Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thrift Haul

This month, I focused on exploring new thrift stores outside of my hometown area. I've found three new stores which are amazing! Two are in Alexandria, VA (Thrift Store Center and Goodwill) and the third is in Arlington, VA (Goodwill- S. Glebe Road location).

Arlington, VA Goodwill

Store Reviews

Thrift Store Center is the largest store I have been to (aside from the Goodwill Outlet) and it had some of the best prices and sales I have encountered thus far in my thrifting shenanigans. I'll be honest, this place looked super sketchy from the outside and I was a little apprehensive to dive in but I am so glad that I did. They had a breath-taking selection of women's professional attire, especially dress slacks; there was an amazing variety in the brands and almost all were in impeccable condition. I could have bought so many things but I was only looking for a few specific patterns and colors so I attempted to control myself. This place had the best mix of "true vintage" and contemporary styles that I've come across; this mix made shopping so much fun because I ran into some serious throwback styles. 

The other two Goodwill stores were both clean and the Alexandria one had an unbelievably nice staff. I preferred the Alexandria Goodwill over the Arlington store only because the prices on shoes were much cheaper. When you shop at Goodwill, clothes are always the same prices but they price shoes individually so they vary depending on location. Arlington had some awesome designer shoes but most pairs had $19.98 on them and for me, that was way out of my price range for what I'm willing to pay for shoes that have already had their fair share of wear. One downfall to the Arlington store is that nothing was really in size order whereas the Alexandria store had the best organization I have ever seen. Arlington is one of those locations that takes a "digging mood;" the clothes were organized by colors but ranged from XS to XXL in all areas which isn't ideal if you aren't in the mood to dig. All three of these stores have an amazing selection of brands including high price tag names like Charles Jourdan, Marc Fisher, Prada, Brooks Brothers, United Colors of Benetton, Banana Republic, J Crew, etc. Overall, I was really impressed with the selection and condition of everything I came across in these stores and I will definitely be back to all three!

 Here is the down-low on all of the items I collected this month:

  •  American Eagle Jeggings- Vintage Values- Lexington Park, MD (Bin)- $0.75- Destroyed Denim. I actually found two of the same exact pairs so I bought both and put one in my Plato's bag for my next consignment trip. 
Notice the permanent marker on the "tag"
- one of the ways staff can identify that these are from the bins.
Fortunately, it doesn't show through to the back!

  • Bullhead Skinny Jeans- Vintage Values- Lexington Park, MD (Bin)- $0.75- Olive Color.


  • Banana Republic Ryan Fit Dress Slacks- Goodwill Alexandria- $5.98- Wide leg, Black and grey plaid with a stripe of reddish orange in the pattern; cuffed at the ankle.

  • J Crew Cropped Dress Slacks- Hooks and Hangers- Charlotte Hall, MD- $2.50 (Org.  $4.95 but orange tags were 50% off!)- fully-lined wool blend; brown plaid with a stripe of mustard color in the pattern; button detailing and cuffed cropped.

  • Tahari Dress- Goodwill Alexandria- $8.98- (I am obsessed with this dress! Definitely my favorite find so far!) Royal blue, pin tucked top, a-line cut. 

  • Banana Republic Sheath Dress- Thrift Store Center- Alexandria, VA- $6.00- Wool blend, light gray with two pockets (who doesn't love a dress with pockets!) and loops for a waist belt. 

  • New York and Company White Dress Shirt- Vintage Values- Lexington Park, MD (Bin)- $0.75- the classic, crisp white shirt.

  • Unknown brand! (tag was removed) Necktie chiffon shell- Vintage Values- Lexington Park, MD (bin) $0.75- chiffon, black, tan and olive pattern, with my favorite neckline ("necktie"). 

  • Banana republic sleeveless button down- Goodwill Arlington- $4.98- gray, sleeveless with feminine ruffles at the top, delicate necktie style.

  • Banana Republic embellished top- Goodwill Arlington- $4.98- coral silk blouse with beautiful statement embellishments all around the neckline, 3 button back.

  • Michael Kors Pumps- Goodwill Alexandria- $6.98- pointed toe, studded black leather pumps with 2.5 inch heel. 

  • Guess Watch- Goodwill Alexandria- $5.00- leather band, gold tone accents.

There you have it; all the gems of the month!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Baked Apple Pie Egg Rolls

On the eve of my recent egg roll extravaganza, my Mom and I had leftover wrappers so we hopped on google and tried to find out what we could do with them. The number one hit for desert egg rolls were apple filled treats. We decided to make our own adaptation of the various recipes we read. Here is what we came up with:


  • 1 package of egg roll wrappers (usually yield 16-18) 
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • 1 splash of tap water
  • 2 tablespoons butter (margarine)
  • 2 large apples (I used one granny smith and one gala) 
  • 1/3 cup of white granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh is better!)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon apple-pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  •  1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 
    Peel, core and finely chop both of the apples and place in a medium sized mixing bowl.  
  2. Combine all dry ingredients over top of chopped up apples. Add lemon juice to mixture and stir well. 
  3. Leave the apple filling to sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. The salt will draw out the water from the apples during this process making your rolls much crispier. 

