Dear Amy: We recently moved out of state and have an open-door policy, which means a steady flow of visitors. Many of them can barely afford the trip, so we usually pick up food and other costs.
I try to save money by cooking the majority of the meals. With today's diet trends, I'm cooking four or five different dishes per meal that are not only costly but not our normal usage.
I generally accommodate 95% of their needs (vegetarian, vegan, lactose) but sometimes will slip with an ingredient. With friends who stay for a week or longer, three meals a day is costly and a headache. I'm overwhelmed.
The worst is when we take them out because I don't have a special ingredient and they order something not within dietary constraints and say, "Today is a cheat day!"
Should we forgo paying for outings to cover the extra cost of food? Is it OK to expect a little bit of wiggle room on their side?
— Fed up
Dear Fed Up: You are demonstrating the twin tiers of the overwhelmed host: overfunctioning followed by resentment.
If you do less, you will enjoy your guests more.
The first day of your guests' visit should be a trip to the organic market or "pick your own" farm. Say, "Can you pick up ingredients that work for your diet?" Be honest about your food budget. If they want raw sugar instead of the sugar at home, they should pay for it.
Ask your guests to purchase ingredients and prepare one home-cooked meal for the entire household during their stay, and involve them in food prep each day to pull together a salad or another favorite.
Also — learn to say "no."
Dear Amy: After reading the letter you published from "Frustrated," the working woman whose lazy, retired husband expected her to clean up, pick up and put things away for him after she got home from work each day, I just had to write and tell you about my husband of 46 years.
When my wonderful guy retired from his lifelong profession, he decided that his new "job" was to look after me, the house, the dogs. I still work, and at home I'm treated like a queen. It's too bad for Frustrated's husband that he doesn't know the secret my husband figured out many years ago. I assure you, neither of us is frustrated!
— Happy wife
Dear Happy: You give some — you get some. This is a delightful balance.