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Pre-cooked meal services

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Can anyone recommend a meal service that just sends pre-cooked meals that you just warm and eat? We're thinking about our dd at college who lives off campus.

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You can often find local ones. We have one in our smallish City, they don’t deliver, you just pick up your order on site in the afternoons. If you’re in a city with several of these services, in sure you could find one that delivers. 

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The problem with delivery is someone has to be home to receive, which is difficult for students. I've looked in to it with a senior, and the only thing available here is frozen, and that doesn't always meet the nutritional needs. You really have to look locally to see what is available. 

 What students do in son's college town is pickup, or go over to a friend's apt complex when a food truck is there.  Pickup is often a verbal contract with a small restaurant owner...they pay a certain amount per week and in return have x number of meals they pick up at a certain time, so a discount from the menu price.  Some will contract for off menu meals also.

Another possibility is grocery store.  Some of the stores have ready to eat meals that are a good price. 

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We have several local mom-and-pop restaurants that have coolers with pre-made but not cooked meals in them (usually casseroles or such like - chicken pot pie, shepherd pie, chicken ala king, quiches (although those are cooked!), lasagna, spaghetti - or cold salads - chicken, tuna, egg - or salads - club, greek, etc), but you have to stop in and pick them up. I've noticed a few grocery stores doing this too. 

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If you want to send occasional meals, doordash, Uber eats, amazon restaurants are all good services that you can use to have food ordered and delivered to her. Locally, many families with young kids use them to get food frequently.

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Our daughter had a credit card with her name on it, but bill paid by us. If I knew she was having a stressful week or a bad day, I gave her permission to use it to get takeout. She never abused it because she knew if any unauthorized charges were on it, it would be shut down. 

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There are a bunch of new ones, copying the Blue Apron/Hello Fresh style but food that's already prepped and you just warm it up. But I don't have experience with them.

I'm thinking that Uber Eats and other such services are actually going to be a better deal though.

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There are a few that don’t require you to be there when they drop it off.  My subscription addiction website does reviews on quite a few.  Some have complete meals you just microwave.  Check out over there to see reviews on each one.

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Many grocery stores (like Publix) sell ready to heat meals in their deli area- single servings and quite good.  My dad and father in law have really enjoyed these options since they lost their wives.  It’s way more affordable than having meals delivered and many can be frozen for later reheating if they won’t be eaten in a couple of days. 

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In my area ready-made meal businesses are all over the place and they do deliver. I've seen cardboard boxes of ready-made meals in apartment and condo buildings that I've been in. Some of them are made by chefs at hotels and restaurants who are running side businesses. Those meals look very good. I think it's just a matter of what the particular area offers.

Around here, Uber Eats and similar delivery services are also very popular. I've even seen Uber delivering bags of McDonald's food!

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Most are by city.  I got a service for my daughter and her husband last year for Christmas when she was pregnant with #3.  They picked out the meal and had to go pick it up.  The particular service had several pick up sites around the area they could choose from.  They didn't rave about it, so I think it was just okay.  

I think if I had to do it over again, I might get them a large gift card to a local restaurant with a grub-hub or similar service attached.   

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If she has a car, I think it would be easier for her to stop in at a local store and pick up enough ready-made meals for the week, if that is how she is wanting to eat.  She will probably want to stop in and get milk, fresh fruit and other perishables anyway.  The grocery stores where I am have a range of premade dinners.  Some are bagged together as a "meal for two" which would provide a couple of meals for a single person in a week.  There are also some that are more like a TV dinner containing something like a piece of salmon, asparagus, and potatoes, that you simply heat in the tray in your oven.  There are also all types of to-go items in the deli section.  You can also get some decent frozen dinner selections to keep in the freezer for those hectic college days where you just need something without any hassle or a late night meal because you are up late studying.

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3 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

isn't that called a restaurant? Not being snarky, I'm confused, lol. 

These are places that prepare boxed meals and don’t serve on premises, it’s just pick up or delivery. It’s basically just a kitchen with a checkout counter and a deli case. Often five or six meal options so you can pick up a week’s worth at a time. Here’s the current selection posted on the FB page of a local one: 

“Here is the menu! We hope to see you all soon!

