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Would you buy dented cans, crushed boxes and expired products to drastically cut your grocery bills? Apparently, quite a few Americans fed up with the high price of food are determined to take frugal living to another level.
According to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there's a growing trend among financially strapped consumers to shop at so-called salvage or surplus stores that sell imperfect packaged goods for as little as half their original price. Some of the salvage sites I visited claimed savings of as much as 90% off of everyday prices.
The imperfections vary from dings, dents and superficial cuts in a carton to items with wrong, outdated or misspelled labels. Salvage stores also feature overstocks and seasonal goods that consumers didn't buy, along with products approaching the end of their shelf life. You might find Halloween candy in November, say, or Valentine's Day treats in March.
Don't expect to find these castoffs at big supermarkets like Safeway, Kroger or Publix. Salvage, or discount, grocers are generally community-based independent or chain stores. One such operator, Anderson's Country Market in Madison Heights, Va., links to a nationwide directory of salvage and discount grocers on its Web site. Click here for the list.Like other salvage grocers, Anderson's doesn't know exactly what will end up on its shelves from one day to the next. Part of the mix depends on the misfortune of others. "Accidents happen, even in the grocery business," Anderson's explains in a FAQ. "If a case of green beans gets dropped, and a couple of cans get bent, those cans (and sometimes the whole case) don't make it to the grocery store shelves. Instead, they are sold to stores, like ours, where we salvage usable products and pass the savings on to you."