New to food swapping? No problem! Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about what to bring, how to package it, and what you can expect the day of the swap.
Q: What can I bring to swap?
A: If it’s edible and you made it from scratch, grew it in your garden, or foraged it, you can bring it. You’ll see it all at food swaps: jams; jellies; bread; jars of soup; pies; fudge; spice mixes; homemade yogurt; homebrewed soda, lemonade, or kombucha; homegrown veggies, fruits, or herbs; salad dressing; cookies; homemade potato chips; foraged mushrooms, greens, or berries. If you can think of it, someone has probably swapped it. Have fun… your imagination is the only limitation!
Q: Do I need to put on my fancy pants and bring something gourmet?
A: No! The key words of the day are FUN and COMMUNITY, not STRESS and INTIMIDATION! Just bring what you love to make and share with others. Some people like making a tricked-out gourmet chutney, and that is awesome. But swappers also love a simple jar of canned tomatoes, a fresh loaf of bread, or the sugar cookies your Grandma has been making for as long as you can remember.
Q: How much should I bring to swap?
A: It’s up to you. The more you bring, the more you take home with you. Some people bring multiple jars or containers of one thing, and others bring single portions of several different things.
Q: How big should the portion sizes be?
A: Again, that’s up to you. Some people find that smaller portions are easier to swap, since others might be more interested in trying something new if they aren’t committed to trading for an entire quart of it. And, keep in mind that smaller-sized portions (a pint, half-pint, bottle, sandwich bag of cookies, etc.) might result in a more even trade for you. For example, would you want to trade a 4-oz jar of jam for a full batch of three-dozen cookies? You see what I mean. On the other hand, if you bring a high-ticket item like an entire pie, or a six-pack of homebrewed soda, other swappers will probably be very interested in swapping with you, and you’ll have a good bargaining tool to get other things that interest you. Do what makes the most sense for you and your pantry.
Q: How should I package and label my food?
A: The most important thing is that items are packaged so they don’t leak or fall apart easily. If you bring something in a bottle or jar, write on the jar or affix a label so the recipient can identify the item after they leave the swap. (If you canned something, please include the date so the recipient knows how long it will last in the pantry.) For things like cookies, brownies, fudge, etc., consider using a paper plate or tray, plastic bags, or a box. Homemade bread can be packaged easily with parchment paper and string. And if you bring something stand alone (like zucchini from your garden), lucky you! No packaging necessary. Note: If you have something that needs to remain cool during the swap, please bring it in a cooler. Refrigeration will not be available at the swap.
Q: Does the packaging need to be fancy?
A: No. The packaging is up to you. Some people really enjoy being creative with packaging, and others just use a sharpie and label the item that way. You’re the boss of you!
Q: Should I bring samples of my item?
A: That’s a personal choice for you to make, but an item is more likely to be bid on if swappers can try it first. If you decide to provide samples, please bring a small dish for serving. We will provide small disposable cups and spoons for sampling. (Similar to what you might see next to the samples at Whole Foods, Costco, etc.)
Q: Do I need to bring money?
A: No. There is no exchange of money at the swap, and admission is free. However, Earth House does have a café with good food, coffee, tea, and natural sodas, so keep that in mind.
Q: How does the swap work?
- You must be registered in advance to participate in the swap. Watch the website for notification of registration, and sign up through Eventbrite. Unfortunately, we cannot allow walk-ins on the day of the swap.
- Swaps will be auction style. Each swapper will be given a sheet of paper when they arrive with a space to write the name of the item(s) they brought, with several blank lines below it. The blank lines are there for other swappers to indicate their interest in your item. (These sheets of paper are called BID SHEETS, and they’ll be provided at the swap)
- The first thirty minutes will be devoted to sign-in, set-up, and greetings.
- The next thirty minutes will be the time for swappers to walk around and view and sample items from other swappers.
- Then, we’ll take thirty minutes to do the ‘bidding,’ which just means this is when you go around and write your name on the bid sheets of the items that interest you. Example: Jane brought some pickles I love. I brought pear jam to swap. I write on Jane’s sheet that I would like to trade one jar of my pear jam for one jar of her pickles.
- The final thirty minutes are when the actual swapping occurs. Everyone will go back to find their bid sheets and look at the offers. They will decide which swap offers they would like to accept for each item, and then find that person to make the swap. (Everyone will be wearing name tags.)
PLEASE NOTE: This is just a guideline of how the swapping part will work. Experienced swappers from other cities report that things get kind of crazy and super fun when the actual swapping begins, because, although the bid sheets serve as general guidelines, once people start chatting and trading with each other, the swapping becomes a bit more spontaneous.
Q: Does signing someone’s bid sheet guarantee I’ll get the item?
A: No. Bid sheets are just the starting point for trading when the swap begins.
Q: What if I’m not interested in an offer made on my bid sheet? How do I avoid making someone uncomfortable or hurting their feelings?
A: We will emphasize at the start of the swap that people are not obligated to accept all of the offers that are made, and other swappers shouldn’t take this personally. There are lots of reasons someone may not be interested in another swapper’s item, including allergies, food sensitivities, personal taste preferences, etc. But history has shown that there are so many food choices at a swap, everyone will leave happy anyway. Although food is such a personal thing, everyone at the swap is there because they appreciate good, homemade or homegrown food. (And those same people are generally pretty adventurous, and interested in trying new things!) Read this article for more helpful advice on this topic.
Q: What else should I bring other than the items I want to swap?
A: Just be sure to bring a bag or box so you can transport your newly acquired items home with you.
Q: Why do I need a ticket to swap if the event is free and open to the public?
A: Because we want to be sure we’re prepared for the right number of people. Plus, our sister swaps in other cities with a few more events under their belts tell us that the best swaps don’t exceed a certain number of people. (30-40 being the magic number)
Q: How can I help?
A: If you know someone who loves the idea and energy of a swap, but isn’t a home cook/gardener/forager, we could use a few volunteers at each event. Interested? You can reach us via the “Ring a Ding Ding” page on this website.