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Kitchen Items you should buy at thrift stores

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

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet on a white and blue dish towel

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

4 Stainless Steel Mixing bowls on a countertop, with chopped onions in background

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 Jars

Mason jar filled with dehydrated parsley, and spice jars in the background

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

Close up of Revere Ware Stamp on Cooper pan
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.

Small Appliances

Food Dehydrator filled with basil

 

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.

Pyrex

pastel colored pyrex bowls and small casserole dish

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

Rochester Junior League Cookbook Applehood and Motherpie

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.

Kitchen Linens

close up view of elaborate stitching on Vintage linen tablerunners

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.
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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 🙂

shelves full of Pots and Pans at a thrift store

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?


8 Kitchen items you should be buying at thrift stores. Use these tips to stock your kitchen with quality thrift store finds for a fraction of the price new.
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44 comments
  • I love to thrift store shop.The best thing I’ve ever brought was a brand new Rowena iron thaIve had for 5 years. Still using.

  • I love to look for glass kitchenware and have found some nice pieces. Once, I found a Wedgewood Beatrix Potter plate in perfect condition. Also, I like small silver-plated trays to hold costume jewelry on my dresser.

  • The best epic find I bought at a thrift store was a baby blue Versace sweater, with the tags still on it. The price on the tag was $695.00 and I paid $3.50 for it.

  • I discovered my favorite find thrift shopping, and that’s enameled cook ware. Names to look for are ASTA, Cathrine Holm, And Dansk. These will be primarily from the 50s- 80s. They are still perfect to cook with, and the colorful pots and pans are coming back in style. Not all of the will be stamped, depending on pottupe, but a quick eBay search will familiarize you with wag at to look for. Make sure there are no dings in the enamel on the inside, on the outside it should be fine. Enamel ware older than 1950s won’t have the same brilliant colors, but a rare find with a lid is an exceptional find!

    I also grab Corning wear, the white kind with the blue flower on the side, but only if it has its lid.

    And manual turned egg beaters are a great find! I’ve given some as gifts in the past because the make the fluffiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.

  • I shop ALL the time at the thrift store here in Huntington, NY. I really can’t see paying full price for clothes. My husband also loves the thrift store. Sometimes you have to be careful where the money goes, the thrift store here caters to a few charities, one charity of which I won’t give to, so, I just check and make sure I’m donating to the charities I like. Really, I’ve gotten so much stuff, I just got a new pair of jeans, I’ve gotten all my Christmas decorations, a gorgeous coat, dresses, new gorgeous boots, etc. Sometimes I get stuck, but don’t we all? Even if we’re shopping in the regular store, we get stuck with stuff we don’t like! Some of my favorite clothes are from the thrift store! Save your money and shop at the thrift store!

  • I shop for fabric at Goodwill to make baby/toddler clothes. While men’s shirts used to be $1.59 and are now $3.49 they are still a great buy. I find the largest shirts with perfect looking fabric both woven and knits. I can often get as many as 3 items of clothes made from one 3X size shirt. I’ve found gorgeous linens/blends, organic cotton, and silks. Occasionally, I find tags still on a brand new shirt. Wool clothing is nice for fabric use either as clothes, hats, scarves and my favorite, potholders. I take thick wool and wash it numerous times to shrink it and hands down, nothing makes better pot holders/tea cozy.

  • Enjoyed your comments on the thrift stores. I have a Goodwill store very close by and I do find them to high on their merchandise
    so I don’t shop there very often unless I go on a special day when they have a discount for the seniors. Thanks for all the tips on cleaning up cook wear and other items.
    Smile and have a great day,
    Phyllis

  • Our local newspaper ran an investigative report on the salaries of the top executives of Goodwill and found they were making millions in salaries. Also, Goodwill would train people and then not hire them or help them find jobs. People stopped donating and buying at Goodwill in our city. I stopped in and found the prices on all items except clothing had increased quite a bit, plus the cashiers were still asking if you wanted to round up your sale to help with training. There was a piece of cut glass I really wanted, but didn’t buy because of the high price. After a month, I went back and the piece of cut glass was still there. I took it to the cashier and told her the piece had been there a month and I was hoping someone else would buy it, but since no one did, I finally decided to get it. She said since it had been there for more than three weeks, she could sell it to me for 99 cents. Great deal!

