Save time and money with a holiday cookie swap
Who knew saving money could be so delicious?
The holidays are often associated with certain foods. Christmas and Hanukkah conjure up visions of cookies and other treats. However, holidays also bring a lot of time and money pressures.
Why not consider a cookie exchange during the holidays? It could be a fun, inexpensive, and simple way to celebrate the season.
What is a cookie exchange?
For a cookie swap, a handful of people plan their holiday kitchen ahead of time and swap their treats — and the recipes for them.
Each participant prepares a different type of cookie or dessert.
There are a few directions you can follow from there. You could have a cookie swap party, where everyone comes to fill their boxes. Or, you can pack every dozen and make cookie deliveries. It is up to each group to define its rules for exchanging cookies.
How does a holiday cookie exchange save money and time?
Cookie recipes often share basic ingredients – eggs, flour, salt, and baking soda. Then, according to the recipe, there is spices and nuts and chocolate chips, candied fruit and butterscotch, peppermint and sour cream and a myriad of ingredients to buy. Christmas cookies often contain high-end or harder-to-find ingredients, as they can be gifts.
Participating in a cookie exchange limits the number of ingredients you need to purchase and can help you stay within your holiday budget. Getting more of the same ingredients probably won’t cost as much as getting a variety of items.
For example, the cost of ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies for the home baker comes to about $2.40 per dozen. If you also want to make gingerbread cookies, the various ingredients will cost you around $2.90 per dozen. Butter cookies, if you use good butter, will cost $3.50 per dozen. These recipes do not contain any special ingredients.
Recipes with special ingredients like pecans, mint, food coloring, sour cream, pumpkin, etc. will cost more than regular sugar cookies.
Making just one type of cookie also saves prep and cleanup time, although the baking time may be the same.
How to Set Up a Holiday Cookie Exchange
Ready to set up your first cookie exchange? Here are our step-by-step instructions:
Survey your friends
You can start by polling your baking-loving friends to see who would like to participate. While you’re at it, find out if your attendees have any specific dietary restrictions or time requirements.
Define the rules and a date for exchanging cookies
Settling on a time frame can be the hardest part of this process. Cookies can go stale and not everything freezes well. Setting a cookie exchange date should happen early in the process.
You will also need to set the most important guideline for exchanging cookies: how many cookies should each person create?
It is entirely up to you. Some people only make a few dozen cookies for the exchange, and others make a dozen per person. (So if there are eight people participating, then each person makes eight dozen cookies.)
Either way, make sure expectations are set up front.
Choose your bakers
Now is the time to invite friends who wish to participate in a cookie exchange. When considering your attendees, make sure you have enough people in case someone drops out. But remember, too many bakers can also be a problem. A cookie exchange can get complicated if you have more than 10 people.
If you plan to send out invitations, you can find and use some great ones online. Cloth has a ton of cookie swapping party invitations to use. A helpful tip is to have the cookie exchange rules on one side of the invitation.
Make the call: Are you hosting a party or just chatting?
One of the biggest decisions to make is whether it will be a full-fledged social occasion or a utility drop-off/pick-up event. This may affect who you invite to join the cookie exchange, and when and how you do so.
Most people turn a cookie exchange into a party. There are plenty of opportunities to spend time with family during the holiday season. It’s nice to have the chance to party with friends too.
There are a few steps you can take early in the planning process to ensure everything goes smoothly no matter how you choose to exchange cookies.
Are you organizing a party? Nail the Nitty Gritty
Most of the time, people organize cookie exchange parties. Like it should be ! Life can be tough and spending time with friends makes things better.
If you’re going party, create a guest list, think about party supplies, send out invitations, and plan light snacks.
From there, you will have a few more decisions to make. For instance:
- Would you like guests to bring their own containers or pool money for cookie jars? (Thrift stores almost always have cheap boxes.)
- Would you like people to bring snacks and drinks as well?
- How many guests can a guest bring?
- Do you want to have a cookie tasting as part of the party? (If so, you can ask people to bring a few extra cookies.).
Don’t forget to download the recipes
Yes, having delicious cookies for the season is a huge cookie swap draw. But the recipes themselves are just as valuable.
Everyone should give you their cookie recipe ahead of time or should be responsible for providing recipe cards to each participant. (Plus a few extras if you’re hosting a party.)
To stay in contact
What’s the easiest way to communicate with everyone? You can start an email chain or text group. You can also create a page on a social networking site, so everyone can interact and coordinate. Facebook has hundreds of cookie exchanges and events, so make sure everyone has the right one.
How to Host a Cookie Swap Party for the Holidays
So you’ve decided to throw a party – great! As with any party, when hosting a cookie swap, you want to create a fun space with lots of food, drink, and fun.
Here are some tips for setting up your cookie swapping party.
make a menu
The host can serve savory appetizers or sandwiches to offset the sweetness of the cookies. (Side note: wouldn’t it be fun to have an appetizer swap?)
It is not necessary, however. If you want to limit your expenses, stick to cookies.
Create a cookie swapping wonderland
If you’re hosting a Christmas cookie exchange, you can go all out with cookie decor. Is that a gingerbread family on your lawn? Are those real Christmas cookies hanging on your tree? You can even make printed Christmas cards with cookie recipes.
Set a Festive (and Functional) Cookie Swap Table
Clear the dining room table, it’s time to use this holiday tablecloth!
Next, set up as many cake stands as possible. (Feel free to ask your guests to bring cake stands if you need more than you have.) If there aren’t enough cake stands, use serving trays. You will need to make sure there is space in front of each for recipe cards.
Looking for something more interactive? Set up a cookie decorating station with plain sugar cookies.
Invite your guests to contribute
The person hosting the cookie swap party will provide the party food, their own cookies, festive decor, and a few trays of cookies. But guests should also bring things.
Ask guests to bring extra cake stands, cookie trays, their own take-home cookie containers, and copies of their cookie recipes. As a backup, you might want to have some ziplock bags handy, but cookie jars and boxes are nicer.
Be flexible in case a guest forgets to bring one of these items.
Set cookie exchange rules
You can ask your guests to refill their cookie jars at any time during the party, but you should make it clear to them when that will be and how many cookies they can take.
Once you’ve set the stage, have fun and enjoy yourself.
Make it a tradition
Cookie exchange parties can become an annual tradition. If you give away lots of Christmas cookies to friends and family, this is a fantastic way to save some cash (unless you’re the host and decide to go it alone, for being honest) and spending time with people you care about. .
Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a cafe in St. Petersburg, Florida, and hosted an art exhibit on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.