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You and your roommate might not have much in common, but you both need to eat. And unless you work radically different schedules, you’re probably eating at about the same times. So if you happen to be hungry in the same place at the same time, why not coordinate and plan meals together?

Here are some tips to make meal planning with your roommate a success.

Start small. Meal planning is a change. You don’t have to commit to a weekly meal plan right away. Try coordinating dinner together once or twice, and see how it works out.

Start simple. If you’ve never cooked for your roommate before, now is not the time to try that twenty-step recipe from Gourmet requiring cheesecloth and seared tuna. Also, it’s a good idea to discuss in advance any food preferences or allergies, and to try something relatively simple and healthy. (Include a salad: each of you can customize it with dressings!)

Divide up the tasks.  Any meal requires three tasks, besides the eating:

  • Getting the required ingredients and cooking utensils together
  • Preparing the food
  • Cleaning up afterward

You and your roommate will have to figure out who takes on which of the tasks and how to coordinate them. You might shop separately, each taking half of an agreed list of ingredients. One of you might do the cooking, with the other clearing the table and washing dishes, for instance.

Stay within budgets.  What you spend on any given meal will vary, and it can be hard to figure out who paid a fair share for Tuesday’s omelets and Thursday’s chili. One strategy is to alternate paying for groceries from week to week, and let the person who’s buying set the meal plan. That way you’re not stuck with the bill when your roommate has an idea for a side of porcini mushrooms and delicately-aged cheese.

Related: How to Grocery Shop on a Budget
Save Time and Money by Preparing Meals at Home

Don’t feel the need to plan every meal, every time. If your initial forays into planning a meal together work for the both of you, you might be tempted to conclude that every meal should work this way. But since you and your roommate likely have different tastes, it will probably work better to just share one or two meals a week at first. That way, if you’re a vegetarian, your roommate has some time to make meatloaf with abandon and you have time to experiment with tempeh.

Remember that cooking together doesn’t require you to eat together.  Planning a meal in advance can mean that one roommate sets up the crockpot at 2 pm and the other does the dishes at 10 pm. It can even mean that the preparing, shopping, and cooking gets done on a Sunday, with the resulting meals going into the freezer to be defrosted whenever they are needed during the week.

Let your roommate know if you’re not happy.  As with any roommate agreement, if you don’t like the way things are going, it’s better to speak up quickly and take steps to make changes sooner rather than later, before your discontent starts curdling into resentment. But…

Be diplomatic. Food can be very personal. Your roommate might feel much worse hearing “I don’t like your cooking” than “I don’t like your music.” Sometimes you may just want to smile and eat the casserole. If things really aren’t working, it may make more sense to end the meal planning than to get into a rigid stance and risk really hurting your roommate relationship.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

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