2017: My best second-hand picks

I wrote a similar post this time last year and thought it would be fun to trawl through my second-hand finds from 2017.

This year I started a new job which, while giving me more spending power, meant I also had to invest in a work wardrobe. While I have definitely bought more first-hand clothing this year, I’m still a sucker for charity shops and some of my best finds of the year have come from them.

  1. Clothing-wise, while I have bought some first-hand items (my favourite being a pair of denim dungarees which I have lived in for the past six months), I’ve still found some great items second-hand. I was very pleased with these Boden ankle-length trousers picked up in Wales in November for just £4.50. These are ideal work-home crossover trousers, something I’m trying to buy more of.

2. These two tops were bought from my favourite Bath charity shop: Save the Children. They originally came from LaRedoute and French Connection and were £9.50 in total, I’ve worn them on their own and, when the weather’s cooler, with a polo neck underneath.

secondhand blouses. charity shop find. Thrifty Find. Thrift store. Workwear.

3. I picked up this former H&M top from Dorothy House Hospice shop for £7  and it has been my ‘going – out’ staple all over the festive period. I had been wanting a dressy green top for ages and picked this up purely by chance on the very day I needed to wear something new (to me)! My mum has also started volunteering at this local hospice, so it is a cause that has become close to our hearts.

4. I bought a couple of Summer staples as well which I was very pleased with. This white cheesecloth shirt proved invaluable when on holiday in the South of France. I originally bought it from Save the Children for a pricey £10, but I wore it a lot in the summer so I think it was worth it.

5. I instantly fell in love with this Henry Holland/Debenhams dress found in the Julian House Shop in Chippenham for £8.50. I loved the style and the unusual horse-themed print! I wore it to a friend’s wedding in the summer and layered it with leggings and jumpers into the Autumn.

6. My final clothing find of the year was this red seventies/early eighties? style homemade dress. I picked it up in a vintage store in London for £9. The material is quite thin but, so far, I’ve been adding jumpers and tights to make it winter-proof. (Incidentally, if you ever want to learn more about wearing layers in the winter read this post here from the Freelancers Fashion Blog. Ulrika has the most beautiful vintage style and lives in Finland so is an expert on how to layer up for the winter – while still wearing gorgeous outfits!)

vintage red dress Rokit London

7. I’m also very pleased with a few second-hand items I bought this year, which weren’t clothing. I had been looking for a new handbag for ages and was delighted to find not only this bag, but also the cute purse for £6  in total, from the Dorothy House shop in Malmesbury. I also made use of my old bag by cutting out the inner pocket and turning it into a small purse I can store my reusable shopping bags in it.


8. Vinyl-wise I picked up a  couple of second-hand LPs that I had wanted for ages – and my lovely husband bought me Rumours on vinyl for my birthday (40 years old and still in good condition – the album, not me!)

9. Finally, after many years of avoiding a smartphone I decided that, with my new job, I needed to bite the bullet and buy one. Staying true to my second-hand principles, I decided to purchase a second-hand iphone from CEX, using the money my husband had received for trading in his old phone.

When I read about the incessant need for new gadgets and the speed in which items become obsolescent it makes me really angry. I refuse to buy into the idea that businesses like Apple sell to us that we must always need the next and the best iphone on sale. (I guess it also helps that I’m in my mid-forties and don’t need to worry about my street cred if I buy a pre-loved, older version too!)

Looking back I realise that I have got a lot of wear and use out of the things I bought second-hand. There were a few items that I did buy by mistake and which have since been re-donated – so I don’t always get it right (!). And, although I did buy more items first hand, partly out of necessity and a lack of time to trawl the charity shops, my second-hand finds are definitely my favourite.

How were your second-hand finds this year? Do you plan to buy more pre-loved items next year?

Advent Calendars: love ’em or hate ’em?

