Last summer, I had an idea to start a food swap with some friends. I was inspired by a NY Times article about cooking co-ops and thought it sounded like a great idea, so I emailed some friends who live within a 10 mile radius of my house and thus our food swap began. It’s been pretty amazing so far, so I thought I’d share in case others want to set one up. It’s very easy and a really good excuse to make a spreadsheet, which you know I love.
- All food is vegetarian, although not everyone is a vegetarian. This has been great as we have all been exposed to lots of new types of grains like quinoa, farro, and millet. For those who do eat meat, the dishes make great sides too.
- Each household’s portion is enough for 2 adults, although they are usually larger.
- There are about seven households that are part of the food swap, but not everyone participates every time.
- You can participate as frequently or infrequently as you want. There is a core of about 3 or 4 households that almost always participate and then others that do as their schedules allow.
- We swap food every other Tuesday night at a rotating location. It’s pretty quick in and out. I’ve heard of other food co-ops where people take turns cooking, but in-and-out works best for us because of varying schedules.
- You have to sign up on our shared spreadsheet by the Friday before to “opt-in”. When we started, you had to opt in or out, but then if people forgot, it led to inevitable uncertainly whether they were participating, so we changed it to opt-in with a non-participation default.
- We have started including what we’re making on the spreadsheet to avoid overlap, but even when there has been overlap, it’s been fine (like two different kinds of lasagna, yum!).
- We now have enough similarly sized tupperware in the rotation that there’s always enough, but there was some initial tupperware investment required.
In case you’re unconvinced, here are some pictures of the bounty from this week’s swap that included vegetarian chili, spicy sweet potato and cabbage stew, baked vegetables and cous cous, shepard’s pie, and homemade bread.
A few other things …
Most things freeze well, so if we feel overwhelmed with all our options (this actually does happen!), we just freeze a few things and save them for later. We also have a place to post recipes for favorite dishes. I should disclose, there have been a few misses, but that’s inevitable and that happens when you cook on your own too, so as long as you pick fellow swappers who are relatively good cooks, I think you’re good to go. Overall, I’d say food swap has been great for saving time and still having home cooked meals instead of resorting to take out or PB&J when we don’t have time to cook ourselves. So, grab some friends and start your own food swap!