Whether you are in the process of going veg or have been vegan (or raw) for years, cookbooks can make all the difference in transitioning to a healthier, more compassionate lifestyle -- and in successfully maintaining that transition.
Of course, you can find tons of free recipes online (including on this blog), so that is always something to keep in mind before seeking out cookbooks to buy. I find tons of online vegan recipes to try out, which I either save in a folder on my computer or print out and add to my recipe binder. I also try to be greener and download veg cookbooks from Amazon, but I'm still old school enough to really prefer an actual cookbook that I can hold in my hands and fill with notes along the margins for all of the changes I inevitably make to every recipe I ever use.
I'm actually terrible about following recipes...when I want to make something that I've never made before, I usually find three or four different vegan and non-vegan recipes for it, get the basic idea of what is involved in making it, pick and choose what I like from each recipe, veganize my new list of ingredients, change the measurements in relation to how much I like each ingredient -- or from previous experience veganizing recipes -- and end up with something that looks only remotely like the recipes I looked at in the beginning. This is one reason I need multiple cookbooks!
There are lots of places to find vegan cookbooks, vegetarian cookbooks and raw food cookbooks, both online and locally, so you should have no problem finding veg recipes that are as cheap and easy, or as fancy and highfalutin, as you want them to be.
Here are just a few of the places you can find cheap vegan cookbooks and affordable raw food cookbooks:
1. The Library -- No surprise here. The cheapest place, of course, is the library. At your local library, you should be able to find at least a few vegan, raw, organic or vegetarian cookbooks to get you started or give you some fresh ideas. You can just copy your favorite recipes, or you can check out the cookbook to take it home and practice creating some fantastic meals. If you are considering buying a vegan cookbook, and you don't really have extra cash to waste, this is also a great way to fully check out the book to help you determine whether or not it is worth buying.
2. Your Friends -- Borrow cookbooks from friends and make copies of the recipes that you like. If your friends are also cookbook poor, a group of you can get together to create an awesome collection by each purchasing one or two cheap cookbooks and sharing them amongst yourselves.
3. The Clearance Section -- Check out the clearance section at your local bookstore, health food store or co-op. It is pretty common to find some cookbooks hanging out just waiting to go home with someone.
4. Used Book Stores -- Do you have a Half Price Books in your area? If not, I sincerely hope that you have a similar independent bookstore that sells used books at awesome prices. If not, some of the bigger chain bookstores sometimes have a used book section and, since you might be there checking out their clearance section anyways, you might as well hit up their used section as well. If you happen to have a Half Price Books near you, don't forget that they have some kick-ass coupons on their website.
5. Online Book Swapping Sites -- I haven't used one of these in a while, but I had a lot of fun with this when I was trying to clean out my library a bit a couple of years ago. Just Google "online book swapping", and you will get several sites from which to choose. Once you decide which one you like, you just sign up and start posting things that you have or that you want. Then, the site makes magical chain-reaction connections where you all ship one of your books to another member and receive one that you want. It's pretty awesome and a lot greener than everyone running around buying new books.
6. Garage Sales, Thrift Stores and Online Classifieds -- I always find a ton of books at garage sales, and some of them are usually cookbooks. The same goes for thrift stores and online classified ad sites (like Craig's List). Here's the not-so-secret deal with finding cheap vegan cookbooks this way: Every year, loads of people make the decision to eat healthier, and go out and buy cookbooks and kitchen gadgets for their new lifestyle. Some of these folks stick to these changes long term (yay!), while others, inevitably, stick to their new eating plan for a month or so, and then slip back into old habits. At some point, those new cookbooks are either sitting there mocking them or just gathering dust, and they decide it's time to clean out their bookshelf. So they either donate them to thrift stores, list them for sale online or toss them in their garage sale pile. The result? An abundance of barely used cookbooks for folks to scoop up at huge discounts!
7. eBay -- Auction sites, like eBay, are great places to find good prices on new and used cookbooks. Now, I have found that eBay sometimes has the best prices for vegan cookbooks online, but don't just assume that they always will -- I often find new or used cookbooks even cheaper on Amazon. So I always look both places before buying.
