Re: seeking information about how cohousing communities organize tasks to be done
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2001 10:01:01 -0600 (MDT)
"Kay Argyle" <argyle [at]> wrote on 4/10/01 10:54 PM:

>We've struggled with two dining issues in particular: finding a simple
>method, and getting enough people to sign up to cook/clean.

Our "keep it simple system" seems to be working out reasonably well, 
after living here a year and doing common meals since last June.

background: 20 households, 31 adults (early 20s to 70+), 4 kids (2 
infants, 2 teens)

Three common dinners a week (Mon, Tues, Thurs).

Everybody (adult) cooks. Every rotation.
  (it helps a lot that this was the assumption from the get-go)

Two-member teams do cooking AND cleanup. (with one 3-member team allowed 
per rotation)

People sign up for slots in the five week rotation.

Some couples cook together; others split up.

Cooks post menu in advance, including veg option.

Diners sign up, based on date, chefs, and menu, and indicate veg/non-veg.

Chefs purchase ingredients based on # signed up.

If you sign up and don't eat, you still pay.

If you sign up for a late meal and don't get it within 24 hours, it's 
fair game.

People raiding the CH fridge for leftovers (or the freezer for ice cream 
bars that magically appear) are encouraged to contribute $; this raised 
$500 last year! (in part thanks to chef overestimation of quantities, 
since reduced but not eliminated)

If the chef feels you can be accomodated, you can sign up at the last 
minute, but the chef can close sign-up 48 hours in advance in order to 

Diners pay cost of meal divided by # signed up.

Chefs pay even for meals they cook, if they eat them.

Reconciliation is quarterly, for each person subtracting the amount they 
spent on ingredients from their portion of the cost of meals they ate. A 
simple spreadsheet does the math. Members either pay the extra tacked 
onto dues or receive the difference as a credit.

I'd personally prefer:

A common brunch or something other than just dinners (there are 
occasional informal things)

Something on fridays/weekends

Variation/alternation on the days of the week

Better cross-training / rotation to encourage couples to cook with others

Flexibility to allow use of "whatever looks good at the farmer's market 

Easy ways to anonymously provide feedback to chefs & others about what 
did/didn't work as well for diners


One homeowner doesn't like the smell of food so that person doesn't allow 
the renter to cook in that unit, and both routinely sign up for late 
plates at most common dinners.


We have yet to do a planned retrofit to improve accessibility of burners, 

The electric convection ovens are still out of adjustment and don't 
appear to reach the listed temperatures.

When we schedule HOA meetings after dinners, cleanup noise is hard to 
talk over.

The rest of our committee work is not as formalized, and mandatory only 
in the generic sense, so cooking is treated separately.


Raines Cohen <coho-L [at]> <>
Enjoying a week of working at home.

  Vice President, Swan's Market Cohousing [Old Oakland, CA]
Where our building is being nominated for the National Register!

  Member, East Bay Cohousing [no site yet] <>
Looking forward to recruitment at upcoming Earth Days.

  Boardmember, The Cohousing Network <>
Hosting the North American Cohousing Conference, July 20-22, Berkeley.

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