When Your Au Pair Eats “Too Much”

by cv harquail on October 2, 2015

When you sign up for an Au Pair, you imagine your grocery bills to get about 20% larger.


What’s incremental — beyond what you’re already buying — is another adult size portion of the main foods — another 8 oz of meat for each entree, 7 more bowls of cereal, another 3/4 of a gallon of milk per week, maybe 10 ? 14 more pieces of fruit.

And coffee — maybe another 1/2 pot a day.

We base these calculations on the idea that an Au Pair will eat the same amount of food as the other adult person of the same gender in the family.

(If you have a male Au Pair, you expect him to eat what a full grown guy eats.)

When I do meal planning and grocery shopping, I revert back to what I earned in home ec many years ago: I consider what a ‘full portion” ought to be, and then multiply that by the number of persons, to calculate just how much food to buy.

Two Kinds of Eating Too Much

Your Au Pair may be eating “too much” because you’re underestimating how much another adult would eat.

Or, “too much” could really be “a huge amount of food, so much she’ll gain 10 pounds in her first two months”.

(Sometimes new au pairs overeat because they are getting used to new foods and recipes. Au Pairs might overeat from homesickness, loneliness, or to soothe other emotions.)

Two Ways to Approach “Too Much”

When you’re managing groceries and foods, its important to address two different issues:

(1) the sheer amount of food the Au Pair needs, and

(2) the amount of the total available food in the house that your au pair eats.

To address the amount of food your Au Pair needs:

— Evaluate your grocery lists so far. Confirm that you’ve indeed increased your amounts by a full person. You may simply have underestimated how much your Au Pair needs to eat.

— Engage your au pair in a conversation about what groceries and how much of each food to buy. Show her/him how you plan meals and amounts.

For example, with ground beef purchased for a hamburger supper, I plan one hamburger ( 8 oz) for me, two smaller ones for the girls (6 oz x 2) and two huge ones for my husband (10 oz x 2) — for a total of 40 oz or 2 3/4 pounds of meat. [Gosh, that seems excessive. Do we really eat that much?] I’ll show my au pair the size of a ‘regular hamburger’ — like the ones in the freezer — and ask her to estimate how many of these she’d eat in a single meal.

Similarly, you could get out a cereal bowl and show your au pair a normal portion for your family (or, heck, the serving size on the package. Teach her about calories, grams of sugar and fiber, etc. too.)

— Ask your Au Pair to create a grocery list herself that has the types of food and the amounts s/he’d anticipate eating in one week, given the meals you have planned and the meals s/he might eat on her/his own.

S/he likes fruit? Make that 2.5 servings per day, or 7 oranges & 10 apples.

To address the relative amount of food your Au Pair eats:

— Discuss with your au pair how you typically make sure there’s enough for everyone— especially when family members eat at different times.

At our house I often set aside a Dad-sized portion of what we’ve made for dinner while everyone else is piling their plates. That way there’s always at least that much left after the rest of us eat dinner, so that Host Dad can eat too.

That ‘dad portion’ really helps me hold everyone back from eating a huge amount of something really good…Knowing that with every meal, there’s actually a limit to how much each person can eat— because everyone needs a decent portion — helps to put a break on overeating.

Other times, when someone’s made a lot of food expecting to have leftovers for another meal, I’ll set aside the amount I estimate will be ‘left over’. Again, that puts a limit on the total amount of food available. We can always dig into the leftovers if we need to, but we don’t start with 5 people expecting to consume 8 portions in one sitting.

All of this conversation about “food”  is actually good housekeeping learning and good health/wellness instruction.

It’s also a cultural exchange. It absolutely doesn’t need to be about “you’re eating TOO MUCH” but instead about planning effectively.

Your Au Pair may adjust the amount she eats once she puts all of this together. Certainly, you’ll be able to plan more effectively.

There are other issues with “how much” an au pair eats— such as when s/he eats all the prepackaged snacks you bought for the kids’ lunch, or she eats only the expensive stuff and never the regular stuff, or when she eats all of that leftover steak you brought home from a business dinner.

Start with these steps to help your Au Pair orient him/herself to portion sizes and planning — don’t assume that s/he “knows” this already.  From here. if needed you can move on to more specific issues related to food and eating.

The email that prompted this post:

We just got our first au pair 3 weeks ago and we want to provide her with what she needs — especially healthy food… But it is shocking to us how much she eats!

She goes through 1.5 gallons of milk a week (which would usually last us 3 weeks), can eat a whole entire pizza in one sitting, an entire big box of cereal in a week, etc – she eats more than my husband does and he is bigger than her!

Should we discuss this with her? If so, how? Our grocery bills have gone up significantly since she arrived… We don’t want her not to eat the food — but keeping the amount within reasonable amounts would be nice.
~ BottomlessGroceryCartHostMom

Image: Full Shopping Cart by Scott Brenner on Flickr


Returning HM October 2, 2015 at 11:31 am

OP, you are new to hosting, and you may not realize how much young people eat. The amounts you have listed seem small to me for a 19-21 year old, honestly, so I am surprised that you’re concerned about this. It is very normal, in our 9 years of hosting, to have an AP who drinks 2 gallons of milk a week. Or eats a box of cereal every three days. Or goes through a loaf of bread and half a jar of peanut butter or a half-pound of cheese in two days. Young people – especially active young people – eat a lot. One AP ate the amount of coldcuts we had bought for my husband for a week’s worth of sandwiches in ONE sitting, and thought this was normal.

Of course, there may be a case of your AP overeating because she is depressed, but it may be that this is simply how much she eats at home. You can have a conversation with her about food, and you can adjust what you buy in terms of the quality and quantity of items you keep in the house, but I will just put out there that I don’t find surprising at all the numbers you have listed.

It’s also possible that your children are still very young and not yet eating big amounts themselves. My 13 year old is a swimmer, and she can eat 3/4 of a box of pasta in one sitting. The concern I’m dealing with – and why this posting is so timely for me – is that my AP can eat the full box of pasta in one sitting — and call it a pre-dinner snack.

AP is 19, 6’2″ and a beanpole. He is our 4th male AP, so we are used to the quantities a young adult male AP can eat. We also have nephews this age who are competitive swimmers, so we know all about how active young men eat. Our issue is that our AP puts away quantities that might make the OP of this thread run for the hills. He ate 4 boxes of waffles – 32 waffles – in four days of this week. He alone drinks 3 gallons of milk and more than a gallon of OJ a week. Five breaded chicken breasts as a post-dinner snack. Six bananas a day. Bowls of pasta the size to feed a family. This week he finished a quart of maple syrup because he puts it on absolutely everything (along with chocolate syrup too).

He claims he is trying to gain weight, so that is why he is eating so much, but we are starting to get concerned at the amounts of food he is putting away. DH and I plan to speak to him this weekend about cutting down on the juices (we don’t buy juice normally – he has been using my credit card to pick up items we are “out of,” and in the process has been adding a lot of things we don’t normally buy like frozen pizzas, sugary juices, ready-made meals, etc) and also talk to him about trying to eat more food he cooks, like pasta or rice or other things that aren’t so costly to buy as the frozen prepared foods he seems to prefer. We are also discussing whether we can buy him cheaper syrup since he is eating it in such amounts — normally the quart of organic Vermont maple syrup will last us six months. We are struggling with how to reconcile our belief that our APs must eat the quality we eat with his enormous quantities.

OP, I hope you can see that the quantities of food that are alarming us as longtime host parents are very different than the ones upsetting you. I’m sorry you’re upset with your AP’s eating habits and again, I’d keep an eye out for depressed eating, but the numbers you’ve shared don’t sound surprising to me for an active young woman (I’m an active not-so-young woman who works out a lot in the mornings, and I easily eat a box of cereal a week and more, and that is just one part of my breakfast).

Returning HM October 2, 2015 at 1:58 pm

I also want to add in response to OP’s comment that the AP eats more than her husband, and he is bigger than she, I am 5’1″ and a size 2-4, and I regularly out-eat my husband (and previous male APs)…I don’t snack, so my meals tend to be as large or larger than others’ even though I am much smaller than most people.

Our AP who ate the most (other than our current one) was 5′ 7″ and very, very thin. Think beautiful blonde Heidi-looking girl from Germany. I used to say she ate like a horse, but now with our current AP, I am revising that…she ate like a pony; HE eats like a horse!

Seattle Mom October 2, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Ditto. Most of my au pairs have out-ate my husband. They were not large women, but they were active, and I think for the most part didn’t snack between meals (much). I snack more, so my meals are smaller :). I also weigh about the same as my (lean and muscular and taller than me) husband.

We tend to buy frozen pre-made foods as our back-up plan for when cooking fell through, or we didn’t have time or whatever. These things seem to get eaten a lot more quickly with au pairs around. For example, a bag of breaded chicken tenders would normally last us around a month, and we would dip into it for a dinner for 4 of us maybe 3 times. Well now we go through one of those bags in less than a week. Luckily our au pairs haven’t been into the frozen pizza- that’s our other backup meal, and they seem to last in the freezer.

Also, if I eat cereal for breakfast every day of the week I easily go through more than one full box myself. My kids are the main cereal-eaters in our house (ages 4 & 6) and I feel like they come close to a full box each. Our current au pair doesn’t touch cereal- come to think of it I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her eat breakfast (that might explain the big lunches & dinners).

