Re: Keeping Track of Common Meals -- Fitch
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Thu, 30 May 2002 07:45:01 -0600 (MDT)
"Laura Fitch, A.I.A." Amherst, MA  01002  <lfitch [at]>
is the author of the message below.
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
so I could combine a second message that was an afterthought (the "P.S.)
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------

Berrins [at] wrote:

>In a message dated 5/27/02 1:22:29 PM, bschaller [at] writes:
><< My question is, How do other communities keep track of how often people eat
>and work?  Is it the honor system or some other system?
>Becky Schaller
>Sonora Cohousing
>Tucson, Arizona >>
I think Pioneer Valley has "matured" a lot over eight years of trying
different work systems.  We currently have affinity teams that allow
folks to chose what type of work they want to do.  Since many people
like to eat in the CH and recognize that therefore they "should" work in
the kitchen - the meals affinity team is the largest team by far.
 Because of the shear size it required a lot of structure and
acountability (exactly what some were trying to get away from when we
switched from required work rotation to affinity teams).

So, this is how we handled the transition to a very structured meals
team:  There is a general community expectation to do 6.5 hours a month
of community work on ANY affinity teams.  A meals survey determined how
much each person was willing to do per month on MEALS work, in which
categories (head cook, assistant cook, dishes and set-up) and
days/nights typically available.  Luckily, it matched the required work,
so we were never pressured to volunteer for more slots!  Then some very
dedicated folks (led by self proclaimed "kitchen czar" Josh Hornick)
oranized this into a regular schedule - so that for instance I head cook
the first Wednesday of every other night, do dishes the second Monday of
every month, and setup the Third Wednesday of every month.  I have other
affinity team jobs - such as common house clean, but I am one of many
folks who put most of our hours into the kitchen.

I have my entire schedule for the year - and I find people to swap if I
can't make it - usually by posting to the community e-mail.  My husband,
who is very active on the buildings and grounds affinity team only head
cooks every other month.

At the same time, we also chose to have a fixed two month rotating menu.
 So the same cooks cook the same meals, unless they specifically change
theirs, and therefore they can get very efficient at it.  The folks that
compiled the menus, chose ones that we had already tested for ease of
preparing, healthfulness, organic produce, low cost, etc. The menus have
been typed with quanaities already calculated for different size crowds
(we regulary serve between 56 and 64 diners, but drop as low as 30 in
the summer). As summer produce becomes available we are specifically
asked to consider changing the menus to reflect availability of local,
organic produce.

I think the successfullness of our system is real - we have not canceled
a meal since it was implimented (and that had been a fairly chronic
problem). Our second test will be this summer, when so many people
vacation that meals have been cancelled in the past.  This year, because
of the pre-scheduling, we already know our conflicts and should be able
to adjust accordingly.  The mals coordinator has already sent us a
reminder!  Using internet it is easy to swap with someone - everyone
always has some swap needs - so they respond as soon as you post yours!

P.S.  ... how we keep track of costs.

Diners pre-pay by check to an envelope.  They then highlight their chart
indicating the number of meals they have pre-paid for ($3/adult.
$1.50/child - each box on the chart = one adult meal).  This is a sort
of honor system - easy to follow and visualize, so there is no risk of
forgetting to pay, etc.

After the meal, the head cook is responsible for taking the clipboard of
charts and crossing off the number of boxes worth of meals each
family/diner has eaten.  They then sign the spot on the front of the
chart indicating that they have done this.  The kitchen accountant
occasionally has to remind cooks to do this.

Diners are responsible to periodically check if they have fallen behind
(eaten more than pre-paid for).  The kitchen accountat occassionaly has
to announce before a meal, that several familles are behind and everyone
should check.

Diners are also responsible for checking off boxes for let-overs taken
after a meal - you decide what you think they are worth.

Cooks are reimburse by check - receipts stabled to the meal sign-up
sheet and put in an envelope.  We have several accounts at the local
health food stores - so it is easy to avoid shelling out a lot of money.

I think this system is VERY good.


Laura Fitch, A.I.A.
Principal Architect

110 Pulpit Hill Rd.
Amherst, MA  01002
413-549-7918 (fax)

lfitch [at]

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