Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Food Dilemma

"What are you guys doing for dinner?"

It's a simple question -- one that deserves a simple, unemotional answer. I'm used to it now, but when I first moved in, the question caught me off guard. "I don't know," I would think. "Why does it matter? Shouldn't you be worrying about your own dinner?"

"Why don't we do dinner together?"

"I don't know," my insides brewed. "Maybe because we budget our food and food money very carefully and if I start cooking for four people, it will ruin the well-oiled machine I've had going for the last two years."

That's what I thought. What I said was,


But it wasn't without some cranky, unloving (and not to mention ungodly) thoughts running through my head. They sounded something like this:

"...all the believers were together and had everything in common..."
Acts 2:44

I don't know why, but somewhere along the line, I think I became greedy. Or selfish.
...or both?
...or maybe I dieted too many times that my body is in constant survival-mode, and if there is food around, my body wants to pounce and hoard?
...or maybe it's because early on in my twenties I had too many close-calls with almost-bounced checks, and I take budgeting very seriously?

Food and budgets. These seem like private things, except when it comes to living in intentional community.

When we lived in un-intentional community, our food budget wasn't an issue. It was made fairly clear: each family in the house had their own shelves in the cupboard and the fridge. You just ate your own food. Sometimes, we would eat together, but we always made separate meals. My sister-in-law and I became very adept at what I like to call the "dinner-making dance." We just had some sort of unspoken rhythm when it came to what burners and pots were being used when and how.

When we moved in to our new home, I guess the creature-of-habit inside me thought we'd stick to the same model. I live and breathe by the motto, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

That motto might work well if we had never moved. But we did, and we are in a new situation -- new home, new housemates. These are completely different people with different personalities from our old housemates. Plus, our dynamics in the house are different -- not only because of our increased shared space, but also because of our unique personalities.

Our new housemates have always been entirely generous and hospitable. (Honestly, they have taught me a lot about hospitality and sharing but perhaps that's subject matter for another post.) They share their food (and everything they have) without a second thought. I found it hard to match their generosity and I didn't know why. "God," I prayed, "please change my heart, and help us find a way..."

When you live so closely with others, things like food become an issue that needs discussion. What is normally a private matter becomes public, because there is only one kitchen. And since those of us in this particular community are generally home at the same time for meals, it only makes sense for us to cook one meal for everyone.

making lunch, pre-Gwenny-era (but not by much!)

Some food-related questions you need to ask when living in community:
  • Will we share food? What type of food will we share? (In our other community, condiments and spices were shared; in our new community, we've decided everything is fair game.)
  • If we are sharing food, who will do the shopping? How often should we shop? (Elliott and I used to buy food every two weeks and just stock up. Now we buy every week.)
  • How will we budget for food? How much can each person spend?
  • What about special diets? Should we all adhere to dietary needs or should the one person be responsible for their needs? (See a previous post for a tip on how to spend less and still be gluten-free.)
  • How should we meal plan? When will we plan and who will do the cooking?
  • Should we buy a hamburger cake? (Sorry, it's an inside joke, but I couldn't resist.)
We've answered most of these questions and have found it makes the most sense for us to buy food together, as well as eat together as often as we can. And it's been an awesome, freeing experience. I know other communities have done things different ways. If you're in community, please let me know what you've been doing, and how you've addressed these questions.


  1. definitely yes to the last question. :P

  2. never heard of a hamburger cake, but I guess that is why it's an inside joke.

    We buy once a week for food, but I've been over that.

    I try to have people over here for meals every so often (some who are non-Christians whom we aren't really close to even). Goodness it is hard work to figure out how to please others when you don't really KNOW if something will make them get set-off or that their taste buds might question something, let alone that some people get used to a certain way things are made. We had one of Rob's friends from high school over a couple weeks ago and he said my food was restaurant style, so that was really nice.

    beautiful header photo, by the way. hehehehehe.

  3. yes, isn't it? It links back to you! :)

  4. Rachel, this is a hard one. I know God is going to grow and stretch you by putting you in this position. I can very much relate to your struggles. I have a "keeping track" mentality when it comes to food, probably started b/c I'm responsible for knowing what we have and what we need so I have a mental inventory. However, it can so easily become sinful if I use it the wrong way. Saying a prayer for you now as you wrestle with these things.