Trish Berg of Dalton, Ohio, tells CW how she swaps meals with friends to save time and money.
CW: What is supper swapping?
Trish: It’s women helping women—sharing the cooking for their families by preparing food in bulk and swapping meals. You can join with two to four other friends and each choose a day to cook supper for the entire group. Keep one meal for your family and deliver the rest.
CW: How did you get involved in a swap group?
Trish: Five years ago, a friend asked me if I’d like to try swapping suppers to simplify our lives. I knew I needed help since my family was bored with grilled cheese, and I was tired of the 4:30-and-nothing’s-in-the-oven panic. Our group includes a stay-at-home mom, one who works full-time and two with part-time careers. I’m a farm wife, mom, writer and professor at a local university. Empty-nesters, single parents, retirees and coworkers can form cooking groups too. Some choose to swap on a daily basis, while others prepare frozen meals and exchange weekly or monthly.
CW: What ground rules do cooks who swap need to establish?
Trish: First, determine what a “meal” is. Our group swaps a main dish (my Saucy Meatballs go over big) and either a side dish or dessert. Four times a year, we meet to plan meals for 3 months ahead. We note birthdays and anniversaries on our calendars, so we can add a celebration treat to the menu.
CW: How does exchanging meals with others save money?
Trish: Swapping can save thousands in a family’s annual food costs. You shop with a plan, buy in bulk, purchase fewer frozen or fast foods and eat out less. A typical supper swap meal costs 83¢ to $2.50 a person.
CW: Besides simplifying mealtime, what benefits does supper swapping offer?
Trish: Shortly after I started swapping, my youngest child was hospitalized, taking me away from home for a week. When we got back, there was a fridge full of meals from my swap group waiting. When you feed a family, you deliver love, caring and compassion along with the food. My husband, Mike, often delivers meals for me—and our 12-year-old, Hannah, loves to help prepare our weekly meal. Daughters Sydney, 10, and Riley, 5, and our 8-year-old son, Colin, are mostly eager eaters. A couple of times a year, our group’s families get together for a huge cookout with all 18 of us.
CW: Explain how a supper swap group can expand and help the community.
Trish: While cooking in bulk for your group, it’s easy to prepare an extra meal and deliver it to a shut-in, new mom or family in need. Supper swapping helps you go beyond your own front porch and reach out to others in a personal way. Bonding over food and friendship…what could be better?
Want to learn Trish’s tips for supper swap success? Get more from Trish here.
Photography by: Mike Agliolo