How to organize a cookie exchange

When I was kid, I remember my mom participating in Christmas cookie exchanges. But as an adult, I didn’t hear about any for years. I’m not sure if that was due to my age, or if the idea had subsided.

What is a cookie exchange?

A cookie exchange is an event in which invited guests bring dozens of one type of cookie, then swap each dozen of the cookies they’ve brought for a different dozen. For example, if I am participating in a cookie exchange that includes 11 people, I would make 10 dozen of chocolate chip. The other 10 people make 10 dozen of a different type of cookie. I exchange my chocolate chip cookies for their various types. You enter the event with dozens of one type of cookie and leave with dozens of different types of cookies. It’s a great shortcut if you are giving cookie assortments as gifts.

Well, a few years ago, I got the urge to try one. My family and I like to eat (and offer guests) a variety of cookies during the holiday season. With balancing our home, the children, work, and life – the stress of making up dozens of assorted cookies on my own became too much. Hosting a cookie exchange was the perfect answer!

The the key ingredients to hosting a cookie exchange are:
1. Date and time
2. Amount of cookies each person will contribute
3. How many people will participate

Some may argue that it is time and money consuming, as well as unhealthy, to participate or host a cookie exchange. Here are a few reasons why I don’t completely agree:
1. Rather than having to make 10 different types of cookies, you make only one type.
2. You spend only a few hours making the cookies and exchanging.
3. You’re buying ingredients for only one type of cookie, not 10 dozen.
4. This isn’t necessarily for you. When you have guests over for the holidays, most like something sweet on which to snack.

My step-by-step guide for setting up a cookie exchange each year

1. Choose a date

My cookie exchange always takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This gives people time to have their cookies throughout the entire month of December. The time of the day changes each year. I let participants vote on a time and the majority rules.

2. Choose a target number of participants

The first year I hosted my exchange, I set my number at 10. After hosting it for a few years, I decided I didn’t want to cap the number. This has become popular and I have so much fun doing it. Rather than limit the number of people, I limit the number of cookies to make to 10 dozen. So, if you show up with 10 dozen, you leave with 10 dozen.

3. Create a list of family and friends

Create a large list to start as not everyone will say yes. If you have too few, you can always request that each person make two kinds, or bring two dozen to share with each person.

4. Contact participants to see if they’d like to participate

In year’s past, I contact participants via text message. This year I utilized Facebook to create a group and an event. Through this, everyone is able to indicate which type of cookie they will bring, so that there are no duplicates. You can use this forum to explain the procedure, vote on times, confirm the date, etc. One of the participants in my exchange suggested that everyone bring a copy of her recipe. This is something I hope to suggest this year via the Facebook page. (Thanks, Becky!)

5. Have a clear plan for the day of the event

As participants enter, direct them to where the exchange will take place and ask that they display their cookies so everyone can see them. (I have been awe-struck at the beautiful packaging people use for their cookies.). Once everyone has set up their cookies, encourage everyone to walk around the tables and to take a dozen of each type. I usually have more people than dozens of cookies. When that happens, each person gets to choose the kinds of cookies they prefer most, making sure to take only one of each type.

Then Everyone takes their cookies home and freezes them. (Hmmm… Well, that is the goal anyway! I have to freeze mine or I would eat them all by the end of the day on Sunday!). Anytime you’re having guests over, pull out a bag of cookies!

Honestly, this is something that I look forward to every year. I think my family does too, since we don’t keep this type of food at our fingertips. Many of the participants bring their husbands and their children. The guys talk, the kids play, and the gals have fun discussing their recipes and the holidays.

Have you ever participated in a cookie exchange? What worked or did not work for you?