NewAPMom October 5, 2015 at 10:05 am

1400 calories of peanut butter A DAY is way too much and not to mention unhealthy. That much cold cuts in one sitting? also unhealthy. I think anyone eating that much, way over the average person, needs to adjust their life style if they are expecting the HF to buy food for them, otherwise buy food themselves.

NewAPMom October 5, 2015 at 10:08 am

Agreed, anyone eating those volumes doesn’t need to eat the same quality, it’s just far to expensive. He doesn’t need the real maple syrup, organic milk, etc (or whatever it is you typically get). And there’s no reason you need to buy juice for him if you guys don’t drink it, that’s just liquid sugar.

Kate February 19, 2016 at 10:38 pm

I agree here too! My AP eats about 3 bananas a day and not that they are expensive, but it’s just greedy. My biggest complaint is that she doesn’t seem to care that the groceries (fruit included) are not just for her, they’re for everyone.

sweety October 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Eating one pizza for dinner or lunch it’s not so surprising for me.BTW if she will gain weight maybe she eat too much but if she is small and slim maybe you eat less than a normal young lady.Some woman can eat more than a man and be healthy

NoVA Twin Mom October 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm

I was also thinking the amounts of food mentioned didn’t seem that bad – smiling fondly as I remembered ordering pizza my freshman year of college, my friends and I each ordering our own pizza and each consuming the whole thing in one sitting. I certainly can’t do that anymore, but at the time I could… And I think my five year olds probably drink a gallon and a half of milk each per week. Certainly not the same choice everyone makes, but they’re quite healthy overall.

In the OP’s case, this might be the growing pains associated with suddenly bringing another adult into the family. While food costs might be incremental if your au pair eats exactly the same things you do, you notice the costs more if they eat differently than you do. We tend to buy a whole lot of plain yogurt and granola when we have au pairs, two things we would never buy without au pairs. (Yogurt? Absolutely. Plain yogurt? Yuck. Even vanilla is OK, but plain does nothing for me.) Personally, I don’t mind (within reason) , because I figure a happy au pair means happy kids, meaning happy host parents.

I’m sure you’ll get some ideas here, and maybe there’s something you haven’t mentioned? Sometimes there’s another issue that’s bubbling beneath the surface and food is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”?

Rural Host mom October 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

What’s hardest for me isn’t really the quantity or expense, but getting used to the types of food that are being eaten more quickly than others. As a working parent, it’s a question of time – time to shop, time to cook. I can’t always run out on a Wednesday to get more bananas, or if I was planning on breakfast for dinner only to find she’s had eggs for lunch all week … well, there we are. So, now when I meal plan I share the list and make it clear when I expect to re-use something for lunch at work or a leftover dinner. If I cook once and expect to get two meals out of it on a busy work week, I need her to make her own lunch and not eat what I defrosted for dinner (grr).
I personally don’t feel I need to replace things mid-week, other than milk and bread. If the grapes are gone by Tuesday, then enjoy the apples the rest of the week.
She’s welcome to eat what we have, but also expected to follow our norms – our handbook specifies that we do not pay for specialty food items. Although we have a standing selection of international cheeses she may enjoy, we actually do not keep cold cereal or single-serve snack packages in the house, and I am not going to start buying them. When I lived abroad, I adapted to my host families’ ways, and to a certain extent I expect that from my au pair.

Reluctant Grownup October 2, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Active young people eat incredible amounts. When my cousins (boys, 10 & 8 at the time) and I visited my mom one summer, she had gone to Costco to get a weeks’ worth of food. Well, as they they were two young boys in a 6-hour aquatic camp, and I was a nursing mom of a 5 month old, the food was eaten in one night.

After that, we discovered the magic of Souplantation. We would go at 4pm, after camp. (I’ll extoll the virtues of “early dinner” elsewhere.) All the salad, veggies, soup, and baked goods, you care for, $40 for everyone, air conditioning, conversation, no grocery shopping, prep or cleanup, no bickering “stop snacking before dinner.”. Heaven.

I swear I’m not a paid advertiser for dinner buffets. And I realize that after school commitments, or having small children in a restaurant, makes this an occasional fix. But, boy, it’s nice every once in a while to have a huge pile of healthy food and not pay a ton of money. Depending on your schedule, maybe you could do this once or twice a week. Or your Au Pair could.

As far as eating at home, estimating grocery bills and meal planning is a high art that I’ve yet to fully conquer. And, the temptation to get cheap, convenient “food” instead of nutritious groceries to turn into meals is high. Feeding 7 people (parents, AP, 4 children), I’m often choosing between $15 for 3 barely edible Little Ceasar’s pizzas, and $45 for enough fish and asparagus to feed our crew. Add in the fact that the $15 pizzas take 2 minutes to pick up, the 30 minutes to make real food, and the very real possibility that I’ll burn the gorgeous halibut while the evening chaos occurs, and pizza wins too often. (Healthy premade food is even pricier.)
As a first time host mom myself, I was surprised about the costs of some things too. But I would consider carefully how to approach this, as it may set the tone of what you mean this year by “part of the family.” Is your AP striving to fill that role? Succeeding? If she were your niece, what would you do? (I’ve had live-in “help” before that wasn’t very helpful, and annoyances over noise, food, and inconvenience usually masked other, deeper issues.)

When someone is extremely helpful and pleasant and easy to live with, making them part of your family may mean to feed them as much as they’re hungry for. Could you involve your AP in shopping, budgeting, and meal planning? Could you have a discussion with your AP at the grocery store about their “food priorities”. ie, I notice that you drink a lot of milk. Do you care whether it’s organic? Standing in the cooler section and seeing the difference between the $6 and $2 cartons will illustrate the point.

Best of luck with this challenge.

We settle on pasta with fruit, veggies and dip

Seattle Mom October 7, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Not to mention the fact that the kids probably would rather eat the Little Caesar’s pizza than the halibut and asparagus, no matter how perfectly cooked.

About half of our cooking is “big pot” or slow cooker meals. Or a gigantic roast that will last for days. 1/4 easy crowd pleasers like pasta. 1/4 halibut & asparagus type meals, that are good for one night and generally require some attention/prep (although for us it’s usually salmon because Seattle).

Reluctant Grownup October 2, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Correction, was $24 for everyone 10 years ago. 2 adults, 2 kids with coupon :-). It’s $42 now for the 7 of us (3 adults, 3 kids, 1 free toddler). It’s called Sweet Tomatoes in some parts of the country. Check it out. I love it more than Disneyland.

hOstCDmom October 2, 2015 at 1:54 pm

We are a thin, moderately active to very active family, depending on the person – all of us have low to very low BMIs. My DH and I eat moderate quantities…but I have 3 teenagers + 3 older elem/middle schoolers. Any one of my teens would eat at least what you describe. I buy 15 gallons of milk/week for 8 people. 10 boxes of cereal. 4 loaves of bread. 25 bananas. When I cook frozen pizzas, for the whole family, I cook 3-4 pizzas. When I make scrambled eggs I use 24-30 eggs. You get the picture. Young, growing people — even females aged 18-24 eat A LOT!

ChiHostMom October 3, 2015 at 9:08 pm

I don’t even want to think about your grocery bill. :-)

AuPair Paris October 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I buy a lot of my own foods because I worry about my host parents thinking this (especially because I am considerably fatter than them). Also worth thinking about: if the AP cooks for you/the kids, she might be using things as ingredients that you wouldn’t use. My host parents buy eggs and milk to make scrambled eggs, and put on cereal and that’s it. Half the things I make have eggs in (I know, I know, pay attention to cholesterol!), and I use milk a lot in recipes too. So a six pack of eggs could easily be used by me in just two meals – because I might have made a quiche one day, and then baked with the kids for dessert the next. Likewise, my host family buys very little meat – mostly just ham for sandwiches – and again, I’ll put it in quiches, in tarts, in pasta bakes etc. Fresh fruit and veg gets used up quickly this way too.

My issue is that I know how to luxury cook, and I know how to budget cook – I’m useless at in-betweens. The HF buy luxury foods in small quantities, without any of the budget foods I’d need (beans, wheat, barley etc) so… I supplement. Because asking for budget food would require a whole new shopping list, and asking for more luxury food comes across as greedy and grasping! It isn’t ideal though – and I don’t earn very much, so it’s difficult. (Still, since I haven’t actually broached the food question, I know it’s my own fault entirely that it’s worked out this way.)

Maybe this isn’t a common problem… I do nearly all the cooking for me and the kids, and then the parents come home late, so I try to save them leftovers. It works for me because I love cooking, and cooking as a duty was discussed in advance. Of course if the meals are being made by the host parents it’s all a little different, and wouldn’t be such a problem.

(But regardless of the ingredient issue – I do eat a whole ton. The amount of *bread* I eat when I’m not paying attention is crazy… Though I guess I am in France. It just… Takes a lot to fill me up? But the quantities mentioned in the original letter didn’t seem like much to me.)

