The Etiquette of a Shared Kitchen
Moving into a shared house is a great experience for many reasons: it's a good way to make friends, there's always someone to sit and watch daytime telly with and it's a very sociable experience, as you work together to run a house.
However, it's not always smooth sailing. All families have particular ways of doing things and essentially you're creating a kind of family setup but with people who are all used to living very differently from each other. Tensions can run high and it's often the kitchen that causes problems.
What's Mine is MineIf you come from a large family you might well be used to fending for yourself and won't be surprised if that nice piece of cheese that you bought yesterday is no longer there when you go to make a sandwich. Someone else might be extremely offended and upset that their food has disappeared.
With this in mind, it's best to set some ground rules when you first move in. If your food is communal (see section below) then you need to agree that everything is up for grabs. However, if you shop individually and each have a shelf in the fridge, then it's only polite to ask before you help yourself to someone else's food. Something this simple can divide a household and lead to petty arguments and bitching about each other. It's just not worth it. If you really are desperate and have genuinely forgotten to buy yourself some bread, then leave a note or tell the person and replace what you've eaten.
Food KittyMany student households have a kitty system for buying food, as it's an easy way of shopping. You all contribute a set amount of money per week or month, food is bought for the household and then everyone helps themselves. It saves the arguments, it means you can budget more easily and then you can take it in turns to do the shopping, as well. It's not completely straightforward though and it's worth bearing the following points in mind before you set up a house food kitty:
- Does everyone eat the same things? It's not really fair to expect vegetarians to pay for sirloin steaks for the rest of the household.
- Will it include luxury items? Maybe someone likes a particular ice cream or expensive alcohol - decide now if these will be included or bought separately.
- See if someone will take responsibility for buying top-up goods between big shops, such as milk, bread and toilet rolls.
- If someone is going to be away, should they still pay for a full month's food or just a proportion?
Clean-up OperationIf you have a food kitty, chances are you all get on fairly well and spend some time together. If this is the case then try and instigate a cleaning rota for the kitchen as well. If four people live in the house then maybe two could do the shopping whilst the other two are on cleaning duty for a fortnightly clear out. Then you swap over next time. The rest of the time it could be agreed that if you cook, you leave the kitchen clean and tidy afterwards.
Living together demands a certain level of respect and also trust. Everyone has to be responsible and shopping and cleaning shouldn't be left to one or two people. If you shop together you can all sit down beforehand and write a list and maybe even plan some specific meals. Or, how about designating one night a week for a house meal, taking it in turns to cook?