common house meal preparation?
From: Diane or Douglas (
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 05:49:01 -0700 (MST)
We here at Songaia Cohousing have a system that works pretty well. Cooking 
time, of course, varies depending on the skill of the cooks and the 
complexity of the meal. In general however, cooking averages around 2.5 
hours for a meal serving 38 people. That's with two cooks, a Lead cook and 
a 2nd Banana. Dinner is at 6:15 or 6:30 depending on the day of the week. 
The Lead chooses the menu and prepares a shopping list 1 week in advance of 
the meal.

We have two buyers that do all the purchasing, which helps reduce overall 
costs and minimizes impulse buying. Some of what they purchase is from a 
wholesaler. They generally do the buying on Fridays, which is a no-meal 

When I personally cook I tend to do more complex meals and so my time 
averages closer to 3 hours. I can only do meal work on Monday, my day off, 
or Saturday.  Some cooks do partial preparation during the day or the night 
before if their work schedule allows that, though not many do this.

Clean-up averages 2 to 3 hours and takes 2 people also. When I am on 
clean-up I arrive when the cooks do and am one step behind them the entire 
time they are working. When they are done with a dish or pot I clean it 
immediately. This saves a large amount of time on clean-up after the meal 
and its my preferred way of doing it.

In summary, people only sign up to do meal work as their schedules allow 
but our mix seems to work. On occasion a meal doesn't get fully signed up 
for but this really has only happened maybe 10 times in the year we have 
been in operation (out of 260 meals in the year). One person on our food 
committee monitors the sign ups and reminds people if slots are unfilled. 
We have 5 meals per week (Mon-Thur dinner and Sat Breakfast).

Douglas Larson,
Songaia Cohousing

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