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Au pair meals

(57 Posts)
katieks Tue 22-Nov-16 22:10:18

Just asking for some opinions please.

We have a new au pair. Everything seems to be going well, but there's a slight issue about meals. In our job advert, I put that the au pair can eat meals with us and I put examples of what we eat as well (having had previous au pairs who made smoked salmon risotto for lunch, etc, when we ate our cheese sandwiches!). I put that it would be fine for au pair to cook her own meals if she preferred but that she would then be expected to buy her own food if it wasn't something that we usually ate/bought.

So to the new au pair - she is a vegan and eats organic food. We eat meat and buy almost everything from Lidl/Aldi and non-organic. She's asked whether she can give me a list of organic food things that I need to buy from the local health-type shop. I objected about buying organic things as they cost more and said she could have as much fruit and veg from normal stuff that we buy. We've never bought organic as it costs more and we buy 'standard' fruits, eg. we buy apples, oranges, bananas rather than cranberries and kiwis. She pointed out that as she didn't eat meat, what we saved with that would be equivalent to what she required spending on organic and unusual foods/fruits/nuts.

She has a point in a way, but I am worried about this becoming very expensive. It's Tuesday and we're almost through our usual weekly fruit supply because of her smoothies. I asked her to give me the list and I'd have a look at how much things were. What do others think? What would be a good compromise? I know part of the deal is free board and lodging but I did specifically list examples eg, cereal/toast for breakfast, sandwiches/noodles/soups for lunch, then typical (by UK standards) evening meals. I knew she was vegan before she started, but I figured if she wanted tofu, etc. then she would buy it herself as it wasn't something we usually ate and the role advert was clear on that. We didn't specifically discuss who would pay for non-standard (in our household) foods at interview.

Just in case - NO offence intended to anyone who might take any - I have nothing against organic/vegan/religious/atheist/etc/etc. people.

OVienna Tue 22-Nov-16 22:23:51

No I wouldn't buy all her groceries from the health food store. But I would buy her extra veg and tofu. Regular veg from the stores where you usually shop though. I am always curious when people think taking a job which requires living as part of a family you don't know is compatible with things like rigid and rather niche eating habits. I would personally find it hard trying to impose this.

VodkaValiumLattePlease Tue 22-Nov-16 22:24:12

You have a person living in your home, presumably taking care of your children in some capacity and you can't get even buy her a block of bloody tofu?

I think you need to reconsider, obviously your au pair shouldn't be costing you crazy amounts for food - but an organic vegan diet doesn't cost that much so you should be providing her food that she can eat without compromising her beliefs or health.

Mistletoekids Tue 22-Nov-16 22:28:02

You don't have to buy it from health food shop if you're worried re the cost. Sainsburys and even Lidl (much more limited) stock organic stuff. Even in waitrose it's not bad-£2.15 for a bag of sweet potatoes . She could have one of those jacket for lunch each day not exactly crazy cost. As she said, meat is much more £££

Thingywhatsit Tue 22-Nov-16 22:30:58

Not very helpful but I would give her some veg seeds and point her in the direction of the garden if she wants organic stuff!!! 😮😮😮😮😮

It's surely a bit of give and take, and you want her to be happy, as she is looking after your kids. She needs to accept that maybe she can't have everything organic, but you will supply her with more fruit for her smoothie habit and so on..... Or get her to watch that eat well for less programme that was on a while back when the single mother had an organic everything habit..

FattieDoc Tue 22-Nov-16 22:31:39

Having had au pairs I make it clear that there is a budget per week that I can afford ( most people have s budget) and that has to do. I would buy extra vegetables and tofu( it's cheap anyway) but I not buy at any fancy health food shop for her alone. ( unless I shopped there as well- which I don't as too expensive).
can you give her an extra £5-10 pounds to cover her food shopping?? If not - then just say so and be blunt bout it.
I know it's difficult- but it's better to fort out now rather than later!

anotherbloodycyclist Tue 22-Nov-16 22:39:43

Could you give her an allowance to buy the extra food, say an extra £10 or £15 on top of your groceries. It's then up to her whether she spends it on organic fruit or tofu, and caps what you spend each week if you are worried about the expense.
I had different experiences with all my au pairs, from one who ate like a sparrow to the one who added £50 a week to the grocery bill through sheer volume of food and an insistence on 2 large cooked dinners a day. I was happy to suck up the extra cost, but did get pissed off when all the treats/exotic fruit/nice juice etc had gone 2 days into the week and we were left with water and apples!

katieks Tue 22-Nov-16 22:50:23

Thanks for replies. I'll have a chat tomorrow. I don't want it to become a massive issue but I don't want to start something I can't sustain. Of course, I'll buy more fruit and veg but I was thinking more of what we usually buy, rather than 'exotic' things.

