Should You Be Shopping at Salvage Grocery Stores to Save on Food Costs?

These stores boast big savings for shoppers looking to cut costs.

A Save a Lot food store store front
Photo: Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

"That jar of peanut butter is how much?"

We're always on the lookout for the best deals for grocery shopping as prices soar. These days some options are limited, unavailable, or simply overpriced. But do you know about salvage grocery stores and what they have to offer? Find out about this type of store that The New York Times calls the place to find "Dented, Dated and Discontinued" products.

What Is a Salvage Grocery Store?

Salvage grocery stores can be the place to find dented cans of tomato sauce for discounted prices, dated items like frozen vegetables that are still safe for consumption beyond a stamped date on the bag, and items adventurous shoppers can take advantage of, like company products that didn't catch on with customers at the standard grocery stores. We're looking at you, Hostess SnoBall-flavored coffee pods!

The shopping experience is similar to the experience at a discount store like Dollar Tree or Dollar General where a thrifty shopper can find great deals on items.

Tips for Shopping at a Salvage Grocery Store

We spoke with Kim Severson from The New York Times about her recent article about shopping at salvage grocery stores and she shared how shoppers can find bargains if they are open to seeing food items in a whole new light.

"First, realize not all salvage stores are the same. Some look lovely but prices are not too far below a regular market. Others can be a real mess, so finding a bargain requires some fortitude."

Shopping at a salvage grocery store requires a bit of a game plan from the consumer about how to shop and a willingness to keep an open mind about what can be found for a deal.

"Generally, the people who work at salvage stores are friendly and happy to help point out the newest deals. Find out when they get their deliveries (usually once or twice a week) and when they get those new products on the shelf. That's the day to shop," says Severson.

"Last, be open-minded and if you think something's a good deal, go for it. I have never regretted buying something at a salvage store, but I have regretted not buying an item that I thought was a good deal but for whatever reason talked myself out of it."

What Kinds of Items Can You Find at These Stores?

Shopping at a salvage grocery store can bring considerable savings to shoppers on a budget but there are a few guidelines to be aware of as you hunt for the products that have been categorized by mainstream food retailers as "unsellable" items.

  • Damaged packaging: The product in question can be a shipment of boxed crackers where some of the boxes are slightly ripped or crushed but the product inside is still suitable for purchase. Food in boxes like pasta, rice, or cereal that are ripped or damaged can also be found at a discount. Be careful with any product packaged directly in the box like pasta. Look for items that are packaged in a separate sealed bag inside a box.
  • Frozen foods and vegetables: Considerable discounts are offered when the expiration dates are suggested guidelines as opposed to a specific cut-off expiration date.
  • Dented cans: Misshapen soups and tomato sauce are priced at lower prices but beware of bloated or misshaped cans that can indicate contamination.
  • Specialty items that might not sell well at bigger food retailers: Shoppers who shop for dietary needs, like gluten-free products, find they can save a considerable amount of money on these items that might be a large portion of their usual grocery budget.
  • Organic items: Vegan butter in foil wrappers and other organic items can be found at much lower prices than places shoppers usually shop for organic.

Shoppers take note: Velveeta is a huge seller!

We've all been keeping a watch on the prices at the market and seeing the numbers climb for items like milk, eggs, meat, bread, and butter. Maybe you shop for specialty items for health and dietary guidelines and wonder how you are going to continue to stock up as prices soar. When you are ready for your next food shopping trip consider heading out to a salvage store for deep discounts on favorite breakfast cereals, boxes of spaghetti, or simply a jar of mayonnaise.

Where Can I Find a Salvage Grocery Store Near Me?

Ready to start shopping at a salvage grocery store near you? Ask family and friends about their shopping habits and see if they can share an experience with a salvage grocery store. You can also take a look here for a listing available nationwide.

Maybe indulgent items like European butter in foil wrappers or flavored olive oils are food products you can now add to your shopping cart and still feel good about the bill at checkout.

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