-Myles' meatloaf with Yukon & rutabaga mash & Turkish green beans $10.50 
-Monetary jack chicken enchiladas with chili verde salsa and Spanish rice (GF) $9.75 
-Sweet potato & black bean enchiladas with traditional red sauce and Spanish rice (GF, V) $9.25 
-Classic Carbonara over fettuccine $9.25 
-Dill pickle juice brined pork loin with broccoli & skillet Yukon potatoes (GF, DF) $9.50 
-Lemon chicken with fresh mozzarella & tomato over parsley quinoa (GF) $9.50 
-Spicy shrimp over riced cauliflower & garlicky kale (GF, DF, K, W30/P) $9.50” 

There are also some a la cartel deli type items and desserts listed. 

Edited by SamanthaCarter

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Dd doesn't drive so uses either Lyft or Uber everywhere. It's costing us a small fortune as she lives off campus and cannot always use the city bus which is free for students. Some of her roommates drive and she rides along with them when they make a grocery run.

She is in her Junior year. We pay for all of her food, commuter meal plan that gives her 80 meals on campus a semester, all groceries, and all restaurant, whether take-out or eat-in. She goes grocery shopping a couple of times a week but says she can't carry much. I've given her 3 reusable bags and told her to buy more at the grocery store but she says it's too bulky to get into someone's Uber or Lyft. She doesn't like getting on the bus with grocery bags. She wants to cook more but she's starting to get tired of the few things she knows how to cook. She also doesn't like having too many leftovers because she gets tired of eating the same thing night after night. I told her to freeze some of the portions but she's living with 4 other girls and they all share 1 refrigerator/freezer. 

I just thought it would be nice for her to receive 2-3 pre-cooked meals that she could just microwave and eat. I tried finding something locally and in looking at their menu, I can tell she won't like many of the dishes. They offer breakfast, lunch, or dinner though. 

She already uses delivery services like Uber Eats but she doesn't like many of the places that she has access to in her location. I don't know why, but Uber Eats only goes around where you live I think. When she moved she lost half of her favorite restaurants. 

I'll ask her to look around her grocery store to see if they have some ready made meals. I know Publix does but she doesn't go there because it's farther. She shops at Kroger and Walmart.

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We have had a bunch of door dash meals sent to us while I’m immobile but honestly it has ups and downs.  Having to be home in a 30 minute window around delivery time can be tricky, and the food is expensive compared to what I’d cook for the family, and sometimes lukewarm by the time it gets to me.  Delivery can be that way. The nutrition is also sub par, but a student probably doesn’t care about that 😉

 

I wouldn’t recommend it more than two or three times a week, but it could be a nice break for her too.  I’d rather go out to a restaurant with gift cards though, than have it door dashed.  I just can’t right now.  I see that isn’t an option for her with the weird driving setup but maybe more deli items from Kroger are?  

Edited by Arctic Mama

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A lady at our church does that. She delivers meals on Mondays that needed to be heated up. You can leave a cooler on your steps and take your chances if you are not home. 

I prepped a bunch of single serve meals for my son and put them in freezer bags. He just needs to take one out, put it in the fridge, and then heat it up after class. It took very little time for me to do this, and it would take less time if I did it with our leftovers more often. It takes up very little space in his freezer so that is not an issue. 

Doesn't your dd live close enough that she can come home for a weekend. Maybe you could do a cooking session with her?

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What about a grocery delivery service instead? Shipt is the one I use, but instacart is another. She could buy plenty of frozen dinners, plus sandwich makings, frozen pizzas, even some of the items from the deli area of the grocery store, and have it all delivered rather than dealing with Uber/Lyft. 

Edited by Ktgrok
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I use the delivery service through Instacart.  There is a Publix nearby, but my son doesn't drive.  He lives in an apartment on campus. They won't deliver to his actual room/apartment, but they will deliver to the office, so he does have to go over there and pick it up, but I bought him an old lady grocery cart so it isn't so difficult.  Publix has a lot of ready made foods too.   A cart might be helpful if she has to go far with a lot of bags.

Or, try something like Blu-Apron or any of the food delivery services where you just put it together yourself.

My son isn't a big eater (I know that might be weird for some of you), so he sometimes will go to get a meal at a restaurant or on-campus dining and make it last 2 meals.  Or, he will get an entree, take it back to the apartment, and supplement with some sides he can easily make, and make it last a couple of meals.

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Grocery delivery along with some cooking lessons seem to be the best bet. Along with maybe a stash of moms meals cooked and frozen to pick up when she visits home. Her eating habits must be ruining your budget!!

