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Review: Food swaps

The cost for all this? Nothing! Food swaps operate under a barter system, no cash needed.
The cost for all this? Nothing! Food swaps operate under a barter system, no cash needed.
Julia McGuire, Des Moines Frugal Family Examiner

Food swaps

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I first learned about food swaps in my early parenting years, but they were called cookie exchanges. During December, moms and their preschoolers would arrive at a given place with plates of cookies, swap plates or their contents, then go home after adults visited and kids played. Similar to a swap party, food swaps are focused on bartering. With recent interest in local food and frugality, food swaps are perfectly positioned to meet the needs of a community.

What is a food swap? It’s an event where people bring food -- fresh produce that was grown or foraged, or goods that were canned, fermented, or baked -- and trade for other food items on a one to one basis. Other natural or home crafted goods can be swapped as well.

My experience. I brought my backyard honey in 6 oz. squeeze bears and hand-poured beeswax lip balm in bundles of two tubes. There were other things at the swap, like herbs and tomatoes, and interesting conversation and people and their families. We probably spent an hour setting up and chatting, followed by twenty minutes swapping, with another few minutes wrapping up. It was easy to chat away the time and forget about schedules. It was an afternoon very well spent. My preteen daughter said that she, too, enjoyed shopping the swap very much.

What I traded: I swapped honey and lip balm for peaches, chai concentrate, barbecue sauce, eggs, and daylillies. Once home, I immediately started a double batch of peach sorbet. The barbecue sauce went on some leftover shredded meat for my kids’ lunch sandwiches. The peaches that didn't go into the sorbet became breakfast for the next week. The chai was drunk over the course of the next two weeks to make it last.

Was it worthwhile? Yes. For me, the swap was worthwhile because I would not mix my own barbecue sauce or chai. I do not raise chickens, and the daylillies at my house were past their prime. I have no peach tree or access to a peach tree, so all of my swaps were great ways for me to learn more about mixing my own condiments and drinks, and trying new recipes for peaches.

You can find more information about food swaps at the Food Swap Network. The next Des Moines Food Swap will be held Thursday, Sept. 5.