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Shop till you… find your prop!

Shop till you find your prop | insimoneskitchen.com

As most food bloggers will be able to tell you; the need for props can become an obsessive thing… I know I suffer from it in a major way (ask Tom, he will immediately confirm this fact to you!) so I am always on the lookout for cheap finds. Thought I’d share some tips with you on where to find good props that cost next to nothing.

  1. Second hand stores (do you call them thrift stores?); you can find real treasures there for virtually nothing. Cutlery, glasses, lone plates
  2. Markets; for fabrics there is no better source then a market. Since you only need about a meter or so of most fabrics your dollars will go a long way there if you look for bargains.
  3. Fleamarkets; if you can see past all the junk, you will definitely be able to find a good deal there
  4. My stylist has this trick of ordering a sample of – for instance – bathroom tiles. If you need small surfaces that can work really well.
  5. DIY stores; you can buy cheap cuts of wood there and paint them yourself in whatever color you want and in whatever style you want to. Doesn’t cost a thing…
  6. Supermarkets; our supermarket has regular offers for cute bowls and plates. See the stack of bowls in front (bottom left picture)? Those bowls where only 2 euro each. Not bad for bowls that pretty!
  7. Grandparents/parents; you’d be surprised at the treasures that can be found close to home. Have a snoop around the kitchen of your grandparents and if you see something funky, ancient or fabulous ask if they still use it. if so you can borrow; if not you can take… ๐Ÿ™‚ (obviously if allowed!)
  8. Garbage; ok this is maybe a weird one but over here people call the garbage guys for larger pieces of furniture and such (tables, chair etc.) That is then picked up on a particular day in the week at which point all the ‘junk’ is put outside by the sidewalk. If you look around you can find amazing wooden surfaces there for free. A friend of mine found the best table ever, between the junk… Absolutely free. Just don’t be embarrassed when people look at you funny

Let me know if you have another fantastic way to get your props for as little as possible. I buy expensive ones too but I cannot afford to do that all the time!

About the author

Simone van den Berg

Food- and travelblogger from the Netherlands. Loves good food. Loves to taste good food the world over.
She also loves to share travelstories, delicious recipes and ok, cat pictures too. She sometimes feels the need to get really healthy for a while, always mingled with periods of insanely delicious sweets and other decadent treats.
Lives together with Tom and their two cats; Humphrey and Buffy.
Profession: Food photographer


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  • I love visiting and taking a look at second hand stores, fleamarkets and, even if one can not imagen, a container from a restoration building (a good place to find old tiles, wood or even baskets) is a good place to find lots of things.

  • At first – I love your about page and the little blurb! The pic is so fresh and you are looking really friendly and uncomplicated.
    For special props I love to visit asia shops and yes, I have to admit I am a garbage tourist so to speak. Twice a year it’s garbage time in our hometown and you can put your garbage outside the house and it is picked up by the local garbage service. This is my time! Climbing the hills of old furniture, wooden surfaces and what others would call garbage – I will find the treasures ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Hugs, Sandy

    • Ah yes Asian stores… Good one, I go there too.. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Only twice a year for bigger garbage? Wow, it’s on a weekly basis here although you have to call them to come but still you can do it whenever you want… It would actually be easier to have it twice a year. Saves a lot of driving back and forth!

  • Somehow I have the impression that there are much better sources for props in the Netherlands ๐Ÿ™‚
    Here are some examples:
    – I buy fabrics in Germany: but do you know where? On the dutch fabric markets which took regular place in different German towns ๐Ÿ™‚
    – I buy bowls and plates at a supermarket in Oldenburg, but again it is the Dutch Hema where I find the best things for a low price :))
    – from my collegues I got during the last years for my birthday very great and special props… And as the lady who was responsible for these presents is living in the Netherlands she also bought this great stuff there :)))

    My other sources for props are very similair to the one you described including asking for a tile sample.

    One source I recently discovered was looking in the internet for buying online kind of patchwork DIY packages Also at amazon you can get there small packages of different fabrics which are originally made to use for patchwork.

