Category Archives: Thrifty Ideas

Ask Jo: Those Thrift Stores

I recently got an email from a blog reader, Nita, that read, “…I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs, which my neighbor in Florida shared with me several months ago when you talked about going to La Crosse. We summer in Holmen.  If it isn’t asking for family secrets, I’d love to know the thrift stores you go to. You come home with such interesting finds. And, no, you don’t have to worry that I’ll snatch some of those nifty furniture bargains you find. Fabrics?……………..Well, ………………. maybe. We are definitely planning on going to Decorah to visit the quilt shop down there.

I’m absolutely amazed at all the things you do, sew, quilt, child care, long arm, read, raise African Violets (which I LOVE), and on and on it goes. You expend more energy in one day than I do in a week.  Thanks for writing about all the interesting things you and your family do.

I have been asked this question so many times…  WHERE ARE YOUR THRIFT STORES???

My thrift stores are not a “family secret”.  We have great thrift stores all over NE Iowa.  You need to know…I am a true thrifter at heart.  EVERY SINGLE TIME I go to town, I stop at a thrift store.  I plan my trips according to the thrift stores I want to hit up.  Certain thrift stores are better for different items.  One has bag sales that are anywhere from $1 for a bag to $5 for a bag of clothing.  When I go there, I get 100% cotton shirts.  Others are better for fabric…others for furniture.

I am truly blessed with the shops in our area.  Many are run by groups that find work for persons with disabilities.  The workers are good at jobs like sorting clothes, carrying donated items in and getting items placed on the shelves.  I love my good deals but also love that they provide jobs for people with disabilities too.  Others are run by church charities…others by families that give back to proceeds to the community.

Hubby and I have lived in this general area for the last 26 years.  We’ve scoped out many shops.  There are places we stop in so many of the area towns.  Some of our favorites are in Charles City, Mason City, Clear Lake, New Hampton, Cresco, Calmar, Decorah, Oelwein, Manchester, Hopkinton and recently we found one in New Albin.  If we are in the car, there is a thrift store in most every direction we go and I stop EVERY TIME.

There are lots of times I go and I don’t find anything.  There are times I go and I spent $50 at a store where most things cost 50 cents to $1 each.  It’s VERY hit and miss.  For example-  Our daughter Kayla collects Pyrex.  I am always on the lookout for Pyrex.  I look all the time at garage sales and at thrift stores.  About four times a year I find a piece….of those four, one time I’ll find five pieces in one swoop.  One time I’ll find two and other I’ll find one.  BUT I likely go to a thrift store, 50 times in a year….to find it only Pyrex four times, that’s not very good odds.

I’m lucky we have a big family so there are lots of wants I am trying to fill when I look and luckily none of us mind thrifted things.  Nowdays I look for clothes for Carver…100% cotton sheets….children’s book…100% cotton shirts…things for us to resell that are antique-ish…fabric and crafty things.. redo-able furniture….picture frames…childcare toys….to name a few.  Each time I go, I’m looking for all these different things.  It makes shopping take longer but it increases the odds that I might find something interesting to me.  I always tell you about the crafty things or fabric things that I find.  BUT there are LOTS of time I go and don’t see a thing….not a single thing.

The key to thrifting is going.  AND it’s going often.  So often people tell me that they went and didn’t find anything.  They think it’s a waste of time and aren’t going anymore.  They had a “bad” day…I have them too.  I just don’t tell you about those.

Something else you need to know is that these shops aren’t like Goodwill in the large towns.  There is ONE rack with men’s shirts on it.  There are likely only 10-15 men’s cotton shirts in the entire store.  I don’t go through and pick the red ones only….I might not find a red one for WEEKS ON END.  Then one day I’ll walk in and 4 of the 10 shirts that in the store are red and I buy them all.  Thrifting is VERY hit and miss….THAT IS WHAT MAKES IT FUN!!!

I hate going into a WalMart there is very little different from chain store to chain store.  There is something different in the thrift stores each time.  There is always something different to see.  One day we went and Kayla saw that someone must have gotten rid of a state plate collection.  They were selling the plates for 50 cents each.  Kayla decided to buy ones from the states she’s been to and start a plate collection.  That day there were stacks of plates.  Since then I see one here or there but they aren’t as easy to find as we thought they might be….but we love the hunt.

Not to long ago I went and I got LOTS of things for the childcare kids.  There was a Lego cupcake set that the kids have been playing with….

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These goofy building toys that I want to get more of because the kids liked them lots.  Have you seen these before? Continue reading

In the Garage: Microwave Cabinet

**Before I tell you about today’s post you might want to know that Material Magic, the quilt shop in New Hampton is closing it’s doors on the 17th-next Monday.  All fabric is not $5 a yard.  If you don’t have anything to do this week, you might want to check it out.**

Now on to today’s post:
You might remember that this piece is destine to become a place to house my microwave.  Hubby and I got it at an estate sale earlier this spring.  For the price of $10, it was all ours!  It’s beat up bad and pretty primitive…but it’s the perfect size for my microwave to sit on and give me extra storage…to make a piece of usable furniture is exactly our intention.

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I had started sanding the drawers while Hubby  was planting corn but that’s as far as I got.  I needed space and help to get it lifted to a workable spot but he had his things going on in the garage and it just never happened.  Fast forward to now, the corn is in and he wants it finished and out of the garage so he started working on it.

It was VERY shaky and wobbly.  The first thing he did was to take some old boards and built a bottom in it.  These were old boards from our flooring installation.

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Then he built a base for it to sit on.  Previous to this, it sat directly on the floor.  That means if it was in my kitchen the doors could potentially scrape the floor as I opened them.  Not anymore.

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There wasn’t a back on it.  We wanted a back as it will make it more sturdy and that would help and make it more of a usable piece if we ever wanted to put it somewhere else.  He’s using old materials we salvaged from our house when we remodeled.  I love that it will have a wainscoting back.

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I snapped the above picture without him knowing.  He scoffed and told me this was nothing to blog about.  I told him- not true.  He said this was just a piece of junk and I reminded him that we always end up loving what he does and all women like a “cinderella story”.  I also told him there are lots of women readers who would love it if there husband was as talented….he of course grumbled and said okay….. he’s so humble.

Anyway…now the debate is on….this piece is really very primitive.  Here’s how it looks now….. Continue reading

In the Garage

Hubby isn’t letting any grass grow under his feet.

Remember me telling you about the goodies we got on the last junking expedition we went on…Well we bought a shelf/cupboard piece.  This….

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He hasn’t liked the shelf he made for the laundry room.  He wanted something with closed doors that was neater so I suggested he revamp this piece and we could use it there.

Here’s the laundry room now….UGH.  Messy.  Try as I might, I can’t keep the shelves neat.  I bought baskets thinking that might help but it doesn’t.

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The shelf we bought was too long and didn’t have doors…well, Hubby to the rescue.  See what he’s doing… Continue reading

Hubby’s Coffee Table

Remember me telling you about Hubby’s work in the garage and how he was going to transform a cheap $2 coffee table find into a fun coffee table that I’d actually like?  Well he did it.

The top started out like this…

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Then the table got it’s first fix…a new top.

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There was no drawer with it, so Hubby created one.  You might remember that he lined it with tin to give the drawer some depth.  Nothing heavy will ever be in the drawer so it’s perfect.

I was next to do my part with the paint.  Remember I was trying to choose between the graphite and cream Annie Sloan chalk paint.  Well, I went with…. Continue reading