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thrifting confessions

i dunno if thrift store shopping is considered chowhound....anyone have any kitchen ware thrift store scores? or....er....um, obsessions?

i can't seem to stop buying those 50s style corning/pyrex coffee carafes -- you know, the ones with the tapered top and the gold stars on them. it's like a sickness or something. i do get a lot of use out of them as iced tea or juice pitchers.

i also love the vintage coffee cups / mugs - those hideously ugly fire king ones from my late 60s early 70s childhood.

not very martha, i know.

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  1. I always find myself drifting around the "household goods" section of thirft stores. Lots of Ron Popiel cooking gadgets, some useful (dice o matic really does make decent french frys...) most not (inside the shell egg scrambler?).

    I often see perfectly nice stainsteel cooking utensils -- the old Faberware with bakelight handles are very well made. Sometimes I see decent carving sets, especially nice are the real stag horn ones.

    Another common find are those large "air pots" with glass vacuum bottles. Some seem to have gotten zero use and are easily disassembled and sanitized -- very handy for cold drinks at summer parties or coffee.

    2 Replies
    1. re: renov8r

      Great finds! My best score so far is a Cuisinart ice cream maker for $2.

      1. re: choctastic

        I have a growing collection of 50s cut glass relish dishes....never more than a dollar!

    2. Thrift store scores are the best! I've been doing if for years and have found some amazing things. Hall china, Pyrex bowls, vintage utensils, custard cups...I have a collection of Chemex coffee makers in all the sizes they made. I also have the Chemex glass tea kettle that I bought for $5. My basement is overflowing with cake stands from thrift stores. I too collect cool mugs such as Fire King and Holt Howard. I really love those white, chunky diner mugs. I buy them whenever I see them.

      1. Diner china is a lot of fun. My favorites have restaurant names in the glaze. I also go for rectangular pyrx dishes. It's nice to have the exact size you need. Don't forget to look for coin silver spoons mixed into the silverware!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gin and It

          I used to have a collection of the Diner Special plates; the three-part divided, thick, heavy, Blue willow pattern ones. They were really a hoot to use for a dinner partys.

          I like the old Pyrex and Fire King, have picked up some really decent knives and pots. I also really like old pieces of silverwear. I definately pick up pieces I like, even if it is one or two of a kind. So while I do not have a set of anything, I have a collection of plates, glasses and silverwear that works. I got the biggest delight when I once saw a guest, spying out the dinner table ahead of time, to find the place setting she liked best.

        2. I always head for the housewares section at Ross for Less, you never know what you might find.

          1. oh i'm all over the housewares section of the thrift store--

            can often find great bakeware, ramekins, and heavy cast iron for pennies. i always buy ugly large platters-- they will be lined with greens anyway, so who cares? white serving pieces are a huge score. i still have a whole set of stainless mixing bowls & a heavy stock pot i got from the "free pile" at college-- a rich international student moving back home after graduation. . .

            1. It started when I was making Lasagne for about 25 people. Was planning to use the cheap foil pans but happened to pass the thrift store and went inside. I found 4 Pyrex pans for $1.50 each, not much more than the foil ones would have been. Since then I got my first piece of Llodge cast iron, a handsome carving set, and for a few years extra pieces of my stepmom's holiday glassware (what great early Christmas gifts those were!) You never know till you look.

              1. I chaired a philanthropical sorority thrift shop. It is amazing what people decide what they can live without. I got 10 strawberry (sterling) forks for $50. I amy never use them but I'm a table top collector and can't stop, got an excellent old Griswold 10" cast iron skillet. It was filthy with crusted on old grease it cleaned up beautifully in the self cleaning cycle in my oven and is a favorite. Someone donated a Krups meat slicer which came home with me. It was filthy with meat juices, I guess they could not be bothered with cleaning it one more time, it cleaned up just fine. The list goes on. Those of us who were members and volunteers were some of our own best customers.

                I was in a consignment shop in Fl. and a woman was looking at a Georg Jensen Acorn jam shovel. She sniffed and remarked it was kind of light and left. I asked to see the piece and the guy handed it to me and remarked she'd be back. I said it will be gone, I'm taking it. That silver is hand made and not light by anymeans. Snooze you lose. It also helps to know what it is you are looking at.

