Re: Meal Cleaners—any good solutions for getting 'em?
From: David L. Mandel (
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2012 20:45:09 -0700 (PDT)
Sounds so complicated.
Our way simpler, yet flexible system has worked well for 19 years. To keep you 
from having to look up old archive entries, here's a summary:
Everyone (exceptions allowed for periods of hardship) joins a cook team for a 
quarter. Some remain stable for years. Some people like to trade partners 
regularly.Teams can be from one to four people. The number of times you cook 
per quarter is the number of people on the team -- again, lots of flexibility 
for personal preference.The team picks any day it chooses for a meal, posting 
the menu five or more days in advance. Meal days vary, and no one misses out 
regularly because of a weekly conflict.
The team shops, cooks and cleans. It can divide the tasks if and as it 
chooses.There's a target budget of $3 per person/meal, which is, of course, 
what's charged to eaters. Some meals come in under, some a bit over. But no 
need to calculate precise charges per meal -- which would be impossible anyway, 
because usually at least some ingredients come out of the stocked common 
pantry.Eaters are billed from signup lists, cooks credited for reported 
purchases. Simple accounting; rarely does money actually have to change 
hands.Leftovers are available to be taken as available, with an honor system 
signup sheet, from which people are charged. This helps encourage sufficient 
quantities, reduces waste and equitably allocates the costs to people who take 
leftovers.David (Southside Park, Sacramento)

--- On Sun, 6/24/12, R Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds [at]> wrote:

From: R Philip Dowds <rphilipdowds [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Meal Cleaners—any good solutions for getting 'em?
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Date: Sunday, June 24, 2012, 3:55 AM

Cornerstone has invented (or borrowed) a credit/debit approach to meal 
participation, which can be loosely characterized as "cook once, eat four" — 
meaning that each time you do some meal work, you get to sit and eat four 
times.  One of our members maintains and posts the scorecard.

In this case, "cook" is defined to include (1) shopping; (2) cooking; or (3) 
cleaning.  So three credits are available for each meal.  It gets a little 
vague in that most cooks prefer to do their own shopping; sometimes two-person 
teams split both shopping and cooking.  Cleaning is often done by people who 
want to be part of the meal program, but don't picture themselves as good 
cooks.  No matter who is getting the cleaning credit, there are often several 
people helping out at clean-up time.  Accomplished cooks tend to clean up after 
themselves as they go, and tableware varies by menu complexity, so the amount 
of clean-up at the end of the meal can be quite variable.

Cost of ingredients is split equally among all the diners for a particular 
meal.  In theory, cooks and shoppers are supposed to limit ingredient costs to 
$4 a diner, but increasingly this feels like a number from the 1990s, and is 
not workable.  More often, meal costs are $5 to $10 a diner — with the high 
side prevalent for either fancy meals or large quantities.  Some cooks like to 
make more than enough, to accommodate those who show up at the last minute.  
Leftovers can be taken away on a first-come-first-serve basis, and some 
households are pretty successful at scavenging two meals for the price of one.

Community meals tend to happen once a week, on Sundays, and are often big 
production numbers.  We've recently taken some stabs at establishing a mid-week 
dinner of simpler fare.  Overall, about 2/3rds of the community is seen with 
some regularity for community dinners; about 1/3rd is rarely seen.

Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing
Cambridge, MA

On Jun 24, 2012, at 1:57 AM, Martha Wagner wrote:

> Our food team would like to know how other communities have successfully 
> dealt with a scarcity of after-dinner cleaners. Our kitchen does get cleaned, 
> but often it's the same people who step up to clean when others don't sign up 
> or cancel after signing up. Our community does not use established cooking or 
> cleaning teams, and anyone can sign up for meals whether or not they cook or 
> clean though we request that everyone put in one meal-related hour per month. 
> Both cooks and cleaners do get participation hours and all adults pay for the 
> meals they eat. We have two regular dinners most weeks. Suggestions anyone?
> Martha Wagner
> Columbia Ecovillage
> Portland, OR
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