Our neighborhood meal swap

22 April 2019

Hello, friends! I hope you had a thoughtful Holy Week and very joyful Easter. We worshipped at our church’s 9:45 service, skipped over to the WRAL azalea gardens to enjoy the blooms, then came home for lunch and an egg hunt in our backyard.

Easter family

Shep was very into the family selfie :)

June has been practicing collecting things in her basket for months, so I knew we couldn’t let the holiday pass without some sort of search. Since we missed our neighborhood’s hunt this year, we decided to stage our own! I filled the eggs with little stickers and bunny grahams, and both prizes were a hit. For dinner, we had ham, twice-baked potatoes, asparagus, sparkling cider, and a deep dish chocolate chip cookie – YUM!

Easter baskets

More about our Easter baskets

Speaking of yummy meals, I’ve been wanting to report back on the neighborhood meal swap I mentioned awhile back. Inspired by Victoria, a dear friend and I decided to switch off making meals for both of our families every Tuesday. We kicked things off in the first week of the year, and it was an immediate success on both ends. We made and delivered a Greek feast (grilled chicken kebabs, cucumber feta salad, hummus, pita, grilled peppers); homemade spaghetti and meatballs; beef stew and cheddar biscuits; meatloaf, roasted potatoes, and broccoli; Italian orzo; and more.

egg hunt

Mama and Sheppie

Don’t mind me, just going to keep rolling with the Easter photos while I have you :)

What a treat to have a hot meal delivered by a friendly face right at dinner time with no work on our part every other week! On meal delivery day, there was no racing around trying to get dinner on the table, just an extra hour to play with my babies or take a walk as a family. And on the weeks we were cooking, it was really no more difficult than the usual task of making dinner for our fam – we just cooked twice as much, and then zipped half two minutes around the corner!

We were going strong for about ten weeks, and would have kept going for many more… except that Katie and Co. bought a new house about fifteen minutes away. As happy as we are for them (so happy!), we were also a bit devastated. As y’all know, these introverts don’t make friends particularly easily, and when Katie inserted herself into my life via Instagram DM after spotting me pushing a stroller (true story), it felt like God had personally and graciously gifted me the neighborhood friend I’d prayed for. From our first walk, I just knew that we were kindred spirits.

Easter best

That’s what we have been, and that’s what we’ll continue to be, but I can’t overstate the loveliness of having a close “friend family” a short walk away. Most of our friend families are scattered around the Triangle, many about a half hour away. We make the most of our time together, “binging” on each other’s company when we do get together, but if I had to choose, I’d take the dailiness of doing life together over an every-once-in-a-while spectacle every time.

My favorite part about our meal exchange was not, actually, the meals. It wasn’t even the time I got back with my family, or the opportunity to serve another family. I loved all those things, but what I loved most was the connection this experiment forced on me. As an Enneagram 5 married to a 5, it is easiest to rely on ourselves instead of stepping into the messiness of interdependency. Fives take care of ourselves, and generally think other people should, too. We can be awkward. We don’t like small talk.

But doing what’s easiest isn’t how you grow, and I don’t think the life I described above is the one I’m called to.

I’m called to a life where grace is needed, given, and received – even in the smallest things, like when I deliver dinner half an hour later than I said I would.

I’m called to a life where my imperfection is seen and accepted – like when I show up with noodles that are on the hard side of al dente.

I’m called to a life of vulnerability – what if they don’t like this dish? – and in pushing past that vulnerability instead of finding ways to avoid it.

And I’m called to a life where my days involve more than just my immediate family, where I’m regularly bumped up against other people asking how I’m doing… and really wanting to know the answer.

Easter azaleas

It is so very easy to be anonymous, to go it alone, to rely only on yourself, in the world we live in. Just pull into your garage, roll down that door, and go about your business. It’s safer and easier to call on Door Dash than another human being. But deep relationship is not only a reward in itself, it’s a requisite for growth. And growth is good and beautiful even as it’s hard.

Big lessons, big reminders, from something as small and simple as a meal swap. Do it for the delicious food, do it for the extra hours gained, do it for the growth – but just try it, friends! And then tell me how it goes :)

Easter outfits

I’d love to hear: have you ever tried a meal swap, or would you want to? I’d imagine the biggest barrier for most people is finding a partner close by, since proximity is key to keeping it up long-term.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
April 22, 2019 12:59 pm

Enneagram numbers aside (2 married to a 9!), I think anyone would be lucky to have you as neighbors, Em (John, June and Shep included!). We love you guys and love that you have made such splendid relationships in your neighborhood. This meal swap idea sounds delightful! Xo

April 22, 2019 1:52 pm

Oh, this really resonated with me as a fellow 5! Thanks for reminding me that there are many more important and worthwhile parts to life than being self-sufficient. :)

Jenna Arko
April 22, 2019 4:55 pm

Glad you had a nice holiday. May I ask where your actual Easter basket is from? Been looking for something similar and coming up short.

Also, recipe links for the items you sent? Everything sounds DECICIOUS

April 22, 2019 6:14 pm

Our next door neighbors and kindred spirits just moved away (from Carrboro to Raleigh) a month ago – the neighborhood already feels a little bit lonelier! I think your description of “binging” and “dailiness” is so true, especially having so many “local” friends who live just far enough that daily (or even weekly) together time isn’t feasible. I love your meal swap idea, but my life isn’t predictable enough at this stage to rely on myself to have dinner on the table at a certain time let alone leave another family waiting – maybe one day!

Laura B
April 22, 2019 8:21 pm

Thanks for sharing! And the Easter photo shoot going along with it is just so, so precious. Love them, especially Shep’s smocked outfit. With a husband who is a chef, I feel very fortunate that he cooks all our dinners, typically with sidekick toddler “helper” while I’m still at work. I will definitely share this idea with Dan to consider. That said, we have done a few very successful meal swaps. We have done with them with my new mom’s group that I met when Jason was a newborn. We have done both a “crockpot meal” and a soup swap. Everyone made five portions of something that could go in the freezer and easily be re-heated. Then, we had a “draft” where people selected the top five they wanted. (There were a dozen of us in the swap.) The first time we kept close track of who made what to ensure variety and over time we just went with whatever people brought it and it always worked out.

Anna Relton
April 23, 2019 7:16 am

This really resonated with me, as currently at uni my friendship group (we live between two big houses that are opposite each other) all do a weekday meal rota that enables us to only cook once every two weeks (when you cook, you cook for 10). And then the other days, as you said, you come in and dinner is ready on the table with no work! We all sit down together and it’s lovely. With such a big group and all being busy, it’s great to come together and discuss our days etc. Yes, sometimes people feel nervous about whether their meal will be liked, or sometimes there are delays to dinner or mishaps, and sometimes people are overtired and grate against each other. Humans aren’t perfect! But we also have times of rich conversation, get to squeeze lots of people around too-small student dining tables, get to give and receive grace, and have the deep privelege of living in community with one another – something that others notice and comment on often. I wouldn’t change it for the world :) It’s not for everyone, but we love it. And it actually doesn’t take as much organisation as you’d think!