How to Have Fun with a ‘Swap’ Meet

Is it a Swap Meet? Or a ‘Swap’ Meet? It just depends upon your perspective!

A Swap Meet is a place where folks can swap one item for money or another item of equal value. Another name for these is ‘flea market’, ‘garage sale’ or ‘bazaar’.

But for this post, the term ‘Swap’ Meet takes on a totally different perspective. 

In a sense, it is similar to what was described in my post A Circle of Friends’ – a group of friends gathered together for a specific purpose.

But there is a difference.  A Circle focuses more on a once a month get together. A Swap Meet can be quarterly, yearly or even seasonal fun.

Just so you know: This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission, but it does not affect the price you pay!

How to Host a Swap Meet

How to Host a Swap Meet

The first step to a successful Swap Meet is to do a bit of homework.  Make a list of potential swaps.  Then poll your friends to see which ones would meet their current needs.

It may help to create a list of each swap with a general idea of what it would be.  For instance, a Seed Swap might be held in late January.  Each person would bring packets of at least five to ten seeds that are labeled.

The seed labels would include the type of seed (Squash), the variety (Lemon), and planting instructions.  Be sure to include things such as ‘days to germination’, sun/water needs and days to harvest.  Also note if the plant needs staking or trellising, such as tomatoes and beans.

Once your poll is completed, choose the top three favorites and work on those.  Choose the time of year they need to be held, do a rough draft of rules, etc.

Swap Meet Guidelines

Creating the Guidelines

In order to make your swap run smoothly, there are a few considerations to make. You need to ask yourself how many folks to invite, what time of year is best for the swaps, and make work out a few guidelines.

Invitation to a Swap Meet


A Swap Meet can consist of just three or four people, or a group as large as your space can hold.  Send out invitations to the swap, and keep a list of the people invited. Be sure to add an R.S.V.P.

A week before the Swap, contact anyone who has not responded.  Knowing the exact number of participants is crucial to a successful swap. 

Three days before the swap, contact each participant and let them know the number of people attending.  This way, they have enough time to prepare, and each participant is guaranteed to leave the swap with equal items.

For instance – if you have five people attending the swap, then they should bring five items.  Four will got to the other participants, and one will be for ‘show and tell’ or taste-testing purposes.

As the hostess, you may want to have a few extras stashed back, just in case someone doesn’t bring enough, or doesn’t show at the last minute.

Creating a List of Rules

‘Rules’ sound a bit militant.  However, you don’t necessarily have to present them in this fashion.  Instead, you may choose to use the word ‘Guidelines’ instead.  Either way, this gives the ones invited an idea of what is to be expected.

The rules should contain the basics:

  • What is being swapped
  • What each person is expected to bring
  • How the swap will be conducted

The first two are fairly self-explanatory.  How the swap will be conducted needs to be a little more detailed.

How to Have Fun with a Swap Meet

For something such as seeds, my favorite way of dividing up the goods would be for the hostess to have paper bags set up on a table.  Ahead of time, decorate the bags anyway you choose, and put the recipient’s name on it.

When your guests come in, have them drop a seed packet in each bag.

The Swap Meet Hostess’ Responsibilities

As the hostess, you not only have to send out the invitations and organize the event, you also have to prepare for your guests.  To some degree, you will need to offer refreshments.

This can be as simple as cake and coffee.  Or, if doing a meal swap, consider having each guest bring an extra item, and serve them as a taste-testing meal.  You still need to offer something to drink, but this will limit the amount of food-related preparations you need to make.

Be sure to have enough room to hold the offerings.  A Seed Swap using paper bags needs only a small table.  Casseroles, meals and cookie trays will need more space. 

Somewhere for your guests to sit is also needed.  If you have the room, you can set up the Swap in the Kitchen, and visit in the living room.

What Works Best for a Swap Meet?

Just about anything that is beneficial to others in the group can be used as swapping items.  Seeds, food, books, and more.  First determine your likes and needs, and go from there. 

Here are a few ideas I feel would be great ideas to use as a Swap Meet focus:

Host a Seed Swap

Seed Swap

Gather together like-minded gardeners.  You can have a seed swap focus on herbs, vegetables, flowers, or a general swap. 

Seed packets can be purchased or saved from your own garden.  Just be sure the seeds are fresh, and not outdated. 

As the example above describes, determine ahead of time how many seeds should be in each packet.  Unless it is a very rare plant, never offer just one or two seeds.  If you only have a couple and they do not germinate, it can be very disappointing to the recipient.

I suggest no less than five, but unless it is a small seed such as lettuce or carrots, you really don’t need to do more than 10.

Host a Meal Swap Meet

Meal Swaps

The basic idea behind a meal swap is to help feed your family.  It helps to alleviate picking up dinner at a drive thru on especially busy days.  As an added bonus, it allows you to serve something other than your own standard fare.

To bake for a Meal Swap, it is helpful to bake the weekend before.  Choose a meal you would ordinarily serve your own family.  Multiply the ingredients by the number of people in your group.

Create the meal, and place the ones to be given to someone else in a reusable serving dish.  Wrap Cover with plastic wrap, and then tin foil, to add an extra layer of protection against freezer burn.

