Trading Meals with Friends and Neighbors

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My friend Jen and I have been trading food off and on for over a year. It has changed over time according to our schedules and needs. Currently, we each cook Wednesday night. The next morning I leave a cooler on my porch with ice packs and my contribution tucked neatly inside. Later that day, I arrive home and my dishes have been replaced by hers. I am like a child opening a longed for present. Sometimes it works to meet in person and we get the added perk of exchanging hugs as well.  IMG_20130111_101501

I have been doing variations of this theme throughout my adult life. While in cooking school in Austin, I would leave containers of food on a special shelf in the fridge and a roommate would pay me for each one she ate. It was a nice arrangement. We both ate well because I was cooking for both of us,  I made a little money and she saved because she ate out less. Yet another arrangement the next year had us making extra and sneaking leftovers onto the other’s shelf in the fridge.

The first time I put together an actual food share was a few years ago. I arranged a trade with two friends and we each took a day of the week. Mondays, I cooked for all of us plus any family members and delivered to each of their homes. The other two women covered Tuesday and Thursday, or something like that. I had chosen these two women because they lived near me, so it was easier. We traded weekly for about five months.

Sharing food is good for our finances, souls and community. I am sure a lot of us share food and meals with others on a regular basis. However, setting up something consistent encourages me to branch out more in my cooking and I also get to see a friend weekly when otherwise we would see each other once a month if we were lucky.

Why trade?

1.  Economy. Sharing food  and cooking in larger quantities saves money, time and resources. When we have a meal planned or know one is coming, we are less likely to eat out or use convenience foods. Less electricity or gas is used, also.
2.  Community. Sharing food increases our sense of connection.
3.  Variety. Most of us tend to repeat the same dishes and utilize only a few cooking styles. From an energetic perspective, this lack of variety actually creates tension in our bodies. From a nutrient based view different cooking styles increase bio-availability of different nutrients. It’s helpful to have that variety we may not be able to create for ourselves and it’s relaxing to have food prepared by someone else.
4.  Health.  Depending on who you choose to trade with, sharing meals is likely to be a healthier option than eating out or convenience foods. The food is fresh, home cooked and made with love and care.
5.  Yum. Delicious food that you didn’t have to make yourself.


How does it work?

Look at the list below and decide your order of priorities. My first priority is that I trade with someone who will make vegan meals, but I really want someone who is macrobiotic if I can find them. This is more important to me than if they live a few doors down or not. I also want someone who uses mostly organic ingredients, no refined sweeteners and whole, plant-based meals. If the person I trade with isn’t making the kind of food I want to eat, it won’t work. My health and enjoyment of the food are too important to me.

You may not care about these things. Your ideal scenario may be to ensure a delivered meal on Wednesday, your busiest day of the week, plus you want leftovers that will work for school lunches the next day. Do what works for now and change it as you go. Our schedules and commitments change. Sometimes we can’t make full meals. Honestly, I have found that even a jar of cooked brown rice and some prepped veggies can be a life saver.

1.  Food Preferences. Vegetarian? Meals your children will eat? Dishes that are easy to take to work or pack in lunches? Do you have allergies to think about? Include a discussion about how many dishes and volume of food. Make sure your expectations are both the same.
2.  Distance. I think it is easier if you live near each other, work near each other or have a drop off site that is convenient for both of you. Sometimes my friend drops the food off at my work if the timing works out better. Other times I leave the food on my porch.
3.  Neighbors. This relates to distance, too, but don’t forget to have a talk with your neighbors. Years ago I read an article about a neighborhood where each family took a day of the week. On their day, that family was in charge of hosting the other families for dinner. Or other families would come pick up their food. It seems like a lot of work for me, but imagine the possibilities! Sharing dinner even a few nights per week would go a long way toward increasing the connection and health in our communities.
4. Schedule. Can you organize your cooking and delivery schedules to accommodate everyone’s needs? Also, make sure the schedule is doable and coordinate changes ahead of time. No one wants to find out at 5 pm that dinner isn’t coming.
5. Other. Do you have a system for containers? We try to use the same containers and just pass them back and forth each week. Do you have a big enough cooler and ice packs to fit the food if it needs to sit outside for a while?

This week I received:  quinoa salad, roasted vegetables, collard green rolls (amazing) and sweet potato pudding. I made her a creamy cauliflower soup, pressed salad with tofu ricotta and aduki beans. Make it as simple or complex as you want. But, please at least think about it. I love sharing food this way and it seems to help everything else in my life go well. I cook better for myself and am more apt to try new recipes when I know I am making food for our trade as well.


8 Responses

  1. driel00

    What a wonderful concept! Not only the sharing of food and recipes…….making connections and building friendships…priceless. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Melissa

    Love it! I agree – the idea of sharing food is wonderful for so many reasons. You did a great job summarizing and sharing with others the beauty of it!

  3. Sophie33

    What a great idea that is! You learn about other kind of foods & ingredients & you can taste it & eat it all up tpp! 🙂

    • sweetveg

      Yep! I just wish I could find more people to join in. It’s really fun and easy once you get the hang of it. I usually have extra food anyway. Plus, it feels so nourishing to have someone bring me food! 🙂

  4. Emma @ Bake Sew Grow

    I LOVE the idea of trading meals, and would love to do this with someone in my area too. Such a positive thing to do.

    • sweetveg

      I would love to hear how it goes if you try it. It has really deepened my friendships to be able to help each other in such a nourishing way.