Food swaps: Bring a meal, take home new ones

LOS ANGELES When these girls get together, the main focus is food, and a lot of it.

"A nice variety of good food from other people," said "food-swapper" Corrin Pitluck.

"It's a highlight, and something I look forward to each month," said Mary Jo Banks.

These two are part of a food swap. Each person brings multiple portions of a homemade dish to exchange. You bring one dish and go home with lots of new meals.

"We do soups and casseroles and everything pretty much; there's really no limit," said Jillian Frank, a "foodie" who organizes food swaps. "You get to try all these different foods, foods that you might not have been exposed to otherwise."

While it may sound time-consuming to cook a large quantity of food all at once, participants say at least it's only one day at the stove.

"Depending on the number of people you're swapping with, you get a whole week's worth of meals, so you have all that time during the week to spend with your family or catch up on work or housecleaning," said Jillian.

Jillian also says it's a great way to save money.

"When you buy food in bulk it's cheaper, cheaper to buy and also cheaper to prepare a whole lot of one meal," said Jillian.

Setting up a food swap is simple. Ask your friends if they'd like to form a group, or there are sites like Meetup.com that will help you find interested people in your area.

You might want to set some guidelines. Do you need vegetarian foods or foods that are allergy-free? And how often do you want to meet?

Jillian's group meets monthly.

"It gives us a lot of time between swaps because we can plan, shop the sales and really just get good deals and have the time to take and prepare good meals," said Jillian.

And, of course, another bonus is socializing.

"It's kind of helping me get inspiration and ideas for my own kitchen again," said Corrin.

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