1. Nominate one person to be the lead organizer. This person is vital to keep the group on task, set swap dates, etc.

2. Choose your members. Limit the group to about 10 people, or you'll have trouble storing the food.

3. Decide how to communicate. Facebook works best if everyone has an account.

4. Meet and set some ground rules. How often will you meet? Does anyone have allergies? How many servings should each meal be?

5. Agree on a "food philosophy" of the group. Are processed ingredients OK?

6. Better yet, form a group with other people near you and like you (i.e. families, vegetarians, gluten-free, nut allergy).

7. Educate yourself on what freezes well (meat) and what doesn't (pasta).

8. Communicate what you'll be making a few weeks in advance of the swap. This ensures a variety of dishes.

9. Double-bag food, and clearly label it with preparation instructions.

10. Help a friend or neighbor in need. When cooking in large batches, it costs little in time or money to provide for one more.

Aimee Blanchette