  4. Once you have let your mixture sit for 15 minutes, its time to wrap your rolls. Take your egg and crack it into a small bowl; add just a splash of water. Place one roll in front of you and add about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling to the center of wrapper.
  6. Fold the bottom corner diagonally toward the top and then fold in each side, being sure to tuck in the corners to prevent spillage of your filling.  
  7. Dip your finger in water and trace the top edge of the wrapper; just as if you were sealing an envelope. Slowly roll toward the top seal and place egg roll seal side down.
  8. Place your apple pie rolls, seal side down on a greased baking sheet. Brush with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake rolls for 25 minutes, turning at least once until they develop a nice golden brown color. 
  9. Enjoy!      

 The Final Product!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Strategy: Thrifting

I've laid the groundwork of principles for what I feel is absolutely necessary before you venture into the uncharted territory of thrifting. Knowing the principles and sticking to them will only get you to the door of the thrift store. The magic that happens when you open it-- that all depends on your strategy. Yes, my fellow frugalites, there are specific tactics that will help you fulfill your intentions as you sift your way into second-hand success.

Spec out the sales.

The arguably most misconceived aspect of thrifting is that everything is dirt cheap. I would say that this reigned true about ten years ago-- today's world of thrifting is a money-making business (in many cases). The majority of thrift stores have sales and this is where you will find your "gems." Yes, real sales that are often better than ones you will find in department stores. Sales are normally posted on a board in the front of the store; look closely because they're sometimes hard to find. The majority of thrift stores tag their items by colors and their sales are based on this coding system. Franchised stores like Goodwill often select departments and give percentage discounts for items in those specific departments; i.e. 25% off all accessories or 10% off all women's blazers. I try to only shop the sales when I thrift in order to control my spending. I you don't see a sale board, definitely ask an employee because I have yet to encounter a store that doesn't have sales. 

Here's an example of one of my local thrift store's sale boards. You can see that they do % off of specific items as well as tag color discounts. Note the $0.75 bin clothing- a thrifter's heaven!

Get your hands dirty.

If you want to be considered a true thrifter, you must propel yourself whole-heartedly into the realm of bin-digging. This is an intimidating part of thrifting but it is so incredibly rewarding when you those steals that make your toes curl! Most thrift stores have large tables, tubs or bins in which they pile clothes that they do not have time or space to hang. A common misconception is that the bin items are things which are not "good enough" to make onto a hanger- very untrue. The best part about the bins is that most items are never over $1.00. Some of my best thrift gems (blazers, pencil skirts, jeans and a number of designer blouses) have been found digging in the depths of the mysterious and sometimes frightening bins. I will admit, I thrifted for years before I ever came close to a bin because, like most people, I thought the bins were a.) disgusting, b.) for the stained/ripped clothes, and c.) infested with who knows what types of pests. There are a few guidelines which I would suggest when approaching the bins. First, if a bin clearly has any type of bed linens in it, stay far away. Most stores are really good about separating linens and clothes but the mix can happen; this combination wreaks of lice to me (could just be in my mind- it never hurts to take precautions!). Second, if there are multiple bins, transfer clothes from one to the other as you sort through. I saw a woman doing this a few weekends ago and struck up a conversation with her; she said she finds double the items most of the time when she uses this strategy. I like! I haven't tried this out yet but it definitely sounds like a good idea but note. Third, make sure you dress in layers if you plan to dig. This can be a strenuous task and you will work up a serious sweat if you really get into it! Last, circling back to the original virtues, do not buy anything unless you absolutely love it. It is really tempting to buy bin items that you only like (not love) because they are so insanely cheap. All the same rules apply to the bins as the rest of the store. Practice your self control with bin digging because, trust me, you will need it!

Examine everything.

While I am in the same vein of bin digging, one downside to thrifting is that many store mark the tags of their clothing with permanent marker in order to signify what department they come from or what price they are. This is almost always the case with clothes that come from the bins; if a tag is black, you better believe that employees of the store will mark the actual fabric next to the tag with a dot or line in permanent marker that does not wash out. Be sure to inspect your items for such stains. Also, when buying any sort of pants, check the seat and seams for wear. If you don't sew or know a cheap seamstress, don't buy anything with a hole or that needs altering. Check the inner-thigh area of the pants for "pilling" (little balls of fabric that are commonly found on sweaters under the armits). If a fabric is already pilled, chances are you won't get much more wear out of it before it starts to tear. Another recent revelation of mine is to review the care tags; I just took a few things to the dry cleaners that I got from the thrift store; my jaw dropped when I saw the price of this service. I would recommend steering clear of anything that requires dry cleaning unless it is a "to-die-for" deal; in those special cases, you just have to buy it! I usually re-examine all my items while I am in line or at the counter because most often you can see them in a different light. Checkout counters are usually located near the windows in the front of the store and that little bit of natural light can illuminate something you didn't see when you did your initial look over. The better you examine, the more value you will get from your purchases, the more value you get, the more money you will have to spend on other things like vacations, spa days or more thrifting! 

