Re: Meal payments
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 11:23:24 -0800 (PST)
RoseWind Cohousing here, Port Townsend WA. We've been doing paid meals (cooked by signed-up volunteer cooks) every Monday night for about 7 years. The rest of our shared meals are potluck. Cost: $4, of which fifty cents goes into the kitchen kitty fund and pays for pantry staples such as butter, oils, flours, spices, condiments, rice, parchment paper, canned tomatoes, sugar, honey. Diners sign up in advance. The sign up sheet, with cooks' names and menu, has everyone's name in a list. Circled, it means we're coming. Crossed out, we're not. Neither? If cooks want, they can phone those folks and often sign them up. At this point, I can usually guess there will be a household of no-shows, and several last-minute additions. So I can approximate the real number. Cooks don't pay for their meals. So if we have two cooks, and 22 adults signed up for supper, cooks know they have $3.50 x 20 to spend. An option, used a couple times a year, is to offer a sign-up possibility for a costly item at an additional dollar cost (usually salmon, here). So $4, or $5 if you want salmon. Some go over willingly, as a sharing thing. Some are under. Most are close. Cooks have first dibs on leftovers. If over budget, leftovers are announced as asking a donation. Otherwise, leftovers are free to any takers. Kids pay at least a dollar, up to parents, based on whether they really eat a meal vs gulp and run. Our meal accountant has a spreadsheet in a notebook and keeps track of who has dined, and their payments. Most pay ahead in a chunk. Cooks can get reimbursed cash, or meal credit. Used to be we'd go to him and say, "Hi, I'm here but my roomate isn't". Now he just looks around and can tell who came. After each week's meal, he updates the Excel sheet with the new credits and debits. Periodically the accumulated meal payments get deposited in their own checking account, from which we reimburse, or purchase, the pantry staples. At our rate, we regularly have abundant meals, with largely organic produce. There is also access, in season, to the vegetables from the garden. Cooks who go over only get the extra compensated if there were fewer diners than signed up in advance. I cooked with a friend this week. Menu was Turkish Lentil Soup (Moosewood Cooks for a Crowd is a super recipe source- this has tomato, onion, garlic, bulghur, fresh spinach- very hearty), yogurt garnish, three loaves of homemade wheat bread, butter, big green salad, chicken (3 @ $10 was a big chunk of the budget), fresh chicken noodle soup for kids, rice crackers for a gluten-free diet, ice cream, rice dream, a bowl of organic tangerines, apples, and bananas. We came out even. A tad under, but she took home all the rest of the chickens for soup, and I had a gallon of soup left that I took for another potluck. Over time, you'll learn how to make the right amounts, and find menus that worked. It helps to write down, right away, how much of what you made and how you'd do it differently (had 24 adults, 6 kids, made 4 loaves of bread, only needed 3, etc.) What you spent on various dishes, if that info is right there.
Happy eating.
Lynn Nadeau at RoseWind

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