How To Host A Homemade/Food Swap

What does mustard, fruit leather, muffins and soap have in common?  The homemade versions are all great examples of items to take to a swap!

Food or Homemade Swaps are gatherings where people barter their own homemade or homegrown items for those of others.  It's typically a recurring event {usually monthly or bi-monthly} and includes a taste-test of the items being swapped and sometimes even a potluck.

Food and/or Homemade Swaps are growing in popularity and Fall and Winter seem to be popular seasons in which to host them.  Setting up isn't too complicated, it just takes time and resources to gather enough participants.  Whether it be a group of friends or complete strangers, set down a few ground rules and get to swapping!

Where Will Your Swap Be?
Determine a good place to host a swap and, if it isn't your own home, speak with the manager or owner to see if it's something they'd be willing to host.  If you're hosting a group of friends, it may be just as comfortable for you to hold it in your home or the home of one of the participants.  If, however, you are hosting a swap with many complete strangers, you will likely feel more comfortable hosting the swap in a different space.  Think of any small business - coffee shops, crafts stores, etc., local Bed and Breakfast, Farmer's Market venues, etc. that may be open to hosting such an event {for free of course}. 

Make sure they know food products will be exchanged and food will be eaten.  Sometimes small, local businesses will allow you to use their space after hours, particularly if the business owner or manager is interested in participating.  If you can, take a look at the space you'll be using to ensure it has enough space for all participants and table space for all their swap items.

Who Will Come?
Get the word out, either through friends, your blog, a group you're involved in, etc. and try to get 10 or so people interested.  Usually, after the first swap or two, everyone involved will tell others and, through word of mouth, your swap will grow.

Make sure the interested swappers understand all items will either be homemade or homegrown by others and there will be no money exchanged, rather, it will be item for item.

What Will Be Swapped?
Well, this is where it gets fun.  You can leave it open to anything homemade or homegrown or you can host a specific swap.  I've heard of Soup Swaps, Handmade Crafts Swaps, Baby Food Swaps and Freezer-Meal Swaps.  I've not yet been to a Freezer-Meal Swap but would like to host one someday.

Make it clear, to all participants, what type of swap they will be participating in.  Also make sure to communicate that it's expected the items be homemade or homegrown by them.  Typically swap participants bring 1-4 items {some bring more}.  You can bring all the same items, or a few different items.  The items should be smaller - ex.  a pint-size jar of preserves, a small block of homemade cheese, a pair of cupcakes, a bottle of homebrew, etc.  If everyone brings smaller items, it makes for a fair trade between swappers.  If you want the swap to be just food items {many people bring soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, etc.} communicate that as well.

Ideas of Homemade/Homegrown Swap Items:  Relish, Mustard, Home Brew, Jams/Jellies/Preserves, Syrups, Flavored Salts, Concentrates {lemonade, limeade, etc.}, Candy, Baked Goods, Canned Fruit, Sweet Sauce {Hot Fudge, Caramel, etc.}, Savory Sauce {BBQ, Marinades, etc.}, Honey, Spice Mixes, Cheeses, Extracts, Liqueurs, Homegrown Veggies or Fruits, Dozen Eggs, Dehydrated Items, Soap, Laundry Detergent, Lotions, Deodorant, Salves, and Cleaning Products.

Everything should be brought to the swap, swap ready.  Swappers should be reminded if their item{s} will require refrigeration, this is their responsibility to bring a cooler.

Taste Test
If possible, each participant should bring samples of their swappable items.  This increases the chances of an actual swap by allowing everyone to try it.  If plates, bowls, or silverware is needed, give reminders they will need to bring their own.  If a jam, jelly, sauce, etc. is one of the items, maybe suggest they bring crackers or pretzel sticks to dip into.

Swap Day
Swap day has 3 periods:  set-up, tasting/bidding and swapping.

Swaps can last anywhere from an hour to two.  When the participants first arrive, they should display their items and fill out a simple paper you will need to provide for each different type of item they will be swapping. 

On this paper, the swapper will need to put their name {so the others know who they are looking for}, the name of the item to be swapped, ingredients/dietary considerations {i.e. gluten free, vegan, etc.}, and any special requirements of the item {i.e. needs to be refrigerated, frozen, etc.}.  The paper should have space for interested swappers to write what they want to swap the item for.

Provide each of the participants with name tags.  This will help them not only get to know each other, but also allow them the ability to find the others whose swap items they are interested in.

