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My Experience at a Food Swap

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**This is a ‘repost’ of a previous article I wrote.  We had some technical problems and lost a few posts.  I tried to recreate what I wrote before!!!

Have you ever been to a food swap?  Ever heard of a food swap?

I hadn’t either.

Until my friend, Kristyn, called me up to see if I wanted to participate in the Chicago Food Swap.  She mentioned something about making homemade goodies and swapping them with strangers.

It sounded like a mixture of a cookie exchange and a silent auction.  It sounded just up my alley!
I decided to make 2 items to swap for the event.  I made my popular lacto-fermented pineapple papaya chutney and these delicious Almond Joy macaroons from this blogger’s yummy e-cookbook!    My friend was going to bring some flavored kombucha teas, kombucha starter kits and fresh herb bundles.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comWhen the day arrived, Kristyn and I loaded our car with our goodies, a cooler of ice, a large card table for display and drove to Chicago for the swap.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comWe arrived at this really cool warehouse type space called Gallery 1028 on Goose Island in Chicago.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.com We waited anxiously with the other swappers for the doors to open.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comOnce open, we set up our spots and laid out our wares for display.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comSince this was our first swap, I kept watching what others were doing, as I was still unsure of how this really worked.  Everyone was so nice and helpful and willing to answer any of our newbie questions.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comIn addition to laying out our goodies, we also needed a bid sheet for each of our items.  I was unclear how the ‘bidding’ actually worked but figured I would learn by doing…so just waited for the swap to actually start.

Once we were ready to start, the head of the Chicago Food Swap gave us our instructions and the Swap was started!

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comFor the first hour or so, we walked around the space, sampling other people’s items, talking to them about their products.  If we were interested in swapping with them, we were supposed to write our name, table number and products we have on their bid sheets.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comThere were so many amazing goodies, I wanted them all!

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comAfter the sampling time was over, it was time to SWAP!

I found this very confusing, as a newbie.  You had to simultaneously be at your own table to handle people who wanted your items, but also needed to track down your favorite products at other tables.

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comFor example, if I really wanted the Bacon Jam at table 14, I needed to see if Table 14 had left a note on my bid sheet…if so I knew they would be open to a swap.  If not, I would have to see if they were interested.  So, I would walk over to Table 14 and say ‘hey, I have fermented pineapple chutney or macaroons…care to swap??”

Have You Ever Been to a Food Swap?  - www.ohlardy.comIn the end, I made out with quite the haul!

  • sprouts
  • fresh huckleberries
  • horseradish mustard
  • fresh raviolis
  • habanero sauce (so hot and delicious!)
  • Bacon Jam (yes, that's right)
  • Bacon Peanut Butter (yep)
  • pico de gallo
  • pickled jalapenos
  • kombucha tea
  • ginger beer
  • pickled banana peppers
  • chocolate syrup
  • barbecue sauces
  • sriacha butter
  • seasoned salts and oils
  • hummus
  • and more!

I can’t wait to participate in more food swaps!  It was so much fun.

I think it would be fairly easy to organize my own too.  What a fun way to get a bunch of neighbors together to share homemade goodies!  You could even have one based on a particular theme…fermented foods, beverages, jams, strawberries….whatever!!!

I thought the swap was so much fun but I did learn some things that I would do differently next time.

  • I would bring less of each item.  I brought about 15 of each of my items and it was too much.  While my items were popular, I felt I had to do a lot of swapping.  Most people seemed to bring 5 of each of their items.
  • I will have my items in smaller packages.  I had my chutney in pint size jars and most people who had jarred food, had them in 8 ounce jars.  I felt I was giving away a large amount of chutney and the amount of food I received in the swap wasn’t necessarily comparable.
  • I would have return address-size labels printed up with my name and my products.  This way I could just stick them on bid sheets, instead of having to write down all of the information.
  • I would take better pictures!  I am such a horrible photographer.  I am still working on capturing the moment! 😉

Interested in Food Swapping?  Check out these links:

Chicago Food Swap

Food Swap Network


  1. I loved hearing about this (even if it is a re-post). So much that I looked up to see if there were any around me (well, not close by since I live in a boonies), and there is! St. Louis has one. I’m too busy to do one now, but I sure plan to soon. Maybe even with some of my own friends who are so much more talented than I!

    1. It was really fun! And you don’t need to do ‘gourmet’ things! I hear the one in August will be a lot of garden harvest type stuff…like a farmer’s market. Hopefully you can make it to one!

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