In a digital world where everything can be pinned, printed, bookmarked, or downloaded… there are still old souls like me roaming the streets. I NEED an actual object, like a cookbook or magazine in my literal hands. Maybe you’re like me? Well hello there, it’s nice to meet you fellow cookbook fan! An extra warm hello if you’re a fan of used cookbooks too!
There’s something magical, concrete, and meaningful about holding a cookbook. Writing in margins, dog-earring favorite recipes, and reliving moments passed with each splattered and wrinkled page. Imagining all the hard work that went into each recipe- testing, photographing, editing, retesting, and promoting. It’s no wonder the average cookbook costs $25-$40 big ones these days. And I’m not here to say that should change. I’ve purchased my fair share of new cookbooks, and will purchase more new ones in the future.
Yes, there’s a but. As great as a new book smells smell, there’s something so warm and inviting about cracking open a preowned cookbook. Complete with someone else’s story filled with their splatters and scribble that you now get to share in. Writing your story right alongside theirs.
If you’ve been feeling uninspired or have a desire to become more comfortable in the kitchen, one of the first things I’d recommend you do is start flipping through cookbooks. Seriously. You won’t believe the things you’ll learn that you didn’t know you needed to learn.
When we go to Google we’re often seraching for a particular topic, item, or problem. Cookbooks simply provide information, you can’t search them the same way- the temporary relieve from problem solving that we all need. They’re just like that hack or how to on Instagram Reels or TikTok you didn’t know you needed to know… but in written form.
Finding Used Cookbooks
Long story short- wherever someone would “get rid of” or “donate” unwanted items. BAM. Chances are you’ll find used cookbooks there. In fact, if you’re due for a deep clean yourself I’d encourage you to consider donating your used books to a local non profit. You can bet they’ll make it into a loving home and continue to be used for years and years to come all while benefiting charity. But if you do need extra cash, there are options to sell gently used books to second-hand book stores. These types of shops aren’t abundant, but they do exist and it might be worth your time to make a few calls.
Aren’t old, used cookbooks outdated? Absolutely not. While measurements and ingredients and kitchen tools might be a bit different these days, the concepts, ideas, and creativity are every bit as valid and helpful in today’s kitchen! Below are a few of my favorite places to find cookbooks and the reasons why I shop them.
If you’re not the type that enjoys the thrill of the hunt, I’d recommend calling before arriving. You’ll quickly learn what thrift shops in your area sell and don’t sell books, magazines, albums, used cookbooks and more! Conditions of these cookbooks are going to range widely. Some will be in great shape, some never used, and others might have entire pages missing or chewed off. Take your time to flip through the books prior to purchasing so there’s no surprises waiting when you get home.
Bonus: Thrift stores are also where I’ve found a wide variety of cookware basics and kitchen tools for a fraction of the price.
Second-Hand Book Shops
These shops tend independently owned and filled with unique finds. Most review the books they accept, so the chances of you getting a used cookbook that’s been obliterated are almost nonexistent. Many provide little reading nooks, host monthly events, and are actively involved in their local community. If you enjoy supporting small, local-to-you business, this is a wonderful place to start your hunt for used cookbooks.
There isn’t an online platform where some sort of good or service isn’t being sold, and used cookbooks are no exception. I would recommend searching Etsy if you are looking for a specific cookbook or a specific publishing date of a cookbook. Think… folks who are wanting to add a 1950 copy of Betty Crocker to their collection. These sellers tend to know what they have and so you’ll see much higher prices here, especially if you’re utilizing it for the purchase of specific editions. Since Etsy is literally comprised of small business, this is s big draw for those who practice shopping small in all areas of life- including online.
