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.
You can order Trish Berg’s book, The Great American Supper Swap, and find out more about cooperative cooking at her website.
Photography by: Mike Agliolo