Breaking bread -- without breaking the host

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(Fotolia)

Amy Dickinson, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

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 (to pay for outings) by cooking the majority of the meals. With today's diet trends, I'm cooking four or five different dishes per meal (each with special ingredients) 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. I don't mean a main ingredient, but for example: gluten/nongluten soy sauce; white/raw sugar, etc.

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 (that I could have made) and say, "Today is a cheat day!"

I should feel honoured they want to spend their free time with us, but the gratitude is being overshadowed by my frustration.

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 favourite.

Also -- learn to say "no." Ultimately this will be the monosodium glutamate that preserves your friendships.

DEAR AMY: My husband and his friend, "Buddy," have been pals for over 60 years. Buddy was single for a long time and dated extensively. He and his current lady friend have been together for several years, and now live together.

Recently Buddy told my husband that he anonymously lists himself on Internet dating sites.

He says he's happy with his current relationship, and isn't looking for another woman, but just "likes to see what's out there."

I say Buddy is an immature cad, and deceitful. I'm not sure if he has a huge ego, or is tremendously insecure.

I don't know this lady very well. If I were in her place, I'd want to know what's going on. She says she is very happy with him. I think she deserves more respect than he is giving her. My husband is disgusted with his friend's actions, but suggested that we ask you. -- Couple in a Quandary

DEAR COUPLE: If Buddy's girlfriend was your sister or your roommate from college, you would have more of an intimate and personal stake in this, but really -- the primary connection to this couple is through the two husbands. So my message to your husband is: Your friend is being a snake and a cad, and you should tell him, rather than tell on him.

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.

 


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