Rural host mom October 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm

My AP cooks for the kids once a week, and it’s usually pasta. If she asked for rice and beans to change it up (and she’s cooking), I’d be happy to get it on my regular shopping trip. She also makes her own lunch, and I try to plan ahead that there’s enough ingredients for her to make it work.
They’d probably have no problem if you asked to stock a few things – they might not know what’s in your cooking repertoire. I’m under the impression my AP can only do toast, eggs, and pasta, but your post makes me think I should ask her.

exaupair October 4, 2015 at 8:28 am

I don’t want to start an off-topic, but why on earth are you paying for food with your own money?! It’s insane, even more when you say you don’t earn a fortune. You should address it as soon as you can, do the HPs realise? Are they not aware you’re paying for ingredients?

AuPair Paris October 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

Mostly because of what I decide to cook though. No one’s asked me to make meals that demand a lot of ingredients, rather than just warming up chicken nuggets. I could definitely manage on the frozen food that’s there, but I like cooking. It’s something I need to address, but I need to get the reasonables and unreasonables sorted out in my head – with regard to what I really should be buying myself, and what is sensible to ask for.

Anyway, I don’t buy *everything*.

exaupair October 4, 2015 at 10:13 am

AuPair Paris, there’s nothing you *should be buying yourself*, unless you re out for a meal with friends, away for the weekend etc.
Whenever you’re cooking for the whole family and yourself all the ingredients have to be provided by your HF. I appreciate you would go on chicken nuggets and so would the kids, but you do cook a variety of healthy meals for everyone so whether the parents would usually buy the ingredients or not – it’s them who have to cover the bill.

AuPair Paris October 4, 2015 at 3:27 pm

I do see your point. It’s what I’d say to another Au Pair in the same situation, and it is definitely something to broach with the family. But when I say I need to figure out the boundaries in my head, that’s true as well. Host Parents should also pay for craft supplies if the au pairs needs them for a project with the kids – but that doesn’t mean they have to buy gold leaf if the au pair asks them to… Or… I don’t know, expensive oil paints and canvases!

I don’t cook the equivalent of that – I’m not using quails’ eggs and caviar. But I still do believe I have some figuring out to do, in the sense of “is it reasonable to ask for chicken AND another meat this week, or should I cook all veggie? Should I ask for bread crumbs or just make them myself, but if I do the latter, is that a waste of good bread? I enjoy making my tortillas and pita bread rather than buying it, but I think the flour is actually more expensive than the bread – can I ask for that?”

I am 100% in agreement that Host Parents should pay for all necessary food. But cooking is entertainment as well as food for me, and that’s where I’m walking a careful line. I don’t want to ask the HPs to pay for my fun, when it’s unnecessarily expensive. So… Where I am right now is that I should ask for some things – but other things – unnecessary fripperies – I should pay for myself. But it’s much, much, much harder than you’d think to figure out which is which. Or maybe that’s just me.

But I am in agreement that how much I ask for from the HPs should be somewhere on the spectrum of “more than I ask for at the moment”.

Schnitzelpizza October 6, 2015 at 7:36 am

I also did that in Europe, hardly ever in the US (I might pick up a joghurt or a specific juice I wanted that I paid for but nothing worth “addressing”)…

It just happened. The host family went grocery shopping and bought what they liked, if I wanted anything out of the ordinary, I’d buy it myself. Strawberries, apples, flavoured joghurt, cold cereal, pasta sauce for lunch. It’s not that food wasn’t available it was rather that what was available wasn’t what I wanted to eat while there was much more choice of food provided by my host family in the US. Yes, I could have eaten bread for lunch or a banana and plain joghurt or pasta with ketchup… but a) I never wanted to eat “the last” of anything, b) I often wanted to eat what I was hungry for and not what was available or c) what was available was meant for dinner.

In the end, I bought my own food because when I gave notice they just stopped providing me with foods for my free time – if I didn’t eat with them, there was no dinner for me. If they were gone over the weekend, there was no breakfast food left behind, nothing to snack on, nothing to prepare a full meal with. There was always meat in the freezer but who wants lamb chops with plain joghurt? Or bread without topings? I didn’t much care for oatmeal with water either.

NewbieHM October 4, 2015 at 5:38 pm

I understand your concerns, but if you were my AP I would be more than happy to provide any ingredient you needed to cook if that means I get to try it too ;)
Home made bread is better than store bought any day of the week.

WarmStateMomma October 5, 2015 at 10:28 am

AP Paris – I have to harass my current AP every week to give me some items to add to the grocery list for her. It’s a pain because I need to know that she has good food for the week and I don’t want to have to guess what she would like. I don’t care that our AP cooks with stuff we don’t often cook with – she makes healthy, tasty food and I’m happy to buy what she needs for whatever she feels inspired to cook. Your host family may feel the same way.

BTW – Everything you mentioned below sounds reasonable to me. If the food is consumed instead of left to rot, I will add almost anything to the list.

AuPair Paris October 5, 2015 at 11:18 am

Maybe I will add one or two things to the whiteboard. I think I’ve been a little traumatised because the first thing I asked for turned out to be CRAZY expensive here (I hadn’t known). And ever since, I’ve felt awkward asking for anything. I guess I’ll start small and work my way up!

Seattle Mom October 5, 2015 at 11:29 am

That’s the spirit!

This is why I’ve provided my au pairs with a prepaid American Express debit card and encouraged them to go shopping- if there’s anything they want to cook, they can go get the ingredients. I warn them to spend reasonable amounts and not buy the fanciest stuff, and they have all been pretty good about it (except the one who cooked Thai food all the time, but I benefited from that so I’m not complaining really). My current AP seems to go to a lot of different stores and buy a little bit at each- she seems to have a bargain hunting hobby. I don’t mind.

NewbieHM October 5, 2015 at 9:58 pm

You should tell them that. They might just tell you that it really wasn’t a big deal and that if something is really expensive they will let you know.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm

I agree with the previous posters. People in their teens and twenties eat a lot more than older adults. I would not quibble with healthy food that is consumed. My advice is adjust to it. DH will buy just about anything for an AP – including 4 cases of soda for one! Nevertheless, when we have an AP ask for out-of-season fruits in the middle of summer when fresh peaches and nectarines are inexpensive, we blanch. With each AP we adjust to their healthy food preferences. If they only eat greenish bananas, then we only purchase 2-3 and encourage them to eat those immediately. We do not refresh the supply at each turn, but encourage her to eat the other healthy foods available. But if she prefers iceberg to our argula-spinach salad mix, then we’re happy to buy it for her.

I try to keep the prepared food purchases to a minimum, because the price tags for those can really add up (and because even my 15-year-old son can prepare a simple meal), but in my experience few APs know how to make a simple meal – but come well equipped to put a frozen dinner in the microwave.

If you find that your AP is gaining weight (and just like Americans put on the “freshman 15”) most of my APs have gained a similar amount of weight at first – especially those who clean their plates at the restaurants they favor (Cheesecake Factory, anyone?). Some hit the gym, others diet. But the ones who hit the gym to maintain their pre-US weights end up eating more! And that’s okay – they have to live.

My advice to the OP – think of this as preparation for having teenagers in your house! You know those animated cartoons that show ants at picnics making food evaporate – a teenager or a young adult has a similar capacity. They eat to live! (And every one of my APs has honored my “this is for dinner” or “this is special” request.)

Adjust your shopping, adjust your grocery budget! Don’t make eating food an issue unless you see your AP start to balloon!

NBHostMom October 2, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Just as a frame of reference for OP, our au pairs (thin, active females) have all easily outeaten my husband. We go through TONS of milk, eggs, cereal, bread, fresh fruit, chicken and pasta. We are very clear from the beginning as what foods are expensive and should be eaten in moderation and what are staples. We also have made a list of things AP should buy (using our money) if she finishes and what types of food should be added to the list. This has helped those “limited” foods not disappear so quickly as she understands there is not an unlimited supply. We also have a special spot for “lunch box foods”…. Things like drinking boxes which should not be consumed unless you’re packing a lunch.

Dorsi October 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm

I really like the idea of a labeled “lunch box foods” area in the pantry – this is something we have a problem with.

Dorsi October 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm

I have mentioned this before, but we clearly state in our handbook that we are happy to buy more of food that is they type of food that our family consumes (and this is also defined in the handbook). So, I will buy as many boxes of Cheerios as we can go through, but no Fruity Pebbles. I have never had an AP do much shopping for me, as I don’t trust them to know the difference.

I am going to guess that the OP has an infant – I am astonished at how much my 3 preschool-ish children eat. We go through 6-10 pieces of fruit per day in our house. Yesterday my 4 year old complained I didn’t pack enough lunch – a thermos full of rice, meatballs + and orange, cherry tomatoes and some dried coconut didn’t hold her little 35lb self.

SH aupair October 3, 2015 at 5:24 am

I wouldn’t eat more than the host father. Just because young people can eat a lot doesn’t mean that they should or that their bodies really require all those extra calories (especially girls) I always eat normally with the family and never help myself to the food in the house. I buy my own snacks too. Sometimes the children eat my food, while it surprised me initially I never complain. It may depend on the country that you are from but I would be embarrassed to eat more than the host father. maybe on rare occasions if you are particularly hungry it is alright but if you always do it, I can’t imagine that this is being respectful and grateful to the host parents. And I don’t want to be thought of as greedy!

