. If you want her to last, you'd better adjust your expectations

MrsDoomsPatterson Thu 14-Nov-13 09:16:22

I'd lock her in a room & send her the odd bowl of gruel. Jeez, she's part of your family, isn't she? I really think you need to include her or an au pair probably isn't for you.

sagalsmith Thu 14-Nov-13 09:30:50

The way its worked so far is that they share all the main meals naturally and I've said that they can buy what they need if they find our way of eating (low carb) to be unsuitable to their tastebuds. There's not been any problems so far as she seems very reasonable but I suppose I wanted to get an idea of how other families coped with these situations. Some of the other posts I researched on this subject- they talked about how they were resorting to hiding better quality foods in the bedroom etc- I suppose I just don't want to be in that position. And yes about the £80 extra a week- something didn't feel right and I went through my card (one given to last au pair and I have the same too) to tally up. All little things but almost everyday- I was going through 4 butters/week and probably 60 eggs/week for the family- I kid you not. It was not sustainable and I'm relieved she left for a 'proper' admin job as I felt she needed to understand how much things cost. It seems like nit picking but if they've never had nespresso in their lifes- per capsule is 30-40p, its fine if they have 1-2/day but to me- not if they decide to have 3-5 cups/day. I would think twice as its my money. If they are really supposed to act like family, they should think twice too. I remember as kids, my older siblings and I would never ask for juices/soft drinks if we had a meal out- always aware that it would cost our parents more- little brother always did and we'd have a sip from him. If the au pair were my child, she would certainly understand the value of money- even my 5 year old is told that she can't have xyz if its not on sale or too expensive. We have prioritised food as a place we spend our money- so very little eating out and no takeaways, super cheap entertainment-amazingly possible (clothes swap anyone?).
The reason I wrote this post is so that I get a better idea of how others deal with 1) alcohol/wine-do you offer? 2)organic fruits-just bite the bullet? 3) expensive meats like steak (organic chicken/mince/other cuts etc is a daily staple so naturally they get to eat all that) 4) Expensive 'treats' 5) Our no-junk for the kids policy-70% enforceable- but it means that I don't want juice/junky snacks to be in visible sight of kids but more than happy for her to have it in her room.

threeisatragicnumber Thu 14-Nov-13 09:57:39

I'm not surprised your last au pair only last two months. It doesn't sound like you made her feel like part of the family. Its tough enough to move country and live with somebody else without thinking you're doing something "wrong" at every meal.

You need to buy enough food to feed the whole family (including the au pair). How/what/why you eat is your choice, but she must a) be clear about this and b) have parity with the other family members.

sebsmummy1 Thu 14-Nov-13 10:03:04

Wow! I am actually speechless (and consider myself up there with the food nazis).

CookieLady Thu 14-Nov-13 10:11:08

Good God. It's no surprise your previous AP lasted 2 weeks.

How would you feel if your child was being treated the way you are treating your AP?

BranchingOut Thu 14-Nov-13 10:24:27

Ok, i will do my best with this:

Anything that is out on display eg. fruit bowl, should be freely available to everyone in the house. So you need to accept the fact that she is going to be munching your organic apples.

Likewise, any meal that she is eating with you, then she should have the same food as you. Full stop. However, bearing in mind that she is a hungry/growing person, maybe make extra carbs for her? Pasta, beans, pulses are all cheap and filling.

Wine - yes, you should offer her a glass if you are drinking it, assuming she is over 18. hmm

Expensive meats - if you really feel that you cant spare her a steak, maybe you and your husband should keep them for any nigh in the week when she habitually goes out. If you are buying last minute then it won't be in the fridge tempting her.

I do think that she should be able to have fish once a week if she wants to. Maybe the best thing is to buy some cheaper fish (frozen?) and suggest that she has it at lunchtime or when you go out yourselves.

Nespresso - just tell her it is quite pricey and that you only have 1 - 2 a day as a treat. Seriously, she is a young person and probably wont pick up on these things unless you tell her - I probably would not have done so at her age.

No junk/juice - that is fine to ask her to keep it out of sight. Buy her a mini-fridge for her room?

However, overall, I agree with other posters that you need to make her feel a bit more welcome, otherwise your next stop is going to be AuPairWorld again.

sublimelime Thu 14-Nov-13 10:34:59

Without debating the 'rights and wrongs' of your stance, the only way I can see this working is by having all the meals prepared / planned and as communal meals as far as possible.

So you prepare / lay out the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner (with recipes to follow if cooking is part of the au pair's duties). Much the same as what happens in a Ski Chalet. Guests are not given free reign of the fridge because meals are planned. Then give an allowance for personal snacks / drinks for the au pair. Maybe provide tea and coffee in their room, as you would get in a B & B. Who does the cooking? If you cook or have someone who is employed to cook what you say, this would be simple.

From what you have said, I suspect you want to have more of an employee, employer role with your au pair, rather than treating them like a member of your family. With this in mind you should make sure their room is as well equipped as possible, like a small flat / bedsit. Include fridge, TV, kettle and microwave.

Hopefully these boudoirs would allay your problems and help you have a better relationships with your au pair.At the moment it sounds like the boundaries have not being made clear and because you are on totally different wavelengths regarding food and drink there is a clash.

sublimelime Thu 14-Nov-13 10:37:01

^boundaries not boudoirs! auto correct fail!

grabaspoon Thu 14-Nov-13 11:06:36

I am a live in nanny

1 My boss may offer me a glass of her wine sometimes if she's pouring herself one however sometimes she doesn't. I have my own cheap bottles in the garage so will drink that instead of hers.

2 Fruit can you not pick up some cheap fruit from Tesco / Aldi for her to help herself too - not sure what the problem is.