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When I was in college my mother gave me a book called something like, "Where is Mom Now That I Need Her?" or something like that.  It was a cookbook plus.   It was mostly a cookbook designed for kids in your daughter's situation, and mine at the time.   So, it also had laundry hints and other stuff.   It also had some blank pages to hand-write in the essential family recipes.   The recipes were of the easy type with few ingredients.   I really used that cookbook.   There wasn't anything I still cook, (I don't think)   But, it had basic functional recipes.  Things college students and not moms cook.   

Also, since transportation is a problem maybe see if you could Amazon to her some non-refrigerated ingredients for her to keep in her bedroom.  

I also knew people that kept a rice cooker going all the time.  I wouldn't recommend eating that many empty carbs all the time.  

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It sounds as if she is getting one meal a day at school (at least on week days).  I would encourage her to make that a big, healthy meal.  I would brainstorm things that she can get at the grocery store that are not too heavy or bulky to carry when she does go to the store.  She could take a backpack along with her and place heavier items in it to carry in addition to using shopping bags.  

What types of things does she like to eat?  Is there a chance she could team up with her roomates on some meals?

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1 hour ago, Bootsie said:

It sounds as if she is getting one meal a day at school (at least on week days).  I would encourage her to make that a big, healthy meal.  I would brainstorm things that she can get at the grocery store that are not too heavy or bulky to carry when she does go to the store.  She could take a backpack along with her and place heavier items in it to carry in addition to using shopping bags.  

What types of things does she like to eat?  Is there a chance she could team up with her roomates on some meals?

 

True.  And my son only wants/needs one actual cooked meal per day.  He normally has cereal, a granola bar, or a piece of fruit in the morning.  Then he will have a sandwich with fruit/veggies/side for lunch and then the only actual cooked meal he has is in the evenings.  He also has snacks between meals.....not always the healthiest so I won't post! 😂

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There are many new services that do this.  "Freshly" is one of them:

https://www.freshly.com/plans

Generally they don't even require you to be home, as long as you have a safe place or hall to leave the box, just like you would any package that you get in the mail.

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4 hours ago, HeighHo said:

She could also get take out on campus, bring it home and have it for later.

No food or drink is allowed outside the dining halls. Students resort to bringing in empty containers in their backpacks and filing them with food but dd feels weird doing that.

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2 hours ago, Bootsie said:

It sounds as if she is getting one meal a day at school (at least on week days).  I would encourage her to make that a big, healthy meal.  I would brainstorm things that she can get at the grocery store that are not too heavy or bulky to carry when she does go to the store.  She could take a backpack along with her and place heavier items in it to carry in addition to using shopping bags.  

What types of things does she like to eat?  Is there a chance she could team up with her roomates on some meals?

She doesn't even always go to the dining halls on weekdays. She had something like 20 meals left in her account at the end of last semester and those don't roll over. Ugh!

She cooks lots of chicken. She usually makes breaded tenders but she'll also cook it with seasonings on the stove top and add it to roasted veggies. She likes yellow squash, zucchini and broccoli. She took my chicken cheddar fajita recipe and makes that every other week. She also started making burgers using the pre-formed patties you can get in the meat department of a grocery store. She eats it with frozen french fries. When she was home for Christmas, she looked through my recipe book and picked out 5 new recipes to try. The problem is getting the groceries back to her house. 

Very rarely do the roommates share meals. They'll share food if someone is short on something. They're all nice and supportive but I think they all eat at different times. 

I wish she'd learn to drive. She could do it over a summer if she would just come home but she doesn't consider this her home anymore and doesn't like to visit often. Plus she has a job working sports events on campus so she's usually busy on the weekend. Her semester is going to be super busy this time. She's got 5 classes, one is a level 7000 graduate research class. She was also chosen with a graduate student to work on a project for a specific department that has nothing to do with her classes. I probably won't see her until the end of the semester.

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4 hours ago, SamanthaCarter said:

Grocery delivery along with some cooking lessons seem to be the best bet. Along with maybe a stash of moms meals cooked and frozen to pick up when she visits home. Her eating habits must be ruining your budget!!

Between food and transportation, we're spending hundreds a month. It's crazy! She's doing better this year though. She's more confident with the city busy which is free to students. She tries to limit her Lyft rides. She's also trying to not eat out as much or have food delivered in because it's so expensive. I'm just trying to help her eat healthy. She's finally getting tired of pizza and greasy foods.

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You know what,Elf,  I encourage you to let her solve this problem on her own. If she feels the need to drive, she will. It sounds like she is doing fine with ideas for what to cook.She has transportation and delivery options. She can use her on campus meals.  Give her a budget and let her figure it out. It's important to learn to balance physical needs with busy times of life. This seems like an easy way to let her have autonomy.

