If you've never hosted a food swap, these tips will help you plan a stress-free (and mess-free) event.
Keep the guest list small. For a more manageable food swap, limit your guest list. Six-to-eight people will provide plenty of options for swapping while reducing the amount of pre-party prep.
With an event like this, food allergies are always a concern. Ask invitees to reveal any allergies with their RSVP and alert the other participants so recipes can be altered to accomodate.
Establish some rules. Choose a theme for your baked goods swap (sweet 'n' savory, secret family recipes, breakfast treats, etc.). Encourage your guests to tell you what they plan to bring to ensure you don't wind up with multiples of the same dish. The goal of a food swap is for each guest to leave with new treats to enjoy later, but you'll want to have something to try during the party. Ask guests to prepare enough for all the attendees to take away plus a mini batch for sampling.
Be prepared. In addition to standard party needs (drinks, napkins, seating, music, etc.), have cutting and serving tools available for use. Also have some pens and stickers or place setting cards so people can label their goodies. If you're feeling ambitious, provide a packaging station with food grade boxes and decorations where guests can wrap up their treats for taking home. Blank index cards come in handy for those want your great-grandmother's awesome zucchini bread recipe.
A food swap doesn't necessarily mean everyone will fill up on samples, so set out a few trays and bowls of munchies and appetizers. Offer some healthy options to balance out sweets-based contributions
Don't forget to make your own dish to swap! If you are sidetracked by planning details, try to incorporate your dish preparation into the party. Get your guests talking about their own cooking methods.
The best part of a food swap—beside eating, of course—is the socializing. Every recipe has a story. Whether it's a sentimental memory or an embarrassing anecdote, sharing these stories over homemade goodies makes for a lovely bonding experience. What started out as a way to use up leftover chocolate chips may actually strengthen friendships.