On the same day that we ventured out to a bakery outlet we also made a stop at a discount market. Although it’s called a discount market, I think a better description for this place would be “salvage grocery store”. The store sells food that is past its “best by” date, or that has cosmetically damaged packaging. While many of you may be put off by the idea of buying food “seconds”, Mr. Frugal Source and I have been purchasing food in this manner for years from several different stores and we have never had any safety issues with any of the food we’ve purchased. We are careful what we buy, making sure the package is completely sealed, cans are not too dented and items are not too far out-of-date for our taste.
Like most discount and thrift stores, salvage groceries are hit or miss with regard to both selection and discount, but we have yet to go to this particular store without being able to fill our $30 dollar box to the brim. The way the store is set up is there are prices for each item or you can fill a box for set prices: $5.00, $10.00, $20.00 and $30.00. With our family of 6 we use a $30.00 box.
The rules are: fill your box to the top with anything in the store except produce and frozen foods. If you return your box you get a $1.00 discount. You also receive points for every each visit and once you hit 100 points you get $10.00 off your next purchase.
Here is what we purchased on our last trip for a total of $29.00:
- Kraft Mac & Cheese assorted varieties 7.25 oz. – 4
- Canned jalapeños 7 oz – 3
- French’s crispy onions 6 oz – 4
- Wild Harvest Organic Bars 7.9 oz – 3
- Saltine crackers 4 oz – 2
- Welch’s Fruit Snacks .5 oz – 1
- KitKat Dark 1.5 oz – 6
- Skittles Sweetheat 3.3 oz – 5
- Combos – variety 1.8 oz – 4
- Twix Dark 1.8 oz – 1
- Refresh eye gel 30 .4 ml vials – 2
- 9 Lives cat food 5.5 oz – 13
- Stride gum 14 pieces – 2
- Tic Tac 1 oz – 1
- Altoids smalls .37 oz – 1
- Hall cough drops 9 drops – 4
- HubbaBubba gum 5 pieces – 1
- Bubble Yum 5 pieces – 1
- sugar free Breath Savers 1.27 oz – 1
- La Croix 12 oz – 9
- Diet Coke 12 oz – 2
- canned refried beans 16 oz – 8
- field peas & snaps 15 oz – 1
- sardines 4.38 – 1
- YES soup 11.1 oz – 1
- Beefaroni 7.5 oz – 1
- Bush’s Baked Beans 16 oz – 1
- Campbell’s HomeStyle Soup 18.8 oz – 1
- canned great northern beans 15.8 oz – 9
- canned pinto beans 16 oz – 3
- canned butter beans 16 oz – 2
- natural sunscreen 4oz – 1
- Quest Bars 2.12 oz – 2
- Power Crunch 1.4 oz – 1
- Mauer Bar 2.6 oz – 1
- Epic Performance Bar 1.87 oz – 1
- Quaker Sandwiches mini 5 – 1.23 oz in box
- DVD – season 2 Sliders
Tips for your trip
Is That Really an Expiration Date?
While many people think of the date on a can of peas, a box of crackers, or a bag of chips as an expiration date, in most cases it is not. Most often, the date you see is the “best by” date, and usually represents the date by which the manufacturer suggests the contents be consumed to ensure optimum flavor and texture. Packaged foods are typically quite safe beyond the printed date. In our experience, the less durable the package, the less time you have after the best buy date before you start to notice changes in flavor. To be clear, we’ve never encountered anything gross tasting, but we have occasionally found things to be somewhat stale or seeming to have less flavor.
Something many don’t realize that properly stored canned goods can be safe years or even decades beyond the date on the can; in at least one case the contents of cans over 100 years old were found to be safe. Of course we’re not suggesting anyone ever try anything that old, just know that, with some knowledge and sufficient caution, it’s easy to make treasure out of what others might pass over.
If you want to try your hand at shopping discount or salvage groceries, realize that there is some trial and error involved in figuring out just how far past date you find the taste of nacho chips to be acceptable. In other words, YMMV. Also — and this is something we can’t stress enough — do your own research and be sure you are able to recognize the signs and understand the dangers of potentially compromised packages, especially when it comes to canned goods; always err on the side of caution.
Don’t Make a Special Trip
This is just sound general frugal advice; whenever possible, plan your visit to an outlet (or anywhere) as a stop on an outing, not as a single destination. This will tend to save not only gas, but time as well, as you will reduce the total miles you drive and time you spend doing so. Even if you only save a few miles each time you do this, over the course of a year, that can add up to several gallons of gas, not to mention the time you’ll save.
Be Aware of “Regular” Prices
As we often experience, not everything at an outlet or discount store is necessarily a bargain. In fact, every once in a while, nothing is. If you’re not prepared to compare the outlet’s prices with what you see every day in the store(s) you normally shop, you could end up paying more for the same stuff you normally buy, just in a different location.