The first half hour to hour will be spent walking around and tasting each of the swap items.  This is when participants can look at the items, decide which they are interested in, and write on the forms of those they desire their names and what they would be willing to swap for it.  I suggest finding at least 2, but possibly 3 or 4 items you would be interested in taking for each item you have to ensure a successful swap.

Participants should not be afraid of saying no.  This should be communicated to them prior to the swap starting.  It's ok to say no and it's ok to go home with some of your original items if you aren't able to get things you would actually want.

The next part of the swap will be the participants returning to their items to look at the list of others interested in a swap.  Now, everyone goes and searches for the swappers who have the items they want to swap for.  This portion is usually loud, with everyone talking, laughing and swapping, and then, once the swaps have been made, the swap is completed!

How Do You Make Sure Your Items Are Swappable?
This question is the number one question when people ask about swaps, but it's also the hardest to answer.  It really just depends on what that particular group of people are looking for.  For example, I've attended swaps in 3 different cities.  In two of the cities, cleaning items such as soaps, laundry detergent and cleaners didn't get swapped at all.  In the third city, those were among the first items that got swapped.  In one city eggs weren't a very popular item, but in the other two they were extremely popular.

One thing that definitely helps is the packaging.  I'm not talking about going out and purchasing anything special, just taking a few extra minutes on the label and look of your items.  Tags, brown paper bags, a piece of cloth, ribbon or twine, all add a little something special that attracts attention.  The reality is, we are attracted to items that are nicely packaged.

Another thing I've found is swapping items people wouldn't typically make for themselves.  Strawberry Jam hasn't seemed to be a big hit at the swaps I've been to because most of the people swapping already have a pantry full.  But if you've made a twist, such as Strawberry-Black Pepper Jam, it's immediately met with a line of people anxious to taste it and get on your list.  At one of the swaps I've attended, every month the woman who makes the Magic Shell Ice Cream topping has people pacing, hoping she's coming that month.  It's extremely easy to make but not something everyone makes for themselves.

Do you know what to do with pickled Nasturtium seeds?  They may taste great, but if you don't know how you would use them, you will likely not offer a swap.  If you're bringing a sauce, relish, or spice mix that people may not be familiar with, including "ways to use it" on the packaging will help increase interest.

Additional Ideas
Many swaps also include a potluck. If you would like to add this feature, ask every participant to bring a homemade dish in addition to the swap items.  Remember to supply bowls, plates, utensils, etc.

Clothing swaps have grown tremendously in popularity and many food or homemade swaps now allow for participants to also bring clothing - adult, child, or both, for additional swapping opportunities.  Keeping it food for food and clothing for clothing helps to separate the two.

Just a reminder that today is Homemade Living Wednesday.  This week, you can visit: Tammy at Our Neck Of The Woods, Jackie at Born Imaginative, and Mary at Homegrown On The Hill

Next week I'll be posting to the series along with  Daisy at Maple Hill 101 and Sue at The Little Acre That Could.


  1. How did you find out about the swaps you went to? They sure sound like fun. I bet your stuff went fast!

  2. Leslie - great question! I should have included that info. :) I just googled "food swap" and my town. It came up with all swaps in my state.

  3. I've never been to a swap but this sounds like an amazing idea! I'll have to google it and see if I can find any in my area. I love the idea of possibly hosting one with friends too. :) Have you ever hosted one Staci, and what did it consist of? I like the homemade food ans the freezer meals one.

  4. Mary - they really are a lot of fun! I have been to general food swaps and have held a general food swap for friends as well as a homemade craft swap. At the general food swap I just had everyone bring samples of the food they were swapping but at the homemade craft swap I had everyone bring an item for a potluck lunch. I want to host a freezer meal swap, however, I'll need to open it up to the public because I don't have enough others interested. Maybe next year.... :)

  5. And yet another post when I wish we were neighbors. I'd love to have a foodswap with the homemade living ladies. :)

  6. Oh I love this idea! I've never been to one or hosted one before, but it sounds so awesome. Too bad we aren't neighbors! Haha ;)

  7. What a fantastic idea! We've done some themed food swaps on a small scale with friends, but never a larger one with less familiar folks. What a great way to meet new people...and their homemade goods. :-)

  8. I completely agree Jackie and Tammy!

    Thanks W-S Wanderings, and yes, it really is a great way to meet like-minded folks. :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this post!