Re: Communal eating question from new UK group
From: Elizabeth Stevenson (tamgoddessattbi.com)
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 2002 18:15:03 -0700 (MST)
>>It would be very helpful to hear about other communities
>> experiences and how they have managed to accomplish this feat.  We are
>> particularly co ncerned about administration (meal planning, food
>> ordering, keeping accounts etc.) and the amount of time that will need to
>> be devoted to it.
> 
> The payment part is actually easy. We have meal cards and set meal prices of
> $4 and $2 for kids. People pay by check, in advance for a meal card of 10
> meals. The cards are kept in the kitchen and people sign when they eat a
> meal. All the checks go to a checking account from which cooks are
> reimbursed for their expenses.
> 
> Meals are the one thing I feel disappointed in and they were the one feature
> I was most looking forward to. Cooking for a one person is a drag. I never
> eat enough vegetables.
> 
> Our group is large (75 residents now) and people often invite guests to
> meals. 25+ is the standard and for a nice meal, 50 is not unheard of. Then
> there is the range of eaters from meat to vegetarian to vegan. I eat a very
> low carb diet (or should) so most meals are out of the question for me.
> People tend to cook beans and rice, perhaps with a little meat thrown in.
> The only vegetable is salad. As good as the meals are, I really need
> vegetables -- not starch. This seems to be an impossible concept for large
> groups.

Sharon, I am baffled by how much your meals cost and how little you enjoy
them. Are you sure someone isn't embezzling??? (just kidding for those of
you who don't get my humor) Four bucks for beans and rice, and someone's
making a profit somewhere! We just raised our prices to 2.50 for adults and
1.25 for kids, and we have at most meals: a meat dish, a vegan dish, and a
kids' meal. Many meals combine the categories, so some meals have only one
main dish. But we always have a vegetable and a salad. Some vegan meals are
more grain-based than I like, but all in all, we have great meals. BTW, we
also have some special diets, and the cooks almost always accommodate
everyone.

(to be fair about the money, we do have an extra source of income from the
nominal fee we charge for washer and dryer use. So I think the fees would be
more like 3 bucks for adults and 1.50 for kids without that. {2 quid and 1,
respectively, BPS})

We have an account that everyone pays into for meals. We didn't like the
idea of having to do math after a soporific meal to find out how much it
cost, and we don't want to do accounting at a meal. When cooks buy food,
it's credited to their account. People sign up for a meal, and that list,
along with receipts from the cooks' shopping, are given to the person who
does the accounting. There is a locked box in the CH for this. At the end of
the month, if you owe anything, you pay up at the same time you pay your HOA
dues.

Every time I post this, people cry out that they think we spend too much
time, and it's too complicated a system. But nobody who does the bookkeeping
for this has ever complained that it's too difficult or time-consuming, and
the diners and cooks are free to eat and cook, respectively. Once you have
the spreadsheet set up, it's just a matter of plugging in the numbers.

The other issue here is one of who cooks. My opinion is that if everyone has
to cook, it's more fair, everyone learns to cook better food, and there are
less complaints about meals. Whatever system you use to do the money, I
strongly urge that everyone participate in meal preparation and clean-up.

And Sharon, if the meals aren't working for you, chances are they aren't
working for other people, as well. There is no reason to suffer in silence.
Bring this up as an agenda item at a general meeting. We have probably one
of the highest participation and satisfaction rates in cohousing. It didn't
happen by magic. We have been fine-tuning our process for 9 years.

-- 
Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California
tamgoddess [at] attbi.com

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