My first grand find was in the Salvation Army shop in town (Portsmouth for any of you who don't know where I hail from) - this is the mother of all charity shops, and I think it's actually a bit of a hidden gem. They have one of the biggest and best ranges of china and glassware ever, all laid out on tables so you can have a proper good rummage - none of this stacking things inside each other. I've lost count of how many times I've been in other shops, taking things off shelves and apologising to customers for blocking the aisles, in a desperate bid to get a brilliant bit of pyrex or a teacup. I realise that half the fun of thrifting is in the chase, but sometimes it's nice to just have it a bit easier. On this particular visit I got six teacups for two quid (TWO QUID! Can you believe that?!), and a milk jug and small bowl for a mere £3.
My second favourite charity shop is The Ark - they actually have two branches, one in North End and one in Southsea (on Albert Road, AKA the Best Street Ever in the History of Streets in the Entire World. Home to the best vintage shop, a lovely homewares boutique and the best tiny teashop ever). They sell anything and everything - going in there is like going into an Aladdins Cave of quality tat, my favourite kind of shop. Like the Salvation Army, they do a fine line in old china, and have a whole load of plates, tea cups and glassware - but you'll need to be prepared to scrabble about for a bit. They also sell the best (and I mean, BEST) vintage furniture for quality prices. I got an old cabinet for £8 a year or so ago, and they always have bargain 1950's wardrobes and cupboards in great condition. If you venture towards the back, you'll find old records and loads of linen - duvet covers, curtains and pillow cases - all perfect to use as they are, or to cut up and make into something shiny and new. I found the loveliest floral milk jug (are we sensing a pattern here...?) for a pound, and almost went home with a wicker table too, but gave it up when the Husband did his raised eyebrow thing.
My third thrifting triumph was in one of the newest charity shops in Waterlooville (where they usually just sell overpriced pre-owned Primark, ugh) - it's so new, I can't even remember which charity runs it (is that awful? It is, isn't it... oh dear), and I've never been in there before. I just happened to be passing and thought I'd go in on the offchance that they might possibly have a wooden abacus (which I've been after for AGES, but don't want to buy new). On the surface they look quite disappointing, but have a pretty good book section, and the odd wooden toy. There were no abacuses, but I did get this fab stacking rings toy for £3 - when I tried to pay by card (I know, right, who pays by card in a charity shop?), it turned out there was a minimum spend of £5, so I had to wander round again and find something else. Tucked in the corner, sandwiched between a chick-lit novel and the autobiography of some footballer, was one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen - the limited edition, illustrated version of Cider With Rosie. It was £3. It now sits on the bookshelf in the lounge (or it will do, when we finally put it up).
My last bargain was less thrift and more gift - I got fifteen jam jars (planning a foray into jam making, now I have a garden to grow in) for absolutely nothing, nada, zero, zilch, on my first foray into the world of Freecycle, that wonderful place where you can find people trying to offload their shite onto other people. I love this website, I love the thinking behind it (less consumption, less waste, less crap heading to landfills), and the listings make for really entertaining reading. On my last browse, I found someone offering a stained mattress and an electric breast pump that didn't work. Genius!
Oh, and a lovely, lovely friend picked up some pyrex for me at a car boot sale - they look pretty great on my open shelves in the kitchen.