This holiday season, dust off those kitchen appliances—but not for the reason you expect

Every holiday season, people debate back and forth about what to donate to food banks and shelters: food? Diapers? Interview clothes? Just cash? There are pros and cons to all options, and frankly, the best route is to reach out to the specific shelter or organization you’re interested in and ask what they find most useful at that point in time. With that said, one underdiscussed type of donation I always encourage folks to consider (holidays or not) is cookware and kitchen appliances. 

The InstantPot you were gifted and never used? Take it to a Goodwill. The rice cooker you’ve replaced with a fancier model but still works fine? Donation center. The humble coffee pot that’s collected dust because you moved into a matcha phase? Clean it up and drop it off. Provided the item works correctly and is safe to use, there’s no harm in donating it to a person or group who might appreciate it. In fact, a barely used set of glassware or a slightly dated quesadilla maker might add a lot of warmth and enjoyment to a neighbor’s kitchen. 

One of the most common pieces of advice I’d heard when it comes to surviving as a low-income person in this nation is to cook your own food. Meal prep, brew coffee at home, buy in bulk, and so on, which is in itself not bad advice. In many cases, people who share (or practice) this method do save money when compared to, say, buying a salad or sandwich while near their workplace. There are plenty of approaches to getting food as inexpensively as possible, too; apply for food stamps, go to farmer’s markets, check the discount bin at grocery stores, frequent the Dollar Store, and so on. But tools to prepare said food can be a considerable barrier, especially if you’re an older person or live with disabilities. 

How so? Kitchen equipment and even novelty items are valuable for the obvious reasons: They make cooking quicker, neater, less hands-on, or even just more enjoyable. Sure, you can chop fresh vegetables by hand, but that can take time you don’t want to spend. It can also be dangerous or add to fatigue if you live with certain disabilities. Reheating meal-prepped food in the oven isn’t particularly involved, but if you’re exhausted or live in a communal space where you don’t have reliable oven access, a microwave can make a world of difference. Blenders and automatic slicers can be huge for people who are trying to get more vegetables or fruits in but can’t stand or chop for long periods of time. 

On the flip side, getting free (or even deeply discounted) equipment can open people up to more creative or complex meals than they might be able to access otherwise. Have a sous vide device that you used once and never again? Could be the perfect hobby for someone who can’t afford it at full price. A pasta maker forgotten in the back of a cabinet could provide entertainment for kids or teens who want to be more involved in the kitchen without families spending a ton on ingredients.

Relatedly, I urge people to look through kitchen “junk” drawers or old moving boxes or storage bins for items like flatware, baking utensils, ladles, spatulas, and novelty kitchen equipment, like themed waffle irons and mini cupcake makers. Sure, these are not the most important, necessary items for someone to feed themselves or their family. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be appreciated by someone who wants to surprise a child with a fun birthday breakfast or wants to gift cupcakes for the holidays instead of buying gifts. Serving trays and storage containers like Tupperware can also be great donations. 

Moving is perhaps the best time to assess your kitchen supplies. Many folks move and want to upgrade or replace items instead of packing them up or shipping them, which (assuming you’re local to a drop-off center) makes donations a great option all around. Depending on where you live, some organizations will even schedule pick-ups to get the items from your home. 

And if you don’t want to give to your local organization for whatever reason (for example, see Salvation Army’s dark history), there are plenty of “buy nothing” groups you can post to online. Facebook (though I’m loathe to recommend the site in general) has a ton of hyper-specific “buy nothing” neighborhood groups where you find people nearby who can do a quick pick-up/drop-off. Some of these groups are themed, too, like for LGBTQ+ people, college students, or folks with disabilities. Nextdoor can also be a great tool for this sort of connection. You can even find mutual aid opportunities on Reddit and Twitter, among other social media sites. 

Read more at Daily Kos.