NewbieHM October 5, 2015 at 10:03 pm

Where I come from they say “full belly happy heart”. I honestly prefer that my AP or anyone in my house eats until they are happy. I would be sad to know she is not eating enough just to keep appearances and then eating in her room.

HRHM October 3, 2015 at 9:53 am


This chart gives a rough idea of calorie needs at different ages. For women it maxes out at 19-25, for men 16-18. It clearly shows that your AP should likely be eating more calories than your husband!

Obviously this is a rough guide and if you look at the bottom, what they define as active isn’t doing body pump or mini-triathalons, it’s walking 3 miles a day. If you and/or DH is sedentary and average height, and AP is tall and exercises daily, she sould easily double what you need.

I think the trick to making this work is to first reconcile yourself to this as reality. As long as AP isn’t purging, putting on a ton of (unhealthy) weight or giving it away to friends, you MUST feed her this much food for the next year.

Second, figure out affordable ways to be able to feed her to her level of need. I’m not an organic buyer, but if I was, I could see how this would rapidly become unaffordable. I think most APs would be fine with non-organic and shelf brands for snacking and lunch. Obviously you can’t and shouldn’t make her different food for family meals than what you are serving everyone else, but there should be no reason for her to need organic cereal or fruit or milk for her alone meals.

Finally, sit down and make sure that she understands what she can and cannot eat on her own. There is nothing more maddening than coming home to cook dinner only to find the chicken or pork chops already gone, the pasta down to a half cup and the salad consumed. In our house, I kept a white board with meals for the week listed. AP could clearly see the food I was planning on making and knew not to use up the mushrooms because they were on the board. Feel free to use post its to mark things that need to be held aside. As long as it’s not everything! And every family should (preferable in the beginning of the year) discuss how leftovers are to be treated (especially restaurant ones) In our family, unless it’s marked with a post it, anyone can eat it. This means the kids will eat APs Cheesecake Factory just as much as she can eat my doggie bag from the steakhouse. Our AP often eats family meal leftovers for lunch.

SomMom October 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

I don’t get it. I’ve had seven au pairs and they all eat just about nothing! Carbs are bad, picky about this or that, don’t like spicy, don’t like vinegar, etc, etc. I have a child who has eating issues. I would rather have an au pair who loves food because they are a role model for the kids. I try to interview the au pairs to see if they eat, but they never tell the truth. They think they eat and they think they are not dieting, but they are. In my house the au pair can eat anything in the house. I stock the house well (Costco and fresh stuff from local markets). Yesterday, our au pair had two pieces of dry toast at 8:00 AM and 4 ounces of milk at 2PM. If the au pair loves food, then you can provide healthy stuff and they can choose to eat or not. It’s much better that the au pair eats. The cost of the food is part of the price a host family pays. They pay for their own food when they are out of the house.

AP HM October 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm

I think the OP needs to adjust her expectations a little.

I’m an active 20-something year-old and I would easily eat a whole pizza, plus salad, plus pudding (potentially plus chips as well if I was really starving). Of course, I’m the one paying the bills! I also don’t tend to buy pizza- I tend to make it from scratch so that I know what’s going in it.

18-25 year-olds are still growing and they do need a lot of food. Just be thankful your AP is female! My brother at a similar age would be going through a packet of cereal a day.

So- your AP needs to eat. But it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Bulk-buy pasta, rice, couscous and noodles. Find a local market which sells fruit and vegetables more cheaply than your supermarket- and send the AP to buy the things she’ll use. She’s much less likely to go through a mango in a day once she knows how much it costs (for example). Be honest with her. Tell her that you don’t want to restrict what she eats, but that food costs here are different to what she might be used to at home, so you’ll only be able to buy that bread she really likes when it’s on offer.

It is going to cost you more than you were expecting. Don’t feel that you have to provide pizzas and ready meals- she’s an adult and she can cook. But she will go through fruit and vegetables and bread like there’s no tomorrow. It’s the cost of having another adult in the house.

(It’s also possible that she’s eating because she’s bored/lonely/unhappy. What does she get up to during the day? How long has she been with you? If she were going through piles of chocolate I’d be inclined to think it was a problem but if she’s just eating a lot of everything then I’d consider it normal).

DCBurbTwinMomma October 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm

I’m sensitive to this because many of you have read that I’ve intervened with other Au pairs in families who have limited their food intake thinking they would basically starve. I agree with others that teens and young 20s can EAT. I was a college cheerleaders so always exercising but also always eating full pizzas and tons of pasta. Our au pairs are about that same age. My current au pair is 4’10 and maybe 110 pounds. She works out daily and eats more than twice what I eat regular (and I have 45 pounds and 6 inches on her). We now just sho at Costco, do Blue Aprin and have a co-op during summer, but no one is wasting food. It all gets eaten.

Good luck!

Taking a Computer Lunch October 3, 2015 at 10:29 pm

That’s my big pet peeve – throwing away food! Current AP asks for expensive out-of-season items and then does not consume them. She does a good job, so I’m letting it go (especially since we’re in countdown mode). Nevertheless, with an AP and a teenage boy, not much food goes to waste – in fact, there aren’t many days in which we have leftovers, either (which is too bad for me, as I prefer leftovers to sandwiches any day!).

My handbook states food is meant to be eaten. When I visited someone in Russia, she said, “In Russia all the food is on the table and nothing is in the cupboard. In America, everything is in the cupboard and nothing is on the table.” I think about it often as a reminder to myself to be hospitable with food.

Seattle Mom October 7, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I like that saying!

exaupair October 4, 2015 at 8:21 am

I can see how much I used to eat when I was 19-25 and compared to that OPs au pair eats a lot, however I can also see how much my friends eat. I would say for a regular person that age it’s not uncommon to consume as much as she does.

The OP doesn’t mention anything other that the essentials (milk, cereal). Those are cheap and easy to replace.
Does the AP also eats things that are meant to be left for a special occasion, expensive items, things you were maybe saving for yourself? Is she asking for very expensive foods for herself? If she does, then show her cheaper alternatives for those ( store own brands can be just as good if not better that high-end brands! ), that should work fine.

Didi October 4, 2015 at 8:32 pm

I don’t know was this mentioned in some comments above, but lets remember that au pairs stay at home all day long and therefore eat more than you do on every day basis.
Also, in this culture people have different eating habits than in some other cultures. for the first 4 months of my au pair experience I was starving, because my host parents ate very small meals, while I just needed more. Truth I lost 14lb, but I would go out on occasion just so I can have a proper meal.

I can understand that having childcare is expensive and budgeting is important, but you should remember that au pair is not on purpose trying to take advantage of you, so instead of writing lists and asking others what is normal and what not – talk to your au pair and have some boundaries that you both can create together. After all, she is 3rd adult in the house, not a child you should try to manage and make rules for.

momo4 October 5, 2015 at 7:52 pm

If there were a “Like” button I would have clicked it!

Schnitzelpizza October 6, 2015 at 8:15 am

“I don’t know was this mentioned in some comments above, but lets remember that au pairs stay at home all day long and therefore eat more than you do on every day basis.”

And not even that they necessarily eat more than you do but that they eat what is what was available at home. Depending on where you work you might grab something to eat at the cafeteria or the restaurant across the street and you might snack on the cookies your colleague brings or a birthday cake or you might have packed a lunch which you have calculated into your weekly shopping…

Today, I had a sandwich for breakfast which I bought at the bakery down the street, then went for lunch at the cafeteria and had pasta, at 3 pm I will go upstairs where there will be cake.
Had I eaten breakfast, lunch and a snack at home, I would have eaten differently. But everything would have come out of the fridge and the pantry. And there would be less of “food item” tonight while now all that was in the fridge and the pantry when I left this morning will still be there (unless DH was home for lunch). And I am not 19 anymore and I can no longer eat like I could back than (that is a lie… I can still eat like that I just really, really shouldn’t).

SwissAuPair October 5, 2015 at 12:56 am

I don’t think that this is a big ammount of food. I drink one or two cups of milk every day and eat a bowl of Porridge for breakfast so I go trough one gallon a week easily. And the big box of cereal might explains the 1.5 gallons of milk she drinks.

Back when I was an AP (off the clock for breakfast and lunch), I ate porridge or musli 2 times a day and therfore used way more milk than I do now. It is just an easy and fast prepared meal. I don’t think it is wrong to eat a whole pizza, except you talk about a family-size pizza..:

I don’t know how old your kids are and how active the AP is with them. I was eating much more when I was with kids from the age 3 to 10 (4 of them!) then when I had an infant to take care of. With kids my level of activity increased so much that I was hungry all day long, ate a lot and still lost a few pounds!