Prepare a label that tells what it is and baking instructions.  Also add the date in which it was baked. 

Now, place the ones for Swap members in the freezer.  If you choose, you can also place yours in the freezer to serve for another day.

As far as food related items go, you may also want to consider doing a swap that focuses on food you have canned.  Jams, jellies, pickles, even soups are a great items on which to focus your swap. 

If you have a group of friends who love to bake, consider a Bread & Muffin swap.  These can be consumed immediately, or frozen to use for later!

Swap Meets are great for Christmas

Seasonal Swaps

At one time or another, most of us have participated in a Christmas ornament or cookie exchange. Schedule this swap after Thanksgiving, or within the first two weeks of December.


These can be handled two different ways: 

1) As a ‘white elephant’ type exchange, where the first person draws a wrapped ornament from the pile.  The next person can choose to either select one from the pile, or ‘steal’ the one from the first person.  If stealing takes place, then the one stolen from gets to choose another one from the pile – or steal from someone else.

2. Have each person wrap their ornament, and as they come in, assign each one a number.  In a separate basket, have each number written out on a piece of paper.  Have each person pull a number out of the basket, then retrieve the ornament with the corresponding number.

You may have another way you like doing an ornament swap.  If so, go ahead and use it! 

Exchange Cookies at a Swap Meet


The number of cookies each participant brings will heavily depend on both the number of attendees and how you, as the hostess, decide to divide them up. 

Have each participant bring one dozen cookies per two attendees.  (If there are eight people at the party, then each one should bring four dozen cookies.)  They should also bring their own container large enough to bring home their own cookie assortment.

Place all of the cookies on platters on a table.  Have each recipient choose six from each tray to add to their stash. 

One thing I would highly suggest – ask each participant to bring one extra cookie for each participant.  As the hostess, place each of these cookies on a plate, and serve your guests.  This gives them an opportunity to taste test the offerings.

Swap pies and desserts at Thanksgiving

Other Seasonal Swaps

Christmas isn’t the only time you can do swaps that are more seasonal.  Consider a Thanksgiving Swap, and exchange pies or other desserts.  For Halloween, have a cupcake or a candy swap. And for summer, consider a Garden Bounty swap.

Use a Swap Meet to Help

Other Types of Swap Meets

We all need help from time to time with an extra pair of hands.  One of the first things I can think of is cleaning your house before a big event.  Others are things such as cooking for that big event, caring for an elderly parent, and babysitting services. 

Have each person write down three to five things they occasionally need help with. Then have each of the other participants raise their hands if they can help.

As the hostess, you may want to consider providing a small notebook, calendar and a pen.  This makes it easy for each guest to jot down what they are committing to, and when.

Babysitting is always a great Swap Meet Item

Babysitting / Elder Care

For young parents, the cost of babysitting services can quickly become cost prohibitive.  If you have a group of friends who also have children, consider swapping sitting services. 

You may also ask them if they are willing to stay with an elderly parent or sick child for an hour or two while you run errands.  If you are requesting them to stay with a sick child, make sure the ailment isn’t contagious, though!

Swap Gardening and Yard work Chores

Progressive Swaps

This is a Swap Meet I think could be very helpful.  Think in terms of a deep cleaning of your house, preparing and planting a garden, yardwork, weeding, and other tasks that take a lot of time.

Have an initial meeting of willing friends.  Choose a swap.  Then schedule a weekend to go help each other. 

These swaps can be done on successive weekends, or once a month until everyone is taken care of.  The best part is you don’t have to prepare food or items ahead of time.  Just throw on your grubby clothes and go!

As the hosting party, you will need to provide lunch for those helping.  Or, if agreed upon ahead of time, have everyone bring a sack lunch, and you provide the drinks and dessert.

No matter what your focus, hosting or attending a Swap Meet can be beneficial, and in the long run, a time saving measure.  As well as delicious food and helping hands when needed, most Swap Meets also provide fun and laughter with a group of great people.

Like the idea of a Swap Meet?  Then start planning!  And be sure to let me know how it goes!!

Looking for More Fun Ideas?

These posts should help!

Make Your Own Handwoven Greeting Cards

Have Fun at Home

Create a Barn Quilt

Baking as a Relationship

Create a Craft Kit

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. What an awesome idea! I can’t wait to get to a new homestead and have the ability to do one of these swap meets! Thanks for sharing on the Simple Homestead Blog Hop! You are being featured this week!

    1. Wow! Thank you so much, Annie, for featuring my post! And if I can ever get that direction, I’ll be the first to join your ‘Swap’!!!

  2. What a fabulous sustainable model, Julie! This is what we all need more of these days, and a great way to help each other out! Thank you so much for sharing and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party community! Hope you are having a lovely weekend!

    1. Thank You, April, for letting me be a part of your blog hop! I am loving the other posts – and can’t wait for the next batch!

  3. Hi Julie! I LOVE this idea! I’m an ain’t for a local gleaning group and I think I might just have to host a “garden bounty” swap meet. Great idea, thanks for sharing!

    1. I fully understand, Shawna! I already have problems finding things when the kids come in and ‘help’ clean! However, sharing meals and all that excess garden bounty is right up my alley!!!

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