House Rules: When a homeowner says 'help yourself' to their kitchen, what do they mean?

Each homeowner has their own house rules. Sometimes it’s, “help yourself to any perishables but nothing else unless you replace it”. Other times it’s “help yourself to anything you want” sometimes even saying the alcohol, frozen foods, pantry foods are fair game. I always wonder if the homeowner ‘really means it’ when they say ‘help yourself’ and ‘how much’ of everything I can really eat, especially for longer sits. I’m wondering how other house-sitters tow this line. For me, I’ve ended up basically replacing everything I eat, thinking that they probably wouldn’t appreciate coming home to a half-full pantry (even though they state that it’s fine). Am I overthinking this?

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We eat the things in the fridge that will go off during the owner’s absence and replace it. I never touch alcohol, frozen food or storage cupboards

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We’ve used anything that would get thrown away and don’t feel obliged to replace it as we have saved it from the bin. Everything else we haven’t touched except odd salt, spices etc

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Hi @daisy welcome to our community forum and what a great question and one I’m sure many sitters have pondered over. This is where open communication pre sit is really important, benefitting everyone and leaving nothing to chance, you will get good advice and helpful insight from members on the forum.

Thank you for joining and we look forward to getting to know you better and sharing in your TrustedHousesitters journey.

Angela and the Team

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We do the same with fresh fruit/veg/dairy, as others have mentioned, but I also enjoying baking and sometimes I use flour, sugar, baking powder etc so long as they’ve said it’s ok. Most of the time, I replace the flour depending on how much they have and how much I’ve used. I don’t bother replacing a teaspoon of this or that, unless it was the last of something.

Some people have encouraged us to use food from the freezer, but I don’t think we’ve ever actually done it.

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We eat what will go to waste in the fridge. The odd herb/spice, splash of cooking oil, spoon of flour. Never their alcohol, unless they’ve left us a bottle of wine. I really don’t eat out of the cupboard, unless I know I can replace like for like, and only then in an emergency.

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We always replace, irregardless of what the HO says, making sure before we use anything that it is replaceable. If we want alcohol we supply our own.

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We ask permission to use spices and condiments, and if only a small amount won’t worry about replacing. But, if we find we are using more than a smidge of anything, it gets topped up. Same goes for paper products. Like others, except for perishables, we do not touch any of the HO’s food.

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As a HO I am more than happy that Sitters use any perishables, including any fruit & veg that are ready for picking. As we live 5 miles from the nearest shop I also tell Sitters that there is milk and fruit juice in the freezer, flour for making bread (we have a bread maker) and to feel free to use spices/condiments etc but to let us know if any have run out/are getting low.

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I follow the HO’s lead - some invite me to use perishables and pantry items. Some don’t, some seem not to cook much as there isn’t much in the house.
I do have a sit coming up where the HO specifically says I should replace any pantry items I use. I’ll see how things go when we meet and then decide how much cooking I’ll do.
I’ve had some HOs ask what they can be sure to have around for me - when they do, I will ask for crusty (not squishy) bread, maybe some basic cheese, and grapefruit juice.

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We never help ourselves even when told we may and if we have happened to eat something I always replace it. One Sit the Owner always leaves some food on a separate shelf in the fridge particularly for us and if it’s something we like then we have eaten it. I think that’s a good idea as everyone knows where they stand. If I’ve used a sitter in the past I’ve left money on top of food left for them so they can buy exactly what they like.

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I’m coming from the viewpoint who have had many house sitters. We always give the sitters a tour of our cold room, pantry, freezers e.t.c. We have lots of stored non perishable, and I encourage our house sitters to use whatever they want. No replacement necessary. Typically they’ve bought their own wine, although we do have a bit of a wine storage area, and we invite them to try a few bottles, if they wish.
Our home is their home while they stay.

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You’re very considerate and reasonable Margaret. I’d be happy to house sit for you any day :clap: :slightly_smiling_face: I also try to be considerate of the homeowner. I appreciate the offers made, but like many others will only use the odd spice or spoonful of oil, and will always try to leave more than I used overall. If I use perishables, I still replace them or have something similar waiting for the homeowners. It’s this type of back-and-forth consideration that makes for a great experience for everyone, I think.

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I usually ask if spices and condiments are fair game and only eat other food and drink if the homeowner points out that they are available and says to have at it. I also tell my sitters when I am the traveler that they can help themselves to anything in the cupboards food wise, the freezer and liquor cabinet. I also tell them to use soap, deoderant, shampoo, etc. if they need. I have not been taken advantage of and feel that I have not taken advantage of the hosts when I have done a sit.

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Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses! Sounds like there are a variety of expectations depending on the HO and the housesitters’ own customs and comfort level, highlighting the importance of clearly communicating expectations and being considerate.
I’ll say for myself that my last HO pointed out and offered me their chocolate and ice cream stash! While it was so kind of them, next time I’ll probably not take the HO up on their offer in the simple interest of being healthier (the only downside I found with this arrangement!) :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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When sitters arrive, I tell them to make themselves at home. The kitchen included. I want them to use my pantry as well. I’m single with no children so maybe I see things a bit differently. I need sitters every month so I also offer any perishables to them as well. As long as my 2 kitties and 1 dog are happy, I’m not worried about my pots, pans and pepper being used. LOL! What an amazing situation for everyone.

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Like others we would use up any perishables. We might use other items but would replace anything that we use more than a spoonful of and we always buy fresh milk and bread for the homeowners for their return. We never touch alcohol or freezer items unless they have been left specifically for us (we were left a very delicious meat pie once). It is a bit easier for us bring shopping with us as we always travel buy car.

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We’re similar to you all. I quite enjoy the cooking challenge of making a meal from the perishables offered, sometimes with other food left to get us started. We have the conversation just to check, and if offered condiments, say we’ll replace if anything used up. Our home owners have all been very generous and like @Margaret are very thoughtful about making sure we sitters are not left wanting on arrival. The benefit of that means we can settle in with the pets without having to think about finding local shops if we’ve arrived via plane and can’t get supplies on the way.

I take a photo of the owners milk preferences, bread, butter etc. and leave fresh replacements for their return. Anything that looks special or expensive we don’t use even if offered, especially if in an expat community overseas where we know some items are hard to find. Like others, we don’t touch alcohol (unless specifically left for us), freezer or storage cupboards.

We had one wonderful sit where the owner insisted we send a list in advance of things we really loved to eat. The fridge was full of gorgeous items just for us. That was a lovely treat, but never ever expected.

As an over-polite Brit, I know our nation in particular can say “help yourself to anything” but not really mean “everything:rofl: So having the conversation helps us get clear wherever we are in the world.

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I find like everyone else that perishables I will use but nothing else even herbs and spices I take my own as on one of our very first house sits I was told by the owner everything you use you replace even if its a teaspoon full of salt you must replace it. Needless to say we did not return. I just find it easier to not touch the owners food supplies.

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When we travel by car we take our own supplies and top up at the local supermarket, but when travelling o’seas it is lovely to have some supplies left for us. We always replace anything we use, and leave some fresh supplies for the owner/s for their return. We are very respectful of every home we are entrusted with.

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