                1. Oh God, where to begin...ancient holy grail black, black, patinated cast iron for starters. How about my lovely glazed on the inside terra cotta deep 12" baker that says "Tuscany" on the bottom and makes baked ziti to die for? The antique copper pots, the goofy vintage cookie cutters, the even goofier salt and pepper shakers - my fave being a little fat lady chef with a come hither smile (and holes in her head, of course!). Japanese and Chinese antique blue and white china plates and bowls. Barely used Le Creuset.

                  OK, I'm going to stop now because otherwise I could go on all night...

                  But, the bottom line about thrifting is patience. You never can go into a thrift store expecting to find what you need to buy that day. Rather, you have a long list of things you want in the back of your head and if you are patient and you hit all the good thrift stores in your area about once a week eventually you WILL find what you want.

                  1. Nothin' wrong with thrift shopping in my book! I've made a zillion finds, including a beautiful crystal decanter with five cordial glasses (the missing sixth being the reason for its donation to the thrift store, I presume). Not to mention all the retro stuff that's to be had--like the stainless bread boxes. I have to restrain myself from buying multiples of those....


                    1. Le Creuset large casserole with lid, $7.95.

                      Thrifting because I don't have much money so I didn't have enough to buy...it's SISTER.

                      I was cryin'!

                      But at least I got one.

                      Perfect condition.

                      1. Incredible recent finds: 3 soup bowls and 2 dinner plates perfectly matching my navy blue Emile Henri set for 99 cents per piece at Value Village. Peugeot pepper grinder and matching salt for $1.99 at St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store - a little grubby but nothing a toothbrush and some Comet couldn't take care of.

                        Other items, over the years, far too numerous to mention.

                        1. SOMEBODY needs to answer that rhetorical question: IS thrifting considered "chowhound"?

                          Thrift store shopping is indeed quintessentially chowhoundish. Chowhounds are not foodies - foodies only want to eat what's fashionable and if it's pricey, well so what? Foodies buy their cookware at upscale high priced shoppes. Chowhounds are not sloppy gluttons who love to eat regardless of what they are vacuuming up - gluttons buy their cookware at Walmart.

                          Chowhounds want the BEST food at the LOWEST price (that's why we're here at chow.com) and we want the best, most aesthetically fabulous cookware too - just like with what we eat.

                          A chowhound is someone who will not eat anything that is not really delicious, and a chowhound is someone who wants to cook and serve with beautiful equipment too. We love to feel we have discovered treasures. Treasures that are bargains too - be it a restaurant or a pristine Le Creuset dutch oven. And chowhounds know they can get the best, most beautiful and special cookware, AND at the lowest price, only at thriftstores and garage sales.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: niki rothman

                            brilliant!. . . and, additionally, i think that chowhounds enjoy the thrill of the chase and the resulting discovery-- whether it's "discovering" dusty thrift-store le creuset, or "discovering" the fantastic cambodian cantina on the wrong side of the tracks with the broken sign outside.

                            and how about chowhounds' love of cooking history: getting to imagine the history of that patina'd cast iron, the zillions of spoonbreads, cowboy stews, or etouffees-- i think about the history of my soup tureen each time i use it, same way as my blue-glazed cast iron bean pot (both huge thrifing scores).

                            thrifting is totally chowhound-- in fact, when there are slim pickins in the housewares area of my local thrifting haunts, i just figure another chowhound beat me to the goods. :)

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              Thank you!
                              Any day I get to read I am brilliant before lunch is a good day (and a rare day).

                              You are so right about history. Objects we use, and love, have their own history that often eclipses our own. I have my grandma Gertrude, of blessed memory's, gehakte lieber (chopped liver) metal hand chopper with a well worn wooden handle hanging, poetically, on the wall, over my Cuisinart. Grandma Gertrude chopped her liver in the pre-Le Creuset days, but I always think of her when I look at that chopper on the wall.

                              That was a beautiful image you used about the obvious long life of great cooking that our thrift store holy grail black, black, cast iron skillets lived before we discovered them at Goodwill. It's kind of sad and kind of beautiful - we know some great woman cook made great food for years and years to make that cast iron pan acquire the priceless (literally) patina. And now she's probably gone to her well-earned chowhound's reward in the big kitchen in the sky...