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1 hour ago, Night Elf said:

No food or drink is allowed outside the dining halls. Students resort to bringing in empty containers in their backpacks and filing them with food but dd feels weird doing that.

 

The dining halls at both my sons' colleges have take out.  At one college one uses the approved container, pays and leaves. At the other, the employee packs the container and one asks for it, pays and leaves.   Its an option that is available for those whose class and/or work schedule prevents them from getting to the hall for the meal. Your student should talk to the food service manager if she wants to buy a take out meal from them; with her schedule that will be easier than taking the bus to the grocery store.  Food service may even have the info on their web site.  The economical option may even be for her to have lunch and dinner meals from dining hall during the week when the transportation is figured in to the comparison, leaving weekday breakfast and weekend everything at home.  

I am sure she will figure it out.  My two found it easier to plan their meals ahead than wing it.  Add in a water bottle and a thermos, and they were good. 

 

 

Edited by HeighHo
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2 hours ago, Night Elf said:

No food or drink is allowed outside the dining halls. Students resort to bringing in empty containers in their backpacks and filing them with food but dd feels weird doing that.

 

Do they have other places they can use their card?  One son has 13 options, the all you can eat cafeterias are "dining halls" but the others are a-la-cart and you can get a to-go container.

Other son at college has even more options.  Two cafeterias and 15 other locations, including a Starbucks.

Edited by DawnM
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8 hours ago, Night Elf said:

Dd doesn't drive so uses either Lyft or Uber everywhere. It's costing us a small fortune as she lives off campus and cannot always use the city bus which is free for students. Some of her roommates drive and she rides along with them when they make a grocery run.

She is in her Junior year. We pay for all of her food, commuter meal plan that gives her 80 meals on campus a semester, all groceries, and all restaurant, whether take-out or eat-in. She goes grocery shopping a couple of times a week but says she can't carry much. I've given her 3 reusable bags and told her to buy more at the grocery store but she says it's too bulky to get into someone's Uber or Lyft. She doesn't like getting on the bus with grocery bags. She wants to cook more but she's starting to get tired of the few things she knows how to cook. She also doesn't like having too many leftovers because she gets tired of eating the same thing night after night. I told her to freeze some of the portions but she's living with 4 other girls and they all share 1 refrigerator/freezer. 

I just thought it would be nice for her to receive 2-3 pre-cooked meals that she could just microwave and eat. I tried finding something locally and in looking at their menu, I can tell she won't like many of the dishes. They offer breakfast, lunch, or dinner though. 

She already uses delivery services like Uber Eats but she doesn't like many of the places that she has access to in her location. I don't know why, but Uber Eats only goes around where you live I think. When she moved she lost half of her favorite restaurants. 

I'll ask her to look around her grocery store to see if they have some ready made meals. I know Publix does but she doesn't go there because it's farther. She shops at Kroger and Walmart.

To be honest, this reads kind of like she has a problem (maybe) but is limiting herself on ways to solve it. I agree with the PP who said to give her a budget and let her work it out. Let her feed herself and do her own food with the money and meal plan you give her. She may have to do some things she doesn't like (have bulky bags on the bus or eat leftovers more than once, for example). Can she get a little roll-behind cart to get things home from the grocery store? I'm not saying she has to eat what she hates, but if she doesn't like so many things that are available, yet doesn't want to eat the same thing every night, and doesn't want to try to learn to cook new stuff...then it looks like spending a fortune for what she does like may be the only option if that's what you're willing to accommodate. Most pre-cooked meal services I know of are pretty expensive anyway, right?

Edited by EmseB
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Given what you are describing it seems grocery delivery would meet her needs better than anything. And is pretty common in most places. 

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9 hours ago, Night Elf said:

She doesn't even always go to the dining halls on weekdays. She had something like 20 meals left in her account at the end of last semester and those don't roll over. Ugh!

 

Since she does not live on campus, does she have to have a meal plan?  Or is there a smaller plan that she can get?  If she has meals left on her account at the end of the semester, maybe this isn't the best choice for her.  

I would determine what was a reasonable budget for food and transportation and then let her decide how she will manage that.  When I had a college student who did not drive, it would seem expensive to see Uber bills, but when I calculated how much it would cost in automobile expenses, by the time we calculated the cost of the car, gasoline, maintenance, parking, and insurance--it was much cheaper to not have her driving.  

