Thrift Stores: The Frugal Canner’s Best Friend

Thrift Store Sign Photo: Thrift Store Sign by pixeljones via Flickr

While canning can be an efficient, money-saving task if you’ve got all the equipment, the initial cost of getting what you need can seem daunting for a first-timer. However, I’m here to tell you that there is a better, cheaper way: The thrift store!

Really amazing kitchen implements end up at the thrift store all the time, and an eagle-eyed shopper can find some amazing deals. I was able to get my entire initial canning setup from the thrift store (including jars) for less than $25. Here’s a small list of some of the things I’ve found and their comparative prices at retail outlets.

Item          Thrift Store          Retail Store
Canning Rack $0.75 $7.00
Pot for canning $3.00 $30.00
24 Pint Jars w/lids $10.00 $22.00
Jar Grabber $0.50 $5.00
Food Mill $5.00 $35.00
Apple corer/peeler $3.50 $20.00
TOTAL $22.75 $119.00

That’s more than 80% off! Not too shabby. Now bear in mind that I did not find all of these things in one go. This was from a few weeks of scouting around, but you will be surprised what you can find if you are diligent. Estate sales and garage sales are also an excellent source of canning and kitchen supplies, as well as And be sure to check out, which allows local folks to trade and give away their unwanted items for free.

So, next time you’re passing your local thrift store, drop in and have a look at the kitchen section. That all important, rather pricey item you’ve had your eye on might just be waiting for you for less than the cost of a latte.

Compare prices first!

Kris, I have the same problem - used, lidless jars going for $1-$2 each at the thrift store, when cases of a dozen brand new jars with new rings and usable lids are going for $8-$15 (depending on the size) at the bog-box store down the street. And yes, tomato sauce (or mayonnaise!) jars being sold in the same section. It's crazy. And I have NEVER seen jar lifters, or a food mill in proper working order. Sometimes you get lucky, but don't go to the thrift store without checking prices first.

thrifty UK canning

Marit's comment leaves me green with envy. That local rummage sale sound like the stuff that dreams are made of. Canning in the UK is so niche it's invisible but some people are just starting to catch on. I have lots of vintage jars because I have been particularly obsessive in finding them. They rarely just land in your lap and thrift (charity) shops rarely have them.
Robert - are you in the UK? You can get many of the replacement rubber seals for old jars if you know where to find them. I mentioned this on a post recently on my blog
Here you can pay between £2-£6 for each canning jar new, so acquiring all the equipment for a well-stocked pantry is a big outlay.


I am fortunate to live in a community that holds an annual all-Island rummage sale. It is HUGE. This year there were more than 200 cases of jars, all clean and packed in boxes (not the originals of course) If you live in the general area of Western Washington State, it's a must! It is held the last Saturday in June every year. You can see more here


How remarkable. Sounds like you get some amazing finds there.

Thrift Stores

I just wrote a pop off letter to our local newspaper this morning on this very subject, but with a decidedly different spin.

Our largest thrift shop has decided to take advantage of bad times and the needs of people...and have been price gouging. A scratched mayonnaise jar for $2.50? ALL canning jars, for that matter, are $2.50 each. There is a Big Lots next door to them that sells regular mouth quarts for $8 a dozen. But the thrift store doesn't seem to care. They have many items that are priced at or ABOVE retail. Apparently they think poor people are stupid!

I am still a little steamed. Did I hide it well? LOL

Always pays to look

We have charity shops here (I guess the same idea as a thrift store). They are excellent places for finding glassware, including nice bottles for liqueuers. I have not had much luck with bottles for canning though - even if you can find them, they need to have standard size lids or they are pretty much useless.


I've actually had a post about this in the works for awhile now, since I recently stocked up on jars at the thrift store for much less than they would typically cost to buy new. I haven't had any luck finding a canner yet, but I'm still hoping one will show up one of these days (although many of the thrift stores around here price things at close-to-new prices, so buying new might not be such a terrible thing).


thrift stores are an invaluable resource for at-home canners, and food bloggers in general. in terms of food blogging, i get nearly all of my photo props from different thrift stores in the area. i love finding unique little treasures that i can showcase in my photos on my site.

i also find TONS of canning supplies are thrift stores! i buy mason jars individually, but on several occasions i've snagged brand new cases of mason jars for $2-$3 a pop.

my advice is to always keep your eyes peeled and don't neglect the bottom shelf! that's where most people don't look for things, and typically, that's where i find the most amazing treasures!

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