P.S. I have no idea what tofu costs hence asking her to give me the list she's requesting so that I can look into how much the things she wants costs - it might not even contain tofu nor be that expensive!

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Tue 22-Nov-16 22:54:52

Organic isn't necessarily healthier any way so if she wants that then she buys it herself. I only have organic because it is in the veg box. You can buy organic fruit in Lidl. Probably veg too - I'm sure I've seen organic carrots and potatoes as standard.

I wouldn't begrudge buying some extra things but I wouldn't be making special trips to health food shops. I'd give her a tenner/twenty quid or whatever her portion of the food you eat comes to or she eats what is provided as you told her in advance.

Catering for the fads of a single person is much more expensive than the cost of their portion from a family meal.

Yes she is looking after children but she is being paid. Imho au pairs, when it comes to meals, should be treated as if they were family. So if your 19yo daughter would have a particular dietary whim indulged you do it. If you'd think "whoa, that's a bit steep!" then you would compromise the same way you would with a teenage daughter.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Tue 22-Nov-16 22:59:34

Gosh we had an au pair who ate everything too anotherbloodycyclist! Whole bunches of organic grapes stripped in an hour, entire balls of mozzarella cheese and (memorably) two whole jars of onion chutney! She also had an interesting diet generally 🙄

More than once she made herself an elaborate meal and "forgot" to feed the children. She didn't last long angry angry

thisgirlrides Tue 22-Nov-16 23:00:00

I too think adding more fruit & veg plus a bit more variety (e.g. kiwis are 15p in Lidl so won't break the bank wink) some tofu etc is a reasonable request but I wouldn't be buying organic - if you can't afford it for the family and she is being treated as a family member then that's a fad too far. I can recommend frozen fruit/berries for smoothies - much cheaper grin

RentANDBills Wed 23-Nov-16 09:36:23

Can you work out how much extra it costs to feed an extra mouth and then give her that money each week (£10-£15?) on the understanding that she is then responsible for buying all her own food and if she wants stuff that exceeds that amount, she'll have to supplement it?
She sounds like a pain tbh

LIZS Wed 23-Nov-16 09:49:36

It might be that wherever her home is these items do only come from health food stores or chemists. Explain to her that you are prepared to buy veg and protein (tofu, quorn etc) to accommodate her tastes but it will be from your usual stores or online, as available. Otherwise you will pay her £x to buy her own , in her own time.

mumsiedarlingrevolta Wed 23-Nov-16 10:03:00

I had au pairs when my children were young and it is a learning experience for them as well as you.
If she didn't make all of this clear up front then she need stop appreciate she also has to compromise to fit in with your family. Did she express her expectations re her specific dietary needs prior to arrival? Other than just saying she is a vegan? Because she might be happier in a vegetarian family. Is she happy to prepare meat for your children?
I do not think she can expect to have you shopping in speciality shops-you will provide her with what you provide for your own family-although with extra tofu etc.
One thing I did with some of the au pairs was to give them their own drawer/shelf in the fridge. A place for her fruit, veggies, tofu etc as well as the things she buys to supplement when she is not joining in your family meals. I always took them to the supermarket with me when they arrived and talked about what they wanted-specific muesli, yogurt etc that I didn't let my kids eat so she'd have it.
Maybe that way she could budget her fruit, veggies etc for the week as it's not really worth having an au pair if you are spending more to feed them than you can afford.
Sometimes au pairs and families are a good match and sometimes they are not...

mouldycheesefan Wed 23-Nov-16 10:06:21

Mountain out of a molehill. You will save on meat, she wants some nuts, tofu and extra fruit and veg. It does seem rather churlish not to get those basics in. Just add them to your normal shop, they sell all that at liDl and Aldi.

Karoleann Wed 23-Nov-16 11:17:28

But it does cost extra for a person to make another different meal from scratch every night.

OP - I'd just tell her that you don't have money in your budget for her to cook a different meal for herself every night. I think the other suggestion of giving her £15/week for her to buy her own food is a good one.

I favour the "I eat everything" au pair.

appalachianwalzing Wed 23-Nov-16 11:43:07

£15/weekshock to feed an adult seems insane, even on the 'I can make a chicken go 7 meals' threads.

