good items at the dollar store
I frequent the Dollar Store at 130th and Aurora because sometimes they have some good cooking tools for a buck. Right now they have silicone bowl scrapers with a wooden handle, and silicone coated French whisks for a dollar. Not killer quality in either case, but a great deal for what are normally overpriced silicon tools. I have also found silicone spatulas there before. These were exceptional and I'm glad I bought 2 when they had them. The whisk is perfect in a nonstick pan for doing eggs.
While we're on the subject, I must also mention the 150 yen store at Alderwood Mall called Daiso. It's right out front of Sears in the mall. They have all sorts of good cooking and serving items for a buck fitty or a little more. Last time I got a small bamboo stemer for $2.50. I recently bought one of the copper sandwich saucepans at Business Costco, also in Lynnwood, I think it's a 2 quart, for $20. It conducts heat every bit as good as the $100 All-Clad saucepan I use. Not quite as nice overall, but for 20 bucks, a hell of a nice saucepan.
Right now I've been combing the thrift stores in search of a carbon steel chef's knife. They can be found, I just haven't located one yet. I have a carbon steel boner that was picked up at a Goodwill for 69 cents, and it is right up there with my good Henkels Santuko in terms of quality.
Yay, I love hunting for kitchen stuff at good prices. I'm like you, I'll splurge if it's worth it, but usually it's not. Have you done Tuesday Morning for kitchen stuff? At Northgate, on the E side under a strip mall (below a Navy recruiting place or something.... sorry the directions aren't better)
But anywho, they are wonderful for kitchen things. I found my new stovetop Bialetti there for $9, and a few Le Creuset pieces that beat my outlet hunting prices.
The selection is hit or miss, but amazing deals when you find them.