3. Expensive meat/food why not eat those at the weekends when she doesn't join you for supper? I don't join my boss for all meals so don't mind what they eat then - would be a bit amused to see expensive food in the fridge for the family when I was eating cheap food but I probably wouldn't chose to work for a family like that.

4 Expensive food my boss often has chocolate and other nice food in but I have no problem with that. I have my own treats that I don't share with her.

5 Junk food not a problem to state that.

sagalsmith Thu 14-Nov-13 12:18:28

People must have read a lot wrongly.
- I don't have a problem yet firstly- just trying to pre-empt.
- All au pairs ate way better than we did- I'd rather feed them first and go a bit hungry myself- which I did with the last one as she seemed to need a lot of food- plus side: I lost some weight.
-There is no cheap food/expensive food division in the house: we have always said to eat anything they want. All meats are pre-ordered frozen and vacuum packed in bulk and they are free to defrost anything they chose. All fruit and veg are out there for anyone to eat.
-My husband occasionally buys me nice chocolates and I buy good wine so I think its fair to want to keep that. However, if we are offering it to the kids, of course we'd offer it to the au pair.
-I found that with the last one, after me going hungry quite many times and providing more carbs (started buying potatoes etc again) for her to eat, that I started feeling a little resentful that once again I was putting other's needs in front of mine (can't help it although I'm attempting to learn to think of myself).
-with my really great 4 yr old nanny who had to shift to part time (sat only) for personal reasons, understood the value of money, would buy reduce-to-clear or on-offer good meats/veg/fruit, it was really brilliant and perhaps I got used to it and the ease of having someone really good as a first childcare option. What's wrong with getting them to understand value of things?
-I even give them a credit card so that they can shop for themselves- and I've don't give them a budget. She can buy her special meats/fish as she likes. I think I got scared off by quite a few of the other posts I've read about au pairs who pushed things quite far and hosts feeling out of control because despite the fact that I never said anything and was constantly cooking larger quantities for the previous au pair, it did make us think as the cost impact was much larger than anticipated compared to previous nanny.
I must say, it also never occurred to me that younger people require more food- I don't remember being that way and these days require even less so that's an interesting point and one that I will take on board.
I'd taken her out shopping (she's familiar as its her 2nd au pair job here) and asked her to fill the basket with anything she needed. Perhaps I'll do an online shop with her and see how it goes.

ShreddedHoops Thu 14-Nov-13 12:29:40

You still sound very controlling I'm afraid. It's a bit like providing food for children, where you don't dictate how much they eat or when they snack / drink, but you do provide plenty of food which is nutritious and filling and don't let people go hungry. You have to get your head around having another adult to feed I think. If you are generally a bit 'funny' with food (which tbh it sounds like you might be) then maybe a live in au pair isn't for you. She's an adult an is entitled to eat / drink what she likes. You say she demolished a huge amount of pasta - out of interest, are you judging her because you mainly stick to low carb eating? Because you can make a choice like that for you and arguably for your kids, but definitely not for a guest. If she's actually requesting fish, what's the big deal? Just get it! If you are prioritising good food for your whole family, she is now a part of that.

BranchingOut Thu 14-Nov-13 12:36:54

I am sorry, but I really don't understand the account of going hungry yourself because you felt that your AP was eating too much - I can see that might happen once, if you had only cooked a certain amount, but why was it happening more than once?

If you cannot adjust the amount of food you have on offer to account for an extra person in the household, a person whom you have chosen to invite, then it implies that the type food you are buying is too costly for your household budget if an au-pair is to live with you.

sublimelime Thu 14-Nov-13 12:48:07

I think you might find it easier to meal plan for all main meals. If you are getting all Organic food, it is expensive. Thick vegetable soups and casseroles using cheaper cuts of meat may help here. Add a baked potato / pasta / rice for the au pair.

Why not let her shop for her own carb options (non organic if she wants)?

Provide main meals and then let her keep her own snacks in her room. Give her a mini fridge, toaster, microwave, kettle (cheaper in the long run).

If the au pair does not like the main meal let her just opt out - paid for out of her allowance or taken from the extra food she has shopped for. This is fair, honestly.

I think you feel you are being too amenable and beginning to resent this. We should put others first but there is a line where you begin to feel you are enabling a situation which is not fair.

Unexpected Thu 14-Nov-13 14:09:38

This still doesn't make much sense to me. On the one hand you don't seem to want to feed your aupair the same food as your family but on the other hand you are giving her a credit card to go shopping for herself. Just buy enough food to feed your family, including her, everything else she buys herself. If you feed her three meals and there is a reasonable amount of coffee, fruit etc available for the "family" then it is perfectly reasonable for her to buy everything else from her own funds.

If there are things such as Nespresso coffee which you wish to limit, then tell your aupairs up front about this. We have a Nespresso machine and use it probably once a day. Our teenage sons know that for them it is a weekend treat, it would be perfectly acceptable to set the same rules for aupair, it's part of being one of the family!

The cost of an aupair is not just the (usually) small amount of money they are paid but the increased costs of additional food, tickets for family outings, heating etc. If you are going hungry in order to feed your aupair, then you can't afford her!

Gusthetheatrecat Sun 17-Nov-13 22:53:13

I mean this really kindly, but reading through what you've written, I really wonder if you have a good relationship with food, OP? Could that be the real reason that you feel upset by this, and the food and your au pair are bringing up other issues for you? That you feel out of control in an area where you've always exercised complete control?
I might be way off-mark, but if I am at all ringing any bells with you then please do seek some proper support, and try to look after yourself.

DrinkFeckArseGirls Sun 17-Nov-13 23:08:21

Tbh OP, you started another thread about your new AP having a social life and not being able to stay at home all evening to wait in for you. Are you sure that an AP is a good solution for you?

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