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How I Save on Groceries By Shopping at Salvage Grocery Stores

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Cate emailed in the following tip:

I wanted to share with MoneySavingMom.com readers about one of the primary ways I save money on groceries for my family: salvage grocery stores.

You know, the little clearance sections you sometimes see at your local chain grocery store? Imagine a whole store of that!

For those who don’t know, salvage grocery stores (sometimes referred to as outlet, clearance, or discount grocery stores) carry items that regular grocery stores are not willing or able to sell. Salvage grocery stores will buy these items at a fraction of the cost and sell them to their customers at prices that are often half or less than what the original retail price was.

Some examples of what you will find at a salvage grocery store are:

  • Foods with damaged packaging
  • Foods at, near, or sometimes past the “best by” date
  • Items that a store has discontinued
  • Overstock

There are some crazy good deals to be had at salvage stores, but if you’re anything like I was at first, you have to adapt your mindset. The first time I went to a salvage grocery store, I had to get over the “ew” factor. But let me just say, that problem was pretty much entirely in my mind… and for the most part, unwarranted.

There are some grocery salvage stores out there that are every bit as nice as regular grocery stores, but it’s not unusual to find a salvage grocery store that looks a little run down and maybe even smells a little funky. You are doing yourself a favor to get over your apprehension and check it out anyway. Many of these places can’t afford to have slick decor or an espresso bar; but when you see the prices, you’ll be glad to know you’re passing those things up for good reason.

Salvage grocery stores are making good use out of foods that don’t meet the standards of regular stores. I frequently find items that have absolutely no apparent problem with them and aren’t even close to expiring.

Salvage grocery stores seem to always have an abundance of organic and gluten-free items, as well as conventional items. So even if you’re not in it to pinch pennies necessarily, you can take your normal grocery budget and drastically increase the quality of food you’d otherwise buy.

Just remember to use common sense, read up in expiration dates, and examine the foods carefully as you shop. These grocery stores are great places to support — see if there’s a salvage grocery store near you! -Cate

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49 Comments

  • Kim M says:

    The first thing I thought of when reading this post was the show, The Middle, and the store they shop at called the Frugal Hoosier.. 🙂

    I wish I had a store around me like this. I have no issue whatsoever with near or past expiration or dented cans, etc.

  • Sherri says:

    If you live in PA or VA, be sure to check out Sharp Shopper if you have one nearby! Love that place! Yogurts are .25 and OJ is .99 a carton. They have great prices on snacky foods, like crackers and granola bars, too.

    • Heather says:

      Hurray for Sharp Shopper! Limes 5 for $1 lately. Broccoli crowns for 99 cents lb. Nitrate free bacon for $1.49 lb. And so much more. My favorite was Magnum bar 3 packs for 99 cents!!! Those are gone now, though.

    • Caroline says:

      I’m in Harrisonburg, VA and LOVE our Sharp Shopper! I don’t buy yogurt anywhere else…$.25 for Greek yogurt cups can’t be beat! My sister is gluten-free and I’ve found Pillsbury GF pizza crust dough, pie/pastry dough and cookie dough for $.50! Over $4 at Wal Mart! A few months ago we found Baker’s chocolate for $.99/box. Turns out they changed the box size from 8 oz to 4 oz (still charging $2 on sale at regular stores!) so they must have sent it there to get rid of it. The deals always change so I try to grab really good deals when I see them!

  • katie says:

    Here’s a great site to see if there are salavage grocery stores near you! I love shopping at these stores, and save a lot of money by doing so.

    http://www.extremebargains.net/store/Independent_Discount_and_Salvage_Grocery_Store_Directory.html

  • Diane L. says:

    I remember as a child there was a grocery store in our town that had “salvage” canned good sales. They would sell cans of food (mostly vegetables) that had the labels missing, and the prices were super cheap. I don’t think something like this would fly nowadays, but my parents always bought a bunch of them, and then it was a fun surprise to open a can and see what we were having with our meal! I don’t ever remember opening a can and finding anything strange.

