Tips for Food Swapping
If food swapping is new to you, you may have some questions about what to bring, how to package it, and what to expect. Here are some answers to common questions.
Q: What can I bring to swap?
A: As long as it’s edible and you made it from scratch/grew/foraged it, you can bring it. Jams, jellies, pickles, sauerkraut, batches of soup, bread, muffins and other baked goods, pies, candies, fudge, home cured meats, homemade cheese, homebrew beer, homebrew kombucha, homebrew soda, foraged mushrooms/greens/berries, homegrown vegetables or fruits, spice mixes, dried herbs, homemade tea blends, etc etc etc.
Q: Do I need to bring something fancy?
A: No! While gourmet mustards, duck pancetta, and dried foraged morels are awesome, your jars of canned tomatoes, loaves of plain white bread, and old-school brownies made from your grandma’s recipe are just as awesome. This is event is about sharing whatever it is that you love to make.
Q: How much should I bring to swap?
A: Anything goes! The more you bring, the more you take home with you. Some people bring multiple jars or containers of the same thing, others bring single containers of lots of different things. Whatever it is, it is likely that people will want it. At our first swap, one swapper brought 10 bags of granola, and ended up trading for almost all of them. I brought lots of different things, and traded for all of them. It’s up to you, there’s no right or wrong.
Q: What quantity or portion sizes should I bring?
A: The quantity that you package to swap is up to you. Keep in mind that smaller quantities of things may be easier to swap. For example, someone may be more interested in trying something new if they aren’t committed to trading for an entire quart of it. Also, smaller portions – like a pint, a half pint, a bottle, a sandwich bag, a half batch of cookies, etc – might result in a more “even” trade for you. For example, do you feel comfortable trading a batch of 3 dozen cookies for a single 4 oz jar of homegrown jam? You might feel better trading for with 3 smaller packages of 12. You get the idea. On the other hand, bringing a high ticket item – like an entire pie or a 6-pack of homebrew beer – will probably make other swappers very interested in swapping with you, and you’ll have a great bargaining tool that will probably get you some really sweet stuff to take home. Follow your gut and the contents of your pantry. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Q: How should I package and label my food?
A: Items should be securely packaged so they don’t fall apart, leak, or spill. If you have food in jars or bottles, write on the jar cover or affix a cute label so the recipient can identify the item after they leave the swap (you may want to put the date it was canned so they know how long it will last in the pantry or fridge). For things like cookies, bars, fudge, etc, try using paper plates or trays, or putting in paper or plastic bags, or with a cute cloth in a box. Try wrapping home baked loaves of bread in parchment tied with string. If you’re bringing something that can stand alone (like a squash), you’re getting off easy. Whatever you do, make sure that you package in the quantity that you are trading for.
Please bring a list of ingredients on all your foods, if possible, or be able denote any special dietary restrictions – gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free, etc. Let’s be respectful of our fellow foodies with food allergies and intolerances, shall we?
Q: Do I need fancy packaging?
A: No. But if you want to, feel free! Plenty of people just write on the top of their jars with a sharpie but other folks really fancy it up, do whatever your creative heart desires!
Q: Should I bring samples of my item(s)?
A: Absolutely – try before you buy is a great thing! If you can, bring a sample of your item for the other swappers to try. An item is more likely to be bid on if swappers can try it first. Bring a small dish to serve it on. It will be positioned next to your item so the other swappers can try it out.
Q: How does the swap work?
- Swaps will be auction style. Each swapper will have a sheet filled for each item they have to swap and a few lines under the item. The sheet will be available at the event.
- The first 30 minutes of the swap will be devoted to sign-in, set-up, and greetings.
- The next 30 minutes will be the time for everyone to walk around, examine, and sample items from the other swappers.
- Then, we’ll take 30 minutes for everyone to write down on the sheets of paper the items they would like to swap. Example: if Frankie has some picles, you will write on her sheet of paper what you are willing to swap for it. Multiple people can put in swap offers for the same item.
- The final 30 minutes is when all the swapping actually happens. Everyone will go back to their original sheets of paper and look at their offers. They will decide which swap they would like to accept for each item, find that person via their name tag, and make the swap.
Q: Does bidding on something guarantee you’ll get it?
A: NO! Swap sheets are just a starting point for hashing out trades when the swap starts.
Q: I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by turning them/their item down. How do I avoid making people uncomfortable?
A: It should be emphasized in the beginning that in no way should swappers feel obligated to accept someone’s offer (if they don’t actually want the item), nor should swappers get their feelings hurt if someone turns them down. You wouldn’t go buy something at the grocery store that you don’t want to eat! I always emphasize this at the beginning of our parties and tell people to please not take it personally since food is such an individual matter. I always make this announcement again as we open up the swapping floor
Q: What if someone wants to swap something with me that I don’t want?
A: You don’t have to accept! Really. I know it feels weird to say no, and you want to be polite, but, if you don’t want it just tell them, thanks, but that’s not really my thing. You may not like the main ingredient, or may have a dietary restriction that makes certain foods off-limits. However, you can always accept items knowing I wanted to give them away as gifts, and that is great too!
Q: Do we have other snacks at the swap?
A: You bet! Snacks make everything more fun. If you’d like, bring along a snack to share. Please label your snack with common allergens (dairy, egg, wheat, nuts, corn, etc) to be friendly to swappers with dietary restrictions. We also have hot water and a variety of tea. We will happily accept donations of tea bags if you have extra you’d like to share with us!
Q: Do I need to bring money?
A: There is no exchange of money needed to swap food and there is no admission fee. However, we have an optional cash donation basket to help support Madame, the community space that hosts our events free of charge. Donations to Madame will be used to pay the rent and the utility bills, and make physical improvements to the space. If you’d like to donate to support the space (and ensure that we are able to continue holding swaps there), please bring cash and donate whatever amount feels right to you.
Q: What is the swap location like?
A: Our swap space is located on the second floor of a converted apartment unit (no elevator access, stairs only). There is a kitchen with a sink and refrigerator/freezer, a bathroom, electricity, and wonderful windows that let in lots of light. If you need to use the water or the refrigerator/freezer space during the swap, just let us know when you arrive.
Q: What else should I bring?
A: A smile and a willingness to share knowledge and make new friends, and a big basket, bag or box to take home your goodies.
Q: What if I don’t know anyone?
A: That is totally ok! Most people don’t know eachother. It’s a GREAT way to meet friends who love food and make amazing connections.
Q; How long do the swaps last?
A: Usually about 2 hours. The first hour everyone arrives and sets up and the swap fun begins in hour two. Then we all pack up and head home!
Q: How can I help?
A: We are always in need of pens, Sharpie markers, rolls of butcher paper or large poster paper, and bags of tea. If you’d like to donate any of these items, please bring along to the swap!