Kelly the Culinarian: What I Learned at my First Food Swap

Monday, October 21, 2013

What I Learned at my First Food Swap

The next Chicago Food Swap is coming up Nov. 10 and I'm really excited to go back to the bargaining table with a new crop of goodies. I plan to bring a few more kombucha starters and my sugar-free spice apple butter. I also have a few lessons learned from my first food swap to consider for the next go around.

  • Think about your presentation. People set up cute tables and make nice labels for their products. These tended to do better because they displayed better, but also because perhaps on a subconscious level, people think the nicer looking stuff had more thought and attention put into the final product.
  • Consider packaging. My kombucha costs pennies per batch, but the bottles are considerably more expensive at $2 a bottle. I've since learned I can reuse beer bottles for the task, but I would have been better off considering inexpensive packaging that was still cute.
    Creative packaging for whoopie pies
  • Make sure you see everything. There are so many tables and people in there that you have to be strategic in getting around to see all the products.
  • Serving size counts. It's hard to negotiate with a whole cake, but a single cookie won't get you very far, either. Think mini loaves, cupcakes, cookies, little baggies of candies, etc. If you need ideas for packaging, check out Pinterest or visit a restaurant supply store.
  • Label, label, label!
    Samples are crucial. Whole Foods already knows this. I bought a sleeve of 150 sample cups at a restaurant supply store for $2. Make extra of whatever you're swapping and portion it out for samples.
  • In terms of what to bring, the food fell into two camps: family favorites and chefy experiments. Have an awesome banana bread recipe or chocolate chip cookie creation? Figure out how to make individual portions and have at it. Always wanted to try that olive oil rosemary cake or ancho chili dark chocolate cup? Now's the time.
  • Don't get too ambitious you're first time out the gate. Start by bringing no more than one dozen portions of whatever you're swapping. The more you bring, the more you have to wheel and deal.
    Plus, many of the items you'll scoop up won't be shelf stable, and as much as eating a ton of homemade stuff in a week sounds, no one needs to eat as much as I did after my first food swap.
  • Label everything and include any possible allergens. Vegan, gluten free and organic items are available, but keep in mind that if you're very strict or highly allergic, the items might not be made according to your dietary needs. Of course, bringing items that adhere to special diets could make you very popular at the swap.
Hope to see you at the next swap!


9toFit said...

I need to find a swap in the Boston area!
-Elise @

Losing Lindy said...

This is so cool. I do have an awesome banana bread recipe, but it is far from healthy.

Emily said...

These are terrific tips! I'm so glad you mentioned labeling. I really want to get people to label better. For those looking for a swap in their area, try the Food Swap Network.

Pamela said...

Don't forget you can freeze many perishables as long as you seal them up well. :)