Here’s What to Do with Cookbooks You Don’t Want Anymore

published Feb 26, 2018
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As much as we all love cookbooks, sometimes you hit a point where you just have to let a few go. But unless a cookbook is totally trashed or something flimsy you put together in grade school, you don’t really want to just throw them in the garbage. Someone else could get use out of them! Here’s what to do with cookbooks you don’t want anymore.

1. Sell them.

If you have, say, a first edition of a vintage, now-famous cookbook or one by a popular new author in pristine condition, you may be able to sell it. First, see if there’s a used cookbook–specific store in your area (we’re partial to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York City) to gauge the interest level and potential value. If that’s not an option, try a general used bookstore or even a site like eBay. Just know that most cookbooks aren’t particularly valuable, so don’t expect to get any real money off the sale.

2. Donate them.

If your cookbooks are in good condition, but not particularly valuable, try to donate them. Your local library, thrift store, or even prison or high school might be good options — but be sure to call first to see what they’re looking for, otherwise they’ll end up in the trash. It’s also worth it to note that none of these places want your cookbooks if they’re covered in spills, mildewy, or otherwise in bad shape. Be realistic about whether these books are worth donating.

(Image credit: William Strawser)

3. Offer them up for free.

I’m always amazed how quickly books on stoops or curbs get scooped up! Set them out in a box with a “free” sign on the next sunny day and see what gets taken. After a day or two, anything that’s left is a candidate for donation or the recycling.

4. Recycle them.

Books are (mostly) made of paper, so they can find second life in new paper products. If the cookbook cover is a hardback, you’ll need to pull out the paper for recycling (just throw away the cover — sorry). Keep in mind that if the pages have gotten wet or soiled, or are so old that they’ve turned brown and brittle, they’re no good for recycling. In that case, you should just throw them out with your regular garbage.

5. Repurpose them.

If the books are in bad shape, outdated, or otherwise undesirable, consider stripping them for parts. If the pages aren’t glossy or clay-coated, they could be great for starting a fire. Cut into strips, those pages are great materials for your child’s next collage or papier-mâché project. Covers of well-worn books can be framed and turned into art for your kitchen. It may be tough at first, but think about how those books are having a second life!

Have you had to part with any cookbooks recently? Which ones were they and what did you do with them?