Looks can be deceiving. Many of us have been surprised to discover that the petite young woman who is our Au Pair is actually a bottomless pit or a fledgling linebacker, in terms of how much she can eat.
Obviously, no one wants to starve her au pair– part of what we provide for our au pairs, to the best of our ability, is nutritious food offered in the spirit of family and generosity.
And yet, if you are watching your grocery bills (and who isn’t these days) that extra two servings at dinnertime, the loss of leftovers for later meals, the expectation that meat be available for lunches and for dinners, can all add up.
From AZ HM:
Our aupair rarely asks for special foods. However, my husband and I are regularly in awe of the amount of food she eats. We typically eat dinner at home as a family and she always joins us. I’ve had to adjust my cooking to include at least two extra servings for each meal. Where we would nearly always have leftovers for another meal or lunch, we rarely do now.
She typically eats a hot lunch with meat (the limited leftovers or cooks a full meal), where we all eat sandwiches.
Our issue is how much our grocery budget has increased. I just don’t feel like I can tell her "you can’t eat that much." Any suggestions on how to handle an aupair with an appetite that is so much greater than the other adults in the family?
This year I had a similar experience to AZ HM–a tiny, petite au pair who eats way more food than even my husband. I knew it wasn’t just me when my Mom–who always cooks way too much food– commented on au pair’s impressive appetite and joked with me about how I could afford to keep feeding her.
It was a difficult adjustment at first becuase our original au pair ate about the same amount as me and we always had leftovers for lunch.
TIP I accepted that I would need to cook more, and TIP gradually the au pair curbed a little bit of her eating habits when she saw she was gaining a lot of weight. She still eats a larger portion than me, but she’s no longer out eating my husband.
TIP She also cut back a little after going on a few trips with me to the grocery store and seeing how I spend twice the amount of her weekly stipend on the family’s food for the week. Letting au pairs see how much things cost does help I think.
Home Economic$ education
I like Jane’s idea of starting with a little bit of Home Economic$ education… which is something that our au pairs often learn from us.
Show your au pair the process that you go through to purchase groceries. In my house, I start with a vague menu of entrees — 2 nights of chicken, one night of beef, one meatless meal, and yes pizza (often homemade) or fish when the good stuff is on sale. Although I already know what the costs are b/c I but the groceries, I write down approximately how much I want to spend on each meal (pretty much my dinner budget is $15 for the entree– the veggies I don’t worry about.) Already I’m at $75. Then, I add a pound each of deli turkey and roast beef. Toss in the yogurts for breakfast, cheese for snacks, and Oreos … and that’s the main food of the week. (Again, veggies don’t count.) Add this all up on scratch paper, and you can show her how much things cost.
Talk about serving sizes and about cost per serving. When I’m imagining whether I can afford the lamb chops whether I can fit lamb chops in the weekly budget, I think about how many chops each adult would eat, how many come in a package, and how much the package costs. If I can buy it under $15 (on sale) then I do.
So, as you plan your grocery lost, ask your au pair to estimate in advance how many portions she’ll need/want :
"One hamburger or two?" "
"3 lamb chops or 4? I’d plan on about 6 lamb chops for the two of us, since I’d eat 3 myself, but what about you?"
"Is there anything planned for dinner that you want to have as leftovers "encore presentations" for lunch the next day? I’m planning on having some of the leftover lasagna for the kids’ lunches… and you?"
Talk about how you try to economize on food. In my house, to economize means to save on both TIME and MONEY by making more than enough for one meal and to using the extra portions for lunches (usually mine and the au pair’s). Talk about what happens when food is discarded or when what’s planned for a second meal is eaten at the first.
Help your au pair plan her own week of eating. Ask her to tell you what she wants for lunch and how much of whatever she needs. Ask her to write it down… not only to make it easier for you to remember these items when shopping, but also to get her to be a bit more intentional about what she eats. This is good not only for the budget, but also for the body & soul.
I know that my own kids have been surprised when I talk to them about grocery budgeting and menu planning, and tell them that I’ll buy those snack pack pudding that they like but only when on sale b/c I think that $.75 per pudding is too much money and we can make it at home instead.
Don’t use the term "leftovers"- – it implies that the remaining portions of food are "extra" rather than intended to be eaten. I know I’ll sound crazy in saying this, but in my house we call these "Encore Presentations ", as in "Tonight is an Encore Presentation of vegetarian lasagna, this time with extra broccoli! Whoo hooo!"
I recognize that all of these strategies I mention are cognitive — they take the ‘let’s think about it and plan for it’ approach. But I’m more comfortable with this than with an emotional approach. In fact I can’t even think of how you’d take an approach that wasn’t cognitive/rational…. so I hope you other parents have ideas…!!