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Thrifty Thursdays: How to Feed Your Cookbook Addiction without Breaking the Bank

cookbooks on shelfThe irony of this post being put up on the same day as Stuart Stein’s Do Publishers Think We’re Stupid is not lost on me. But there are some of us who use our cookbooks regularly and do enjoy getting new ones. Or at least getting new-to-you ones.

I just got back from my county library used book sale, and there were two whole tables of used cookbooks with more boxes full of cookbooks under them. I promised to limit myself to only five cookbooks, and I anguished over my choices when there were so many to choose from. At $2 per hardback and $1 per softback, it would have been easy to buy every cookbook that caught my eye. But I restrained myself (plus I wasn’t buying just cookbooks).

If you’ve got a cookbook habit, or if you’re just tired of the same recipes you’ve been using for years and want to pick one or two new ones up, hitting a local library used book sale is a great idea for several reasons.

  • The cookbooks are really inexpensive.
  • The variety is great. You’ll rarely find today’s best sellers, but you’ll find fabulous older cookbooks and probably choose ones you would have never chosen on the Barnes and Nobles shelves. And you’ll always find about 10 perfectly untouched copies of In the Kitchen with Rosie (mine is still on my bookshelf).
  • Buying used cookbooks (or other used books) is environmentally friendly. No new resources went in to making the books you’re buying. It satisfies the reuse part of reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • You’ll enjoy the cultural experience of being surrounded by frantic book searchers. If you’ve ever been to one of these sales, you’ll know, the people can be lunatics. Hundreds of bibliomaniacs around inexpensive books. It’s a lot of fun, but you might want to think twice about bringing kids. They might get trampled.

So, what treasures did I come away with today? Here’s what I narrowed my choices down to:

The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook published by Whitecap Books. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m trying to eat more meatless meals, and the pictures in this book looked like food my family would eat.

Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook published in 1961. The introduction which starts out, “I believe that the ability to prepare and serve good and attractive meals is a delightful feminine virtue” is a snapshot of a different era, and the book has hundreds of recipes.

The Bread Machine Cookbook IV by Donna Rathmell German. I use my bread machine all the time, and this book hs recipes for breads made of whole grains and natural sugars. I know I’ll get a lot of use from this one.

Beard on Pasta by James Beard. James Beard, the father of American gastronomy, and pasta, the food my family never complains about.

The Englightened Cusisine by Rene Verdon. I didn’t have a French cookbook in my collection and now I do.

There’s a website, Book Sale Finder, that helps users locate library book sales in their local area.

Image courtesy of flickr.

8 comments
  1. sarah lynne

    you might also try http://www.bookmooch.com, its an online book swap site. you get points for giving away books and can use it to “mooch” books from other users. you just pay shipping on the ones you send out (i find by media mail usually around $2). i know i got rid of a lot of cookbooks that way when we pared down our selection.

  2. Beth Bader

    There are classics that never go out of style. Plus, most culinary techniques have not changed since the days of CarΓͺme and Escoffier. You may even find an MFK Fisher if you are lucky!

  3. Carla

    I try to stick to the classics even though I cant eat a lot of foods (ie: gluten). I actually have too many cookbooks from yard sales, estate sales and good old fashioned Amazon.com. I’m definitely looking at purging some in the near future.

  4. Robin

    Once I called myself a “cookbook collector” rather than someone who buys a lot of cookbooks and doesn’t cook from half of them, it totally justified my addiction! But I do buy many used books since there are a lot of people out there who buy books, don’t use them and get rid of them :-) I stay away from obviously “used” cookbooks with food samples on them.

  5. Roger

    Write to the fundraiser cookbook companies and ask about overruns. They sell them for very little and you get cooks favorite recipes from all over the country.

  6. Janine

    I’ve been getting some cookbooks off swaptree as well, but have also bought from book sales. My hubby and I love them!

    BTW – Thanks to your post, I’ve been cooking away on the bread machine:)

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