NewAPMom October 5, 2015 at 9:53 am

I think that’s a lot of food. 1.5 gallons of milk a person is too much, that’s 4 cups of milk a day. And an entire pizza? That’s crazy! We expect our AP to eat what is considered a normal portion/serving. Our last AP would use up all of my almond milk in her smoothies (which were a snack for her), and since she loved to put expensive frozen fruit, veggies, etc in, I started to ask her to buy some of her own ingredients since that stuff was expensive. She had a habit of eating an expensive jar of almond butter in a week or 2, so again I eventually said she had to buy her own if she was going to eat that much. She also wanted out of season produce and expensive produce. I told her we didn’t buy out of season expensive stuff, and I did our shopping once a week and told her she had to make it last. It may sound like I was limiting food or starving her, but trust me, this girl was unable to eat any of the food we had, she wanted all different stuff from us. She was not adaptable, and we had a variety of food in the house! She also ate the prepackaged snacks for the kids’ lunches, and I had to tell her not to because those are more expensive. She routinely would put 10 things on the grocery list every week. Now without her here can I really appreciate how much she was eating because the food is lasting much longer. The thing is her attitude towards the food (expecting us to just provide whatever she asked for), reflected her attitude in general, i.e. a lot of taking and sense of entitlement and not much giving. (If she had been amazing with the kids I probably would have been less annoyed.) She also gained weight so it’s not like her metabolism justified the portions she ate.

Our current AP is the complete opposite of her. She eats what is truly normal portions and is adaptable, eats what’s in the house. If anything she’s so much the opposite I’m constantly asking her if there’s any food she wants! When we matched this time around we asked a lot of questions about diet because we didn’t want a repeat of last year.

Not all young people eat a lot. I certainly never did nor was able to. I think if they want to exercise excessively and then eat a lot, we HF shouldn’t have to accommodate that. A lot of these young AP are clueless and don’t even think about the fact that the food is for everyone and meant to last. I think some take advantage of their HF.

hOstCDmom October 5, 2015 at 2:38 pm

4 glasses of milk/day is not excessive. Recommendations for teens and young adult milk consumption from American Academy of Pediatrics:
“one thousand three hundred milligrams of calcium per day. That’s equivalent to about four and a half eight-ounce glasses of low-fat milk.”

Returning HM October 5, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Agreed. Our 13 year old daughter’s sports nutritionist wants her drinking at least four glasses of milk a day, plus yogurt and cheese at two of her meals. There is a whole host of research coming out these days about how girls who play competitive sports don’t get close to enough calcium, protein, or calories in general (I know this is hard to imagine with our obesity epidemic in this country, but we’re talking about a different population here).

hOstCDmom October 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm

My 17 year olds doctor recommended 4-6 eight oz. glasses of milk/day PLUS cheese, yogurt, dark greens for additional calcium. Some of this milk is on cereal or in oatmeal – not just drinking by the glass. She is moderately active – and not an elite athlete by any means – 5’5″ and 109 lbs – not at all overweight!n I imagine that she would need even more milk were she highly athletic! Young people – HEALTHY, non excessive eating young people — consume FAR, FAR MORE CALORIES than we as 35-50year old host moms and dads do!

And milk isn’t a luxury food – anything that would be in the WIC basics basket (milk, pasta, beans, seasonal veg and fruit, basic animal proteins, eggs, cheese, yogurt, oatmeal, unsugared cereal etc.) are NOT foods we should begrudge our APs, even in (to our older, less high metabolism host parent eyes appear to be ) very large quantities.

NewAPMom October 5, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Actually adult women ages 19-50 need 1000mg of Ca a day, and no one said it had to be from just milk. So yes, if you are only doing milk then that would be 3+ glasses. But considering that many of us will also eat yogurt, cheese, and other Ca enriched foods then it is not necessary to be drinking that much. If my AP wants to eat 4 eggs a day, then you can bet I’ll be buying the cheaper eggs, and talking to her about egg consumption especially since egg prices have risen (for example). While there are a lot of young adults with high metabolisms there are also a lot who eat too much and are overweight. I’m in health care and see it every day!

Mimi October 5, 2015 at 3:24 pm

There’s something to be said about rural NE…all the eggs are cheap. Most people have birds and are giving them away faster than the hens can lay them!

A/B HostMom October 5, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Right. A 13 yo prepubescent/pubescent girl who’s an athlete does not have the same needs as a 20 yo AP. So your daughter may need to eat that much but not your AP! As you said different population.

anonymous October 5, 2015 at 9:22 pm

some APs are 18…

Nordic auparair October 5, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Are you sure yourbau pair was not eating thatvstuff because it was only food she liked or found suitable? What Dobson normally have home? Was she free to cook for herself? Did you explain that those are expensive? Btw have thought about the way you addressed the issue an insensitive way can make young girl unhappy and unhappy burned out sad au pair is not going to be good care giver.

I myself come from country were we eat big lunch and small diner and even after 3 years living abroad and trying to adjust myself it didn’t work.
If I don’t have my lunch I will snack extensively during day or I will be very unhappy.

Off topic but if au pair wants to work out and she eats more because of that you thing HF should not accommodate that need. Well maybe next time scan for lazy au pair. Because those of us who work out and eat more are not happy and will not be able to provide good child care.

NewAPMom October 5, 2015 at 3:33 pm

I didn’t go into the details because they aren’t relevant, but so as not to make me seem like some heartless HM who starved our AP, I’ll provide more info–she changed her tune after being here. She overate and gained weight and suddenly her diet changed. She stopped eating carbs at dinner time, which was a big problem for us. She was free to cook for herself, but her diet became close to vegetarian which is not what I would have wanted in an AP. She said she was lactose intolerant but she for some reason couldn’t take lactaid but started asking for expensive non dairy products. We always bought plenty of fruits and vegetables, but she always wanted something different. We had plenty of rice, beans, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, chicken, etc in the house, but she always wanted something different! She had a knack for eating all of the expensive stuff like shrimp, smoked salmon, etc. Trust me, there was plenty of food in the house. Please don’t say I was “insensitive” when you have no idea how I addressed the issue. I kindly explained to her what foods were expensive and which ones were ok and we compromised. And she was free to cook for herself.

I think what the OP can glean from all of our responses is that it is important to screen for diet habits when you are matching with a AP. I was bothered a lot with our last AP and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that she was lazy and not fantastic with the kids. (She herself told me she was lazy one day, about 8 months into being here! And I mean lazy in every facet of her life.) If she had been great with the kids I probably wouldn’t have minded buying her some of the stuff she asked for. As I said, there was a lot of take and not much giving on her end.

Not every young girl has a crazy fast metabolism and can eat like a horse without gaining weight, so I don’t buy that explanation. I never could, nor could my sisters or my friends. When I interviewed girls one girl for example said she worked out a ton, and ate 5 meals a day with lots of fresh fruit/veg. I kindly told her that I didn’t think she would be the best fit for us. Too expensive! In one of the older posts on this topic one of the HM said they think that being here for the year means adapting to a new culture’s food and diet habits. To some extent I agree with that. Our previous AP was never able to fully adapt to being here. I certainly didn’t begrudge her food, but she was very naïve and immature and needed to be educated also on diet and nutrition. Our current AP is the perfect fit for us. She is active, full of energy, and eats what we have in the house (which is varied, trust me). I think the OP should go over food expectations with her AP and come up with a compromise. Clearly everyone has different ideas of what’s normal and what isn’t for food intake.

LuckyHM#3 October 5, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Couldnt have said this better. My big problem with AP2 in my case was wanting only expensive versions of the food that I already bought for her. For instance, she said she was lactose intolerant and wanted only almond milk, which i bought in bulk from Costco, then she didnt like that anymore and left 6 half gallons of Almond milk that no one else would drink in my refrigerator and went and bought organic flavored Almond milk from Whole foods. Would it not have made sense to finish those before purchasing another version on my dime. She suddenly liked ice cream despite being “lactose intolerant” and the one i had wasnt good enough so she went and bought 4 different pints of Haagen Daz on my card and hid it and kept for herself. She would but 5 bags of ready to eat Edamame at $4 each or so and eat it all in one day again on my dime. My rule of thumb is if you wouldnt spend your own money that way then I dont spend someone else’s

NewAPMom October 5, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Yeah, my “lactose intolerant” AP also was oddly able to eat ice cream! She seemed to be lactose intolerant when it suited her. This time around I asked specifically if the AP followed a dairy-free, low carb, organic, vegetarian, gluten free, etc diet because those kind of restrictions would not work in our house. I agree with your last statement–when she asked for non-dairy yogurts that were $2.50 each for a small container, I politely told her that I don’t spend that on myself, so if she wanted it she could buy it herself. I didn’t think that was unreasonable especially since she didn’t want the “lactose-free” dairy yogurts that were half the price.

current ap October 5, 2015 at 10:01 am

I worked for a family before I went into rematch that never bought good food (for me or the children) I was stuck eating pasta and lentils for dinner every night, so I gained a lot of weight in the first few months, my host mom never offered to buy me things I liked and also expected me to make all sorts of nutritious recipes for the kids without letting me do the groceries or giving input to what I need if I was going to cook for them. I’m now at the other end of the spectrum. My new host dad lets me eat what ever I want, I have completely free rein, I do the entire shop for the household including him and my host child, so it is my responsibility to make sure there is food for him and my host kid. I think if I was somewhere in between with a more average American family that was on a budget, then both parties need to be reasonable. As an au pair I should not eat the children’s specialty school snacks or the last of anything (without checking first that its ok) but host families also need to ask what kinds of foods we like and what they can get for us at the supermarket. Its all about communication really

WarmStateMomma October 5, 2015 at 10:18 am

I’ve hosted only Chinese APs. All three of them were extremely slim and their eating habits varied wildly. The waif barely ate anything but the other two eat a LOT more than you’d ever guess from looking at them. I used to eat a large deep dish pizza solo in college (in one sitting) and still couldn’t break 100 pounds, so I really think this is fairly normal among AP-age people.