  • Jen says:

    I absolutely love my local grocery outlets. Although the 2 closest ones are still a bit of a drive, I get to them a few times a year to stock up on coffee, pasta, sardines, and organic products. Recently I got expired Starbucks coffee that tastes fine for $6 for a case of 6!!!!! Needless to stay, I have enough coffee to last through the next 2 years.

  • Lisa says:

    We have a salvage store about half an hour away but there prices keep going up. A lot of the items are more than going down the road from the store to Aldi’s or even Krogers. They will have some deals but its getting ridiculous when stuff is expired and more than the other stores. I still go in and check as bread is $1 for day old Peppridge Farm bagels and bread. I went this week and got 1 pound carrots for 25 cents.
    Know your prices. Wish ours was like the Sharp Shoppers we would have fun.

  • If you have an Amish or Mennonites in the area, check if they have a store! They often have stores like this that sell salvage groceries as well as cheaper meat, cheese and bulk goods.

  • Mary Ann says:

    There’s a salvage store near my husband’s parents in Rome, GA (J’s Salvage) that I stop at each time I visit. Some stuff is the same price or more than a regular grocery store– but other stuff is priced low. I always look at the back of the store where there have an expired section; everything is 2/$1. I’ve found organic nut butters, rice crackers, organic chicken broth and other great stuff there. I always check expiration and use good judgement as to what I buy but everything has been good!

  • Amy says:

    Grocery Outlet is here in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s great!! I have a brand-new store close by and agreed, it’s not flashy, but it’s clean and plain, and the prices can’t be beat! I typically bring my grocery list there, and knock off what I can, and then fill in at the local Kroger affiliate using my coupons (Grocery Outlet does not accept coupons).

    • Cate R. says:

      (post author here). Amy, Grocery Outlet is where I got started. We lived in the Portland, OR area for many years (the G.O. in the Hollywood neighborhood was my fav!) We live in Texas now and I hope they come to TX… in the mean time I live Grocery Clearance Center in Dallas. Also if you’re anywhere near Portland there are several non-chain salvage stores that not manY people seem to know about but are great. Of course Grocery Outlet runs tv and radio adds but the smaller salvage stores need some detective work to find, but they are gems….

      • Rachel W says:

        Cate – we just moved to Tillamook county and we do most of our shopping in Portland or Salem. Can you share with me some of the names of the other non-chain stores?
        I am having a hard time finding them.
        Thanks so much!

        • Cate R. says:

          Hey, Rachel. One of my favorites was this little place on 202nd and Stark in Gresham/ SE Portland. I don’t even think it has a name but the sign says (well it did when we lived there a year ago) “low prices”. They are a Christian run place. Also Everyday Deals on Division and 173rd is very good and of course the numerous Grocery Outlet locations.

          Yeah, that’s one thing I forgot to mention in this post but you all can probably figure out; the stock at these sorts of places changes constantly so snatch a good deal when you see it, the selection always changes.

      • heather cargill says:

        Grocery Outlet rocks! We just got our 1st one here ( I live on the coast in CA) And I was sooooo excited to find aisles and aisles of organic (not expired) items that I could never afford to spring for at the regular store. Ours even has organic milk(also not expired) for 1/2 the price of our big grocery stores! Love it and it’s nice to not have to shop with coupons sometimes but still get a deal! :o) Thanks for sharing this post, Money Saving Mom, I think some people don’t know what to expect from what my grandma calls “the dented cans store” but it really can be an awesome resource for shopping on a budget!

        • Maria says:

          Just want to say there are many more Grocery Outlet stores here on the west coast than listed in the link above. Ditto the bulk link – it showed no stores for bulk items when there are many in my area.

          Another place to look is zero waste blogs/etc. Zero waste folks shop bulk.

      • Chris L. says:

        Cate, thanks for posting about Grocery Clearance center in Dallas! My husband and I went yesterday for the first time and loved it!!! The owner greeted us and everyone was so nice. The prices can’t be beat! Mayo for $1 organic sour cream .49 organic flour $1. We will definitely make it part of our regular shopping!!

