The 5 Things I Always Buy When I Go Antiquing

updated May 1, 2019
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One of my favorite places to check out: Gatehouse at Old Mill in Rhinebeck, NY (Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

My husband and I spend a lot of time in Upstate New York, which happens to be lousy with antique shops. I’d argue that there are more antique shops than apple orchards, breweries, and bespoke pottery shops — combined. I’m certainly not complaining about this because we love to go antiquing. I have to drag my husband into a Target, but he’s always down to seek out new-to-us antique stores and very old stuff.

He tends to be on the lookout for windsor chairs, old boxes, and anything we’ve never seen before. I look for anything and everything. We’ve bought some pretty random stuff: cans of emergency drinking water, a galvanized Sabrett hot dog bin, and a cart from an old paper factory that we use as a bar cart. We go into a store with no real plan, but there are five things we almost always buy when we see them.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

1. Oversized food tins

Quite possibly our quirkiest thing: We like to repurpose giant tins that were once used to ship and store food as trashcans. The bathroom has a Vincent’s potato chip can and a guest bedroom has a blue-and-white pretzel tin, for example. Warning: They can get pretty expensive (I think we paid close to $75 for a giant one that used to hold 100 pounds of vegetable shortening), depending on the size and subject matter.

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

2. Anything enamelware

Yes, I know that I can buy this stuff brand new and unused, but I prefer the older stuff that has a little more of a patina. I won’t buy something if it’s looking too beat up or dented. A few scratches here and there, though? I totally prefer that!

I bought a set of four dinner plates for $15 when I was just in Michigan for a photoshoot. I also have some baking dishes, oversized mugs, regular sized mugs, a tea kettle, etc. My favorite enamelware piece, and one of the best things I’ve ever bought for my kitchen, is a little tray. I use it to hold my soap and sponge next to my sink and, this way, I never have to worry about the dispenser dripping all over my (albeit kinda junky) kitchen counter.

(Image credit: Marge Perry)

3. Wooden spoons

For a long time, I had been too creeped out by the ick factor of old wooden spoons. I got over it — because I learned some great ways to clean these things — and I’m so glad I did. Usually, the spoons I find just need a good washing in hot water. If a spoon looks extra rough, I’ll just soak it in a solution of one part vinegar and one part water for five minutes before rinsing. Then, if it’s sunny out, I’ll let the spoon sit in the sun to dry.

More on Wooden Spoons

(Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

4. Cheese boxes

The first thing people usually learn about me is that I love cheese. And so it’s only appropriate that we buy up cheese boxes whenever we see them. They’re super handy as drawer organizers (if you clean them out and line them with contact paper or felt, you can totally put flatware in them). I also use them to hold extra condiment packets from takeout orders, small tools, napkins, and more. Some places charge way too much for these little guys, but if I see one for less than $10, I’ll scoop it up.

(Image credit: Gabriela Herman)

5. Cast iron cookware

I have a ton of vintage kitchen gear from my Bubbie (maybe that’s how this antique obsession got started?). The one thing she didn’t have to pass down to me? Cast iron. The woman was an amazing cook but somehow did not have a single cast iron skillet (it’s confusing, right?). Because I wanted cookware that’s been seasoned for generations, I had to start this collection on my own. If something is in good condition and less than $50, I’ll usually consider it.

Other things I’m always on the lookout for, but don’t always buy.

  • Feed bags: We’ve bought a few of these — they make great gifts if you can find one that’s local to the eventual recipient! We have one that we want to frame and hang eventually.
  • Milking stools: These things make great mini ottomans in front of an accent chair in a living room.
  • Pie safes: I would fill an entire house with pie safes if I could. A couch? We don’t need a couch — we need pie safes!
  • Antique stoves: One of these days I will get one!

What kitchen or food-related antiques do you look for?