Every year my children receive chocolate advent calendars from their generous grandparents. However this year I was able to buy paper calendars for the girls from Oxfam – which received a mixed response 😦
I personally believe that traditional paper calendars are better than chocolate ones – but am I being mean, and a little old fashioned?
These are my thoughts on why they are better:
1. A paper advent calendar gets better day by day: each door reveals a new picture and by the end of advent you have a joyous Christmas scene.
2. However by 24 December chocolate calendars are a mess of torn cardboard, ripped foil and plastic packaging: hardly festive!
3. Why do multi national confectionary companies (such as Kraft) get to tell us how to celebrate advent? And don’t get me started on the £95 L’Oréal advent calendar, or the heavily criticised £50 one created by Zoella.
4. At the end of the day, traditional calendars can be recycled. However the mess that is left behind by the chocolate ones makes them difficult to recycle, only adding to the 736,571 tonnes of rubbish that is created each Christmas.
5. There is enough over consumption and debt generated at this time of year anyway. Why not buy a simple charity calendar and enjoy the mindful task of opening a door each day to reveal a picture, rather than wolfing down chocolate (which doesn’t even taste that great!)
What are your thoughts on advent calendars?
Paper or chocolate?
Or do you own a perpetual calendar: one that can be used again and again? Some families also take part in ‘reverse advent calendars’: donating an item a day to a local foodbank.
I really enjoy reading the ideas and projects from New Dream, a not for profit organisation which is working to challenge American perceptions of consumption and consumerism. They produce an online advent calendar here, filled with ways you can step off the consumption conveyor belt at this time of year.
I really recommend reading their website and looking at some of the ideas they have to ‘Simplify the Holidays’.

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (16-22 October 2017)

Thrifty Finds


How was your week? Last week we were on count down for the school holidays (the girls actually broke up on Wednesday and Thursday). This week I’m off with them so looking forward to spending time together, while watching the pennies.

Last week my Thrifty Finds were:

1. I went to a Vintage Fair with a friend. I’ve been to a few of these before but this was by far the best. I really enjoyed browsing, and people watching (some of the customers were dressed in the most beautiful period pieces). I was very restrained, though, and just came away with some hair pins and a brooch:


2. I took the kids swimming on Sunday – for free. During the school holidays, swimming is free for children in our local area 🙂 . So we took advantage of this and went to a ‘fun and floats’ session.

3. In preparation for the school holidays I did a load of baking to keep everyone fed. I made a huge batch of rock cakes, lemon cake and some cupcakes. I don’t think they’ll last the week though…

4. My clever husband has been landscaping the garden this summer. He finished off our new deck this weekend with reclaimed railway sleepers and re-using some old stone chipping which used to be in another part of our garden.

5. Not quite a personal Thrifty Find, but some thing I had to share. At the weekend I came across this Community Fridge in Frome, Somerset. It’s centrally located in the car park and the idea is that you drop off your unwanted food and leave it for others to help themselves (or the other way round). What a great way to reduce food waste!!

Community Fridge

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (18-30 September) – and the end of the Repair Cafe :(


This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

I’m not quite sure how it happened but I didn’t post for last week (oops!). Sometimes things get very busy and, if I’m not sticking to my regular schedule, some things just fall off the list..

So I’m going to try to remember my Thrifty Finds for the last two weeks and post them now. (If you follow me regularly on Instagram you may spot when I add #thriftyfinds, which is more of a daily record of my frugal achievements, purchases and non-purchases)

  1. My daughter had torn her school skirt quite badly. Although I bought her a replacement skirt from M&S she was quite happy with the hand-me-down pinafore dress that was already hanging in her wardrobe. So I returned the M&S skirt and saved £12!
  2. I had a bit of a sort out and donated a couple of bags to charity shops.
  3. I finally got my baking mojo back and baked some cakes last week. One batch of fairy cakes has been frozen to use for lunch boxes later in the month.
  4. I also got organised and cooked two separate casseroles, which I then froze. On Wednesday and Thursday the kids eat at my parents so it’s only my husband and I who have to cook a meal when we come home from work. However the last few weeks we’ve just been eating convenience freezer meals and I am fed up with over baked chips! So last weekend I spent an hour making a beef stew (in the oven) and a chicken casserole (in the slow cooker). These have now been frozen and we’ll use them for instant meals after a long day’s work 🙂
  5. On Saturday we held the last ever Corsham Repair Cafe 😦 We have been running the cafe for the past four years (see here) and I am very proud of the work that we have done: nearly 200 customers have been helped; roughly 150 repairs have been made; and we’ve shown the local community that items can be repaired, rather than just thrown away.                     But, over the past year, volunteers and customer numbers have dwindled and, now that I don’t work in Corsham, it’s harder to find the time to organise and promote. So we took the sad decision to close the cafe.       However I’m delighted that, since Corsham opened its Repair Cafe in 2013, we now have regular Repair Cafes running in Bristol, Bath and Bradford on Avon. Corsham also has an active Men’s Shed who are able to take repairs on too.