                          2. What a great thread!
                            As you can tell my my username, I'm a bit of a thrifting aficionado. In my current batterie de cuisine, I've thrifted:
                            Silpats, still in the package.
                            An All-Clad Dutch oven.
                            A Kitchen Aid hand mixer.
                            A Cuisinart.
                            Assorted Pyrex dishes, all my mixing bowls, madeleine molds, the list goes on. All I ever buy new are cookie sheets and racks for cooling or roasting. I never see those in good condition.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: thriftshop

                              Oh yeah!! I forgot totally. I just bought a Cuisinart DLC-7 in absolutely perfect condition (including a few blades and a crazy stupid blade holder) for $5. I don't even need it but maybe I'll save it for my son. Actually it's a bit bigger than mine but I have a sentimental attachment to my old Cuisinart.

                              1. re: thriftshop

                                Ooooh, y'all are hounds after my own heart. A lot of my kitchenware is thrifted, garage-saled, Craigslisted and discarded from friends' and families' kitchens. I have a gigantic, never-used (before me!) Le Creuset paella pan, I have a vintage orange Le Creuset cocotte, madelaine pans, ladyfinger pans, my husband's grandmother's hand tools (pastry cutter, potato masher), etc. etc.

                                Lately I have been on a real '70s kick - I guess because I am a child of the '70s. I have been looking for and finding old melamine and crazy Danish stuff (like Rosti pitchers), old juice pitchers and glasses. Not '50's stuff...much later stuff.

                                1. re: charmoula

                                  Interesting. I'm older - child of the 50's. I never thought about it before, because I just assumed everybody looks back, as I do with horror, at cookware design and (let's face it, architecture) that developed after mid-century moderne, the last design period that feels good to me. That would be only up to the mid sixties. The late sixties and seventies kitchen ware designs give me vertigo (bad acid trip gestalt?). Not a good feeling to have associated with the preparation and presentation of food?

                                  So, you and I would be perfect thrift store buddies if we ever went shopping together. We would have completely different objectives. In my younger days I would have bought kitchen items whose design I didn't like but that I knew I could trade or sell to vintage stores, now I leave the billious green, asymetrical, spiky, almost psychedelicized serveware, that feels cold and hard to me, to you younger chowhounds (whippersnappers!).

                                  One can see where the weird kitchen and household designs of the late 60's - 70's influenced today's popular architects like Frank Ghery and Daniel Liebeskind (whose buildings, frankly, scare the hell out of me).

                                  Could the underlying symbolism be that prior to the late 60's (Cuban missle crisis & then the first big assassination of the century) through the 70's (inflation, national "malaise", insane Reaganomics), life was more solid, predictable, and, let's face it...sane? And are those reassuring, innocent qualites - tragically, it looks like are now gone forever from American society, are reflected in the kitchen design items I, being a child of the 50's, find so attractive? The items associated with food/nurturing being MOST symbolic of love, with the pre-seveties soft, round shapes and warm colors, or, now, the lack of it - with cold, hard lines and jarring color combos?

                                  There is one other kitchen design period that was similar to post/late 60's design in its cold/hard weirdness of lines and shapes - Art Deco, of course! But THAT kitchenware design period, if art mirrors what's going on in society, and it DOES, was created in the societal trauma and breakdown that followed the First World War, the Great Depression, and finally, the Holocaust. Do I really want to make the jump in logic that seems inescapable here? No. That would be wrong. We are here to have fun, life is a cabaret my friend. So, you go on and love those weird, and I'm sure wonderful - in their way, chartreuse dishes, assymetrical tall skinny carafes, and cold Danish modern bowls meant to serve jello and cool whip. Yes. Please. Enjoy it all.

                                  1. re: niki rothman

                                    Your post left me in an utter shambles of hysterics. I'm not sure that's what you intended exactly, but something tells me you did. To equate the angular or amorphous design of kitchenware to the Cuban crisis, Reaganomics and the holocaust are so seriously demented that I suspect that you must be a long lost cousin or something. Are you?

                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                      Cousin, please use a capital "H" when you spell the word "Holocaust". Oh, I dunno..did I really use the word "amorphous"? THAT would have been a mistake. Amorphous means "without form" so I wouldn't say that...but it IS funny, and sick/demented, the way every day objects like kitchen objects, as well as art objects, reflect and presage what's going on down in society - the kitchen and serveware of the 20's is cold, ironic, alienating, modernistic. Check out German Expressionist art of the 20's. It's very dark, funny, sick. So is Art Deco when you compare it to every sort of design that came before. Then we went back to a dream of softness, curviness, warmth when society was living the dream that was the 50's, trying to recapture a romanticism that had not existed since the triumph of modernism around the time of the First WW.
                                      Dang...my husband came home and told me to wrap it up with the computer. Just remember - art is a part of all design, including kitcheny design, and art reflects what's going on in society. Psst..."form follows function".
                                      Peace out...

