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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Thrift Stores

Frugal Kitchens 101
I have been a thrift store shopper ever since my childhood days.  It's like a treasure hunt, never knowing when you are going to find that perfect whatever you need at a fraction of the cost of new.  Thrift stores aka  resale shops aka Sally Ann aka Goodwill or simply the name of the shop itself are a mecca for those wanting to equip their kitchens (and rest of the home) frugally.  There are three types of thrift stores.  The first is privately owned with the proceeds going to the owner.  The second type is owned and operated by a charitable organization with the proceeds going to charity and helping those in need in the community.  We did have a third type in town  that was privately owned but all the proceeds went to charity.  It has since changed hands and I haven't stopped in to see if that is still the case.  Of the three types of thrift stores, I tend to support those with proceeds going to charity.

Thrift stores are the ultimate in recycling.  Items no longer wanted or needed are donated to the thrift store where they are cleaned up and sold well under their original value even if the item is brand new.  You end up with something you need for next to nothing.  At the same time proceeds from your purchase goes back into the community.  It's a win:win all the way a round.  This is the time of year to be checking out the thrift shops.  Folks are starting to do their spring cleaning so there is an influx of lots of different items.  Those unwanted small kitchen appliances gifted at Christmas are also making their way to the thrift stores this time of year.  Of note, even if the thrift store is for profit and not charity the prices tend to be about the same.  Here's a few items to look out for:

  • platters - If you do a lot of entertaining, platters usually go for 50¢ to $1.  With a bit of looking you can find some fairly nice vintage platters as well for the same price.
  • serving bowls - Serving bowls usually go for 25¢ to $1 depending on the size.  I tend to look for vintage rather than plastic but some nice plastic ones show up in the thrift stores as well.
  • wicker baskets - Wicker baskets can be had for as low as 10¢.  Wicker can be washed and dried thoroughly then dyed with fabric dye or painted.  These are ideal for home made gift baskets!
  • metal tins -  Decorative metal tins with lids in all shapes and sizes can usually be found for under $1.  They can be used to store just about anything and are perfect for gifting cookies and sweets. [watch for an up coming post on metal tins]
  • glassware - Glassware is usually priced at 25¢ each but may be sold in sets.  Commemorative glassware may go as high as $2
  • mugs - Mugs are generally priced about the same as glassware.
  • specialty beverage - Cappuccino, espresso and wine glasses are often sold in sets for $2 to $4.  Punch bowl sets are usually $5 to $7.
  • vintage glass bakeware -  Older glass bakeware is wonderful.  It doesn't have the problem of shattering when heated as some newer glass bakeware has done.  If you are lucky, the glass lid is still with the piece so there is no concern over leaching from plastic lids.  I use my vintage pieces for storing foods in the refrigerator as well as baking in the oven or warming in the microwave oven.  Vintage pieces with no chips, top and bottom are usually priced at $5 to $7 but are worth every penny.
  • mason jars -  Mason jars are often over priced at 50¢ to $1 and they have no lid or ring.  New 500 ml (pint) jars cost 55¢ and 1 L (quart) jars cost 66¢ new, on sale and they come with the lid and ring.  Unless you can get a box of mason jars for $2 to $3 or jars at less than the new price, they are not a bargain.
  • miscellaneous items -  Items like table cloths, placemats, cloth napkins, aprons, gadgets and decorative kitchen items can all be found at thrift stores for a fraction of the price of new.  It's even possible to find homemade and custom made items. 
  • small kitchen appliances - Pricing of small kitchen appliances depends on what it is.  I've seen new bread machines as low as $5.  The gimmicky type small appliances tend to be rather inexpensive too yet basics like an electric can opener are over priced.  Unless you know how to repair broken small kitchen appliances, never buy a damaged one or one with any problems with the cord.  
  • cookbooks -  My gosh, you can create quite the cooking library for a pittance just by buying cookbooks at the thrift stores.  It doesn't matter if the cookbook is by a celebrity chef or not, all are priced at under a dollar.  Sometimes they put all books including cookbooks on 5/$1.  Thrift stores are a great place to find older and vintage cookbooks.  One of my favourite cookbooks is Kate Aitken's Canadian Cook Book (1965) bought for 10¢ several years ago.  Older and vintage cookbooks are one of the most valuable resources in a frugal kitchen.
  • large kitchen appliances - Some thrift stores do not carry refrigerators, ranges or microwave ovens but others do.  It is possible to get a refrigerator or range in good condition for under $100 which can be a real help if your's can't be repaired and you don't have the funds for a replacement.  It's great for those setting up their first apartment on limited funds and if you like vintage, with any luck you may be able to find vintage large appliances.  New microwave ovens can be found for as low as $50 but thrift stores seldom get microwave ovens and when they do, the price is close to new.  
  • furniture - Thrift stores that have furniture are often great places to find kitchen tables and chairs that are rather inexpensive.  Folding tv tables, shelf units and bakers stands are sometimes available. 

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