Try it on.  

This is the one rule I have learned the hard way. You must, I repeat, you must try everything on. I loathe trying clothes on anywhere before I buy them; it slows me down and puts a halt on the adrenaline rush I get from shopping. A few weeks ago, I bought three pairs of dress slacks, all size 6 because I "knew" I was that size in the specific brands I bought. I got all of them home and not one pair fit; they were all too big. Luckily, Goodwill accepts returns and I was able to get store credit but we all know that is always a hassle so do yourself a favor and just try it on while you are there! With thrifted items, you can never be sure that they will fit the same way they when they were bought brand new. For instance, if you know you are a size 4 at Banana Republic, don't think that just because the skirt you picked up is Banana, you don't need to try it on. Since you are dealing with second-hand clothes, sometimes they do fit differently even when you know your size. If you are grossed out by trying things on in the thrift store, wear leggings under your clothes so that you don't have to directly touch the fabric. Chances are if you are this picky, you probably won't shop in the thrift store anyway, but just in case- this is a tip for my fellow germaphobs. Trying things on will not only help you decipher whether you like or LOVE something but it also gives you another chance to examine your items. The fitting rooms in thrift stores are by no means any sort of glamorous but they serve the purpose they need to and if you are really lucky, you might even find a mirror in them (sometimes hard to come by in the thrift world).

Best of luck to any readers who dare to thrift! And stay tuned for a guide on how to do the initial wash of your thrift items and a revue of the ways I style my thrift finds! 

As always, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Principles of Thrifting

The element I find most incredible about thrifting is the mind-blowing array of things that I come across. Not that I would buy everything I see, but being able to sift through decades of fashion is fascinating to me. Scavenging through the fads of the past makes me nostalgic for eras that came far before my time. My rummaging leaves me feeling enriched with the culture and beauty of the past; something I recommend that all should experience.

With all that said, there are certainly some guidelines to follow when immersing yourself in thrifting. Because of the vast assortment of things you will find, I've developed the following list of principles that I feel are crucial to finding both enjoyment and success in the hunt.

Keep an open mind.

Thrifting is not for everyone. If you aren't willing to open your mind, get your hands dirty and venture through uncharted territory, you will not find any pleasure in the sport (yes, I am considering thrifting a sport!). Unfortunately, our consumerist society has cast a negative light on thrifting for the lack of glitz and glamour that surrounds the hunt for what I consider true "gems." Misconceived as being a mecca for old people's clothes, a place for "poor" people to shop, and a breeding ground for insects and germs, thrift stores suffer a bad reputation amongst the majority of people in our nation. It is my goal through the series of these posts to shatter any idea that you may have about the nature of thrifting. I won't reach everyone but I hope that I can encourage at least one thrift-virgin to give it a whirl! Thrifting attracts all sorts of people; you will most definitely encounter a huge diversity in these stores and that can make some people uncomfortable. Young, old, poor, rich, clean, dirty, sane, crazy; you will see it all. Personally, this is just another facet of thrifting that attracts me; it is not just that I never know what I will find, but it is also that I never know who I will see! Sometimes thrift stores are located in "shady" parts of towns; if that scares you then you probably won't find enjoyment in this type of adventure. Refrain from making judgements about the merchandise in the store by assessing the neighborhood it is in, the condition of the building, or who is hanging outside of it. I find some of my best stuff in the roughest looking stores. I challenge you to try this out; walk into a thrift store without judging and you will hopefully find yourself in a culturally enriching experience (keyword: hopefully!).

Set an intention.


Any of my fellow yogis will recognize the "set an intention" part of this; most people set an intention for their practice before the start of each yoga session, helping them focus their energy toward a goal. Before you go out on a thrift adventure, set an intention for what you want to do with your trip. Do you want to hunt for true vintage pieces? Maybe you want to go in with the intention of finding things you can 'refashion' or items you could use to create unique, one-of-a-kind gifts. Are you are looking for things you can 'flip' and make a few bucks? Trying to build your professional wardrobe on a budget? Or are you just looking to have a few laughs with a friend while you try on the most ridiculous things you can find? It doesn't matter what your intentions are, just make sure you have them in mind before stepping foot in the store. This will prevent you from a.) buying things you don't need (another virtue of thrifting!), b.) feeling overwhelmed, c.) getting distracted (this will still happen regardless of your intention but hopefully a little less often). 