I’d be gracious about providing enough food and letting the AP know which items are expensive here (this varies a lot by country so not all APs know what’s considered a luxury here). Try to remember that we all want to eat food we like and not just things we can tolerate – there is a lot of room between providing only inexpensive staples and buying huge quantities of expensive imports from her home country. You can find the balance between making her feel welcome in your home and keeping your grocery bill down, but I think it’s important to provide enough good food to fill up anyone in your home. Room and board are considered part of her compensation.

No one wants to feel that their eating habits are being closely monitored or that someone begrudges her food. APs talk about this a lot and I’ve had two APs tell me about other APs they know who are afraid to speak up about it in their host family. That kind of atmosphere just doesn’t promote the family-style relationship many of us want with the AP.

I personally would not talk to the AP about her weight and my discussions about nutrition are in the context of ensuring she is feeding the kids healthy meals. If you suspect she is using food to cope with homesickness or something else, ask her how she is doing and try to talk about whatever is bothering her. Telling her you notice she is putting on weight doesn’t seem like it would address the problem and she knows better than anyone that her clothes don’t fit anymore!

Old China Hand October 5, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Neither of our Chinese aps has been super thin. The first is well endowed and had major self image issues. The current one has better self esteem and after I banned talking about weight in front of the kids over the summer, when we had some extra young women around, is not a nut about her body. Both have enjoyed sweets but generally eat fairly healthy. We don’t eat many carbs but keep white rice and noodles if they want to cook comfort food when the kids are napping. We will buy special food unless it is super expensive (like ap1 loving sunflower seed butter when it turned out that skippy would be fine – she just didn’t like unsweetened pb). We just matched with ap3, who is quite tiny. I am curious how much she Will eat. No one so far has out eaten the 15 year old girl who stayed with us this last summer or the 21 year old guy who ate here. Extra food for the ap was minor compared to them. :) I feel for those of you who feed so many mouths regularly.

Old China Hand October 5, 2015 at 6:48 pm

One more thought – a nice thing about Chinese aps is that they are used to cooking from scratch or at least very basic ingredients, so they usually can find a lot to cook from whatever is in the kitchen. And those basic things tend to be cheaper and healthier than prepackaged stuff.

WarmStateMomma October 5, 2015 at 10:30 pm


ILHostMom October 5, 2015 at 11:48 am

I can really empathize with OP here. We had 2 Au Pairs with pretty typical eating habits and then our 3rd Au Pair seemed like she was eating us out of the house. So we had a reference point. I think some of what the host parent points out does seem excessive. 1.5 gallons of milk a week? That’s a ton! We also had that problem and since we normally bought organic milk, that’s $10 per week. We started buying the Au Pair a separate gallon of milk and told her the organic milk was for the kids. She was first to serve herself when we sat down to dinner and first to take seconds. I definitely noticed it, but it drove my husband nuts. He drew the line when she picked a bunch of his precious tomatoes from our garden to make a salad for her friends. It would have probably been OK if she would have helped with the garden, but she didn’t, so he told her that was a “no-no”.

FirstTimeHM October 5, 2015 at 12:54 pm

If you would have had me as an au pair when I was 20 you’d be amazed. I’m not a fussy eater, I eat pretty much everything, but I went through a lot those days.
4 cups of milk a day wouldn’t be a big deal, I used to make porridge in the morning, ate more than half a loaf of bread for lunch and a double portion for dinner. I was a size 0 at that time.
I never exercised excessively, just liked to dance and danced for an hour, or an hour and a half, 4 evenings a week.

If you would have had my husband as a bro-pair, you’d be amazed, he still eats a lot but at that time it was excessive. He needs it, he’s thin as a matchstick and doesn’t gain anything but will lose weight if you don’t feed him enough (he’s still on a BMI of 17.2, loosing weight is really unhealthy for him).
When we met he ate about 1 loaf of bread for lunch, a huge amount of porridge for breakfast (he needed 3-4 cups of milk for that), about 500 gr of potatoes, 500 gr of vegetables, 150 gr of meat, plus a filling desert.
He’s lived on his own as a student and I never met anyone who was able to pick the cheapest in season veggies and make something really tasty with it.

My husband and me now eat about half of what we used to do, but our kids get through a lot as well.
Our first au pair mainly got through a lot of candy (that’s something she can buy by herself) but our second gets through a huge amount for lunch. She’s from South America so I make sure there’s something hot for her most of the days. That helps her from making the transition from lunch as the main meal to dinner.
I don’t mind if she makes herself an extra sandwich as a snack, or yoghurt with muesli, something like that. I don’t mind buying something special for her, as long as it’s reasonably priced. She usually shops with me so she’s been shocked how expensive some things are that are cheap in her country, she’s also getting creative in trying out new foods. It’s a lovely girl and I don’t mind buying her something extra, even if it’s a bit more expensive.

LuckyHM#3 October 5, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I think that the key, when you have a good/great AP, we are way more lenient with everything. I too think that 1.5 gallons of milk a week for 1 person is excessive but i probably wont mind if the AP was good all around. I give my APs a credit card to be used for kid’s activities, emergency groceries and gas for the AP car since we pay for the gas even though she uses it for her personal errands 75% of the time. AP1 was grateful and used the card appropriately and would fill the gas tank 2x or so each month and possibly bought perhaps $20 or so of extra groceries each week since I buy everything in bulk from Costco or our local grocery store and we have an extra refrigerator in the garage Once in a while, we would run out of some particular fruit or bread or something and she would pick up just 1 of that item till we are able to do another big grocery shopping. AP2 totally misused my card. She was adding $100 or so on my card each week buying specific groceries for herself despite the fact that i have enough food of every variety in my house enough for an alien apocalypse :-). Like she bought Haagen Daz (like 4 different flavors in the pint size) which she hid in the garage refrigerator for herself on my card despite the fact that i had regular brand ice cream. She bought wine.. i would check my account online and see all these expense so i started asking for the receipts. She said she was vegetarian but only ate Pasta and Bread. So i bought more of that and then she would go out and buy the most expensive version of that particular thing and claim she didnt see the ones that i bought. Then she claimed she was lactose intolerant and only liked almond milk which i bought but she would ignore that and go buy the most expensive organic ones in whole foods yet she would hide ice cream in the freezer. I personally dont think i should be paying for Haagen Daz (which i dont buy for my children) or wine for my AP. When you add that to my dissatisfaction with her as my AP, we had no choice but to rematch. She was all about herself and would never pay for anything for herself like she was using my card to buy herself starbucks every day till my daughter told me and when questioned, she told me that since we are not coffee drinkers, the rules said that i had to provide her with food and she needs coffee every day so she bought it with my card.. SMH!! i nipped that in the bud immediately and she was very upset but the LCC told her clearly that the HF didnt have to pay for her Starbucks habit. And to add insult to injury, she would take my kids to Starbucks, use my card to but a drink and pastry for herself and not buy anything for my kids and then sat and ate it while they looked at her. Who does that.. Longest 2 months ever!!!

NewbieHM October 5, 2015 at 10:44 pm

Taking the kids to Starbucks and let them watch her eat?!?! I wouldn’t have been happy unless our conversation ended with her in tears.

FirstTimeHM October 6, 2015 at 7:20 am

Wow, getting something at Starbucks on your dime and having your kids watch her eating something they would like as well (the pastry, probably not the coffee). I’m sorry but that is plain rude.
I hope she didn’t go to another family because this type of behaviour is upsetting to anyone.

NewAPMom October 6, 2015 at 11:16 am

This is why I don’t give the AP a credit card!

LuckyHM#3 October 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

Yeah, that was heartbreaking especially when my 5 year old pointed to Starbucks on our way to the grocery store and asked me “why does X always go there to get treats to eat and never give us anything but Y (AP1) always buys us some treats”. To me, that really showed her meanness rather than rudeness especially given that it was all on my dime. And then the hiding Haagen Daz in the garage freezer for just herself and the wine..ALL on my dime. But most importantly, she really did think she was entitled to all this based on her interpretation of the AP rules.
Thankfully she didnt get another family – there were 2 families that were interested in her but she didnt like where they lived/sharing a car/ working 45 hours and 1 family had a baby. These 2 didnt reach out to me. Another 2 reached out to me and I shared my feedback without going into too much detail

Host Mom in the City October 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

That is truly awful! I’ve given a credit card to two of my au pairs, but then only after a few months when I saw they wouldn’t take advantage. It was really only after it became clear that it was annoying to keep giving them cash or paying them back for picking stuff up or doing activities with the kids. I knew they were trustworthy and understood what was appropriate to pay for. I would never give one right at the beginning.

Mimi October 5, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Food is a big cultural thing IMO and I like an AP with an appetite. I appreciate when they enjoy the foods I cook and want to share favorite dishes from their homes. We talk about food in our interview process and all this is in our handbook so all this is usually a known variable before arrival. We’ve only had food issues once with one from South America who wasn’t interested in eating with us or trying the foods I make and who left us with bags of specialty flour. She was not honest about food allergies or food habits beforehand. We have had varying degree of fruit consumption across APs, but we buy a wide variety (seasonal) so there’s nothing unusual there for us.