                                      1. re: niki rothman

                                        You're right - you didn't say amorphous. You said asymmetrical. My mistake. I was privately imagining a pair of "googie" style beer glasses that haunt the back of my cupboard - the kind with the turquoise and gold amoeba shapes all over them.

                                        But the whole design thing. It's very true that it reflects the zeitgeist of the time. I'm actually finding it very difficult to appreciate the current "ergonomic" design trend. Not that I don't want my chair to be comfortable or my vegetable peeler to fit my hand, but much of it has such a clunky, inelegant look. I personally don't need to be quite so well padded.

                              2. Oh, definitely, I'm a big thrift shopper, and have found tons of great kitchenwares.

                                Baking pans, cast iron, vintage pyrex, etc, ate the obivious.

                                My best scores would be my two Le Creuset. Got a dutch oven for $15 at a yard sale, a saucepan with lid for $8 at a thrift store. The saucepan had some nicks in the enamel so I returned it under Le C's lifetime warranty and got a brand new one.

                                Also got a awesome powerhouse of a blender, a 1950's Osterizer. Took it to an appliance parts store for a new knob, the guy there used to work for Oster and offered to buy it for some exorbitant price. I still have it, love it.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: andytee

                                  ooooh. I have a nicked enamel Le Creuset - and *I* nicked it! How do you get the new one? Please tell!

                                  1. re: charmoula

                                    Go to their website, and look for warranty info. I think they have an 800 number as well. Basically, you pay shipping to send it in, along with a letter explaining what is wrong and they will send you a new pot. Sometimes takes a while, but I have found them very helpful.

                                2. Everything I own comes from a thriftstore (or estate sale)!

                                  I've been "thrift shopping" since 1980--used to find beautiful 40s suits back then. I even wore vintage gowns to sorority dances, and was known for being very fashion-forward--ahead of my time for sure!

                                  Now that I'm doing some food photography, I find my "vintage stuff" is great for props. I've had to add shelving in the garage to store everything!!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Funwithfood

                                    i've got you beat ;0), i started in the early 1970s as a child - mom and grandma would take me to the 'rummage sale' to find long taffeta skirts for my and my cousins' meandering RRPG games of princess -- RRPG meaning real role playing game, not PC ones ;0)

                                  2. Has anyone been brave enough to get stuff for free off the curb? I live in Berkeley right now, and apparently people just leave stuff on the curb and other people take it if they want. I finally was brave today and got a new Weber grill and some garden netting for my beans.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: choctastic

                                      I live in Berkeley, too, and pick up stuff all the time. Coffee mugs, a cool vintage suitcase, videos, books, lots of stuff.. I've also put out everything from busted lamps to extra plants from the garden. Everything always vanishes. I think it's great.

                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        My friend yells at me not to take stuff off the curb, something about a possible bedbug infestation (she lives in SF where apparently bedbugs are a major problem). However, I couldn't resist when I found one of those chrome cabinet organizers with 2 sliding baskets that apparently didn't make the moving van. I cleaned it in the bathtub with soap and hot water just in case. I was just about to buy something exactly like it. Amazing. So far, no bedbugs in the last week that I've had it.

                                        1. re: choctastic

                                          Oh my God!!!
                                          I - left 2 sliding metal organizer baskets on the sidewalk in SF recently. Unless this is a very bizarre coincidence you and I have some weird cosmic connection that brought us to this shared moment in the space/time continuum! Yikes!. This was sidewalk find of yours was within the last few weeks, right?

                                          1. re: niki rothman


                                            Yes it was I think last week or the week before. However, I found it in Berkeley so probably no connection...UNLESS someone brought the thing to Berkeley, didn't like it and then put it out again. Too bad there's no way to find out.

                                            I will say this was exactly the thing I needed to store my extra dishes and mini bakeware under the sink. I was so thrilled!

                                            1. re: choctastic

                                              These 2 metal/wire organizer baskets were maybe 18" X 2 ft. and about a foot deep. I left them next to the trash can at the corner of 14th. Street and Dolores. I frequently abandon my reuseable household items on that corner because it's very close to my apartment and gets a lot of foot traffic. There IS still a possibility it is the same 2 baskets! The original recipient could have driven over the bridge and then changed their mind and decided to ditch the things in Berkeley. It's just too good a story NOT to be true!

