Nanny meal/food prep responsibilities

For those who have a nanny for a single child, what food/meal prep responsibilities does your nanny take on?

Our daughter is 18 months and we're unclear what we should expect in terms of help from our nanny on the food front - 

Should we be developing a menu for her breakfasts/lunches/snacks? Or a range of things that she can offer?

What level of food prep should we ask our nanny to do? 

Right now, since we don't pre-make many meals (other than leftovers), she defaults to whatever we have in the fridge, and lots of toast with butter, scrambled eggs, fruits, veggies. We'd love for our daughter to get a more varied diet during the day but don't have a lot of bandwidth to plan out and prepare every meal. 

Would love your ideas!

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This is not an easy question to answer. How long have you worked with the nanny? What is your relationship with her? What is your working dynamic?

Some nannies like to cook and take on cooking as part of their duty while others are really good at cleaning and toy organization but don’t cook other than warming up food. 

Simple meal prep is generally considered a part of a nanny’s duty but anything beyond warming up premade food, steaming veggies, or preparing a simple meal planned by the family should be explicitly discussed. 

We had the same nanny for a long time since our child was a newborn. We were clueless first time parents and she was a mom of 2 kids and a professional nanny with over 15 years of experience. At every developmental age, we consulted her about parenting choices including food. We made food for our child. But, we also explicitly told her that she is free to let our child try any food that she eats. She packed her own lunch but we told her she was free to eat any fruits or cheese or food that isn’t labeled as “do not eat”. We operated together more like good friends and family than an employer and an employee. I stayed home with the nanny for about 8 months and I always offered my cooking and she would try a taste if it looked good or if she was curious. 

At 18 month, our child ate most of what we ate although the child’s favorite food was still cheese, tofu, avocado, and fruits. 

If you want your nanny to be more of a household helper, you could discuss with her about cooking a meal for your family while the child naps but I think you should be the person that plans meals because food is such a personal choice. 

For us, the nanny’s primary duty was the child and while the child napped, we wanted her help with laundry, cleaning the play area, and emptying out the dishes from dishwasher. In addition, we asked the nanny to clean anything kid related, toys, books, diaper trash, and checking supply and making a baby related shopping list for us.

We always had food prep as part of the equation and our nanny has always been invited to eat our food as well. She would typically make lunch for herself and our baby at the same time and do the same meal for both. She would include at least one sure thing the baby would eat but also introduce new things over time. It worked really well. We also said basically no processed food so she made everything from scratch and had lots of fruit and veggies in the mix. My boy is now ten and has the same nanny. She taught herself to cook along the way and now makes great meals for all of us! 

We've had our nanny since our son was 3 months and he's almost 2yo. She generally makes fresh food for our son every day and she comes up with the menu on her own and based on what we have. Every time I buy groceries I ask her if there's anything she wants for our son. She did that both while we were in a share and now that it's just her and him. She will sometimes make a big pot of something early in the week and use it for several days but will still give him some variety. I would ask your nanny if there are particular foods she wants you to buy to make for/feed your child. But also try to be clear that you want to see a little more variety and if she needs help figuring out options that you're more than happy to help plan. If she's not comfortable cooking then I would try to plan meal prep or buy things that are easy for her to heat up and just portion it out and tell her at the beginning of the week or day.

I think having unashamed conversations where you ask a lot of questions and really hear her feedback is key to a good nanny-parent relationship, if you're not already doing that. I'm sure you are but I know it can be an uncomfortable thing to not know where the line is and not want to offend someone! It took me a little time with our nanny to make sure she knew I was supportive of her and that we were a team and talking about things honestly and openly was only going to help us all.

In that past with nannies and babysitters, I left instructions on what kinds of food to offer my toddler (aside from fruit, cheese and crackers that were always in stock). This included simple prep like making a sandwich, frying an egg or salmon burger, steaming broccoli, or making basic french toast. Unless you specifically interviewed for culinary skills, I think this is the most you can expect unless they volunteer otherwise.

I think it sounds like your nanny is doing a great job, it all sounds healthy and like wholesome foods for an 18 month old. I have done nanny shares but never had the benefit of hosting so have always prepared every single snack and lunch, packed all milk, etc so the set-up you have sounds amazing and realistic to me. 

Maybe you could purchase a variety of fruits and vegetable to introduce some new foods? Or purchase some pre-made soups or meals if you don't have time to prepare food and that could last several portions? Even things like different toppings for oatmeal could vary things well enough for an 18 month old, maybe some spices. Smoothies are a huge hit in our house from the littlest all the way up. You could also change up the form of the eggs, scrambled, fried, chopped and so on. Maybe try an omelet or french toast so it is still simple and quick and working with what you have but varied. 

This was one of the key questions we asked when interviewing nannies about a year ago, because I agree with you — meal planning for a family is a constant slog! If I remember correctly, none of our candidates were wholeheartedly up for taking on our child’s food prep. In retrospect I understand this...I think it would be really hard to do anything more than reheat something and cut fruit/veggies while you are watching over a small child and don’t fully know the contents of the fridge. 

That’s all to say I would generally not expect much more than you are currently getting. But who knows, maybe you’ve gotten lucky with a nanny who is up for taking on more. I do think food is quite personal to each family and I imagine many nannies would feel intimidated by taking meal planning on completely. Perhaps you could start by planning out meals and recipes, and doing the shopping, but seeing if your nanny would be willing to prep an easy recipe while your kid naps.