Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thrifty Thursday

Have you ever been to a bent-n-dent store? That is the name often given a salvage/discount grocery store.
As our family has been in the business for several years, either operating a store or distributorship, I would like to give my readers a brief overview of really what they are all about .
        The concept is a win/win situation in a world of careless waste and rising prices.
Everyday thousands of grocery shoppers sigh upon entering their favorite store and finding the price of their favorite brand has risen once again. And everyday in the back warehouse of those same stores hundreds of dollars worth of product is being thrown away or sent out to reclamation centers. (A very small amount is sometimes donated to a local food bank)
     That is where the slavage food industry steps in. The food going to the reclamation centers is a small portion of what it could actually be but at least it is a start.
From those centers it is boxed and sent out to small salvage stores across the states. Salvage grocery stores have only recently began to catch on in the West though they have been going strong in the eastern states for many years.
    The product carried at these stores can be anything you would find in a regular grocery. It can be product that has been somehow damaged, e.g. dented cans, torn or smashed boxes, or that is close-dated or out-dated. Often though it has simply nothing wrong with it! It is shelf pulls : out of season, change of product brand, brand price change for a pre-priced item, or if the big store simply decided it was not making them enough money anymore. There is also product that is totally fine but if a case of jam , for instance, has one broken jar the big name groceries stores do not want to take the time to deal with the mess and sent it out!
    You and I are paying for the flagrant waste everytime we grocery shop because waste results in higher prices to offset costs!!
    In a reputable salvage store (more on that later) the product is carefully examined for integrity of contents. Is the can dented enought to compromise the seal? Has the inner package been torn? Is the product truly past the "safe content" date?  Most dates are simply an approximate "best by" date and have very little to do with whether or not the food is actually safe to eat. Exceptions would be fresh or refrigerated meats and dairy . And most of those if frozen by the "eat or freeze' date can be safely eaten for a long time .
     A careful shopper can save big at these stores!! An average price for a can of cream of mushroom soup is 69-79 cents, a box of name brand cereal 1.99, a pound of Starbucks coffee for 4-5 dollars, a bottle of mayonaise for a 1.69-1.89, candy bars 4 for a dollar, most spices 79-99 cents, Rice-a Roni for 69 cents, health and beauty products usually 50-70% normal price the list could go on and on!
     I do want to point out for the health minded shopper or the "from scratch" cook these stores often do not carry staples such as flour and sugar. Those packages are often too torn to safely resell the product. And they also do not always have on hand the "health food alternatives" because the supply for that is not nearly so plentiful. The key is check there FIRST because if and when they do you will save a LOT on specialty products!
   Most of these stores are small family operations so if you shop often enough to can establish a good relationship with the owners and often find out when they expect to get in another shipment of the kind of  product you want . Be there that day before it's gone! The best goes quickly to shoppers smart enought to figure that out. Just a caution , sometimes it is impossible for the store owner to know when a shipment will be in or what is on it. Do not be a brat about  demanding "just what you want".
   You will find a lot of the stores, especially those operated by the Mennonite and Amish, also carry a side line of bulk foods and specialty meats and cheeses. These may not always be cheaper (though usually the meats and cheeses are compared to big name stores) but usually they are  a superior, premium quality product.
     A word about the "reputable" stores I mentioned earlier-- there are people in this industry to try to milk it as in anything. They do not care about their product or you and are just trying to make as much money as possible by not having to throw out any product they receive. To better understand why , let me explain that this reclamation grocery comes "as-is " . It takes a LOT of work and time to sort it, clean it, check for safety,  or retape a box . So get to know the owners so you will feel assured that the food is clean and safe. You can usually tell when you walk through the door . If the store looks and smells clean and neat , the product is usually also carefully taken care of.
    Interestingly, a lot of the stores are owned and operated by christian families who have seen a need to offest waste and provide an income for their families where the family can work together.
  Just a few shots of our store behind the scenes when we were operating one.
             A LOT of work sorting and stocking......

                       .....often led to silliness and a need for a break :)

                           You never know what you might find in a box

                      The cardboard crew after loading the truck
 A look inside our current distribution... since moving to this house the living  and dining rooms become a staging place for boxes...not always fun ... but it works for now

    We buy  reclamation direct from regular grocery suppliers and distribute to salvage stores. It is a lot of loading and unloading, sorting ,  and counting. Most of what we deal in is snack foods.

When you shop a salvage store you save BIG for your family, you save our landfills and you do just a small part at least to combat America's wastefulness! Find a store in your area and check it out!!

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