Some folks might find dented cans, tattered boxes, repackaged dry goods and meat distasteful, but when I see these items in my local bargain surplus grocery store, I see savings for my family’s food budget.
I am fortunate enough to have a bargain grocery right outside the front of my neighborhood, so visiting often is easy and convenient. Even if you have to drive a distance to reach a bargain surplus grocer in your locale, the savings can be well worth the effort.
5 things to remember when shopping at your bargain surplus grocer
1. Connect with the grocer through social media, email, and/or mailings to stay informed about current stock.
Bargain surplus grocers have a diverse but inconsistent variety of products as these stores rely solely upon what is available to them in surplus, damaged, and nearly expired goods. Being aware of the grocer’s latest arrivals will assist you in knowing whether a trip to the store is merited.
2. Develop a friendly rapport with the store staff.
If the staff gets to know you and what you like, then it works in your favor. The clientele at surplus grocery stores is significantly smaller than the bigger retail chains so that your bargain grocer can learn about your likes/dislikes and assist you in knowing when your favorite types of items are available. The stock and space of a surplus store is often much smaller than large stores meaning the staff is normally well aware of what is in current stock and can help guide you to items which interest you.
3. Learn when the store receives shipments.
Most stores will receive the majority of their new stock on certain days of the week. Planning your shopping trips to the store on the days when new items are being stocked will give you the best variety from which to choose.
4. Refuse to be overly picky while remaining discerning.
In other words, pay attention to expiration dates and badly damaged packaging which might make food unsafe, but do not let a damaged package or a “best by” date keep you from snatching up a real bargain. Learn the difference between a true expiration date and a “best if used by” or “sell by” date. This article “Label Me Confused” is helpful.
Also, do not be squeamish concerning repackaged bulk food, especially dry goods. Meat can also be a common repackaged item if the bargain store where you shop regularly receives restaurant-grade or commercial-grade food which is almost always packaged in bulk. The grocer will break it down into smaller packages for your convenience and sell-ability.
5. Ask for deals!
Do not be afraid to haggle with your surplus grocer, especially on perishable items. Often, you can get an even better deal than the marked price if you are willing to buy a whole case or other bulk amounts. The grocery story owner is usually the person to ask, so make sure you are aware of who is the owner.
5 reasons I LOVE shopping at my local bargain surplus grocer
1. I find fun and interesting things.
Oy Vay! It caught my eye immediately. “Soy Vay” Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce and marinade. And, it was kosher! How could it not capture my attention? I even bought an extra for the rabbi. Yes, it was technically a year past its “best by” date, but it will not kill us, and honestly, it tastes pretty good.
2. I get wonderful bargains.
I have discovered some fantastic prices on fresh produce at my surplus grocer including fresh herbs (dehydrated – more than 1 quart jar when dried for about $1), new red potatoes (canned – cost about 60 cents per pint), tomatoes (canned salsa – including all ingredients, less than $1 per quart), and currently a case of bell peppers for only $5 which will be chopped and frozen. The bell peppers are a case-in-point about asking for a deal. Although the store did not have a case price displayed, we asked and got a good bargain PLUS a stow-away kiwi as well.
Other perishable items can also be frozen, such as yogurt. I bought them 10 for $1 – that’s a true bargain at less than 1/10th of the ordinary retail price. This yogurt was just at its “use by” date, so I chunked them in the freezer as soon as I got home. They are perfect for making smoothies! My only regret… I should have bought all the yogurt they had in stock because the three cartons shown at right are all I have left.
3. I bring home awesome (and cheap) craft supplies.
I had never even looked at San Pelligrino sparkling citrus beverages in the past simply because they are imported from Italy and amazingly expensive. When I saw cases of them at my bargain grocer, however… I jumped on it. Normal price for a case of these beauties can run well over $20. I got a case for $3! The “sell by” date was well past, but a little chunky lemon or orange residue which I have to shake up before drinking does not bother me because these come in well-sealed glass bottles. In fact, these beverages are fantastic tasting, and I understand why this imported product is pricey. Once arriving home, I tasted one. Delicious! Then, I noted the lovely glass bottle in which it was packaged plus the twist-off/twist-on lid. I tested to see how easily the label could be removed – super easy by a 15 minute soak in warm water. I immediately shared the discovery with my mother-in-love and sent the Louisiana-man back to the bargain store to buy 6 more cases for us to share– just for the bottles, if nothing else. I plan on using the bottles to make herb vinegar and oil, herbal infusions, etc. which can be sealed with paraffin, nicely decorated, and given away as gifts (or kept by me).
4. I discover new favorites.
So, I needed hot sauce… and I grabbed this kind of Tobasco I had never seen before while at the bargain grocery. I love it so much as you can probably tell by the almost empty bottle in the photograph. Now, I just have to see if I can find it somewhere else because my bargain store has sold out! I must not be the only one who likes it.
I often use wine in my cooking, especially white wine. Using bottled table wine or purchasing small bottles of cooking wine can both get pricey. When I discovered this GALLON of golden cooking wine for about the same cost ($4.99) as a CHEAP bottle of table wine, I was thrilled. I reused an empty wine bottle to repackage it in a way that looks attractive when displayed in my kitchen. I will make a nice label for it with my handy-dandy label maker (Thanks, Louisiana-man!) to match my other repackaged, bought-in-bulk cooking things (red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, etc.).
5. I can afford gourmet products I would never purchase anywhere else.
We love cheese! Who doesn’t?! But, those really nice, gourmet cheeses… Oy vay! they are expensive. Even at nearly $10 per package, the smoked mozzarella and the chive brie I grabbed the other day are a good deal in spite of the cost because it was a good savings over regular retail prices. The family will enjoy this special treat. The smoked mozzarella makes homemade pizza all the more delicious, which is the reason I picked up a second package of it the last time I visited by bargain surplus grocer.