I love shopping at Goodwill. In fact, I really like scouring all thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales too for unique finds. I find these unassuming second-hand stores are a great way to save a ton of money on high-quality items. Thrift store shopping takes some time, but you can find some unique, and functional items for your home.
I have a few go-to items I am always scouting out at thrift shops, I love to shop for Timeless Home Decor Items and kitchen items and I thought I would share my favorite Kitchen Thrift Shop Finds with you. Here are the kitchen items you should be buying at thrift stores or other second-hand outlets for dirt cheap, rather than buying new.
Cast Iron Skillets
Cast iron skillets can last decades if properly cared for, but you will most likely find a gem in the rough at thrift shops. Surface rust appears when cast iron is neglected or moisture is left to sit on the skillet, this surface rust is usually referred to as “profile rust”. While profile rusting is not pretty it is also easily removed at home, in about one afternoon. More advanced or severe cases of rusting that cover the majority of the cookware will require sandblasting (I personally skip cast iron in a more advanced stage of rust).
Keep an eye out for manufacturers like Griswold, Wagner, or Lodge. Avoid any cracked skillets, or anything with dents, pitting, or pockmarks. Also, check for rocking when you set it on a flat surface if it is warped skip it.
Stainless Steel Bowls
Stainless steel bowls are incredibly useful and are always good buys. They are very easy to find in all sizes at most thrift stores. Expect to pay $1 to $2 or less each for these nearly indestructible bowls.
Mason or canning jars are a little harder to come by at thrift shops, my local V.O.A told me they don’t even accept them as donations (what?). I do run across them occasionally at Goodwill and ReStore as well as yard sales, estate sales, and auctions.
Avoid mayo jars or spaghetti sauce jars made to look like canning jars, you can’t actually reuse those for canning. Also, avoid any with small chips, cracks along the rim. A quick and easy test is to lightly run your finger over the edge of the jar to feel for chips or dings you might not be able to see.
I like to pay .25¢ per jar for genuine Ball brand jars, and will buy all they have at that price, I’m not even kidding.
Pots and Pans
Aside from cast iron, I have been able to find some good quality individual pieces of cookware at thrift stores.
Of all the cookware, I have come across I think the most overlooked are Revere Wear. I think people are on the hunt for All-Clad, Cuisinart, and Calphalon, and pass right by the Revere Ware.
Older Revere Ware made up to the late 70’s is solid cookware and usually has a lot of life left in it. Pots from that era should easily give you many more years of use. Check stamps on the bottom of the cookware, older stuff has a stamp that includes a circle and either the words “Process Patent” or “Pat. Pend.” with numbers. Newer Revere Ware has a much simpler logo that does not include a circle or any reference to a patent and is not of the same quality as the older stuff.
Avoid warped pots, but don’t necessarily shy away from stainless steel cookware with scorch stains, Bar Keepers Friend® will take care of a multitude of crimes committed against stainless steel and the copper cladding.
I don’t buy non-stick cookware, so I don’t have any suggestions for that.
I am totally a small appliance thrift shopper now! if you are in the market for a specialty or novelty appliance, a thrift shop should be your first stop. I have frequently run across near brand new espresso machines, waffle irons, ice cream makers, popcorn poppers, rice makers, dehydrators, and bread machines. The key here is to keep an eye out for any appliance considered ‘novelty’ or ‘specialty’, a lot of people buy them only the realize it was a passing interest. I stand by my original statement that coffee makers and toasters or other daily use items are best bought new. Shop in for these items in the Spring when people are spring cleaning. By Springtime, people have had a few months with the specialty appliance they got for Christmas, and by then they have usually decided if it is worth the real estate it takes up in the kitchen or not.
Old and new.
I have a soft spot for vintage Pyrex, the fun, colorful mixing bowls and bakeware are my favorite useful collectibles. Avoid any vintage Pyrex that is dull or has a haze, it has been run through a dishwasher, and the finish is permanently ruined. $10.00 is my top end for vintage Pyrex in good condition.
Pyrex is still around today making glass kitchen goods. Pie dishes, baking pans and bread pans are all staples at thrift shops. I grab these when they are 50% off. I usually pay .50¢ for pie pans, $1.00 or less for bread pans, and 2-$3 for large lasagna sized bake pans.
