When I started taking in lodgers, they were mostly foreign students on short English courses at my local university. Part of the deal was that I would provide them with meals and talk to them over dinner. Talking in English with a ‘family’ was an important part of their experience.
As someone who has always been rather keen on cooking I rather enjoyed this. I was living on my own at that time so it was nice to cook for more than one person (me). It was also a great topic of conversation as the (mainly) female students would talk about the food they had at home. Very occasionally one of them would cook a meal for me which was nice (although Gina did destroy my electric whisk while making an apple cake).
Most students loved the meals. I would try to fly the flag for British food, particularly as some told me that other students on their courses had complained about the appalling meals provided by their landladies.
I suppose the only problem was the (Muslim) Turkish student, who told me that he ate ‘everything’ and then when I served a pork casserole, said that he didn’t eat pork. When I reminded him he had said he ate everything, he said it never occurred to him that anyone would eat pork! He was very nice about it, but I didn’t tell him about the pork dinner he had eaten the previous week …
Although I enjoyed the cooking, my students were only with me for a few weeks (the longest stay was for two months) and I was quiet pleased not to have to do it any more when they left. So think very carefully about providing meals for long stay lodgers.
Pros and cons of providing lodgers cooked meals
The good points about providing meals is that
- you can charge extra for them, which will increase you profits from lodgering
- it you have a family or partner who you cook for anyway, it will not be much extra work
- if you enjoy cooking it is nice to have someone else appreciate your food
- you can get to know your lodger better chatting over the dinner table,
- if you don’t like people messing about in your kitchen you can justifiably ask them not to use it
The bad points are that
- it can be a lot of bother particularly if you don’t like cooking much or are not very good at it
- you may prefer not to become too friendly with your lodger
I have to say that when I had long term lodgers, they used to do their own meals. However it can be a good source of extra income. Make sure you have some decent cook books for inspiration for the inevitable days when you can’t think of what to do (Delia’s Smiths Complete How to Cook is highly recommended, as is The 30-Minute Cook by Nigel Slater)
Whether or not you provide a cooked dinner, it is always a good idea to provide breakfast as it is so easy. None of my girls wanted a cooked breakfast (far too fattening!). I would lay the table in the kitchen the night before and leave things out for them so they could serve themselves when they got up. It worked very well.
You should provide as a minimum:
- fruit juice
- tea, coffee and sugar laid out near the electric kettle (include some herb teas)
- sliced bread, and a toaster so they can make toast if they want
- butter, marmalade and a selections of jams and honey
- a selection of cereal (those variety packs are good until you learn what they like) and a jug of milk
- fresh fruit
other things you could include are
- tinned grapefruit
- dried fruit such as apricots and prunes
- cheese and/or cold sliced cold meat such as ham
Lay the table nicely (perhaps with a cheerful tablecloth – a PVC one will cut down on washing, and some flowers in a vase), so it is welcoming when they come down in the morning – and they will be as happy as Larry.
Make sure though that the cost of all this is included in your lodger’s rent.