The Story of a Dish: Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle
I recently saw the coolest Instagram post about vintage casserole dishes. Stay with me — I know you may be thinking, “What could be so interesting about an old casserole dish?”
Yet, this post highlighted the idea that grabbing vintage casserole dishes — often available for just a couple of dollars — while you’re out at a thrift store or yard sale can be a great way to serve a meal to someone in need.
It made me think about the story of a dish. An item that grew up in someone’s home may be passed through several hands after its “first” life. Right now, sustainability and eco-friendly actions are significant with the climate crisis at hand. If a simple casserole dish takes on three lives…that’s fewer and fewer items in a landfill.
Life #1: Purchased for a purpose
Do you remember the dishes you had growing up? Most people will remember whatever their parents served them dinner in. Whether these dishes were purchased for your parents as a wedding present or it was a mismatched array of items collected over the years, it makes up a nostalgic part of your childhood. You remember the white plates or the blue cups or the casserole dish with the weird pattern that you weren’t sure why anyone would pick out. It was a part of your home — integrated into your family’s identity.
Yet, over time, these dishes get broken by small hands or in moves. Perhaps they were donated after a brand-new set was purchased in its place or when aging finally caught up to your parents and they no longer required a house of their own. Somewhere, those dishes are waiting for their next life.
Life #2: Gifted to a family in need
Say those dishes ended up at a thrift store like Goodwill or at your parents’ move-out yard sale. This time, it can help someone different. All it takes is someone to come along and it pick it up with a meal train in mind. Something like a casserole dish is priced at just a couple of dollars when it’s secondhand. It’s cheaper than the similar disposable option, and it allows you to gift something reusable to the family in need.
Life #3: Paid forward with love
Each dish passed along to a family in need during a meal train has yet another life to be lived. Maybe the dish becomes a staple in the recipient’s household for a few years before it’s passed along to another family in need. Or perhaps the recipient finds a quick new way to repurpose it — regifting it to new parents, a person who recently had surgery, or a family in crisis — with a delicious meal inside.
Next time you see a casserole dish sitting in a thrift store or at a yard sale, think of the story it could tell of the people it’ll help. Its life isn’t over yet! It’s just getting started.