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5 Things You Can Always Find (And Use) at the Thrift Store

I guarantee you can find these items at your local Goodwill *right now.*

Some things are just inevitable in this life, like death, taxes, and finding at least 3 Trivial Pursuit sets at your local Goodwill. I am a lifelong thrifter, and at this point, there are certain things that I know are guaranteed to be at the thrift store at any given time. You will always be able to find a World’s Best Secretary coffee mug and an outdated copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting (honestly, this should be a Bingo game).

Those items, however, are basically useless. Except for the Trivial Pursuit game, but you probably already own one. The good news is, I can tell you 5 things that you can always find (and use) at the thrift store:

1) Stephen King books. The ubiquity of used Stephen King books is not a reflection on his relevance; it’s purely a numbers game. The man has published 61 novels and a ton more short stories and has sold over 300 million books during his career (and he’s still going). If you’re unaware, I’m going to let you in on some vital knowledge: Stephen King is totally boss. There’s a reason why he’s sold over 300 million books. There’s a reason why he reigns at the top of both mine and my (mostly-nonfiction-reading) husband’s lists of living celebs we want to hang with. That’s because he’s a smart, funny, awesome guy and he’s a hell of an engaging writer. I know it’s easy to look at the huge shelf of his books at your local Goodwill and dismiss his work as passe mass market garbage, but listen… a person can only store so many hardcover books. People have to get rid of them eventually. And then people like me purchase them for mere pennies and treasure them. My suggestion? You can’t go wrong with the biggies like It or The Stand, but my other faves are 11/22/63 and Gerald’s Game. You can always start with Carrie for a quick classic to get started, and then you’ll be hooked.

2) Richard Simmons workout videos. The same goes for Richard Simmons; with 20 million videos sold, it’s an inevitability that you will be able to find at least one at your thrift store at any time. He’s one of the highest-selling workout instructors of all time. Unfortunately, most people actually would consider his work to be passe mass market garbage, but that’s just lucky for you. Listen, I know the world has moved on to Crossfit and pilates reformer classes, but you and I are both aware that 80s aerobics has never ceased being bitchin’, fun, and effective. Right? You can’t go wrong with Sweatin’ To The Oldies 1 or 2, but don’t be afraid to try a deep cut like Disco Sweat if you see it.

3) Electric bread machine. There are plenty of kitchen gadgets that are unnecessary, overly-specific junk (quesadilla makers, I’m looking at you), but electric bread machines may not be one of them. I understand that they’re not for everyone, but I’m going to try to make the case for this particular appliance: 1) Bread machines are easy to use. You quite literally dump the ingredients in and turn on a switch and then awhile later, you have fresh, hot, homemade bread. Sure, it’s a bit of a cheat if you’re a bread-making purist, but if you don’t have the time (or desire) to knead and let rise, this will do just fine. 2) There are so many delicious and interesting bread machine recipes out there; you’ll never get bored! 3) Making your own bread also gives you the opportunity to know exactly what’s going into your bread, which some of us want. 4) And finally, electric bread machines are timeless and seemingly indestructible, which is why there are scores of them languishing in thrift stores across the country. I promise you can find one for cheap, and I promise you’ll like it. (And if the instruction manual is missing, you can find it online, or at least one that’s close enough to work for your particular machine.)

There it is, just waiting for you at Goodwill.

4) Vintage slow cooker. Another kitchen tool! Are you on the Crock-Pot train? If you’re not using a Crock-Pot, you are seriously missing out on some easy, yummy eats. There have been times when I have assembled two weeks worth of Crock-Pot meals in a day, frozen them, and then thawed each one the night before it needed to go in the slow cooker. I didn’t have to cook for two weeks! Even adding one Crock-Pot meal to your weekly dinner schedule will free up an evening of kitchen work, and you will be in love with your slow cooker like I clearly am. Thankfully, slow cooker technology has barely advanced from the very beginning. Sure, you can get a fancy digital one with a timer nowadays, but all you really need is the ability to switch it on and set it to High or Low. That’s it. And any Crock-Pot you find at your local thrift store will do that just fine. Like bread machines, slow cookers are a hardy appliance, so they usually function perfectly, even if they’re 30 years old. Bonus: You can find fun retro prints! I unfortunately had to cut back to one (boring, modern) Crock-Pot due to storage concerns, but I’ve had plenty of harvest gold and burnt orange crocks in my day. Pick one up and try out my favorite easy dinner recipe, Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs.

5) Last-minute Golden Girls Halloween costume. I did this two years ago, it took me one hour in Goodwill to find, and I was the best damned Dorothy Zbornak you’ve ever seen. I even won $20 in my work’s costume contest! Thrift stores are stuffed to the gills with potential Golden Girls outfits; you just have to know what you’re looking for.

Rose: Pastel drop-waist dresses, soft sweaters
Blanche: Sequins and bold-colored silk, baby
Dorothy: Layers, popped collars, trousers
Sophia: Sturdy cardigans, straw purse, glasses

All of them will require suntan knee-highs and sensible shoes (imagine what your grandma wore when you were a kid) and if you’re not as lucky as I am to be prematurely gray, you’ll need to find a wig (click the links on each of their names above)- and voila!

Did I mention that an actual old man said I looked “snazzy” that day?

Thank you for being a friend and checking out this post! Do you have any thrift store old reliables? Comment and share them below!

By Eliza Gillie

Writer. Not that kinda Virgo. Living in the 70s. Cats, rock n roll, aliens, and a lot of talk about The Office.

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