Community Cookbooks are typically spiral-bound and created as a fundraiser for local groups and organizations. These time-honored recipe compilations feature “best of” recipes from members of Junior Leagues, church congregations, garden clubs, and more. You can’t go wrong with classics like Applehood and Motherpie by the Rochester Junior League.
Seasonal tablecloths, placemats, and kitchen towels are great to pick up at thrift stores. I always find a quick run through the linen department at a thrift shop worthwhile. I know people who completely avoid second-hand soft goods for fear of bringing home critters. My rule is when I get home it goes directly in the wash, on the hot setting, and I have never had a problem.
I also shop at thrift stores for vintage linens. Vintage linens usually are made with superior fabrics (hello linen!), include handwork or embroidery, and pretty laces. I don’t wash these on hot, instead, I hand wash and then hit them with a hot iron before I use them or store them away. Again, I have never had a problem with any sort of critter.
I do a quick sniff test of all vintage linens, and skip anything with particularly pungent odors, mild musty smells can be remedied but it most likely will take some effort. I just paid $3 for two beautiful linen table runners, that spent the day airing out on the clothesline after being laundered.
Things you should generally avoid at thrift shops
- Plastic anything
- Wooden Cutting Boards
- Nonstick Cookware
- Kitchen Utensils
Every coffeemaker, blender, microwave oven, and toaster I have ever seen in a thrift store looked well past it’s prime.
Ok, ok… after some gentle prodding from you guys I decided to take a closer look at the small appliances today while I was at the ReStore, and I almost bought a bread maker. It was a beast of a bread maker, a BreadMan Pro that was the size of a microwave oven. It was in very clean and in good condition and looked like it had all it’s parts. Had it not been the size of a Mini Cooper I would of brought it home. I won’t be skipping over the small appliances any longer 🙂
Thrift shopping is not really like regular shopping, it takes a little patience, and you have to be willing to dig through a lot of junk, but I have found it is well worth the time invested when you bring home an awesome item for a song.
What do you think are the best and worst thrift store finds? Have you ever made an epic score at a thrift shop?
Friday 15th of October 2021
My favorite finds at thrift stores are cast iron cookware; though it is ALWAYS ruined and needs to be re-seasoned.
I don't worry about sandblasting, but I do often take an orbital sander to the cooking surfaces followed by a heavy-duty scrubbing with steel wool. If there is rust on the outside, or in the nooks and crannies, then I mist it down with phosphoric acid, let it sit for 30 minutes, then rinse well.
To season, I make sure it's clean, then coat it well with avocado oil and bake at 450 degrees in the oven for an hour. After the pan has had time to cool, I do it again. Seasoning from scratch takes three or four sessions, but the result is a hard, black non-stick surface that lasts for years.
Thursday 15th of July 2021
Why do you say skip kitchen utensils? I’ve had a lot of good luck finding spoons and forks in very good condition….even silver forks! Am I missing something?
Sunday 18th of April 2021
Grandson who is in first grade wears a size 7 needed a BenjaminFranklin outfit for school. Thrift store for 7.00$ I bought men’s white dress shirt, black dress shirt, black suit jacket and got lucky and found a black straw hat with round brim. Cut the white shirt down putting ruffle at the end of the sleeve. Cut down the black shirt into a vest and the jacket I cut down and flared the bottom of the jacket. Made a ruffles neck piece. It fit him and he wore it to school all day and he was tickled because he got compliments from the teachers. I was just glad everything fit because I’m in Florida and he’s in Georgia. Doing t blind with no fitting I was pleased with how it turned out.
Sunday 18th of April 2021
I love old cookbooks and have bought plenty at thrift stores. I like the old simple recipes. One of the books even tells in the introduction pages about having less sugar in the recipes because it was a rationed item during the war years. The books are as much history as recipes.
Sunday 14th of March 2021
Community cookbooks are my favorite find! My son calls them my "church lady" books. I have found them to have great recipes because the contributors are working hard to give them their best. I have a huge basket of these books and always buy more when I see them.