Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone we turn our attention to the winter holidays. That means lots of cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating, and shopping going on. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukka, or other winter holiday you’re probably wondering how you’re going to fit in all the seasonal activities.
One way to reduce your seasonal cookie baking is to host a cookie exchange and swap baked goods with friends and relatives. It may take a bit of planning, but at least you’ll only have to bake one type of cookie and still have a variety to enjoy or gift over the holidays. It’s also a good excuse for a girls day or night out!
Hosting a cookie exchange doesn’t have to be a big fancy affair nor does it have to cost a fortune.
You can easily host one with just your close friends and family on a tight budget.
Here’s a few tips to help you plan your cookie exchange!
1. Decide who you want to invite.
You may want to keep the party small and intimate to keep it manageable. It’s probably not the right time to throw a party with 50 of your friends and their families.
2. Set your date and time.
Send out invitations. Ideally cookie swap invitations should be sent out a month before, but if you haven’t already done so, you should schedule it as soon as possible so guests can plan to attend. Everyone is busy during the holidays, if your guests are able to attend weekday events it may be easier to have your cookie exchange during the week, otherwise you can schedule a weekend day at least a week before the holiday.
I like to send written invitations, but if you’re pressed for time invitations sent via email or text will do. How ever you decide to send invitations always request guest to RSVP and if possible let you know what type of cookie they will be bringing. This will help avoid duplicates and you can gently suggest an alternative before the cookie exchange.
Tell guests they must bring a dozen cookies per guest plus an extra dozen for tasting. Suggest that the cookies they bring should be easy to pack and store. You can also ask them to write down the cookie recipe on a recipe card if they want to share it. Recipe cards can double as table cards and guests can help themselves to a card as well as the cookies.
3. Bake your cookies.
You can make them well in advance and store baked cookies in the freezer. Cookie bars freeze and pack well as do chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, sugar, and snickerdoodles. For a list of cookies that freeze well check out this article from aboutfood.com.
To learn how to freeze cookies click here!
4. Purchase packing supplies.
You can use boxes, tins, or even ziplock bags. You may want to provide ribbons, tissue paper, tags, and other supplies so guests can pack up cookies for gift giving.
You may also want to have small party favors for each guests. Nicely wrapped oven mitts, kitchen towels, cookie cutters, and wooden spoons are all inexpensive and useful items that would make cute favors.
5. Decorate your house, cookie and packing table.
Set out platters and stands for the cookies. To make your own tiered stands click here!
You may want to set up a table or counter to pack cookies aside from the table or tables for the cookies.
Table cards with cookie type is a nice touch, or if guests are bringing recipe cards to share they can double as table cards. Here’s a cute and festive way to set up table cards, otherwise tent style folding cards work just as well.
Glue 3 candy canes together to form a tripod. Place table card on the hook part.
6. Offer guests coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or even wine.
You should also set out a few savory tidbits for guests to snack on. Finger sandwiches, dips, and other bite sized savories are ideal and will ward off the sugar rush from sampling all those cookies.
7. The star of the show are the cookies and the main event is the exchange.
Decide how you’re going to work the exchange to allow guests to choose the cookies they want. You can have a couple of guests at a time choose all their cookies or you can have rounds with each guest choosing a dozen cookies at a time. Guests can choose the same amount of cookies as they brought.