8 Ways to score at the thrift store

ThriftPIN

Have you ever walked into a giant thrift store and felt overwhelmed?  Do you feel like you never find anything good?  Do you know someone who is always showing off items they found at a thrift store? Here are my best tips from my 18 years of thrifting.

Go through your house first.  Gather up a donation pile.  Go into your closet with a trash bag in hand.  Snatch up those old toys your kids never play with.  Get rid of the things that are cluttering up your space.  Out with the old, in with the new-to-you.

Look for thrift stores in nicer areas.  It just makes sense that the higher-income areas will have nicer merchandise and generally less customers.

Shop in the opposite season.  Spring cleaning time is the best time to find a great winter coat.  Summer is great for buying jeans.  Back-to-school time is best for kid’s clothing.

Know what you’re looking for. And be specific. Example: I need a retro house dress in a casual print with large front pockets.  Or, I need a pair of dark straight-leg jeans that fit. I want to redecorate the wall in the entry hall.  I need funky fabric for a quilt. Don’t go shopping without a plan. You’ll end up with a bunch of cute junk you can’t use, it will clutter up your house, and you’ll end up donating it.

Pick through the rack one piece at a time. Go to the section you need (ex. jeans). Start at one end of the rack in your size. Slide each hanger across the bar as you work your way down the rack. If you don’t do this, you will miss something great.  There’s always that one “score!” piece hiding between two ugly pieces; hanging halfway off the hanger.

Know your size.  Your real size, not the size you want to be.  Don’t waste time with pieces that are sooo cute but in your heart of hearts you know: that ain’t gonna fit. It’s also handy to keep a list on your phone’s notepad of your measurements and your family’s sizes.

Try it on.  The return policy: No returns.  Don’t just eyeball it and think it will fit.  Some clothes are wonky, some look bad on a hanger but look great when you put it on.  This is most important for jeans.  It’s easier to spot holes, rips, tears, and stains when you have it on.

  • As you try them on, separate the items that don’t work from the ones that do.  Put all clothes back on the hanger as you take it off.  When you’re finished, you can walk out of the dressing room with two sets of clothes and easily deposit the unwanted items to the reject rack.

Know what items are must buys and which ones are never buys.

  • Must buys: stainless steel briefcases, treasure chests, serving trays, candlestick holders, picture frames, framed mirrors, lace tablecloths, lace doilies, good quality wicker baskets, awesome lamps, bookends, candlesticks, framed art, sturdy cardigan sweaters, well-fitting blazer, anything clothing made with corduroy material (for sewing).
  • Never buys: athletic shoes, hats, wigs, sheets, bedding, pillows, mattresses, pet beds, or underwear. Most thrift stores wash clothing as it’s donated, but that doesn’t kill the bad stuff.  Think athlete’s foot, toe fungus, fleas, bedbugs, and lice.

Know that your donation and patronage is helping someone else.  Whether it’s a charity or the thrift store is a small local business, it’s beneficial to your community.  AND it’s recycling.

Bread. Plain ol’ white sandwich loaf

Plain ol’ white sandwich loaf.

perfectloaf4

My bread making journey began with a Christmas gift- a Zojirushi bread machine.  I loved how you could simply dump all of the ingredients into the machine and push a button. Three hours later, you have bread!

Not so fast.  There’s a bit of a learning curve and a lot of trial and error to get just the right consistency on the inside and the right crispiness to the outside. A lot of it has to do with the recipe and the yeast.

Think of a bread machine like the Crock Pot of bread making.  It’s convenient and simple but it’s not perfect.  The inside of the machine consists of a metal loaf-shaped container with a paddle or two that mixes and kneads the ingredients for you.  It heats up the machine just enough for the dough to rise, then kneads it again.  Then it heats back up for a second rise, and then bakes it.

What I didn’t like about it was the crust.  The outside of the bread was so crunchy, it was hard to slice and hard to eat.  Then one day, it gave me uglyloaf.  Oh no, you didn’t. It was time to consider another method.  Why not give it a go with the good ol’ trusty oven?

My mother-in-law gave me her KitchenAid Stand Mixer so I wanted to try my hand at from-scratch bread.  After five straight days of troubleshooting and ten crappy loaves, I finally got a perfect outcome.

Perfect bread

It’s beautiful.

Here’s how I did it.

Amish White Bread Recipe:

I found this recipe on Scratch This With Sandy . I adapted it a little bit but here’s the basics:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5-6 cups flour

Proofing the yeast

Add the yeast, sugar, and warm water to the KitchenAid’s mixing bowl.  The water should be warm but NOT HOT.  If it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast.  Too cool and it won’t activate it.  It should be the temperature of baby’s bath water.  Let this sit for 5 minutes.  It should look foamy on top.  That means it’s working.

Add ingredients

Add in the oil and salt.  Turn on the mixer with the mixing attachment.  Slowly add in the flour- one cup at a time.  Don’t lose count.  When you get to 5, stop and save the last cup for kneading.

Kneading

Once it’s mixed together, switch to the bread hook attachment and let the mixer work its magic for 5 minutes. Watch the dough.  If you can see that it is sticking to the sides or bottom of the bowl, add in a little flour.  You may need to get a scraper and carefully scrape the dough away from the bowl.

First rise

Once that’s finished, turn off the mixer and take out the dough. Shape it into a ball and put it in a greased mixing bowl covered with Seran wrap and let it rise for an hour. You need a warm kitchen, so turn on your oven to 350 degrees, let it preheat, then turn it off.  Crack open the oven door to let the heat out.

Second Kneading

After the first rise, you need to smoosh it.  Put it on the counter on a floured piece of wax paper and knead it by hand a few times. How To Knead Dough Video

Now cut the dough in half.  Most all bread recipes that call for around 5-6 cups of flour make 2 loaves.  Shape the halves into loaves and put each in a greased loaf pan and cover with greased Seran wrap.

Second Rise

Now it’s time for second rise.  This should only take 30 minutes or so. Let it rise until the dough reaches over the top of the loaf pan.  Get excited.

Baking

Now put the loaf pans in the preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  If it starts to get too brown on top, put some tin foil over it.  It needs to cook on the inside.

Cooling and Slicing

When it’s finished baking, remove it from the bread loaf pan and let it set on the counter to cool for at least 5 minutes before you cut into it.

Nom

I sure hope you have enough butter. What you really need is some homemade Apple Butter or some Christmas Jam.  Oh, it’s delightful.  Post on that coming soon.

Crosstopbread3