    • Katie Jones says:

      I agree – we were lucky enough to have a Grocery Outlet move in. After avoiding it for about a month, we went in and found organic foods that normally cost us about 4 times as much. I LOVE it! I actually prefer to environment to my local chain stores, and the staff are much more attentive (plus they seem like they’re actually having fun some of the time!)

  • Laura says:

    I just found Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal, the favorite cereal of one of my kids, near exp date for $0.10 a box! Yay for grocery outlets!

  • Brit says:

    I shop at a discounted store near my town. I find great deals in diapers, food, and other things. Like you stated above, you have to have common sense and examine the products you are about to purchase. I find tons of deals each time I go. The only problem I have is that what you see one day might not be there the next. So I try to stock up when I see good deal, like diapers. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this.

  • Diane says:

    I love my local salvage grocery store, for the most part. They get Pepperidge Farms bread for .99 loaf! Fantastic. But I made an epic mistake and bought inexpensive rice and flour that was infested with those nasty bugs that infest such things. Never again!! Lots of good things, but use good judgment. Cleaners and H&BA can be great deals.

    Diane

  • Mswebcam31@youtube.com says:

    I used to love salvage stores when i stayed in Oregon they kept me eating great lol there aren’t any near me here in west Tennessee ;(

  • Heather T. says:

    We call them bent and dent in my area of WI and you can save greatly as long as you still shop smart sometimes the prices don’t compare to a sale/coupon of a “regular” store.

  • LFlores says:

    Thank you so much for this article!!
    I just had to google to see if there is a salvage store near me and there is! My husband and I are going to check it out sometime because we are tired of a big grocery bill =[

    Thank you again!

    -LFlores

  • cheryl says:

    I have one 25 miles from me called Blue Knight foods. I used to love going in to see what they have this week or next. But the last couple of years I noticed that there prices have gone up so much that I can usually find it in the regular stores on sale for the same price. I don’t go in nearly as much any more. But when I do I usually look for things like lunch meats and cheese and perishables that they need to get rid of soon so their prices are a little better, but I do keep an eye on the expiration dates.

    • lizajane says:

      I was going to post the same thing I’ve found at the ones by me (but they aren’t Blue Knight’s). When I first started going, they were quite a bit cheaper than they are now. Apples were almost always 89c a pound, which was cheaper than sale prices at other stores. Oatmeal packets were 10c each. Lots of deals like that. Now on some items they’ve priced themselves comparable to “regular” stores, and I did get quite ill one night from some past-dated chocolate bar I ate (at least I think that’s what it was from), so I shop there a lot less. 🙁 Still get excellent prices on salad dressings, cheeses, and some meats. You just need to pick & choose carefully.

  • Kris says:

    I shopped at 4 of them yesterday. Yes, they are run by the Amish in Northern Indiana. I’ve been shopping at them for over 30 years.

    • Jenna says:

      Kris, would you mind sharing where yours are exactly? I live in N. Indiana, too.

      • Jaime says:

        Bremen
        Pinehill Discount, 1800 5th Rd, Ph 574-546-2117

        Goshen
        The Dented Can, 25743 State Road 119, Ph 574-862-2212

        Ligonier
        KJ’s, 10818 N. 700 W., Ph 260-593-0444

        Middlebury
        Forks County Line Stores, Inc., 508 East Warren St., Ph 574-825-5896

        Nappanee
        Stettas Discount Inc., 13452 N 950 W, Ph 574-773-0508

        New Haven
        24/30 Surplus, 218 State Road 930 West, Ph 260-493-1951

        South Bend
        Dents for Cents Discount Grocery, 1905 Goodson Ct., Ph 574-234-DENT

        Shipshewana
        Forks County Line, 7900 W 310 N, Ph 260-768-4931
        E & S Sales, 1265 N. State Road 5, Ph 260-768-4736

        Warsaw
        Sherman & Lins Discount Grocery, 1900 East Winona Avenue, 574-269-4320

  • Bethc says:

    Sometimes the items at the salvage grocer are products that have had a label change by the manufacturer and are not close to expiring. We have gotten great deals. None near home for us, but if we are on a car trip within a few hours of home, we will see if we can find one on the way home. We’ve had luck at Byerly’s in Delaware, a salvage grocer at an outlet mall at the Morgantown exit of the Pennsylvania turnpike and in the Lancaster, PA area.

