Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Trip to the Dented Can Store

Here in Central Pennsylvania, we have a number of Grocery Outlets or as I like to call them "Dented Can Stores." I'm not quite sure where grocery outlet's get their food, but it appears to be products that have fallen off the back of trucks, rejected from other stores or pulled from shelves due to expiration dates.

Sounds suspect, eh? I assure you, they are BUT if you know how to shop them properly you can find some good deals. Here are the rules:

  • Check the expiration date! If an item doesn't have an expiration date, do not buy it! Sometimes these stores are tempted to place the price sticker over the expiration date so be on the look out for cleverly hidden dates. Only buy the item if you know you will use it before it expires. 
  • Buy nothing dented. Inspect every can and if it has a dent put it back on the shelf and step away! 
  • Buy dented boxes. Dented boxes are okay. I often find perfectly good food items that are in boxes where it looks like the palette might have been smooshed or sometimes even with just problems in the printing on the package. The company may be able to write off a run of product where the labels just didn't adhere correctly to the can/jar/bottle with little financial impact which means I can buy it for less financial impact than the pristine package. What do I care what the box/label/wrapper looks like?
  • Pay attention to prices and know what you pay for the same item in your primary grocery store. Sometimes I wonder what the grocery outlets are thinking! I can get a bag of cookie mix at the grocery store with a coupon for $.50-$1 so why would I pay you $.99 for a bag that expires in 3 months? You are taking some risk by buying anything at a grocery outlet so make sure the price is worth taking that risk.
  • Exercise caution when shopping in the freezer or refrigerated cases. I once had a Graduate Assistant miss a couple days of work due to a bad box of seafood paella. After that, I don't even bother looking in those cases. I would say the rule of thumb should be to assume all items were at one point above freezing or thawed and then refrozen. If it wouldn't be safe to eat under those conditions, do not buy!
  • Put anything you buy at the grocery outlet to the front of your stockpile. You should always place items with the nearest expiration date at the front of your pantry or stockpile so you will grab that box/jar/can to use first. 

I didn't have the best trip this weekend, but here's what I found:

2 boxes Kashi Go Lean Crunch (1 lb. 9 oz.)- $2.49. This isn't the lowest price I've paid for cereal but I love me some Go Lean Crunch (eat it every day for breakfast) and my stash was running low.
Price at grocery store: $4.99. Savings: $2.50 each

2 bottles of Ken's Light Options Caesar dressing- 2/$1.00. As you've seen after my fridge clean out last week I was in dire need of salad dressing and this is mine and my husband's favorite.
Price at grocery store: $2.55. Savings: $2.05 each

1 can of Del Monte Diced tomatoes (with zesty mild green chilies)- $.69.
Price at grocery store: $1.75. Savings: $1.06

I often scout out my dented can store for cat food. My cat is on kitty weight watcher's and his diet food is expensive- about $7 for a small bag. For some reason, my grocery outlet almost always has his cat food and it's usually priced about half off ($3.69). I never buy an item if it's opened but the cat food bags tend to be ripped, however there is an inner and outer bag. I only buy it if the inner bag is still intact, even if the outer is torn.

I find the best prices at outlets on seasonings, food coloring/extracts/other baking items, olive oil and trash bags. (Often times the trash bag boxes were opened and then taped shut but they are usually priced well enough that it doesn't matter if a few bags are missing.)

Here's another tip if you feel adventurous enough to shop in a grocery outlet: Leave the price tag on the item. My store puts bright orange price stickers on every item. I like to leave the stickers on as a signal to me that the item came from an outlet so I can be sure to check the expiration date before using it.

Is anyone else a fan of grocery outlet shopping?

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