    • Sharon,
      I do wonder about some of their business practices. Locally, we have been losing thrift stores like crazy. In the past few years, we have lost Volunteers of America, and the area’s only Salvation Army, and they all always seemed busy, it is too bad…
      That is an awesome deal! I wonder if my Goodwill will sell items that have sat in the shop for a while at a discounted price?!?!

  • The best score recently is a red Keurig, 2.0. I paid $10.00, took it home and ran vinegar through it to clean it up well. It works perfectly. At first I wasn’t sure I would like a Keurig, but I love it. There are so many other treasures, and treasure hunting is so much fun.

    • I agree there are a ton of treasures waiting to be found. Awesome score on the Keurig!! It is actually kind of funny you mention Keurig, I was just thinking the other day that I have not seen one yet in the thrift shops I shop at, I have been keeping an eye out, mine is a few years old and runs very slow no matter how many times I clean it.

      On a side note, if you are a big coffee drinker like me, a reusable k cup really helps keep the costs down 🙂

  • I love shopping at Goodwill for wood tables and plant stands, flower pots that can be reused, and linens. Like you, I wash everything in hot water. I have found some handmade quilts, and in AZ you can find some nice winter clothes given by people who have moved from the east and have decided the wool jackets weren’t suitable for Scottsdale. Watch Savers, they remove all most clothing items that have the colored tag the night before the sale of that color. I overheard a manager talking to a new employee about their process. Interesting. Their prices have really increased.

    • I have suspected that our local Goodwill also removes as much of the weekly colored tag sale items as possible on Sunday morning. It is funny you mention the price increases, I have also seen a pretty significant increase at all the thrift stores I shop at locally and was wondering if it was a regional increase or something that is happening across the board. One commenter mentioned she can grab breadmakers for $5, at the ReStore here they are going for $20, and a little Googling told me it was a 10-year-old machine! I can get a $40 bread machine NEW at Walmart
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  • I always look for depression glassware. My colors are the green Vaseline glass and Ruby glass. From plates and bowls to drinking glasses and candy dishes.. I always find at least one to add to my collection from thrift stores. I also look for vintage clothing which is very popular with the high school girls in my area. My niece always hits me up for a dress to wear to a dance. And one of my other faves is vintage to modern jewelry. Great deals on designers pieces that I earn huge profits on if I decide to list it on ebay.

    • I love the depression glass! Lately I have been picking up cheap pieces of milk glass, it looks great set out as a collection! Vintage clothing doesn’t seem to show up often were I shop 🙁

  • I would have to disagree with the coffee pots. Espresso machines are an amazing find, especially in the Spring. You will find the less-used Christmas gifts. I recently found several great espresso machines and even a $300 milk frother for $12 – complete with manufacturer warranty.

    • That is a great tip Iris. It never occurred to me by spring people are clearing out gadgets they got at Christmas and find they don’t use often, I will have to keep that in mind!!

    • I buy bread makers because people rarely use them, and there is nothing better than making dough in them, then baking it in the oven. I spend $5 for them, and it they don’t work well enough, I just buy another one.

  • I worked in a thrift store for 5 years and loved the discount I got. When I knew I was quitting soon, I made sure to buy as much as I could at a discount! One thing I would add to your list is crock pots. We got so many good quality crock pots and I find the older ones work better than the newer ones. Ibstill have my two different sized crock pots I bought there like 4 years ago, as does my mom!

    • My new crockpots drive me crazy! I swear they cook hotter than the older style crockpots! Thank you, I will definitely have to keep my eye out for slow-cookers!

      • They DO cook hotter than the old ones. The govt changed the rules they require them to use a higher temp so they can make sure the food gets to a certain internal temperature to avoid food poisoning. I agree though, the old ones work better.

  • On another note I have purchased many cookware and bakeware items from garage sales. I frequent Goodwill and thrift stores for clothing items but never thought to look for kitchenwares. Thank you!

  • This is the best serious rust cleaning tip for cast iron that I have ever found! Some cast iron pans with rust that I purchased at a yard sale cleaned up beautifully when I sprayed oven cleaner on them and put them into a white plastic kitchen garbage bag. I tied it up well and left it. When I got back to it a while (days!) later, I simply scrubbed the pans well with steel wool. They just sparkled! I then reseasoned them well and they are better than new! Non-stick and smooth as can be.

  • We always look for old Revere Ware at the thrift store, and usually find it! I found one pan that the copper on the bottom was burnt black. I took it home, scrubbed it with liquid soft scrub and it looks brand new now! I think I paid $3 for that pan.