I don’t think that what the OP is describing is an unusual amount of food based on what I’ve seen with my APs and the college age students I work with. (The athletes I see eat a ton more than this.) None of my APs have been overweight or have gained more than a few pounds while here. I also have four kids and shop at Costco regularly for bulk items, so it’s all relative to me. We are milk drinkers and were going through ~5 gallons a week before I stopped breastfeeding. It’s hovering between 5-6 now. We do not buy organic (we have a garden) and we keep meat costs down through a co-op program.

I grew up in a large family and we always had extra people for dinner, often without advance notice. I cook from scratch almost every day of the week and most of the meals I make are designed for leftovers and both the AP and I will usually eat leftovers for our lunch. Food that’s off limits gets a sticky with a skulls and crossbones on it for ‘do not touch.’ We tell our APs the dinner meals are planned out for the week and listed on the calendar in the kitchen. If they have favorite foods we ask them to let us know. We are happy to add favorite foods to our regular shopping lists if they are eaten and don’t go to waste. If it’s something expensive that no one else will eat or that they want exclusively for themselves, they need to purchase it themselves. I hate to bake so we often trade off those duties and I’m always happy to fund any baking experiments that aren’t grossly outrageous.

LuckyHM#3 October 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Totally agree with this. I have found though that when HFs start looking at food and such that AP is consuming then they are probably not happy about other areas but food is something that is easier to identify and point to. I can say that for AP1 and AP3, I buy whatever they add to the grocery list without blinking but then they were reasonable and didnt think it was okay to use my credit card and buy Starbucks and Haagen Daz for JUST themselves among other things

momo4 October 5, 2015 at 10:02 pm

What a great topic!

My husband and I long ago resigned ourselves (with some degree of amusement) to the fact that every AP would have certain foods that they would seem to eat TONS of. With one, it was honey. With another, sausages. With another, rice (that was cheap!), etc. etc.

We really don’t begrudge our APs food even as we wonder at the amount they can tuck away. I traveled enough in my teens as an exchange student and in general to have a deep appreciation for how important food is when one is living away from home, and I would never want my AP to have that miserable experience of hunger combined with homesickness. “Cultural exchange” is no excuse for depriving you AP of foods they love. That said, none of my 9 APs has ever felt that I should be obligated to provide them with Haagen Das, Starbucks, or other expensive specialty foods or drink. But people quibbling about how much milk their APs are drinking, seriously? It is not my job as a HM to dictate how much milk (or other foods) my AP “should” be eating/drinking. It is not my job to educate her about nutrition (to my advantage or hers). I admit to giving my (newly minted) vegetarian AP “The Idiot’s Guide to Vegetarianism” because you cannot live on toast and chocolate alone, but otherwise I feel my AP are adults and can make their own decisions about their diets.

I totally agree with everyone who has noted that your feelings about your AP in general determine your feelings about your AP’s food habits. I love my current AP, she’s awesome and if she asked for caviar, I’d buy it.

My last AP was a unique (in a bad way) experience though. It wasn’t any one food she wanted, rather that seemed to have extreme anxiety about food availability in general. She would nag me *constantly* to go shopping. My shopping habits are not fixed, I live less than 1 mile from several grocery stores, so it’s no big deal for me to pick up extras a few times per week, but my house is FULL of food. My 4 kids eat their weight in fruit every week during the summer, and no one ever goes hungry. And if it were just that she wanted particular foods that wouldn’t be a big deal, but she would insist I needed to go shopping, and then foods would go bad because they weren’t eaten, and that was what drove me nuts. We went out of town for a week (she chose to stay home) and she insisted we make a special shopping trip for food, which I did, only to come home to a fridge full of rotting food that she hadn’t eaten. Grrr.

Anyway, I think it is part of basic hospitality to provide your AP with essential food items. Buts there’s the rub, isn’t it? What counts as essential? Personally, I think that spending time worrying about how much bread or milk your AP eats/drinks is misplaced priorities. Does she love your children? Does she do her job? Is she reliable? That’s what really matters. Your AP is not you. She/he won’t necessarily eat what you think is NORMAL or HEALTHY. But that’s part of the expense and of having an AP, an expense that AP agencies conveniently gloss over when they sell the program as “affordable childcare”. You have a young adult living in your house. One you didn’t raise, who comes from another culture where they do things differently, where maybe lunch is the main meal and they don’t snack in between meals (or maybe they do). One way or another, you’re going to have to deal with it.

Thankful Hostmom October 5, 2015 at 10:11 pm

There are several important issues here and this gets at the heart of why hosting can be tough, at times.

The first issue is what we define as “room and board”. Our family is clear that this means provision of basics (bread, milk, eggs, butter, fruits , cereal, family dinner if the Au pair joins etc.) we have a section in our handbook that describes what we don’t pay for (specialty beverages like extra juices, sparkling water, sodas, sweets, Nutella, junk food, special teas, basically stuff that’s highly optional).

We’ve hosted for many years and have learned what to place on the ” we don’t cover this” list. This has worked well because our Au pairs get the important distinction between nutrition and frivolous purchases.

The second major issue is gratitude. If they’re ungrateful and consuming in large quantities, it can be miserable. If they’re grateful and even occasionally pitch in and buy something themselves, it makes us want to give them more and I’ll be the first to admit that we treat these Au pairs “better” and actually go out of our way to buy things they like and to make everything easier for them.

So even if an Au pair only spends 3$ per week on a grocery item that is optional – for example her favorite strawberry jam- she has actually “bought” herself a ton of respect and eventually the type of treatment Au pairs desire.

We have such an Au pair now and we’re loving it. Our last one wasn’t as grateful and this was tougher.

The last issue I’ll raise is the budget. In the overall calculation we have made for the Au pair year, the food budget is relatively small and we should be generous and strive to be- but it’s much easier to do so with respectful, grateful Au pairs who take ownership and pay for their extras.

One additional tip that’s worked for us is to pick one grocery store in which you think the prices are the most reasonable and make sure the Au pair shops only at this location. This can keep costs down as well.

batmum October 6, 2015 at 3:17 am

My last aupair was pretty good with the kids but she could be very self centered (we felt like we were here purely to provide her with a base for her big travel adventure and we should consider ourselves lucky to have her to help us with the kids) and this attitude extended to her eating hbits which is probably what irritated me more than the quantity or quality of her food consumption. She was constantly eating. And every meal for her was a big production – elaborate omelletes or fruit salad for breakfast. While the rest of us are having cereal and toast. And stuff that was an occasional treat like frozen berries, vitamin boost drinks etc suddenly became staple foods. Whenever bought her something nice as a treat it was never received with thanks – more like it was expected. It happened several times that she would use the last of the eggs just as I was about to make pancakes for the kids (which I do every weekend). So I would go out to my neighbours to get a couple more to keep me going while she is eating her scramble eggs and then she would happily tuck into the pancakes too. (and leave her dirty pots in the sink for me to wash). Plus she had some allergies and the cost of the extra specialty foods was considerable. I was constantly running out of food. The more I bought, the more she ate. But as others have said before – it bothered me more that she was so inconsiderate than what she actually ate.

Host Mom in the City October 6, 2015 at 10:42 am

This issue boils down to two points for me:

1) when I’m not happy with my au pair’s performance with the kids, little things like how much she eats or what she wants me to buy her drive me crazy. When I know my au pair is doing her best on the job, I’ll happily buy her whatever she wants.


2) I don’t want to feel like my au pair is taking advantage of the fact that someone else is paying – it would bother me if she was buying things that were expensive only because I was footing the bill that she would never have spent her own money on.

If she’s great at her job and respectful of my budget, I don’t begrudge her any food.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 6, 2015 at 2:54 pm

That certainly holds true for me in many aspects – an AP who works hard, does problem-solving, and extends herself by engaging my kids receives not only my undying respect, but also lots of good will extra – special foods, extra time off, my willingness to use my vacation time to care for my kids so she can do something special with friends, and quite frankly, a bigger box in which to pack her belongings at the end of her year. The great AP gets the box sent airmail so that it’s home before she completes her travel month, the mediocre AP gets it sent the slow way.

But I will reiterate – I’d never begrudge an AP regular food: milk, eggs, butter, pasta, cheese, cold cuts. We adapt to each individual AP’s personal tastes as much as we are able (foregoing shrimp the year we hosted someone allergic to shellfish and corn the year we hosted someone allergic to corn – wish they had told us first, but hey, they were utterly fantastic and hard-working people, and it really was a blip in the scheme of things). But the AP who never wanted to work, needed constant job coaching, and wanted us to pay for her every processed-food whim because she didn’t want to boil the pasta that was in the house was told “No.”

NewAPMom October 6, 2015 at 11:11 am

Totally agree. With my previous AP I felt like she was taking advantage of us. She was a bit odd, she would buy some food for herself, both junk and stuff we wouldn’t use (like stevia, sugar free stuff, etc), yet she never wanted to eat out of the house with friends and would always pack food from the house when she was going out to meet friends. If we had something nice in the house like smoked salmon, I was lucky if I got to eat any. A couple times she ate all of a special food item I bought, which led me to start labeling special things that I didn’t want her to touch. (We have in the handbook that if anyone in the house has a food item we don’t want someone else to eat please label it. I didn’t have to start doing it until I saw her eating all of certain things because she didn’t consider that the rest of us would want it too.) She was ok with the kids, but really just did the minimum and had a big problem with her phone being glued to her hand when on duty, despite my talking to her about it 3 times. This issue plus others is what made me get so annoyed with her diet.