  • Ah you should talk to Meeta Eva! i always come back with tons of props when I visit Weimar! Lol.. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Maybe it is somehow more enticing if you don’t find it in your home town? But yes, Hema has some really good stuff indeed and you’re right about online. I should have mentioned that too as I do buy some things at vintage online stores…

  • I love that list, and actually have to get a cubby or potentially a room to store all my props in.Right now the hardware store is my main pit stop, as I am building some props myself too (right now I am working on faking a really pretty counter top ๐Ÿ™‚ )
    Now here is a question, are those expenses tax deductible in your country?

  • Great post! I actually will buy some props new, but my favorite way to go prop hunting is visiting brocantes (fleamarkets) and vide-greniers (garage sales). I especially love visiting markets and flea markets when I’m travelling because I find more unique pieces that way. Still, my greatest difficulty is finding interesting plates and fabrics that match my aesthetic, as well as vintage bakeware. But plates especially….

  • I keep passing by this salvage yard every month b/w Houston and Austin, TX. My husband just says “Oh, NO!!!” Please don’t stop there unless I’m with you!” I just have this image of myself wandering through piled up heaps of smashed cars! We have to do what we have to do, right?

  • Yeah for the Appie (I have those same bowls!) And for browsing thrift stores, markets, Asian stores and asking myself with every possible dishware I see: would that be nice for shooting?!;)

    • I know! It’s a little sad sometimes.. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I even buy the things we need for the house always in the back of my mind, ‘would that look good in the house AND would it maybe double as a prop/background/etc?’

  • Love this post! You take great photos… So funny, because I blog about simplicity and food, I really try to limit my props, but they do add up!

  • I LOVE our town’s antique guild. I can get better prices there of quality vintage pieces than a Goodwill store. And I treat myself with every paycheck, even if it’s only $10.00 – 20.00.. I still walk away happy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • We have thrift stores and we have the Goodwill, which I frequently browse for that one plate, etc. We have yard sales here which have great finds. Estate sales, especially at the end of the day, when they need to move it all out. I once found those silver and glass shrimp cocktail plates only seen at retro restaurants. The only trouble is where to store props! Our cabinets runneth over.

  • Great post and super ideas. Very inspiring. Thank you. For fabrics I go to fabric stores and ask for their box of scraps. They usually have a box full of end of roll pieces. You can find treasures there and they are beyond cheap. Plus it feels like looking for a treasure. So it is fun.

  • Great post, thank you, Simone! I am very lucky with props, I have a local thrift store, and I am regular customer there. Every time I find something amazing there and never spend more then $5for one think, usually 50 c -))) Have a good day!

  • what’s junk for one, it’s treasure for others ๐Ÿ™‚ I am lucky to have a thrift store at a walkable distance and I manage to find some of the best stuffs out there. I found some amazing antique plates for just 2 bucks .. I jumped when I saw the price LOL!

  • I have recently become enamored with Home Goods; it’s all new but it’s owned by TJ Maxx so everything is marked down considerably from the original price.

    One other place I love is Home Depot or any hardware store. I like buying large tiles to use for surfaces; often only a buck or two each for 18-24″ tiles. They are also a good source for wood surfaces to finish, clips to hold things in place, daylight light bulbs for less than photo stores and more.

    One of my biggest resources? My home. What used to be ornamental knick knacks have now become food props! Bowls, olive oil bottles and more, right under my nose!

    Great list Simone; that stack of fabric is enticing…I need to find a better resource than the fabric store that I know of; I’m never all that enthralled with their selection.

  • Simone, great tips and lovely bowls!!! Like Barbara (above) I too have raided TKMaxx in the past when in the UK, but here only fabrics are great fun to buy, pennies for a meter of nice fabrics, but plates etc. very difficult. Charity Shops etc. of course do not exist, luckily I have big house with plenty of cupboards full of “prob treasures” brought back from trips abroad, no clothes though, but plenty of books, books and books and props, lol

  • Great list! Especially the fleamarket and triftstores are my go to’s to find beautiful probs. Another thing I discovered is a shop in my area who do household clearances and sell the goodies ( furniture, all kinds of dinnerware and lots of other things) The reason behind this is mostly welfare for those who can’t afford new things…but sometimes I feel okay to shop there, too. Especially at the end of the month ;).
    Your bowls are so cute I can’t believe that they were just 2 โ‚ฌ, great steal!

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Travel calendar 2018

March: Blankenberge, Belgium
April: 3 weeks roadtrip through East USA
May: Turkey
May: Germany
June: Germany
September: Newcastle