You and your partner might have differing opinions on whether to provide dinner for your babysitter or not. To some people, it just seems polite, while others feel it's totally unnecessary when you're paying them to do a job.
Do you provide dinner for a babysitter? It's the polite thing to do. While the etiquette surrounding this varies a lot by region, almost any babysitter would appreciate being provided food if they're going to be watching your children over dinner time.
If you've never had a babysitter before, you might be unsure if you're expected to provide food for them. In this article, I'll go over whether you should feed your babysitter, what types of foods to leave for them, and more.
Should You Feed Your Babysitter?
Having a babysitter who is hungry or has low blood sugar isn't a good idea. People are more irritable when they're hungry and less likely to provide their best care for your children.
I did some babysitting as a teenager, and it was always a nice treat when the parents would leave some money for you to order pizza for yourself and the kids to share.
But there were also some families I babysat for that provided nothing, and I'd be almost starving by the end of my time there.
You need to keep in mind that babysitters are often coming straight from school or work, so they probably haven't had a chance to grab something to eat. Depending on their age, their parents might usually cook for them anyway.
A big factor comes down to the wage you're paying as well. For a part-time babysitter who you might be paying less than minimum wage, it makes sense to at least provide some snacks. If you have a nanny who is being paid a full-time salary, I think it's more reasonable to expect them to provide their own meals.
Be Clear on What Your Babysitter Can Eat – and Also What They Can't
One of the most common phrases that a babysitter will hear is "help yourself to anything in the fridge or cupboards!"
While this is a nice gesture, make sure you mean what you're saying before you give them free rein of the kitchen!
Don't be upset if you tell your babysitter to help themselves to anything, and they eat the leftovers that you had wanted to save for lunch tomorrow.
To avoid having your babysitter eat through your entire fridge, it's good to set aside dedicated food for them. This could be a basket of snacks on the kitchen counter, or a meal labeled for them in the fridge.
This type of communication will prevent any potential misunderstandings. Plus some babysitters might feel anxious about rummaging through your cupboards and appreciate having specific items left out for them.
Find out What Your Babysitter Likes to Eat
Are you not sure what kind of food to leave for your babysitter? The easiest way to find out is just to ask them what they like! Especially if you're making a meal for them.
It's best to ask about dietary restrictions too. So many people nowadays are vegetarian, gluten intolerant, or have some form of allergies. It would be terrible to go through the effort of getting something special for them only to realize they can't eat it. Or worse, give them something they're allergic to and cause a reaction while they're watching your children!
Some babysitters might like junk food, while others would prefer a big healthy salad. And everyone has at least a couple of foods they dislike, so it's always best to simply ask.
Work Their Favorite Meal into Your Cooking Routine
If you plan to leave a full dinner for your babysitter, it's best to work the meal preparation into your existing routine.
When you're hiring a babysitter, you'll already likely be short on time that particular day, and won't have time to make them a dedicated meal. Especially if you're getting a babysitter to go out for dinner yourself!
The simplest way to circumvent this is to make one of your babysitter's favorite meals the night before you need them to babysit. Then you can simply leave the leftovers in the fridge for them to eat the next day. Just make sure your children or partner knows not to eat the babysitter's dinner before then!
Pasta, shepherds pie, curry, chili, soup, and stir frys all make great leftovers.
Have Dinner for Your Babysitter in the Freezer
Having some extra food in your freezer can be a lifesaver if you're dealing with a fussy baby or just extra short on time.
You can buy individually frozen items like pizza pockets or burritos, or create your own single-serving frozen meals in oven or microwave-safe containers. That way the babysitter just needs to take their meal out of the oven and heat it up.
Setting aside a couple hours one weekend to create pre-made meals and freezing them can give you easy dinners for several weeks. Both for you and your babysitter!
Make Meals That Are Easy for Your Babysitter to Eat
Depending on the age of your child, your babysitter could be sitting and holding a crying baby all night. Or they could be chasing a toddler up and down your hallways.
Either way, they probably won't have time to sit down and eat a proper dinner with a fork and knife.
Make meals for your babysitter as easy to eat as possible. Ideally something they can eat with one hand like a bagel or sandwich.
Food that is quick to reheat or needs no cooking at all are best. Keeping track of something in the oven for 20 minutes is one extra task your babysitter doesn't need.
Use Meals That Are Easy for Your Babysitter to Clean Up
Your babysitter might not have the desire or energy to do the dishes if they're keeping a constant eye on your son or daughter. So avoid elaborate and messy dishes that they'll have to clean up.
It's best to avoid really greasy food or anything that will dirty any additional oven trays or dishes in the process of making them.
Find out what cleaning babysitters are normally expected to do in our article Do Babysitters Wash Dishes & Do Other Chores?.
8 Great Foods to Leave for Your Babysitter
Here are some great meals and snacks to provide for your babysitter. Most of them are inexpensive, tasty, and easy to eat.
- Veggies and dip. These tick all the boxes. They're healthy, they don't make much mess, and they're easy to pick at throughout the night.
- Sandwich stuff. Provide your babysitter with a selection of lunch meats, cheese, bread, and condiments and let them create their own sandwich. This one has the added benefit that you'll have easy lunches for your whole family afterward as well.
- Pudding or Jell-O cups. Kids of all ages love these snacks. Your babysitter and children can enjoy them together. Individual servings and plastic cups make cleanup easy!
- Granola bars. A great choice if your babysitter needs something to grab and eat in under a minute while dealing with very active children. No mess, and it can be eaten with one hand.
- Muffins or scones. Another food that's quick and easy to grab between your child's temper tantrums.
- Cookies, popcorn, chips, crackers, or trail mix. Once your children are in bed, your babysitter would appreciate something to snack on while they watch television and unwind a bit from a probably-stressful adventure while putting your children to sleep!
- Soda. Ask your babysitter what their favorite is and buy a case for them. For a few dollars, they'll have their favorite drink the next dozen or so times they babysit. The extra sugar will give them some much-needed extra energy.
- Fruit. Most babysitters enjoy comfort food and pre-packaged snacks. But if your babysitter is more health-conscious, fruit is a good option. Again, ask them what they like and what they don't like.
Can Babysitters Order Delivery Food?
Yes, your pizza delivery person won't think twice about a 13 year old answering the door. To make it easier on them, you can leave your babysitter with your account details or an app that has been already linked with your credit card to order food online.
Do You Need to Feed Your Nanny?
In most cases, no. But it should be discussed during the hiring process. If they're employed by you full-time then I would expect them to pack and bring their own meal. Just like you wouldn't be expected to feed your child's daycare staff or landscaper. It might be a nice gesture to provide meals for your nanny, but it's less standard than providing food for a part-time babysitter.
How to prepare for your first babysitter
The Perfect Gift For Your Babysitter
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder