Re: Meal Cleaners—any good solutions for getting 'em?
From: Joanie Connors (
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2012 05:51:49 -0700 (PDT)
Yes, allowing members choice of level of participation is nice if you
can make it work. I did notice that some systems allow swapping of

What I'm curious about is how many systems have a) required
participation for all community members, or b) required participation
for all diners?

c) If there are no requirements to help, then if someone eats and
doesn't help, are there any consequences? Do they pay more? Do they
get uninvited to the meals?

Joanie Connors
Silver City Planning Committee

On Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 4:56 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> 
> 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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