Re: Common House Meal Prices
From: Douglas G Larson (
Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2018 15:00:40 -0700 (PDT)
Common House Meal Prices 

Our food program, in its current form has been with us for 17 years. 

Here is how it works - 

We currently have 42 full-time members in our food program.  

We serve 5 meals per week. Dinner on Monday through Thursday and Breakfast
on Saturday. We have an occasional extra meal, e.g. lunch on some Saturday's
when we have community-wide work parties but this only happens once every
few months. 

We do not charge members per meal. Instead we charge per person per month
and always have. The current rate is $148 per person per month.  With 20
meals per month, that equates to $7.40 per meal. Annualized the price is
actually $6.83 per meal (i.e. 5 meals per week, 52 weeks). We have a lower
monthly price for kids but I don't recall what it is (We have only 2 or 3
kids left in the community). We used to charge $5 per child per year of age
per month for kids. So a 4-year-old would pay $20 per month. A 11-year old
would pay $55 per month. Age 16 and older pay the adult price. 

A member's $148 monthly fee covers not only the month's 20 meals, but also
gives the member access to any food in our community pantry. This pantry is
not a complete grocery store but contains staples and essentials. For
example - 
-- Cereals, 
-- Canned beans (Garbanzo, Red Kidney, White), 
-- Alternative milks (Soy, Rice, Hemp, Almond), 
-- Canned sandwich meats (Chicken, Tuna), 
-- Canned tomatoes (Sauce, diced, crushed, paste), 
-- Flours (Wheat, rice, tapioca, polenta), 
-- Grains (Rice, Dried pastas), 
-- Teas (About 10 to 12 different flavors from several brands), 
-- Canned fruits (Pineapple, Mandarin Oranges), 
-- Cheese (just cheddar), 
-- Breads (Wheat, Gluten-Free), 
-- Butter and Margarines (Earth-Balance with soy and soy-free versions), 
-- Eggs, 
-- Sugar (white and Brown), 
-- Dried Beans (Navy, Pinto, Garbanzo, Lentils ), 
-- Dried Herbs and Spices (A wide variety of these. We buy in bulk), 
-- Crackers, 
-- Canned Coconut Milk, 
-- Fresh Bananas

This is not an exhaustive list but it is most of it. 

We don't give refunds for missed meals, but any member can request a saved
plate (specifying restrictions as needed) for any community meal of the
week. The member can then retrieve the saved plate when they get home. We
have a sign-up sheet each week in the common house kitchen where the member
requests a saved plate. Members can also call in during meal prep and
request a saved plate. 

Meals Work
Members sign up for meal prep, cleanup or shopping. Lead chef for each meal
plans that meal and submits an ingredient list to our Inventory person by
Wednesday of the prior week. We keep a spreadsheet on Google Drive for this
input and everyone involved has access to it. 
He Inventory person takes the weekly request spreadsheet and checks
inventory, creating a weekly shopping list for the shoppers. 
Shoppers shop on Fridays but sometimes also on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

We purchase bulk items wholesale from United Foods and have it delivered
once per month. Individuals can order personal items (anything in their
catalog) from the United Foods warehouse once per month. The cost of
personal items is added to the person's monthly bill. 

Governance and Food Cost Data
We created a Non-profit (501c7) for our food program and have officers who
manage it. Every year the officers review the price we are charging. We use
the USDA Food Plans cost that is published regularly (I believe the USDA
publishes it quarterly but I am not sure). 
This USDA Food plan shows weekly and monthly food costs in four expenditure
levels (Thrifty Plan, Low-Cost Plan, Moderate Plan and Liberal Plan). We
take the Low-Cost Plan figures for two people and take 60% of that as our
starting point for what we charge. 

Douglas G Larson, 
Songaia Cohousing, Bothell, Washington


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