                                      2. re: choctastic

                                        i went to school where there were a ton of international students, and their folks back home would spring for the kids to buy whole sets of stainless bowls, entire pot sets, decent knives in knife block, cutting boards, heavy stock pots, etc to cook their traditional cuisines while at school (in kind of a food wasteland otherwise)-- when they graduated, there would be huge free piles with all of these items, barely used, along with down comforters and heavy $200 designer wool sweaters, up for grabs. good enough for me, at least for a few years, & i still use one stainless bowl set and one stock pot today!

                                        1. re: choctastic

                                          When I had my first apartment I picked up a shopping bag that said "FREE dishes" and lo and behold a set of dishes lovingly wrapped up for someone to take. At a local thrift shop in a trendy part of town my friend and I would alwyas see Alessi items. I got a Michael Graves teapot for $11, and we sold it in the store where I worked for $122 at the time!

                                        2. I think thrift/where ever you can get a bargain store shopping is one thing that makes a good chowhound. I don't go into a store and not check out the housewares section. Should they have one of course.
                                          Dollar stores, thrift stores, hardware, kitchen supply stores. The cheaper I can get something, the better I like it.

                                          I'm with AB as well. As many multitaskers as possible.


                                          1. Our thrift stores leave much to be desired. People just don't donate good stuff where I live. But I do find some decent deals at some of the discount stores like Tuesday Morning. The big score though was the food service supply business that has been in town for like 100 years decided to open to the public. Top quality gear very inexpensive. Sort of like shopping Williams Sonoma for a Walmart price tag.
                                            I do have a 1940's era toaster that is still kicking like it is new. My mom gave it to me years ago. She has been a good source since she is downsizing to an apartment. Just scored a box full of wilton and other good quality bakeware pans. All the odd speciality sizes too.

                                            1. I got my pot rack for $35 and a number of utensils, measuring cups, baking racks, etc. for $1 or so.

                                              I agree that Chowhounding should be about 'the deal' as well as good food.

                                              1. I look for appliances I need but know I won't use very often, immersion blender, yogurt maker, extra large crock pot, etc. I do like pyrex baking dishes so I always keep an eye out for those.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                  I adore thrift stores....I am addicted to vintage pressed glass compotes and serving dishes & funny old cookbooks . Thrift stores are great for stocking up on extra pyrex (mine are always full of prepared food in the freezers!), stuff for our camp-box, etc. Best find? A glorious 1950's "beehive" chrome blender - I could grind up rocks in it! In my kitchen, the stove, refrigerator, several small appliances, lovely maple dining table/chairs, and an antique solid oak ice-box all came from the local thrift store.

                                                  Great topic, 'hounds!

                                                2. I am sooooooooo excited!

                                                  I just found a Lodge Pro Grid/Iron 20x10 Cast Iron griddle/grill for $8 ....And yes, it fits across two burners on my stove top!!

                                                  Any suggestions on how to begin cleaning it? It looks a bit crusty and sticky in the corners and between the grills on the grill side. I live in an apt so campfires/bbq to burn it all off are out of the question.


                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: ktcolt

                                                    Can you try throwing it in the oven on self-clean? I think a pp mention doing something like that.

                                                    1. re: littlegreenpea

                                                      I live in an older apt complex and I think if I did that to this stove, the whole place would smoke up and I am moving at the end of this month! Alot of peeps do this to their CI to clean it and it seems to work, I can not try that with such an old stove. I will be happy when I am outta here!!

                                                    2. re: ktcolt

                                                      just bookmarked something about this - may even have initially gotten the tip in this thread someplace:


                                                      1. re: ktcolt

                                                        I was so excited to get this home and check it out...I actually found after closer inspection that the condition has to be near new/perfect. Slight use...that I thought I would need help getting it clean...but a scrubbie, hot water, salt and a wee bit of soap cleaned it right up!

                                                        Still so tickled with my find and its condition that I decided to fry up a pound of bacon to season it up at 2pm. My son was confused and asked if this was dinner or a snack!! My find of a Lodge Pro Grid/Iron 20x10 Cast Iron griddle/grill for $8 at Goodwill retails for $63 and it is the top of line with the grease gutter!! How lucky did I get?!

                                                        For the record...I am NEVER this lucky in thrifting...ever!!