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It's not that I"m trying to solve her problems. I wanted to surprise her with a delivery service as a gift. She works so hard in school and in her job and now she's going to be involved in a project that has nothing to do with classes. I'm worried she won't have time to cook and she'll revert back to fast food. We got her a commuter meal plan that has 80 meals in dining halls. It's all you can eat when you go in, you just can't carry anything out. Not even drinks. There are other places on campus that use what's called bulldog bucks and I keep that account funded, but it's separate from her dining hall account. She also has paw points this year which is an extension of her dining hall account but it's not much. She got them as part of her meal plan. Not all places on campus take them though. I bought the meal plan because I figured she'd have one good meal a day but some days she  doesn't want to stay on campus long enough to eat. She just goes to class and wants to get back home. I don't know what her schedule is like this semester. Hopefully she has some time between classes that will allow her to go eat something, even if it's a small meal.

I didn't think of grocery delivery. I'll have her look into that.

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Do her roommates have cars? Can they plan a trip to the store? 

Postmates is at that school; my dd delivers from them, and she goes to the grocery for people. All your dd would need to do is order it online for a pickup and then get Postmates to bring it to her. Of course Publix or Kroger might deliver. I saw that the Aldi near me delivers. 

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I'd not suprise, she may be doing a healthy eating plan and not appreciate what is delivered or not be able to use the perishables quickly.  Perhaps it would work better as far as kindness to bring her some freezer meals when you next visit..then when she is tight on time she has something.  My college student currently always has a stuffed fridge but empty freezer, so when I visit I bring a few homemade things to put in the freezer for test and finals weeks, as well as making a few things like breakfast egg cups and bran muffins the night before departure (half for me, half for him).  When carless, we loaded him up on nonperishables at beginning of semester, so all he had to do was walk over to the grocery weekly and get fresh meat and produce, which fit in his backpack. Hauling milk back was the most inconvenient part as it req'd a separate trip.  Of course, as soon as he acquired a car, the grocery store started offering order online and deliver.    Good communication here is important....maybe ask her what she would appreciate. Sometimes students just miss homecooked food and grouse a bit as they learn.  My son's dorm friends heard him and started Saturday night dinner parties...the kid with the car would take them shopping, the host would provide the oven/cooking stuff, and the dormies would cook the comfort food they couldn't get anywhere else.  They all came away with some new recipes. You really should not be stepping in here with solutions, expect that if the student is grousing, they just got it out of their system and they've moved on to something else.  You must let go, confident that she has the skills to handle it.  If she didn't, you would not have sent her away to school, right?

Edited by HeighHo
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21 hours ago, freesia said:

You know what,Elf,  I encourage you to let her solve this problem on her own. If she feels the need to drive, she will. It sounds like she is doing fine with ideas for what to cook.She has transportation and delivery options. She can use her on campus meals.  Give her a budget and let her figure it out. It's important to learn to balance physical needs with busy times of life. This seems like an easy way to let her have autonomy.

Agree.  Unless there are major cognitive or psychological issues at play she is an adult and, quite frankly, that little birdy needs to start figuring out how to fly.  This is costing you an arm and a leg and if you’re swooping in to help she doesn’t have to come up with a solution on her own.  There is a time for help and a time for sitting back a bit, I’d say you’ve entered the latter.  

 

Give her a dollar amount budget and let her figure out the rest if you insist on gifting her with something.  Then she has flexibility and agency,  both.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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By the way, my dc found about $80 a week was good for meals if they didn't buy costly beverages and instead used their water bottles as well as ate whole foods rather than bought very processed foods.  Of course the $10 buffet sometimes was cost effective, especially if they had to work and were packing a sandwich for the evening shift. Preplanning, which one needs to do if using delivery, is very helpful.

https://www.thecoachkshow.com/college-students-spend-on-food/  I don't agree with his advice on egg quantity, but boiled eggs are a good snack.

Edited by HeighHo

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She has a dining plan, bulldog bucks, paw points, and grocery store and fast food expenses- that’s a LOT of options and maybe fewer would actually be easier.  Seems easier to give her a set amount to spend a month on food- whether you deposit into her checking account or give her a credit card allowance- and let her manage it.  It’s a good way for her to learn to budget.  

Dd and her roommates didn’t share meals at first but once someone suggested it they all decided to try it. They only did it a couple of times a week and if someone wasn’t there to eat they set aside a portion for the missing roomie to eat later. It worked out great! Took a little time to work out kinks about cooking, cleaning up, etc, but that was such a good lesson for her. She learned a lot about sharing space that term. 

 

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