Re: Meal Cleaners—any good solutions for getting 'em?
From: R Philip Dowds (
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2012 03:56:59 -0700 (PDT)
There are many ways of doing this, each with its own set of pros and cons.  
Your system sounds like it would work well in a community where all households 
have more or less equal interest in regular participation in the meals program. 
 Cornerstone, however, is not the only coho where households vary — having 
high, medium, or low interest in regular participation.  Our system takes this 
into account.

Maybe it shouldn't:  If we had your system, and enforced it*, maybe we could 
guarantee more, and more equal, participation.  Should this be our goal?

R Philip Dowds
Cornerstone Cohousing, Cambridge

 * This reveals a question even more interesting than that of meals:  How do 
you enforce community policy?  But that's for another discussion ...

On Jun 25, 2012, at 11:45 PM, David L. Mandel wrote:

> 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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