Current AP is fabulous with the children and I would happily buy her whatever she wants. But the other big difference is she has a different attitude towards everything, is much more considerate about being a family member and sharing and not taking advantage.

Has the OP responded here? I guess the OP needs to look at the whole picture and see if it’s really an issue of food volume or something deeper. If it is the former than maybe some changes in the food shopping can be done, such as shopping at places like Costco if not done already, and a discussion with the AP that the food needs to last longer.

Between myself and a close friend we’ve have 7 APs between us and I have to say that none have eaten the volumes people describe here, i.e. entire pizzas, gallons of milk every week, etc. I think that is just not the norm and I don’t think it is unreasonable to question it. Obesity rates are going up everywhere, and I would love to see what some of these people look like. While I’m sure some are skinny, I doubt it is all of them.

Returning HM October 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

We are on AP #13, spread over 9 years (when we had to rematch, we had to rematch again immediately). We had two who were overweight, and actually each ate tiny, tiny portions of communal but kept her own food under her bed that she bought. Our other APs have all been thin, athletic, active young women and men.

As I think back over our APs, three stand out for their huge appetites. First, the one I mentioned above who ate a week’s supply of coldcuts in one sandwich and ate all the berries for the week in one smoothie. She was thin and beautiful and very active. Her eating was a joke in our household throughout her year – we adored her and ribbed her playfully at the quantities she ate. The second big eater was another tall and thin 19 year old. In her case, she had specific foods she ate — oatmeal, eggs, milk, bread, cheese – and went through massive quantities of just these items. She drank two gallons of milk herself each week; I know because that year we separated her milk from ours because I got sick of running out of milk. Again – active young woman = a lot of specific foods. Finally, our current AP eats more than I have ever seen anyone eat. Seven waffles in one breakfast, washed down with a smoothie that would substitute as a meal for most people. Five chicken breasts as a snack. Pasta plates the size of a family platter. Again, tall thin active beanpole.

I appreciate that you’re saying you haven’t yourself hosted an AP who ate large portions, but the point many of us are trying to make is that just because you haven’t hosted one, doesn’t mean it’s abnormal or a problem. I am 5’1 and a size 2-4, and I am sure, given what you’ve written here, that you would think I eat an abnormal amount. I’m 47, though, and healthy and have been within 5lbs of the same weight my entire adult life, and this is the amount I eat. I ate 3/4 of a box of pasta for my personal dinner last night (I am away so cooked just for myself so know how much I ate). I regularly eat a box of cereal in a week. I am sure I drink about a gallon of milk myself in a week, plus I eat 3-4 string cheeses a day as snacks. I also work out a lot and am just an active person. Yes, I eat more than you may think a 47 year old female should eat, but that doesn’t make it abnormal or a problem, and I am certainly not obese.

hOstCDmom October 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm


LuckyHM#3 October 7, 2015 at 11:51 am

Totally agree with you. I’ve gone to write a few dinners that i thought the food was ghastly while others on the same table loved it. So i don’t expect my aupairs to anyways like what we eat but i do expect them to tell me what they like and what basic ingredients that is required and i will happily purchase. My AP has many AP friends who come to my house and eat whenever they visit because they complain that they don’t like the food that their HFs make bi and I’m happy to do that. I also do ask them why why they can’t make the food themselves that they like especially since most say that their HFs e willing to buy the food but often many don’t have an answer. My current AP laughs and says most of her friends don’t like to cook like she does so they end up eating mostly sandwiches and snacks because they don’t like the dishes their HFs makes. Again, i believe most HFs are willing to buy whatever food as long as it’s not lobsters and caviar daily

momo4 October 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

I think it is useful to discuss both HF and prospective AP’s eating habits in a fair degree of detail as part of the interview process. As always, knowing more doesn’t guarantee anything, but it can help if you have some idea what you’re getting into.

We are not vegetarian, but we did match with an AP who was, and it wasn’t too much trouble for us since we don’t eat a whole lot of meat to begin with. APs who are used to eating meat multiple times in the day are actually a more difficult match for us since they tend to feel deprived without it, and its WAY more expensive given the ever rising cost of meat these days. Also, anyone who expects ornate hot home cooked meals every day is going to be out of luck many days when I’m working.

Although I am intermittently a bit of a health nut myself, a health nut AP would probably drive me crazy given how much that food costs, but it would all depend on what the AP considered “healthy” food. I always have loads of seasonal fresh fruit and veggies around, not to mention whole grains and legumes, but I would not be willing to buy endless bags of frozen berries and such for smoothies, let alone stuff like protein powder. We would never match with an AP who was gluten-free. I have baked all kinds of gluten free breads and such for family and friends with celiac disease, but for someone who lives with us it would be way too much of a hassle. An AP who wants to eat at McDonalds will have no trouble doing so, but will have to do it on their own time and dime, and never in front of my kids.

So anyway, never assume that “I eat normally” means anything. Everyone’s normal is different so better to get specifics about and be up front about what your household eating is like before you even match.

Mimi October 6, 2015 at 11:54 am

xcellent point about what “normal” means. Even within a country/culture there are differences as we’ve seen here.

batmum October 7, 2015 at 2:45 am

Really good point. People think we go through a LOT of milk in our house. About 3lt a day. We all drink it with dinner. The kids and my husband are cereal addicts. But I have lived in the Netherlands where they consume a lot of dairy as part of the diet -yogurt, cheese, milk. I have also lived in Finland where a large portion of the population are lactose intolerant so dairy not so much a feature for many. There is a huge varience in what is normal between one culture and another and one family and another. Some allowances must be made for that. Also, while we all pride ourselves on our cooking skills – sometimes our taste in food or our culinary skills are not to the aupairs liking and you cant blame her if she needs extra food. No one should have to eat meals they detest. I have heard of aupairs that left families because they hated the host families food and they were not allowed to make their own.

Mimi October 7, 2015 at 10:30 am

I didn’t realize the extent that lactose intolerance is genetically/ethnically linked. I did know that some foods are tolerable because they don’t have as much in it like butter, cheese, and some ice creams but it makes sense that many cultures that don’t eat these foods often likely don’t have a tolerance for it.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 7, 2015 at 7:00 am

We hosted a teenage male foreign exchange student for a month this past summer. He didn’t like vegetables at all (neither cooked nor raw) and so didn’t eat with us much (the dollar menu at McDonalds was his choice, not ours). However, he loved milk. It was something that was not regularly available in his country, and he drank a lot of it (always politely asking permission first). It was so sweet to watch him enjoy it and buying an extra gallon of milk a week was not a problem for us.

I find that being generous with food goes a long way toward paving a good relationship. We have the space, and so we have chosen to give the AP and each of our children their separate spaces to store favorite foods and items they have purchased for themselves. We do buy a few things for the AP’s use every week – her favorite flavor of yogurt, her favorite bread, special items she wants to use in making a meal she’s cooking while she cares for The Camel on a Saturday night, or the sugar-coated breakfast cereal that neither of our kids will eat (their choice, really!) It’s a great way for us to know what she prefers to eat – and keeps her from hiding food under her bed (I hope!)

calihostmom October 9, 2015 at 3:45 pm

I can sympathize, although after a year and a half I have to advise you just to get used to it and accept it. Our au pair, who is now in her late 20s, easily eats as much as my husband, and often as much as my husband and myself combined. (If we make chicken for dinner and there are four thighs, she will eat two and my husband and I will each eat one. If we order Chinese, my husband and I take a little from each container with enough leftovers for multiple lunches, and she will take and eat an entire container, plus a bit from the others.) And this is often after eating her “main meal” at 4pm. I don’t buy that it’s a young active person’s caloric needs, but I’m not about to crack down on it because I think she is dealing emotionally with many things and it’s not actually my business to tell someone else how to eat.

What really bothers me, though, is when I have an expectation that something will be available and it is gone when I go to cook with it. So I try to be very clear about things like meats that are intended for dinner, etc., and we haven’t had problems with that kind of thing. A bigger issue is “pantry” type items, like cans of beans, frozen chicken or other meats, hummus, tortillas, english muffins, that I assume are available when I want to whip something quick, only to find that they have been eaten and not replaced.

If I notice that something specific is depleted consistently, I will ask her to buy her own. She has a $50-$60 weekly budget for her own food (because we don’t cook every night) and she also uses that card to buy family items, mostly things she eats as well, so she isn’t expected to pay for anything. It’s more about supply than cost.

One of the very peculiar things that still makes me grumble every time is that she will leave a tiny bit of something rather than finish it. I think in her mind this is polite. But when I decide to eat cheese and crackers for dinner, only to find that the box is empty save for 3 crackers, I get annoyed. At least if the box were gone, I would notice and replace it.

If we had more time left I would probably address these issues (and others). But we are nearly done so I’m just going to tough it out.

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