Shop Goodwill: Online, Store, Outlet
BXMurphy brought up a good point recently, which he got from dabrownman, about shopping for basic stuff at thrift stores.
I'd like to riff on that idea.
Goodwill now has their own online auction site, https://www.shopgoodwill.com/
They now employ pickers who pick out the more valuable stuff from among the donations, take photos, and put it online for auction.
And of course they still have regular brick-and-mortar stores.
Another type of Goodwill store is the "Outlet" store. Where there are no shelves, just big bins on wheels.
This is the stuff that was passed over by the pickers, and did not sell at the regular stores. It is mostly sold by the pound. Books and shoes being exceptions.
You have to do your own picking. So wear latex or nitrile gloves as you pick/sort through the stuff in the bins. And it's the same stuff as the stores, it just didn't sell for the asking price.
They take away the bins and bring in new ones every 2 or 3 hours. There is competition from other customers who buy things to sell at yard sales and flea-markets, or even e-bay. For some, this is their full time job, and they spend all day there.
You have to "back off" and go to the waiting area when they rotate out the bins and bring in new ones.
Except for books and shoes, it is mainly sold by the pound. They have scales at the check-out registers - a small scale on the counter, and one on the floor to weigh your whole cart.
...AND... if you look even deeper into the topic, you will discover a whole subculture of vultures... replete with forums and YouTube channels DEVOTED to ways to get the best bargains and how to maximize profits.
So, yeah, Thrift stores are great... for items that sell on the street for under ~$50 bucks. Above that and you have to scavenge garage sales. And even then, there are bottom-dwellers.
Thrift stores will be good for commodity items like bowls and baskets and basic silverware. Even run-of-the-mill thermometers and pots and pans.
I was looking for a combo cooker. I will probably strike out.
The cast iron I've seen at thrift stores has been so beat up, and in bad condition, I think paying the Amazon price, which includes delivery, is worth it in order to get a clean and factory fresh item.
If you check often, you can get the 3.2 and 5 qt combos at $5 or so off.
Sometimes you do get Lodge items from Amazon that have factory defects, but you can return them at shipping stores (UPS, I think) at no charge, with a pre-arranged return authorization from Amazon.
The only way I'd use beat-up thrift store cast iron would be if I could have them sand-blasted, or use a grinder/sander to take them down to the bare metal, and then re-season.
But then, for all that work, it would be better/easier to just pay for new ones at Amazon.
This guy loves old cast iron and he makes it look bran knew. And he makes it look easy - I've scrubbed a few in my day and they're very hard work to clean properly if you let them go too far. He sells his stuff on etsy or ebay I think. He has some beautiful pieces.
I'm more of a loosey-goosey kind of guy. I want long loaves and round loaves. A Dutch oven or combo cooker is too restrictive for my taste.
What I REALLY want is a humid-ish kind of environment for oven spring and an all around even toasting of the crust.
Since we know that humid air or steam rises, all we have to do is trap it near the bread. A simple aluminum pan should do the trick. If you need more water vapor, a very thoughtful baker had a GREAT idea with water-soaked towels UNDER the loaf.
Alternate coverings (to use on top of a baking stone) have been frequently discussed, such as bowls or roasters (Graniteware).
DanAyo even did a cool experiment with temp probes and made graphs: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/56822/cast-iron-cooker-vs-graniteware-thermal-data
BTW, if you want a batard shaped cast iron, check this one out: https://www.amazon.com/Bayou-Classic-7477-Griddle-6-Quart/dp/B004EWLCUW?tag=froglallabout-20
Has a flat lid, so it can be used inverted like a combo cooker.
Elsie wrote a comment here on TFL that links to a video of it in use for bread: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/comment/467163#comment-467163
her video is here: https://youtu.be/uz3Ky6FW4nA?t=13m30s
time-stamped to jump to where you first see the cast iron roaster.