Educate yourself.

If you are thrifting for a specific type of item, be it clothes, housewares, furniture, etc., make sure you educate yourself to the fullest extent you can. You have to really know what you are buying. I thrift almost exclusively for clothes, shoes and accessories; it is crucial that I know the brands I am buying. Why? Because, believe it or not, a lot thrift stores are in business to make a profit. It is a common misconception that thrift stores are all operated for charity and therefore, their prices are really cheap. This is far removed from the truth. In the past few years, independently owned thrift shops have popped up everywhere and their prices can be really stiff but at the same time, they also tend to be much more open to customers 'talking them down' from their prices. I've been thrifting for years but it hasn't been until recently that I've started to research brands and prices. I've built my knowledge of designers through the websites of high end department stores and of course the coveted website of most women today... Pinterest! I spend time looking at the styles that are currently in fashion, which brands are most popular and then I research pricing. I also use the website Polyvore to scroll through styles and look at what is trending in fashion. I am inching my way into 'flipping' for profit but I know that I have to do a lot more research before I can count on this intention to pan out. If you want to get into flipping, I also recommend turning to to review what your brands are selling for; this can be a great way to gauge how to price your flips if you plan to sell through sites or stores other than ebay. Even if you don't intend to flip your items, one of your goals in thrifting will most likely be to get the best value you can for an item. If you walk into a thrift store with a solid idea of what things cost, you will be much more apt to find the best bargains. 

Only buy what you know you will use.

This is a principle I struggled with for a really long time. I think I am cured of my 'buy it because it is only a dollar' disease but it took time and diligence. For a bargain hunter, self-control can be shattered when standing in a store where nothing cost more than $5.00 - $10.00. I will write about specific strategy in an upcoming post where you will be exposed to the 'bins' and the temptation that surrounds them (you'll find out what is so enticing!). This used to be my downfall but I now can hunt with a closer eye and only pull out things that I will absolutely wear. If you experience even the faintest second thought on a item, do not buy it. You probably won't wear it and if you do, it won't be more than once. I have learned this one the hard way; it will end up right where you found it and you will be the few dollars that you spent on it. I try to keep a running list of things I am looking for and this has seemed to help me focus on buying only what I know I will wear. It doesn't mean I am confined by my list but if I start to pick up too many items, I do a quick mental breeze through of my list and refocus my intention. I would argue that this is probably the most difficult part of thrifting. It is perfectly fine to leave a store empty handed even though that sometimes feels like defeat! Self-control is a must or you can and will quickly spiral into a lifestyle of hoarding- ain't nobody got time for that! 

Do your research.

So what is the difference between 'educate yourself' and 'do your research'? This principle is all about researching the actual stores you will find yourself in, not just knowing what you are looking for. Before you get out in the trenches, make sure you know the strengths and weaknesses of the stores you will visit. A great resource for finding out information about a store is the website If I am thrifting somewhere new, I always turn here first. Not only do you get to read first hand accounts of fellow thrifters but the site also lists the hours and addresses; it is a one-stop-shop for all you need to know! I have been attempting to broaden my thrifting horizons lately and have been shopping in areas other than my hometown; yelp has been a huge help in determining where the best places are and which ones offer the best deals. With franchised stores like Goodwill, you know that wherever you go the prices will be relatively the same; trips to these stores will require less research. With independently owned stores, you will have to take the time to develop an idea about whether a store is worth your time. I recently went to a Goodwill in Alexandria, VA and wanted to see if there were any stores around so I used my yelp app to do some research. I found a huge, independently owned store just 4 miles from Goodwill and the place was a gold mine! It is called Thrift Store Center; a must on your "to thrift" list! Without research, I probably would have never crossed paths with such a great store. 

Be polite and give back.

Taking a monthly load of donations to a thrift store will bring you good karma in your shopping, or so I  like to believe! I try to take a load at least once a month, even if it is only a grocery bag full of stuff. This keeps my wardrobe constantly changing and it also supports the stores which supply my needs. It is a nice gesture to take donations as often as you can in order to keep your stores in business. Even now that I am starting to flip items, I still make a pile of things to donate. When donating, keep in mind the types of things you would want to find. It always makes me sad when I see people donating clothes with huge holes, stains and odors. If you wouldn't be caught dead it in, don't donate it. Also, treat the employees and fellow shoppers extremely well. If you are a frequent shopper in a store, it never hurts to befriend the employees; they'll be more apt to tell you about the new load they just got in or the sale of the day. Also, if I am digging in a bin, I sometimes try striking up a conversation with a fellow picker- you can help each other by sifting through sizes and styles. Treat others the way you would want to be treated; it will make your thrifting experiences even more interesting.