Re: Common meals - mandatory participation?
From: Kay Wilson Fisk (
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 2014 16:10:11 -0700 (PDT)
At Meadow Wood we have a totally voluntary "Meals Club" that
probably wouldn't work if you didn't have a "Barb." Barb
discovered that she loves to cook for large groups--she didn't
know that until she tried it.

We started out in 2007 with two meals/week--one weekday dinner
and breakfasts on Saturdays-- with a rotating cook/cleanup system
plus one "shopper." After a year or so the breakfasts were phased
out as too many people had conflicts on Saturdays. After trying a
few different week days we settled on Tuesday dinners, and that's
where it stands today.

The biggest problem we had with the rotating cooks plan was
getting enough people to sign up to help cook; most people (like
me) were intimidated at the idea of preparing 30-plus servings.
However one person - Barb - discovered that she loved cooking for
a crowd, and she is still doing it, by herself! Once in a while
when she is out of town there are a couple of other people who
fill in for her. She doesn't use recipes, so it is more of an art
form for her! (She does go online looking for ideas, and then
adapts.) For example, dessert last week was two kinds of homemade
ice cream: peach and lemon lavender (using culinary lavender).

Dinners are $3.50/adult, $1.50 (I think) for children ages 3-12
(I think), and free under age 3 (I think). The prices have been
raised only once (I think) since 2007. Barb says she "shops the
sales," which helps keep prices down. She budgets so that we can
offer free lunches (prepared by Chef Dawn--a real chef) for those
who participate in our monthly spring-to-fall work parties.

Once a month a scheduler (Christine) sends out a schedule of who
is scheduled for after-dinner and next-day cleanup. It is up to
anyone who can't work on their assigned day to send out an email
asking to trade with someone, and this seems to work fine.

Attendance is not mandatory. (Who would want to be required to
eat together? I would think that would breed resentments where
none were intended.) Out of some 50 people, we probably average
about 30/week. Some people have dietary issues (some of whom
bring their own dinner so as to be sociable), some have work
schedule problems, and some just want to stay home for whatever

We tried a signup system, but people kept forgetting to sign up
but showing up anyway, so Barb decided to drop the sign-up
system. (I would find that scary if I were cooking, but there is
almost always enough food.) People are asked to let her know by
Thursday if they will be bringing guests so she can buy enough

We have one person (Nancy) who tracks finances. She puts out a
monthly Excel spreadsheet, and people fill in how many meals they
eat each week. (Barb checks it over each week and adds anyone who
forgets to sign up.) Once a month Nancy emails out a spreadsheet
that shows how much each person owes and how much they have paid,
and people put checks made out to Nancy (no cash) into a small
lock-box bolted to the a kitchen counter.

This system appears to be working seamlessly, but should Barb
drop out, we would need to rethink the cook system based on who
was left and what they were willing to do. (The scheduling and
finance jobs would probably be a bit easier to fill should Nancy
or Christine resign.)


>>>My question is whether other communities have a satisfactory
"voluntary" common meals program. More broadly, I would be very
interested in receiving descriptions or written agreements
regarding other communities' common meals program and
descriptions of how your program is actually working, whether in
accordance with a community agreement or not....

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