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Don't Feel Like Cooking? Try Your Neighbor's Kitchen

Like the smells coming from the apartment next door? Shareyourmeal is a new online network that lets you buy interesting leftovers from home cooks in your city.

We’ve written before about online dining clubs, where friends and strangers get together for "feasts." Shareyourmeal is something similar, though perhaps a little less grand. Call it a food sharing network for school-nights.

Say, you make too much dinner. You go on the site, give the dish a name, say what ingredients you’ve used, how many portions you have, how many days it will keep, when people can pick up, and what price you want. Other hungry people then get in touch, and arrange a time to come round. Ideally, they bring their own container.

Shareyourmeal started in Amsterdam in March 2012, and is now launching in New York. It has signed up 45,000 cooks and diners so far, and more than 73,000 meals have changed hands. Users are currently offering a nice looking Indonesian Rendang curry for about $7.25, and a stuffed zucchini dish with couscous for $6.60.

Marieke Hart started the site with her husband. They got the idea while sitting in the backyard. "Our neighbor was cooking, and the scents made us curious about the food, and also about her. We had lived there three years and never met her," she says.

"We thought, 'Wouldn’t it be great to walk over to your neighbor’s house with a few Euros and some empty plates, and then return with a home-cooked meal? So, we asked her, and luckily she reacted with great enthusiasm."

Hart says Shareyourmeal offers convenience, and potentially cuts food waste. But the social aspect is the most important thing. "We believe food brings people closer together. In the Netherlands, we see people of completely different ages, status, and cultures, meet each other in their kitchens. They chat, and sometimes contact starts happening outside the actual sharing."

There are a few obvious guidelines, mostly to keep things simple. Diners have to pay the exact amount in cash, and turn up within the times given. If you’re late, the cook has the right to offer the portion to someone else. Shareyourmeal itself is a social enterprise, meaning it reinvests any income in the project itself (it is free at the moment).

Hart hopes that New Yorkers will like the idea, and start telling their friends. "We want to find some enthusiastic home cooks to start talking about it. A positive experience is important to have other people sharing as well." Why not? It seems like a nice way to get to know the neighborhood.