Around the holidays when I have the luxury of sitting back and thinking about the gifts I want my loved ones to buy for me, I usually start lusting after kitchen appliances. This year it was an ice cream maker I wanted (but I didn't ask for -- more on that later). Last year I was so enamored of a yogurt maker that I gave it to my father, who promptly gave it right back to me. Thanks Dad! (It really is a great gadget for anyone who appreciates the power of active cultures -- and it turns out gallons of plain yogurt for pennies.)

So why didn't I ask for the ice cream maker? Because I know that if I wait a bit, I'll find one on my thrift store shop shelves at one-tenth the price. Since I know I will only use it two or three times before the novelty wares off, I'd rather not get a new one. When I'm tired of it and it starts taking up too much space in my minuscule Manhattan kitchen, I'll just return it to the 'store' -- my thrift store that is -- for someone else to use for a while. My local Salvation Army is like a lending library of kitchen gadgets.

Of course, you run the risk that you'll get the thing home and it won't work (that's actually never happened to me with kitchen appliances, since these things seem extra hardy). You also will no doubt be absent the instruction booklet or any recipe sheets. No worries, most manufacturers publish them online now. Pasta makers, popcorn poppers, espresso machines, I've seen them all for sale for $10 or less.

It's not just appliances that are fun to buy. My favorite wooden kitchen spoon came from the same thrift shop. It is so worn and smooth and ancient that I feel like a real chef just holding it in my hand. I've picked up some really nice and interesting serving spoons, bowls and other utensils. Many of my favorite juice and wine glasses come from the same source. I share Sarah Gilbert's sentiments about the beauty of the lone shapely mug that stands out on the shelves of the thrift store.

Fact is, quality kitchenware lasts and can be bought for cents on the dollar at a thrift store. What's the fun of
matching glassware anyway?

This post was written as part of a series on how to thrift shop smarter. Read more on what to buy, and not to buy, at thrift stores.


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