8. Amazon -- Amazon sells both new and used print cookbooks, as well as eBooks in the Kindle store. If you prefer print books, you can do a simple search on the general topic, such as "raw cookbooks", "vegan cookbooks", "organic cookbooks", "gluten-free cookbooks" or "vegetarian cookbooks", or you can search for a specific title or author.
Here are three links where you will find tons of awesome vegan and raw food cookbooks (new and used):
Okay, here is the part I think most of you really want to read...
How to Get Free Vegan Cookbooks on Amazon (or Anything Else)
There's more than one way to get free stuff on Amazon, so let's start with the easiest one first: free Kindle books.
Don't worry if you don't have a Kindle, you can download free software from Amazon that allows you to read eBooks on your desktop computer, laptop computer, tablet or mobile phone. So you're good to go, as long as you have one of those devices.
Amazon always has free eBooks for you to download. Some are classics that are always free, and some are short-term freebies on a vast array of topics. I have seen short-term free eBook downloads for books and cookbooks on the topics of vegan living, green living, homesteading, home organizing, vegan recipes, gluten-free recipes, vegetarian recipes and tons of other topics.
Whenever I see something on the free Kindle book list that I think might be of interest to eco-conscious or frugal vegan folks, I post a link here on the blog. But you can also check for free Kindle books any time by simply doing a quick search on Amazon.
Okay, now for how to get non-Kindle vegan cookbooks and other stuff for free on Amazon.
I've talked a bit about point-earning programs in previous posts, but usually I'm talking about how you can make money by trading those points for cash delivered through PayPal and such. You can also turn them in for gift cards, and it just so happens that Amazon participates in just about all of the point-earning programs I know. This is awesome, because it makes it so much easier to quickly earn Amazon gift cards that you can use on cookbooks, vegan groceries or anything else you find on Amazon.
Depending on the point-earning programs you choose to participate in, you can earn points for really simple things, like searching for stuff online, opening emails or taking a daily poll. There are lots of cash and prize options from which to choose once you have accumulated enough points. You can always get several different gift cards to different stores, but what I have chosen to do is to focus my efforts on earning gift cards for just one or two stores where I know I can either find something I want to indulge on or stuff that I use everyday.
If you want free or cheap vegan cookbooks, then earning Amazon gift cards is the way to go.
I have been focusing on collecting Amazon cards over the last few months and am currently at $270.00 and counting. I use multiple point-earning programs (some of which you can read about on the Make Money page or previous blog posts), but the best two (in my opinion) for earning Amazon gifts cards are SwagBucks and MyPoints.
SwagBucks is my current favorite, and I'm super excited about how quickly I am racking up $5.00 gift cards over there. They also offer gift cards in higher dollar amounts, but if you go over there and do the math, you will see that the $5.00 cards are a better deal overall. I earn my SwagBucks points by printing coupons on the site, doing online searches and taking daily polls (when I remember to). Mostly, I earn points from simply searching online for stuff for this blog or for my freelance writing work. Even I still can't believe how easy it is.
So, rack up those gift cards and start getting free stuff on Amazon!
Well, wait...not yet...there's more!
Did you know you can actually earn cash back when you buy stuff from Amazon.com? Yep, you can. All you have to do is sign up for a free membership over at Ebates. Then, whenever you shop online at Amazon (or more than 1,500 other stores), you simply sign in to Ebates first, and then go through Ebates to get to the store's website. Seriously, it's that easy. You do your regular shopping, and Ebates cuts you a check for some online shopping cash back goodness. The percentage you receive back varies by store, but it's usually between 3% and 6%. Ebates also does Double Cash Back events where you earn double the percentage back when shopping at certain stores during the event.
How cool is that?
So, yeah, you read all of this right...you can get free stuff on Amazon by downloading free Kindle books or earning gift cards online for just a couple of minutes of effort each day -- plus, you can earn cash back on what you buy on Amazon, if you shop through Ebates!
Stay tuned for a post about what I'm going to buy with all the Amazon gift cards I've been collecting...