Summertime is rummage sale season–the perfect place to find bargains on equipment, tools and supplies to help you become more self-reliant. This article has some good ideas on shopping yard sales for prepping items. I have a slightly different take on some of the things this article lists, but it inspired me to make my own list. So here goes:
I rarely buy new canning jars any more. I get them at rummage sales, auctions and thrift stores for a fraction of what they cost new. As long as there are no nicks or visible cracks, there’s no reason not to buy used.
Other canning supplies
I’ve bought two pressure canners for $5 each at auctions and rummage sales–both practically new
and still in their boxes. Be careful about quality. An old pressure canner with a cracked rubber gasket or broken or missing weights, handles or gauges can still be a bargain. If it is a name brand you can buy replacement parts for it online or at the hardware store. The important thing is that it should have no dents or rust and the lid should go on and off smoothly. Same with water-bath canners—no dents or rust. Funnels, lifters and racks are all also commonly found at rummage sales. What else do you need for canning? Here’s my suggestions for canning equipment.
I’m not a big fan of the cheap round tower dehydrator. (See my review of dehydrators.) But when you can find a new or almost new one for $5, it’s more than worth it. Get it and put it to good use.
While we’re at it, look for anything that makes food prep and storage fast and easy: food processors, meat slicers, vacuum sealers, meat grinders and other small appliances. Unless it’s something you use everyday (like my stand mixer) you really don’t need to invest a lot of money just to get new food prep equipment.
Here I’m a little picky. I have limited space to store food (as I suspect you do too), so I don’t want a hodgepodge of storage containers if they won’t fit well on my shelves. I also want well-fitting lids and I don’t like other people’s plastic (I have no idea what oils, smells or residue they’ve been absorbing.) See how picky I am? That really limits the storage containers I am willing to buy used.
But I love gallon glass jars or just about any unusual shaped glass jar (for my herb jars.) I’ve been collecting gallon glass jugs that I plan to cut the bottom off of and use as cloches to extend my garden season. I also look for vacuum-seal containers. Those can be pretty spendy if you buy them new, but I now have a dozen or so vacuum-seal canisters that I’ve found at rummage sales and thrift stores and they were all in the 2-$3 range.
Some of my best sewing buys have been at rummage sales and thrift stores. Last summer my best buy was 10 yards of denim for $2. Remember the dress I made for my granddaughter? The fabric for that dress cost $1.50 at a thrift store. Look for fabric, buttons, other notions, thread and equipment. But shop smart. If you get a really cute fabric that you love, make sure it’s enough to complete a project AND that the color is not too unusual that you have difficulty getting matching notions. Have you seen my ebook on “sustainable sewing? Lots of tips on how to get the most out of repurposed and thrift-store fabric.
Knitting and crocheting supplies
I consider knitting and crocheting to be good skills to have for self-reliant living, but you usually won’t find very good supplies of usable yarn at rummage sales. Other than hot pads and wash clothes, most knitting/crocheting projects take multiple skeins of yarn and you will be hard pressed to find more than 2-3 matching skeins at a rummage sale. These are, after all, leftovers from someone else’s projects. But if you are needing some hot pads and wash clothes (or baby booties and children’s scarves or slippers) by all means, look for yarn at rummage sales. And also look for knitting and crochet needles.
The article I read mentioned buying blankets as well. But I’m a little leery about buying cast-off linens. There’s too much risk of picking up bed bugs, pet hair, mold or other unknown contaminants. Now if you find a really good wool blanket, buy it. It will make good batting for a quilt IF you thoroughly launder it when you get it home.
But sheets are a different matter. I use sheets as covers in my garden to protect my tender plants from the first fall frosts. Usually there are three or four chilly fall nights, followed by another month or so of warm weather. So by covering my garden for those few cold nights, I’m able to extend my growing season another month or so. Also, sheets make good covers for cars, lawnmowers, boats or anything else in long-term storage. (I sew them together to cover the car. Not pretty, but it works. Or maybe it is pretty, in a folksy, homemade-y way.)
