Providing Meals for Nanny

Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2006

We just hired our first nanny. She will work two full days a week. She will be feeding our child baby food. What is a typical arrangement for her meals? Should we expect her to bring her own lunch, or make something for herself using the groceries we have on hand, or should we have something prepared for her? clueless

When we hired our nanny, I was also curious about this. I asked my other mommy friends and they insisted that the nanny bring her own lunch. They posed - does your work provide lunch for you? But having someone in my home taking care of my child, I felt downright rude not to offer something. So my husband and I found a compromise. We told our nanny that she was welcome to anything in our home to eat or drink. Our nanny has been with us for 6 months and she has on occassion snacked on a few things in our home, but in general she brings her own lunch. I sometimes buy things I think she will like and offer it to her but in general, I think she prefers her own food. I hope this helps. Lisa

I asked this identical question about 2 yrs ago when we were hiring our first nanny and uncertain about what to do with her meals (before our child was eating solids). I'm assuming the responses you got have not (yet?) been archived, so I'll try to summarize. First, people do different things. Some provide meals and/or let nannies have access to the fridge and pantry. So be aware of the possibility that whatever you decide, your nanny may have had a different experience at her last job.

Second, several people who told me that they encouraged their nanny to make her own lunch using their groceries had regretted doing so, because the nannies often ate whatever was most available and convienent - which may well have been what the family had planned for their own dinner that night. Not surprisingly, nannies are busy, and may not have time to make something from scratch unless you do some of the prep work for them. Which just means more work for you.

Based on that info, we decided to encourage our nanny to provide her own meals. We have had 2 nannies since then, and the first tended to bring a sandwich or something from home, while the second tended to take our child to a cafe, buy something to eat in the park, or whatever. Both situations worked out just fine and I'm glad we made that choice. Like you, I was anxious about issues like having to buy extra groceries for the nanny, remembering to prepare something for her that she would like, designating which foods were OK for her to use for her lunch and which were not ... it all seemed too complicated.

My suggestion is that whichever you decide, do it up front along with all the other guidelines for her new position - it will be so much easier than trying to change things later. Recently in your shoes

I encourage you to talk to your nanny and see what she expects. We consider our nanny's meals to be part and parcel of spending the day wtihh our children. I don't buy special foods for her but have learned what she likes to eat and makes sure that we have food in the house when she is working. If there is a special food that we're saving, I just let her know. Anon

I've been a nanny for a few years now. Some families have let me eat their food. Some families have had me bring in my own food. So the question for you is: What are you comfortable with? Nanny in the know

we have a nanny full time. she prefers to bring her own meals although our refridgerator and cupboards are always open to her. she will sometimes make eggs or have a bagel but usually she brings her own meals. i don't think it's expected of you to provide that but it's nice if you offered. anon

Dec 2004

I'm getting ready to hire a live-out nanny for the first time and am wondering what is expected or typical in terms of providing for her meals. The nanny will be working 3 full days for us per week, and obviously will need to eat during that time. My child is not eating solids yet, so she wouldn't be doing any meal prep for anyone but herself. Should we be providing a specific lunch for her? Let her roam the fridge (in which case we would need to keep up with grocery-shopping)? Or should we ask her to bring a sack lunch? For our current top candidate, this is her first nanny position in the U.S., so I don't think she knows the norms, either. (And since she is new to this country, I'm not sure she would even like our food.) Suggestions on food-related arrangements that have worked for others would be greatly appreciated. 1st-Time Employer

We found this an unexpected topic too, and resolved it by offering our nanny fruits and snacks that were in a certain area of the counter, any juice/water/tea etc., and I always had a stack of frozen entrees that she could pick from. Most days she would heat & eat one during a break in her day, rarely did she eat a second one later in the day. I figured the ~$1 each is worth having her well-fed, and over time I learned which her favorites were and bought those. She did bring her own sodas though as we don't buy sodas for our own household. Since our nannyshare alternated between our house and the other family's, I always felt a bit at a disadvantage though - they had a stay-at-home grandma who would cook gourmet meals and share them with our nanny. But the solution at our house also seemed to be okay with the nanny. Interesting to hear so many say meals are non-standard

When we had a nanny during the morning and afternoon she brought her own lunch, which I think is totally reasonable. Now that we have a new nanny with different hours, it has created a similar schedule to yours. Our nanny picks up our son from school and then stays to help until 7pm each night. Because I think it's unreasonable to expect her to bring her own dinner, she eat with us every night and it works out fine. I know our original nanny would never dream of eating w/us so it depends on her personality and your relationship. If I were you I'd tell her that she should bring her own lunch/snacks and then welcome her to eat dinner w/ you. I highly recommend making your decision clear right from the get-go. Don't be afraid to ask for what feels comfortable to you. If you don't, you'll end up feeing weird and resentful - two feelings that shouldn't be part of a good nanny/parent relationship. Been There

Does your job provide lunch? Most jobs do not--people bring their own lunches (or go out, if it is possible). It seems reasonable that a nanny would do the same. Our nanny brings her own lunch (although we certainly would be happy for her to help herself to our coffee, milk, cookies etc., if she wanted). anon

Hi - We've had two nannies who don't live with us and who both worked for us full- time (starting when our daughter was 9 months old). We always have given them full run of the fridge/cupboard - it felt odd and disrespectful to us to not let someone spending many hours a day in our home and caring for our daughter share in our food. And it's not a big deal to buy a bit extra during your regular shopping - asking if the nanny had a favorite item or two and buying it seems to have bought a lot more goodwill than what it cost. I say treat your nanny as kindly as you can - she is the person alone with your child many hours per week. Share the Food

Our live-out nanny also works for us 3 days a week. When she started, my husband casually told her she was free to eat/drink whatever was in the fridge. She started out bringing her own lunch but lately she has been eating our food. I think that if I could do it all over again, I would give more specific guidelines about this -- sometimes I will find food I had purchased to eat myself has disappeared, and I feel awkward bringing it up. It's a little strange to not know what will be missing from the freezer/fridge until you're looking for it and it's not there. She seems to prefer eating the pre-packaged foods like frozen dinners, frozen pizzas, mac and cheese, canned soups and the like. Good luck with your new nanny. By the way, I don't think it's the norm to provide meals for your nanny. (Even though I work a full day at the office and do get a lunch break, my employer don't provide meals for me!) anon

We made the mistake of ''offering'' anything in our kitchen to our nanny to eat. She now eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner at our place--a late breakfast after she arrives and an early dinner before she leaves. What is most frustrating, perhaps, is that she often eats what I was planning on serving for dinner, so I open the drawer/pot only to find that--voila--only enough for a single serving, but not for the entire family! We love her dearly and she is a wonderful nanny in every other way, but in the future I will offer our nanny a portion of the fridge tostore whatever she wants to eat. I might offer her any snack foods, but tell her that it's too complicated in terms of planning to have her eat main dishes. anon

Personally, I'd expect a nanny to bring her own lunch, but maybe that's because I can barely get my own food together, much less some other grownup's. And keep in mind that your toddler will be eating before you know it, so you might as well start thinking through how you'll do that too (e.g., even when I was using a nanny, I still packed my daughter's lunch for the most part). Every nanny will be different about their preferences too. anon