I do feel slightly relieved (although also sad) that we’ve taken this decision. I really enjoyed catching up with the volunteers who gave their time, effort and skills to help mend broken items. But I am also looking forward to having more free time – maybe to pursue a new green hobby?!



Don’t forget to share your Thrifty Finds too! I do love to read them.

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds – and an inspiring documentary (for free)

Last week we were back into the swing of school routine and starting to think about Christmas (eek!)

This past week my Thrifty Finds have been:

1. Halloween took place last Monday and we were able to dip into our trusty bag of second-hand costumes and accessories to decorate. We have charity shop costumes and buckets, and a spider’s web made from some netting I picked up at the local scrap store years ago. Apart from buying some sweets we didn’t spend anything and made sure the plastic tat had another year’s life in it

2. I donated some unwanted jewellery to a charity shop (this is the season to clear out the clutter so I think there will be a few more trips to charity shops before the end of the year)

3. I had kept some plums in the fridge for over a month yet I was still able to bake with them at the weekend.

4. Not quite a Thrifty Find but the bloomin candle turned up this week and – I have to admit – I have got quite a lot of use out of it ! I don’t normally treat myself but the candle has been quite a lovely addition to the house. I deliberately chose a ‘timeless’ fragrance (sun kissed linen’) and it’s actually really nice….


5. And finally I got to watch, for free, the new Leonardo DiCaprio documentary on climate change: ‘Before the Flood’. It was free to watch on YouTube over the weekend. It’s powerful stuff: depressing but also offering solutions such as a carbon tax and looking at places like China who create more renewable energy than anywhere else on the planet. There are great opportunities afoot to slow down climate change, but there needs to be the political will too. And the film argues that the political will comes from us, the people. See more about the documentary here: https://www.beforetheflood.com


What were your Thrifty Finds for the past week?

You can also share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Corsham Repair Cafe celebrates its third year!

Corsham Repair Cafe September 19th 2015

Today our Repair Cafe celebrated its third birthday! What began as an idea inspired by the Dutch movement (repaircafe.org) has now marked three years at The Pound arts centre in Corsham, where I work.

Since 2013 we have made nearly 200 repairs which means these items have not gone to landfill. Our volunteers have helped people to fix broken toasters, clothing, chairs and even a puppet. Today’s items included a backpack, pair of trousers, coffee machine and a lamp.

backpack being mended at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandytales.wordpress.com

Sadly this Kenwood record player couldn’t be fixed with the materials that were available, but we’re hopeful the owner will be able to pick up a replacement belt online:

Kenwood record player at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

And we all finished with a well deserved slice of cake! Happy Birthday Corsham Repair Cafe!

Corsham Repair Cafe: third birthday

Zero Waste Week (and eating leftovers)


Today is Day Three of Zero Waste Week, the international campaign run by Rae Strauss, the inspirational voice behind my zero waste blog. The initiative has been running since 2008 and its aim is to get participants thinking about their waste. This year’s theme is about reducing food waste and so I have been looking at ours.

We tend to be pretty good with using up food. I freeze quite a lot of prepared food. I tend to do one monthly supermarket shop and will often cook up batches of roast peppers and other veg, and then freeze them for use in pizzas and pasta dishes.

However I’m not so good with our fortnightly veg box. In principal I love the idea of an organic veg and fruit box, delivered to my door (I don’t have daily access to a car). However, hand on heart, I think we waste at least one item per fortnight because the kids won’t eat it, or it goes off quickly. And there’s only so many soups you can make…

organic vegetable box via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

This week I shopped at our local greengrocers buying just what we needed (according to our meal plan). In an attempt to prevent food waste I’ve also found myself eating leftover tea for lunch every day this week: two lots of macaroni cheese and, today the remains of a sweet potato and sausage casserole (plus some jacket potato remains and a serving of peas). The addition of some sour cream and chopped coriander actually made it quite delicious:

Zero Waste Week: sweet potato leftovers

I’ve also dug deep into the food cupboard and made use of these second-hand Oat Cheerios (second-hand because they were given by a friend who didn’t like them,but my kids weren’t fans either). Thanks to the wonder of Pinterest I turned them into chocolate cheerio bars.

Zero Waste Week: using up unwanted cereal via secondhandtales bog


If you want to find out more about Zero Waste Week have a look at the site and these tips here for reducing food waste. I also really rate the LoveFood,HateWaste website, which has some useful pointers about measuring portions.

Watch this space for more updates on my leftovers journey this week…

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