Startup Guide


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What is a Dinner Trade?

A dinner trade is when a group of four or five families (or couples) cook for each other. Being part of a dinner trade means that your family is responsible to cook for all of the families one night per week. The other three to four nights during the week, you get to enjoy home cooked meals brought to your home by the other families in your group.

How to select families to invite to your Dinner Group

  1. Invite families who live close to you. Along your street is great so you can either walk your meals or it’s just a quick drive to drop everything off.
  2. Invite families with close to the same number of people in their household. We have two young children, which works out perfectly to match with our neighbors who have just one older child living at home. (See tips for suggested options if there are different size families in your group.)
  3. Find families who have the same taste in food, are not picky, and are willing to try new foods. Part of the Dinner Trade experience is to go outside your box and try new things. It’s okay to discuss things your family doesn’t like and each month you will be able to discuss with your group dinners that you loved and dinners that weren’t your favorite.

How to invite your families to join a Dinner Group

  1. I love Facebook and email, so when I wanted to put my group together, I sent a private message on Facebook or email to eight families I thought would be interested. One thing I noticed is that people didn’t really get what a dinner group was, and there wasn’t any resource online I could refer them to. That is the reason this site was setup. Now you can send each member the link to this site so they can decide if a Dinner Swap will work for their family.
  2. Once you have enough interested families, invite the household chef to a meeting so you can talk about the Dinner Swap together and everyone can decide if they want to join.  I had four household chefs who were interested after my email, and all four wanted to start the group after the meeting.
  3. Ask each person to have four to six meal ideas , just in case they do want to join and you can put together that month’s calendar.

What to discuss at your Group Meeting

  1. Ideally,  invite someone to be a part of your first meeting who is participating in a dinner group that can answer questions. However, if you are the first person in your neighborhood to start a Dinner Swap, you will be an expert just by reading through the Dinner Trade website.
  2. Discuss any food allergies or food dislikes. Even with small children, I didn’t want to be limiting to the types of food my family would eat. At the same time, you don’t want to be wasting your time or money or someone else’s time and money on meals that won’t be eaten.
  3. Answer any questions and come to an agreement on common concerns. Here are the agreements my group came up with:
    1. Each member will cook one night per week and have a day of the week that is their night to cook. (See tips on what to do if your group has more members than weekdays you want to have meals cooked.)
    2. Each member provides a set of tupperware that is community tupperware. We selected a Gladware set that we got at Costco or Walmart. Ikea also has an inexpensive tupperware set. For my group we each got five larger containers for main course and five smaller containers for the sides
    3. Each meal must have one main course and one side and contain three adult size portions. No matter what size each family has, make the exact same size for each one.
    4. Each meal must contain a meat for protein
    5. The cost of the meal is up to the chef
    6. On your day to cook, you will cook a main course and side dish and then deliver it at 5:30 to each family.
    7. If the person who is cooking dinner the following day needs a casserole dish or crock-pot, then the person who is delivering the meals the night before will pick those up and deliver them to the next day chef when dropping off their meal.
  4. Once you have discussed the dinner group and answered all questions, you can then find out if everyone still wants to be a part of the group. You may have to split into two groups if there are over five families that want to join, or perhaps you will need to start with a small group and continue to look for others want to join.

How to create your Meal Calendar

Since you are all together, this is the perfect time to make up your meal calendar. Check out our meal calendar for suggestions.

  1. Hand out a blank calendar for the month and a pen for each person. You can use a Word Template to make your calendar or even print one from the Internet.
  2. Write down each chef’s email address and phone number.
  3. Each person should select a day of the week that will work best for them to cook.
  4. One person will start and say their main course and side for each of the four days they will be cooking that month. All the other chefs will write it down on their calendar. (The starting person should rotate each month.)
  5. The next chef will go and say their meals, and also make sure that their meals are not the same as someone else and they are not serving the same protein that someone else is already serving that week.
  6. Set a time and place for your next meeting.
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