If you’ve ever been on Facebook marketplace you already know anything goes. It’s a virtual yard sale if you will. I would never count on this platform being THE place you’ll find what you need, but for those who check it frequently there are amazing finds that pop up across several categories… including vintage, used cookbooks. Mostly, these sellers don’t realize what they have and are just trying to get rid of “junk” which can make scoring great find at a really great price! Typically, sellers provide general details on condition and the buyer needs to make contact for additional information. Don’t hesitate to ask for additional pictures prior to making an arrangement for pickup.
This is honestly the most hit or miss place for me, BUT, if you already find yourself there it doesn’t hurt to look. Occasionally there are decent finds in good shape! I have been surprised once or twice, and prices are always ridiculously good.
Equally as hit or miss as Goodwill. Like Goodwill, however, if you’re already making a stop it can’t hurt to peruse the books available for sale. And if there’s any place you can negotiate a good deal- this is that place.
Much like yard sales, you never know what you’re going to find. Cookbooks don’t normally make the photo section of an estate sale advertisment. BUT, I have noticed that when there are several photos of kitchenwares provided it’s safe to assume there are a number of cookbooks up for grabs as well. That rule of thumb hasn’t failed me yet!
Bonus: most estate sales have 1/2 price on their last day of selling. If you’re willing to hold out you can make purchases at an absolute steal!
I personally don’t use eBay, but do know several others who have and do with great success. Unlike Amazon, eBay boasts a higher number of small businesses in their online space. You can also expect that the item’s description will include any major blemishes, torn pages, condition of the cover etc, so you know exactly what you’re getting. This is a big draw for folks who enjoy online shopping and want to ensure their money is going directly where they want it to go.
I Don’t Do Clutter
I need inspiration but don’t like to collect things, what do you suggest? Easy. Most second hand cookbooks won’t set you back more than $2-$5 and your purchase will often go to support a small business or non profit. WIN. Purchase that $4 cookbook, take it home, read it, gather your inspiration, snag a few pictures for reference, cook from it a few times, and figure out if you actually want to keep it. If not, drop it back off as a donation.
Some thrift shops, like the ReStore Habitat for Humanity near my home, have a separate book section complete with cafe and sitting area. I’ve been known to take full advantage of a rainy afternoon by pursuing their giant cookbook selection, grabbing a stack, and ordering a chai (also benefiting Habitat) before snuggling in to a seat.
Just the act of flipping though used cookbooks (without the worry of messing them up and having to pay for it) is therapeutic and fills me with inspiration for weeknight dinners and holiday gatherings. Sometimes I leave with a book or two, and others my donation is the chai I purchase. You might be surprise just how much you learn and enjoy this process.
Bonus: You’d also be surprised how many thrifted, signed cookbooks I’ve stumbled over throughout the years! It’s so cool to see the authors signature on the inside of those first few pages, making the purchase extra special.
Used Cookbooks vs Online Tech
Ok. Does all of this mean I’m anti tech? I mean, I’m comin to you with this message on a blog- so no. I do the Pinterest thing, Instagram thing, TikTok thing, read blogs thing AND I love it too. I’m constantly being inspired by other creators from around the world. It really is amazing to have so much information at my fingertips.
Tech isn’t going away, in fact it will continue to evolve until it is an unrecognizable space… just 10 years from now. How I reminisce on dial up and how I eagerly waited for AOL chats to begin, is how I’ll eventually talk about Instagram stories and TikTok dances.
Which is why I make a case for owning, perusing, and using physical cookbooks as a part of your routine. There’s something innately comforting about the fact that it can’t be removed, taken away, accidentally deleted, commented on, or rated. It simply exists. In a world of fleeting 24 hour viral recipes, sounds, and video- I find that comforting.
Used cookbooks allow me to connect in the present while connecting with the past.
Let Me Know
Have you ever purchased a used cookbook? I’d love to know where you found yours in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for new place to find cookbooks 🙂
If this post inspired you in any way, I’d love you to share it with a friend of family member. Every comment, share, and save helps my little business grow in profound ways. Thank you for reading, and I hope to see you back here soon!
Hugs, because handshakes are awkward~