One of the biggest social differences between cohousing and traditional neighborhoods is our work program, which involves community dinners about 4-5 times a week (Sundays through Thursdays). These dinners are quite a time saver for most families since we don’t need to plan, shop, cook, or clean up after the meal. We sign up for the meals which we want to eat in advance, and then just show up, eat, and clear our plates. At the end of the month, we get a bill for the share of the meals that we ate, which average between 3-6 dollars per meal. Eating together is where most of the community’s social interaction occurs, and is the crucial glue that binds us together.
Dinner cooks are given 4 hours of work credit per month for planning a menu, shopping, and doing about 2 hours of cooking, although some cooks plan on working for 3.
Photos of example meals
We average about 25 people per meal, at an average price of about $4 per person. About 1/3 of these were for the vegetarian option.
Nearly all of our meals are served with a vegetarian option, although there has been some controversy over this. We’ve ultimately settled on the agreement that you can serve anything you want, as long as your menu clearly describes what it is so that people can have an informed decision when they sign up. Our cooks are very thoughtful when considering food allergies, and often will make simplified versions for kid meals.
Our diners only pay for the meals they sign up for. This provides great freedom for people to choose which meals they want to attend based on merit, schedule, or trips out of town.
Ultimately, it comes back to the social rewards. Common meals are where we get to relax and spend time getting to know our neighbors, share experiences, and get out of the house. They can also be an attractive and easy option for inviting friends over to dinner – even on a weeknight since it means that we’ll be served a home-cooked meal without all the work or the messy clean up. And on warm pleasant evenings we can take a walk around the flower-filled grounds with our guests.