Many of us feel that common meals (even if some people’s schedules permit them to attend only irregularly) are the glue that holds cohousing communities together. A common meal may be the only time in a busy week when we get to have a real conversation with our neighbors. And if we are lucky enough to have a little extra time for some after-dinner coffee or tea and conversation, while the kids romp around in the playroom or outside if the weather is fine, so much the better.
Cohousing communities usually prepare between two and five meals per week in their common house. The meals are prepared by a team of 2-4 persons for however many eaters sign up for the meal in advance. Eating common meals is always voluntary. In a few communities cooking is also voluntary, but in most cases it is not. However, there is a good deal of variation in the way the cooking (and cleanup) responsibilities are structured. Typically, however each adult is involved in meal preparation and/or clean-up once every 4 or 5 weeks. There is also variation in how the common meals are paid for, but one only pays for the meals one eats, Common dinner prices typically range from $2.50 to $3.75.
Many communities encourage their cooks to provide a vegetarian option at most meals, and special food requirements are respected, although not every one of them will necessarily be accommodated at every meal.