I think you should think realistically about what it would cost to feed another adult in your house, especially if you were to factor in an extra portion of meat every day. We almost accidentally eat a largely vegan diet- I have problems with dairy and my husband is vegetarian. We don't go in for organic everything, but we do spend far less on groceries than friends who eat meat so she's right there. Tofu is about 2£ a block in Sainsbury's (cauldron is nicest) cheaper still if you have an Asian supermarket near you. Lentils, beans etc far cheaper still. Don't go health food shop, go Asian market or supermarket as most health food shops cost a fortune.

Would you be happy to eat two or three dinners a week that she can also eat? Eating less meat and healthier food is generally good- a bean chilli will be vegan till you all add cheese/yoghurt she doesn't need to, or Mexican food, or a simple but tasty dhal. I think you can cut down on the smoothies but I think a bit of compromise on more exciting fruit makes sense.

If you're happy to say something like 'in our meal plan I've made these three dinners this week I think you can eat, and obviously you can have porridge and plant milk with the children for breakfast, and we all have soup/sandwiches for lunch, so is there anything specifically you want for the remaining
dinners' then I think it becomes easier to set restrictions.

Agree with others though: if she's eating entirely separately for all meals it will cost similar to someone living alone, I'd anticipate at least 40/50£ a week.

RentANDBills Wed 23-Nov-16 12:15:33

DP and I do our entire grocery shop on £50 a week, that's far too much.

At the end of the day, it was clearly advertised in the job as being shared meals - if she wants a speciality diet, she needs to provide that for herself.
I may be coming at it from a Nanny angle, rather than Au-Pair, but there is no way I'd expect a family to change their dietary habits nor their shopping habits to accommodate a niche preference of mine.

lovelynannytobe Wed 23-Nov-16 13:44:45

She wouldn't have made my shortlist tbh. Plain vegetarian is pretty easy to cater for ... but vegan and organic is not so.

Wallywobbles Wed 23-Nov-16 15:13:12

Vegan is complicated in the best of circumstances. Good luck with that but vegans really need to pay attention with what they eat so they cover all their nutritional needs plus they need vitamins B12 and iron and something else I think.

Our vegan organic au pair did not last long. But not for those reasons.

RentANDBills Wed 23-Nov-16 16:26:29

Its a lot to expect from a family for them to fund a lifestyle choice, particularly when their advert specifically said that the post holder would be sharing family meals.
I have absolutely no issue with Veganism, I wish I were determined enough to do it myself, but it is time consuming, difficult and expensive. To combine it with being pure organic just makes it worse.
Off the top of my head the only thing more difficult I can think of is her being one of those fruitists, or whatever they're called - the ones that only eat things that have naturally fallen from the plant?

Rattusn Thu 24-Nov-16 19:15:58

In this situation there is a middle ground.

I always ask the au pair what they like, and am happy to add a few items onto the shopping list. Their requests have always been very reasonable, and our shopping always contains enough food to feed everyone.

In this situation I would add a few items onto the shopping list which you don't usually buy each week (eg tofu, kiwis, raspberries). I think it is fair to say to here though that while you are happy to buy plenty of fruit and veg, that you expect her to spend her own money if she wants only organic products.

Bluntness100 Thu 24-Nov-16 19:25:32

Whereas I wouldn't do special trips to the health food shop, I would buy her the extras requested because she isn't eating the meat etc and uou know she was vegan when you hired her and wouldn't be able to eat the food you normally serve.

Im assuming uou are not paying her a huge salary and she lives in uour home looking after your children, so saying no and expecting her to go hungry as she doesn't eat meat isnt pleasant.

And for the poster who said give her 15 pounds a week, personally I think that's very low to feed an adult. I suspect she'd be looking for a new job quick smart, who the hell wants to be living hungry.

Trifleorbust Thu 24-Nov-16 21:07:35

Bed and board doesn't usually mean your host buys everything you ask, so YANBU. She will need to fit in with some of your family's food habits. But equally you need to provide food she can eat. I would sit down with her and explain that you are happy to buy as much fruit and veg as she needs, and to add some vegan items like tofu to the weekly shop. You will not, however, be making special trips to health shops and you don't buy all organic food so she will have to suck that up. Reasonable compromise seems to be the key.

NuffSaidSam Thu 24-Nov-16 22:56:22

Compromise is the key.

You don't need to spend masses or buy all organic. Just tell her no.

Equally denying her kiwis or tofu is just silly. They are both widely available and cheap.

Part of the au pair experience should be learning about different people/cultures and it might be nice to try something a bit different. Kiwis are as widely available and as cheap as apples or bananas so labelling them 'too exotic' is a bit small minded. I'm imagining that 'local shop for local people' lady saying....'we only eat apples in this house!'.

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