Pretty much all of our garden equipment comes from rummage sales and auctions: rakes, shovels, hoes, hose reels, hoses, rototillers, clippers, etc. You can replace the hose ends on old hoses if they are broken or you can drill holes into hoses to create drip lines for your garden’s drip irrigation.
OK, this isn’t essential to good gardens, but I want my garden to be at least as pretty as it is useful. So
I like to find pretty pottery—a ceramic pitcher, cookie jar, bowl or vase—to use as planters. Using a masonry bit, I drill in the bottom for drainage and I’ve got a pot that cost me 25¢ instead of the $10-$20 price at the garden center. So when your son sets your pot on the top porch step and then it immediately gets knocked over and breaks, no big deal. (Teen-age son, who should have know better, breaths a sigh of relief.) And it’s not just for planters. I glue together plates, bowls, pots, urns, whatever goes together nicely, to create bird baths or plant towers to use in my flower beds. These sell at craft shows for $30-$40, but you can make one for $5 or less.
Most people want electric or cordless tools, so hand tools are selling for cheap. Look for hand drills, good saws, wood splitters, levels, hammers, etc.
One of my favorite rummage sale finds was an old double-tub wash stand. It’s perfect for washing off all the dirt from vegetables coming out of the garden. Now the really hard-core preppers will tell you that you need to have wash tubs and maybe even a non-electric wringer washer on hand for a disaster where there is no power for several days or weeks. I hope we never have a disaster that leaves us both without power and without access to a
laundromat. But you decide. It just might be a good idea to have a non-electric washer on hand. Until then, my tubs are great for washing vegetables.
Especially in our rural area, it’s easy to find chicken feeders, animal traps (gophers are a problem here), kennels or other equipment you will need for raising animals or caring for pets.
We’ve gotten some good tents, tarps, cots and backpacks at auctions. I wouldn’t get sleeping bags (see my comments on #7, sheets.) Backpacks are good for your 72-hour emergency kits and if you get them at a rummage sale you can afford to get the smaller sizes for your younger kids and won’t feel bad when they outgrow them and need larger packs.
Cast iron cookware
I agree with the author on this one, but with the caution that you look for quality. Too many people buy lighter weight cast iron or pans with wood handles. No. Don’t do this. Lightweight cast iron will not stand up to hard use, especially the heat of wood coals. And once the handles burn off, you’re left with unusable stumps. Don’t be put off by a rusty pan. If it is basically sound, it can be restored. And being rusty, you can probably talk the owner down on the price.
You don’t have to just look for the nice cast-iron cookware. It’s also a good idea to have some inexpensive pans that you don’t mind throwing away when they’ve exhausted their usefulness. For example, I have a few cheapo pans that I painted black to use in my solar cooker. (I also found the small toaster oven rack that I use in my solar oven at a rummage sale for 25¢.) You may want a pot or two in your 72-hour kit for boiling water. And I have a junk pot that I use to melt wax in so I don’t ruin one of my good pans.
The most important part to the oil lamp is the base, so look for a quality base. Of course, the more complete, the better.
The best oil lamps will have parts that all fit together snugly, metal parts (collar, wick knob) that are not dented or rusted and the glass is not chipped or cracked. If they aren’t perfect, you have a bargaining tool to talk the price down. If you can get it cheap enough, it’s still a bargain because you can replace just about all parts of an oil lamp if needed.
Candles are also a good thing to have on hand during a power outage. Partially burned candles can be melted down and re-cast with a new wick to create another, long burning candle. But candles are a dime a dozen at these rummage sales, so you can be picky. Do not waste money or storage space on fancy artsy candles. They usually don’t burn as long and if you melt them to reuse the wax, you risk mixing inferior (quicker burning) wax with good stuff. Unless you have candle holders, avoid tapers and table candles. Instead, choose pillar candles that can sit on their own. Do not buy candles in a container (glass or tin.) You can’t trim or change the wick as easily and it’s harder to melt down and reuse the wax.
What do you think? What would you add, delete or change on this rummage sale shopping list?