Thanks to my blue collar upbringing I am pretty thrifty by nature, so when I have the opportunity to get a good deal on an item for the kitchen I am going to check it out. Sometimes things are not placed categorically where you might expect to find them, like a garlic press in with the hardware tools or something, but it is still worth the look. Generally I am always looking for durable, or name brand or obvious features that make it quality.
Durable: Items like these Pyrex® bowls are going to be good whether you bought it new at the department store or in good condition marked down at the thrift store. Since we still use Pyrex items in our kitchen that Chaya’s mother or my mother gave to us when we were married, I always look for these on the shelves because of their long service life. Cast iron—generally if I find anything cast iron, it is coming home with me. Check out Sepp Holzer’s recipe for bone sauce—yeah, you are not going to want to use those cast iron pots for anything else except bone sauce.
Name Brand: Chaya is running at optimal level when she starts off the morning with a cup of coffee (or two). Her old coffee pot was just not holding it together anymore, so when I spotted this Mr. Coffee® gem for $4.50 it was in the cart. I can preprogram it to aromafy the kitchen for her in the morning without even having to press a button—double bonus points. Other personal favorites are routinely on my list to search for—you probably know what yours are already.
Quality features: I also like kitchen knives, so when searching the knife bins I rarely come across chef grade knives, but I do still check! What kind of knives pass my test? I look only for stainless steel knives that are stamped with their countries of origin as being US, Japan or European nations (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, etc). In my experience, the quality of steel used by these manufactures (and you will start to recognize their stamps) are better and hold their edge. All of the knives that we use for slaughter or butchering are thrift store finds that have been sharpened to suit the job. Check for full tang (where the steel that makes up the blade goes through to the end of the handle) blades if you can find them and solid rivets. I also insist that the handles be made of wood. The plastic handles always crack and are never full tang—even if it is priced at $.50, it is too expensive it when it breaks in my hand causing an injury when I am cutting meat.
Basic rule is to be observant and have some fun with it. These hot chocolate mugs will be a hit with the kids. You may find a napkin holder set that will inspire you to eat more meals outside in the backyard this summer, which might lead to perfecting a new recipe, to which you invite an old friend (or make a new one) over to share . . . you get the idea.
Have you found any great scores recently? Post a comment below, let us know about them.