  • Sarah says:

    We don’t live near any now, but we lived in a bigger city there were 2 dent & bent stores we hit up frequently. The prices are crazy good (on most things) and you can definitely get a lot of packaged organic stuff. I used to stock up on organic peanut butter for less than a regular jar of Skippy at Walmart. Lucky for us, the day old bread store was just around the corner so we would really stock up and luck out on deals. There is definitely an “ew” factor to some stores but just keep your eyes open. We never got sick on anything we ate from a salvage store.

  • Dixyann S says:

    We have a salvage everything store near us. One building is for home goods and the other store across the street has toiletries, clothes, jewelry, fabric, and groceries. Some of them are being sold because the semi truck/ train wrecked and the store they were headed for accepted the loss with the insurance company and so this store buys the items at low cost and sells them. As said above, you have to be careful and know what is a good price. My husband and I bought our snow boots there for $7 a pair (mine are little boy shoes, but I am not picky). Also my salvage store accepts manufacturer coupons! It makes for some easily free groceries!

  • Mariah S says:

    I can remember going to these with my Grandmother when I was little in Mississippi! There were great deals! You’re correct that some things you had to check and to be a smart shopper and know what the average price for things are. I wish we had these in Colorado or Florida!!! Yes some of the salvage grocery stores look scary, are in bad neighborhoods or just down right stink, but the food and people are great!!! Some of my fondest memories are driving around the state of Mississippi with my Mamaw and going to Salvage Grocery stores and Hudson’s salvage! I’d love to be able to have those days again!

  • Mariah S says:

    Thank heavens for the internet! I did a google search and found a list that list known salvage stores by state! 🙂 I’ll share the link so you can all check out your own state! God Bless and Merry Christmas!!!

    http://www.extremebargains.net/store/Independent_Discount_and_Salvage_Grocery_Store_Directory.html

  • Carole says:

    There are several run by Amish or Mennonite people in the Arthur, Illinois area. They are out in the country and can be difficult to find. The old depot in Arthur has been converted to a visitors’ center and gives out free maps to the various stores in the country. Some things are a very good buy and others just aren’t.

    • Katrina says:

      In Arkansas, have two huge stores near me, raised two boys on their ten cent protein bars and other great items. Love my town

  • Jodi says:

    These types of stores are fantastic! I have found Buddy Fruits pouches for $0.25, Earth Balance margarine for $1.39 for small and $4 for large tubs, Naked juice 2/$0.50, Mom’s Best cereal for $1, frozen fruit for $1, and so many other organic/natural items for really cheap. I’m a huge fan.

  • Orit says:

    In Brooklyn go to food basics. You pack your own and have to either bring or buy bags or use boxes, but it is well worth it for the price.

  • Cindy says:

    Definitely check the dates! I went to a Penny Pincher and I was excited to find cereal for $1.75/box until I discovered it had an expiration of date of a year ago. I would rather pay the extra 75 cents for a fresh box on sale at the regular store. Many of the items I picked up to examine had dates over a year old. Fortunately my budget will allow for me to pay a bit more for food that is not going to be stale. I did find good deals on aluminum foil and disposable travel coffee cups with lids there.
    I guess it really depends on the store. Someone mentioned E&S in Shipshewana. I love that store. My girlfriend and I make the trip every year and buy bulk spices to split.

  • Joana says:

    I used to live in Harrisonburg, Virginia and we had a Sharp Shoppers but unfortunately I moved to Beaverton oregon and I don’t see nothing similar to that here.

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