  • This past fall I found a beautiful wood side table/night stand for $15 my idea was to paint and modernize it as it’s solid wood. I opened a drawer and found an old makers label. I looked it up and the exact piece I bought was selling for $350. Score! Needless to say it’s not painted now.

    • Awesome find! I love picking up solid wood side tables and plant stands at thrift shops and garage sales. I usually buy with the intention to paint also, but I have a few pieces that I have left as is. It is always a good idea to do a little research before you break out the paint brushes!

  • I love your Pyrex collection. I have picked up a few pieces myself, they are priced a little higher but I cannot pass up the pretty colors and designs. I get so bummed when I find one that has been washed via dishwasher (what were they thinking).
    -Lisa

    • I hate it when I see Pyrex sitting on the shelf only to get closer and realize it has been damaged in a dishwasher! So disappointing!

  • Hi I can with spy.jars,mayo jars ect for years just make sure your seal is ok .i just soak the lids in hot water and check them .if rubber don’t look good or Nick n jar I pitch.i shop goodwill all the time

  • The grossest thing I ever found at a thrift store was a fry daddy. When I pulled off the lid there was old grease still in the container and it had chunks of meat in it. I could not bring myself to purchase it.
    I’ve found a few fabulous things at thrift stores. An old 50s picnic basket, glass milk bottles burned in a fire, that cleaned up perfectly and cost less than a quarter, Brittany stoneware measuring cups, and an old metal milk crate that i use on my front porch.

    • Ewwww, I can’t believe they would even accept that as a donation!
      I am jealous of the picnic basket, I am always on the hunt for a pie basket!

  • Goodwill has electrical outlets for trying out small appliances. I bought my favorite, large, oval crockpot at Goodwill for $3.00! The only thing wrong with it–a couple of melted little marks in the lid handle. Looks like someone set it upside down on a hot burner (very minor). I love it and use it all of the time.
    I have also purchased computer speakers, curling irons and a toaster with no problem.
    I just want to say don’t disregard the small appliances without checking them out.

    • Thank you! Since writing that post I have visited a few other Goodwill locations, and I do think the quality of stock within Goodwill stores varies drastically by location.

  • I have 2 Cast Cows for sale, (Possibly a 3rd one). These could be decoration, or door stopper. Very good condition. Do you know of, anyone interested in purchasing from me? I live in Romulus. I accept cash. They were $30 for the one $50- for the two. The 3rd one: I don’t know, yet. (A reasonable offer: cast is Pricey).

  • I love thrift store shopping too! I love picking up small dessert plates that I use in my blog photo’s and vintage cookbooks are a fun find too 🙂

  • I just cover the bottom of a Revere Ware pan with ketchup – let it sit for a bit and it usually makes the copper shiny and new again

    • Wow! I am seriously going to try ketchup the next time I pick up a varnished pan, it sounds so easy!

      • Even simpler, and far cheaper – take the pot or pan and fill it with water. Boil the water and turn the heat off. Take it over to the sink and empty the water down the drain. Take the cheapest salt you can find (Aldi does it for $0.39 a pound) and sprinkle a good amount on the pan’s copper bottom. Then take a paper towel and splash about three tablespoons of vinegar on it (any vinegar works, but the cheapest is the best, plain white vinegar). Rub the bottom of the pan in circles, grinding in the salt with the vinegar, which causes a chemical reaction and gets rid of the blackest mess. By heating the pan up first, you’re helping the salt and vinegar penetrate better once they’ve created their little magic. Now this won’t get rid of the nastiest of the black spots – it took a while, and probably a disaster or three in the kitchen for that to appear, and it’ll take a load of magic elbow grease to get rid of it. Ketchup, or any tomato sauce works because it contains the salt and vinegar as well. Just be sure to absolutely rinse it very thoroughly, otherwise you’ll damage the copper. I also want to add that this works best on the older Revere – I don’t know how well it’ll do on modern Revere, nor do I recommend it for any non-Revere copper, as I have no idea what might happen. My grandmother taught me to do this about once a month to her Revere, and that’s from sometime after the war! Her skillet is still used nearly every night and looks brand new.

Jennifer Morrisey

Hi! I’m Jennifer – a work at home, farmer's wife, mom to 3, living life in Upstate New York! I love sharing tasty recipes, easy do it yourself projects, and little stories of life on a farm in the Finger Lakes.

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