RE: meal administration
From: Casey Morrigan (
Date: Sun, 24 Nov 2002 21:52:03 -0700 (MST)
Having visited Rosewind courtesy of Lynn hosting us, I am imagining the flow
of meals, having seen their great looking common house and having
experienced "coho kitchen envy" in viewing their beautifully designed and
equipped kitchen.  When we visited in the summer of 2001 (I think??), the
kitchen had recently been completed and was awaiting inauguration.  Sounds
like you've done well!

Talk about how design makes a difference. I've been following the thread
with interest regarding design and intention in forming community.  I have
something to add.  Kitchen design and equipment helps with cooking common
meals.  I have such a tough time prepping meals in our small and not
well-designed kitchen.  I'd be motivated to cook more "if only" - if the
right equipment were installed, if the prep areas were set up better, if, if
if.    Yet, again, as Rosewind can attest, you don't need a kitchen to share

In our meals system, we have a meal accountant and a "pass-through" account
for dealing with meals (it's on the HOA books as a service to the HOA but
it's not technically HOA income or operating money).   Cooks buy stuff and
get reimbursed by check or credit.  People eat and are charged whatever it
cost to cook that meal.  We hold out a dollar per month per adult for
staples and spices.  Cooks calculate the price per person of a meal using
our handy dandy, all-in-one, meal notification, sign-up and price
calculation sheet, and the meal accountant uses the sheet to know who ate
and how much to deduct from each individual's meal account.  We prepay into
the meal account, and keep it up to date by putting in money from time to
time - the meal accountant posts our balances monthly and will send out a
reminder if households go into the red.

Meals are usually around $3 or $4 per adult, but we have ranged from a low
of $1.50 to the record of $10 for a meat-based gourmet multi-course meal.

Casey Morrigan
Two Acre Wood
Sebastopol, California

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l-admin [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l-admin [at]]On Behalf Of Lynn Nadeau
Sent: Sunday, November 24, 2002 2:04 PM
To: cohousing L
Subject: [C-L]_meal administration

RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend WA
Common meals here usually have about 30 in attendance.
Thursdays are pure potluck. This is also the meal where visitors are most
often invited.
Mondays are cooked by a team (often three, sometimes 1-4) with a simple
sign up sheet on the bulletin board:
Date-Cooks-Menu-Alternatives if any- Sign up by

One handy thing is that we have a preprinted sign up sheet with all the
usual names, plus room for write ins. Circle if you're coming, cross out
if you're not. That way, if a cook wants to, they can ask or phone people
who have indicated neither, often finding that they really would like to
come, but didn't get to the sheet. This cuts down on last minute arrivals
that the cooks haven't prepared for.

Price is $4 per adult/teen, $1 per young child. Fifty cents of that
automatically goes into a kitty for purchase of staples and additions to
kitchen equipment. Cooks are reimbursed in cash or credit for what they
spend, up to the remaining $3.50 per diner. Excess goes into the kitty.
We're getting more supplies these days, as cooks get better about coming
in under budget. We now have flour, organic frozen corn, organic canned
tomatoes, butter, etc. in our pantry for Monday cooks to use. We just
turned on our freezer: I made chili for 35 two weeks ahead, froze and
thawed it for when I "cooked" on a Monday.

Occasionally someone comes to a meal with their own food or snack, for
the social interaction, but with their own special-needs/diet food.

Cooking is not always a social occasion: often parts of the meal are made
separately - whether at home or at the common house the night before,
morning before- such as salads, desserts, breads.

Spices: We are so glad we took a member's advice and got new spices from
Penzey's. (They have a web site.) One whiff of their China Ginger powder
and you'll be ready to ditch any dusty miscellany in your spice drawer
and start fresh. We got ninety dollars worth of spices and they are a joy
and an inspiration.

A kitchen/meal subcommittee looks after the pantry supplies and such.

An allergy and food preference notebook has a survey form each person has
filled out, but more importantly has a summary at the front by
ingredient. Thus, NUTS: Susan allergic to walnuts, George peanuts, Branka
almonds. DAIRY/VEGS/FRUITS/etc. That makes it really easy for a cook who
wants to make nut cookies, for instance, to see that they need to label
them if they contain X, or substitute. We also label things pretty well
even at potlucks (spicy, mild, ingredient lists). Sometimes ingredients
are served separately: a dish of cilantro, bottles of hot sauce, and
such. We encourage every cook to double check the allergy list.

Another member made up a computer form for meal money that keeps a
running total of how much credit each member has. Some pay cash each
time. Most of us put in money ahead or take grocery shopping
reimbursement in credit. Then the record keeper just notes who comes in
at dinner and how many of them there are, and what, if anything, they
paid in that day. After the meal it's apparently no big deal to enter
those numbers on the computer and get an updated sheet showing how much
credit each person then has, if any. When the record keeper can't be at a
meal, he finds a substitute.

A jar in the kitchen is a place for someone to leave a note/receipt that
they bought coffee or such for the common house, and eventually want to
be reimbursed for it.

Third Sundays are breakfast potluck.

Other eat-togethers happen as people decide to do something:
Thanksgiving, salmon, an upcoming Vietnamese "Pho" meal. Via sign up

Clean up is ultimately the responsibility of the cook team - in terms of
a final sweep of the tasks- but almost everyone pitches in on clean up
and it goes quickly. The cooking dishes/pans are usually mostly washed up
before the meal. Someone who finishes supper early may start the
(counter-top) dish washer and run an early tray or two through (just a
couple minutes each) so they can be air drying till the next tray is
ready. I often do that, then go eat my dessert and let others take turns
at filling and emptying dish racks. We have equal or more participation
of men in meal clean up- maybe the big steel dish washer that whooshes
and steams attracts them? I like it too!

We have a small clothes washer and drying rack: towards the end of clean
up, we often run a small load with napkins, dish towels, sponges, etc.
Others take out the compost to the worm bin, wipe counters and tables,
see to leftover distribution, sweep, clean up the beverage-bar area of
coffee makings, cups etc.

A rolling cart holds our Corelle plates (2 stacks), soup bowls (3
stacks), small plates, and small bowls on the top shelf. On the shelf
under that we have three "bread loaf" size plastic tubs, with spoons,
forks, table knives. Stored there. Set on counter at meal time.

A drawer under the serving counter has clean cloth napkins as well as
paper ones. Another drawer has napkin rings (each different) so those who
wish can keep a napkin through several meals.

A large oval crock-pot (slow cooker) has proved handy for serving soups,
especially "seconds" that need to be kept hot without scorching on the
bottom. There is an electric outlet right on the serving counter.

Mary Kraus's advice on having a Clean Side/ Dirty Dish Side to our
kitchen and serving area has worked really well. Actually, we usually set
desserts on the (later-to-be) "dirty" side at the outset of the meal,
then once main dishes have been emptied or consolidated, we move the
desserts to center stage, and start collecting used dishes in that area
near the dishwasher. Our convection oven is right next to the tiled
serving counter, so hot baked things can go right out.

We have a drawer in the dining room, under the serving counter, with
take-home containers (plastic yogurt tubs, etc) for leftovers.

Sounds complicated, but it works pretty smoothly, and keeps evolving.

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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  • meal administration Lynn Nadeau, November 24 2002
    • RE: meal administration Casey Morrigan, November 24 2002

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