“The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home” says the tile, the dish towel, the refrigerator magnet. The kitchen is where people congregate. It’s where food is stored, prepared, cooked, and sometimes eaten. In shared housing it’s even more apparent that the kitchen is the center of the home. Everyone has to eat, and so those who live in the house will use the kitchen even if they don’t use other common rooms. With housemates coming in and out, how do you a share a kitchen?
Sharing a Kitchen
Independent adults who share a roof have a wide range of options on how they will share a kitchen. The range is from completely independent to completely communal. In this article we’ll look at these options, the upsides and the downsides.
Keeping food independent is the easiest. Each person does their own shopping, food prep, and clean-up. Each person eats when she wants to eat, eats what she has purchased, cooks to her own preferences. It does mean that each housemate has to have room to store their food. Commonly the refrigerator is divided so that everyone has their own section of the fridge. Likewise, shelves and cabinet space can be assigned to different people. Homes with more than three people often find that having a second fridge relieves space issues as this group house does it. This is the option that requires the least amount of communication and cooperation, though it does require scheduling so that everyone isn’t on top of each other.
You still need cooperation about cleaning out the refrigerator. The best system I’ve heard of I encountered in an office. One person on Friday afternoon would remove all fridge contents and put them on the counter. She would then announce it and if you had something you wanted to keep you could put it back in. Anything left on the counter by the end of the day got pitched.
Sharing food and meals can be one of the advantages and pleasures of living in shared housing. One answer to how to share a kitchen is to share everything! The work of shopping, prepping food and cleaning up are also shared. How this is done completely depends on the situation and the people in the home. So many variations possible! We knew of cooperative farm that had five adults. From Sunday to Thursday dinners were made by one of the adults who took responsibility for menu planning, preparation and clean up. Friday and Saturday everyone was on their own. So each adult had one night of cooking and four nights of simply showing up for dinner. Everyone did their own breakfast and lunch. People shopped for food and kept receipts and it was all squared up at the end of the month. We like the simplicity of this system and the fact that the cook is cleaning up after himself/herself and so deals with their own mess. Obviously, there are plenty of other ways to manage communal meals.
Something In Between
Meals shared are communal and relationship building. There’s something about eating together. Every society has its gatherings around food. We spend time with others for dinner, for lunch, for brunch. It brings people together. Some shared housing arrangements choose to have some regular meals together but not all of them. They might choose to eat together once a week, once a month. Or maybe more often. Some housemates fall into a spontaneous sharing of food like the housemate who announced she had a steak, and she wanted her housemate to eat some. The housemate opened a bottle of wine for them to share. Other households have members who like to cook while others are content to do the eating and cleaning up. In some households, the householder has specifically asked for a home seeker who will help with meals. It all depends.
Sharing meals requires coordination and cooperation. Who decides what to cook? How is the food paid for? Are there compatible tastes and diets? When is the meal? Who cleans up after the meal? Once you have a system that is agreed to by all housemates, it can be easy and fun.
Learning How to Share A Kitchen
When you interview potential housemates you should know what your desires are for sharing the kitchen, whether independent, communal or something in between. And you should know how important this is for you. Being clear on this aspect will help you make a good decision about your housemate. That said, as housemates get to know each other you may discover that your original desires change.
What good sharing kitchen arrangements do you know? Put them in the comments so other can learn.