Thrift shopping: Feel-good fun and vintage finds

May 6, 2023 | 6 comments |

Can I get that wholesale?

Growing up in a place nicknamed “wholesale city” where finding a “good deal” is a point of civic pride, thrift shopping has been part of my life since childhood.

As well as being a fun hobby, since I’m grateful for my own blessings and resources it’s also a way I can help others, along with practicing the 3Rs, reduce, reuse and recycle, to help the environment too.

I started with vintage out-of-print books, and my late mother and I spent many happy Saturday afternoons scouring flea markets and charity sales to add to my collection.

Oh, the thrill of discovering an early Louisa May Alcott story beneath old magazines, or beautifully bound Victorian and Edwardian hardbacks amongst dog-eared paperbacks.

Along with historical fiction, my love for the art and craft of book design began with spending my allowance (pocket money) on books still on my “keeper” shelf today.

Student life and beyond

At university on a student budget, “thrifting” was both necessity and way of life. From party dresses to kitchen items, buying used helped my money go further.

When I moved to England, I not only found a second home but a new world of charity shops too.

From more vintage books, many inscribed in gorgeous penmanship from a vanished age, to a Victorian tea set I use each Christmas, many memories of my British life have links with “charity.”

When I now return to the UK on holiday, the trip isn’t complete without visiting a favourite charity shop in the village I called home.

More than any tourist site, to me it’s integral to the “real” England I love and miss.

My small-town life

Nowadays, my small Canadian town’s thrift store is still a wonderful place to visit on Saturday afternoons, and I browse seasonal displays, chat with friends and nab a bargain—or two!

The vintage “Hollie Hobbie” mug I use as an organizer on my writing desk came from there as did my similarly vintage front porch rocking chair.

But perhaps the most special “find” is also the most recent.

This cake plate in Royal Albert’s long-discontinued Petit Point china pattern is one I remember my mother having.

When, after her sudden death, I had the sad job of readying my childhood home for sale, I searched for her plate without success.

So my new-old plate is a special reminder of my mom.

And when I use it, I like to think she’s with me in spirit and maybe still enjoying our shopping expeditions too.




  1. Elizabeth Waldman

    Dear Jen, I love your post and your Holly Hobbie post reminded me that my mom embroidered me a Holly Hobbie scene on a pillow that I still have and can’t part with. We move back to Winnipeg next month closer to the 3rd or 4th week. I am sad that I didn’t get a chance to meet you but maybe we are just meant to be pen pals. Thank you for your support and kindness over these past years and I cherish our friendship. You met one of my daughter’s friends at your local library, she is a teacher who works there and her name is Caitlin Thorne Codyre. I will keep you updated about our move and we are moving into a furnished home for 3months and hopefully we will find a bungalow before the end of the summer.?‍♀️??❤️

    • Jen Gilroy

      Hi Elizabeth, I’m glad you enjoyed my post and appreciate your kind comment. As you know, I’ve had computer problems so am delayed in replying. How lovely that you have a Holly Hobbie pillow made by your mom. I certainly understand how and why you treasure it. Although I don’t remember meeting your daughter’s friend (library events can be busy), I’m pleased we made that little connection. I hope your move to Winnipeg and house hunting go smoothly. Please do keep in touch. I cherish our friendship too. Warm wishes, Jen.

  2. Heidi Vanstone

    Like you, I enjoy opportunities to “thrift”. It’s so wonderful to find unexpected treasures and bargains, often when we least expect it. I’m so happy for you that you found the special cake plate, and that it brings back happy memories of your Mom. Long may you enjoy this fun and frugal “pursuit”!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I have happy memories of time spent thrift shopping with you, Heidi. Since you knew I was searching for that plate, you can appreciate my special joy when I found it! Happy “pursuing” to you too! 🙂

  3. Elaine

    Thrift stores are now the rage of young people. I love finding party dresses at a fraction of the price.

    Glad you found this cake plate and will have fond memories of your mom❤️

    That was the set of china I collected and I’m always so happy when my older sister adds to my collection with her great finds.

    • Jen Gilroy

      My daughter loves thrifting too, Elaine. Like you, we’ve both found party dress bargains in thrift stores too. I’d forgotten you collected that china pattern too. Thanks for reminding me! 🙂


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