By Donna White
A trip to the salvage grocery store is like a treasure hunt. There you will find great bargains and unexpected treasures. These stores are not as busy as regular stores, so if you have any questions you can talk to the owner or staff who are always very friendly and helpful.
What is a salvage grocery store, or scratch and dent or discount grocery store, as they are sometimes called? A salvage grocery store is basically a damaged goods store. Cans and packages (and sometimes the whole case) may have been slightly damaged during delivery. There are many other reasons why products end up in these stores: a label change or improper labeling; closeouts, discontinued items, overstocks, excess inventory, off-brands, seasonal items; closing of a warehouse, goods getting close to their use by date, etc.
For whatever reasons the regular supermarkets could not (or choose not to) sell the particular item. Items are then sent to a supermarket reclamation center where broken jars are discarded, cans with leaks are destroyed, etc. The rest of the products are then shipped to a distributor, who ships the products to a salvage grocery store.
Some things to be aware of:
* Salvage grocery stores are regulated and inspected by the USDA.
* A spokesman for the National Food Processors Association stated that dented and rusty cans are safe as long as they don’t leak or bulge.
* All the groceries are check for quality by the liquidation center and by the staff at the salvage store.
* The Best if used by date is the date recommended for best taste or flavor. This is how long the manufacturer wants their goods on display, but usually foods will be good for many months beyond these dates. Canned foods usually last a long time past these dates as do many boxed foods.
* The only foods required to have expirations dates are baby food and infant formulas.
How do you find salvage grocery stores? Usually it is through word of mouth. You can also check for small ads in neighborhood papers and in the Yellow Pages under Salvage, Discount stores, and unfortunately, under Grocery-Retail, along with the myriad of other grocery stores. Some of the places I go to are Everyday Deals, 17310 SE Division St., phone 503-762-4970, Grocery Outlet, one of the classiest discount stores around with 4 stores in the metro area, and Save-A-Lot. Check to see if there is a salvage store in your area.
At our local salvage store in our area I can get pure maple syrup for $4.99 for a 12 oz bottle which is half off the regular store price. I check every so often to see if they have it, and when they do I buy as much as I can afford because it goes fast.
On a visit to family in Gresham, I stopped in at one of the salvage stores my daughter told me about. They had packages of dry beans, kidney and red beans, 2 packages for $1. Each package was 2 lbs, which came out to 25 cents a lb. What a deal! The next time I visited the store they still had beans. Same kind, new price – 1 package for $1.
At another store in Gresham several years ago I found packages of Bob’s Red Mill TVP (textured vegetable protein) which not only do I store and use regularly, but was also on the lookout for more. There were about 35-40 packages. I would have been pleased to find just one at the marked price, but this was a gold mine. I told the owner that if it was alright with him I would like to buy all of the TVP and would he be willing to give me a bulk price on it. He thought for a minute, and then quoted an extremely low price, which came out to about 15 cents a lb. Later that week I was able to dry-pack 3 cases of TVP using the portable canner from Portland Home Storage.
Things to remember when shopping at a salvage grocery store:
* Bring your price book or know your prices. Not everything is a good deal.
* If uncertain whether to get something, buy a sample to test, preferably as soon as you get out of the store. I bought a package of dried pears at a great price, and my husband and I ate some in the car. We liked them so much I went right back in and bought 3 more packages. The next time we were in the area we went back to get more dried pears. They were gone. Stock up, if you can, because what is there one week might not be there next week.
* Unless the store is in your area, to save on gas plan your visit to a salvage store in combination with other errands.
* Know that circumstances change. One store that was a favorite of mine changed ownership two times and no longer has the same good deals.
In today’s economy, business is booming at the salvage grocery stores. Not only are they a great resource in these lean times, but shopping in them is a fun experience. You never know what treasures you are going to find.
Photos by LDS Intelligent Living