What You Need to Know About Salvage Grocery Stores

Updated: Mar. 06, 2023

Learn how salvage grocery stores can help stretch your budget—and reduce food waste.

Inflation has driven the price of groceries up for Americans for over a year, and it doesn’t show signs of slowing. In an effort to save money, many families are looking for creative ways to cut food costs.

Salvage grocery stores might be the solution to stretch your grocery dollars. According to some reports, salvage grocery stores help shoppers save as much as 50%! At the same time, these stores help reduce food waste by giving products a second chance to be “rescued” and sold at a discount rather than tossed out.

Here’s what you need know about how salvage grocery stores work and where to find one near you.

What Is a Salvage Grocery Store?

A salvage grocery store is a type of discount retail store that offers food products that traditional grocery stores are unwilling (or unable) to sell. Sometimes called outlet grocery stores, shoppers can often score deep discounts in exchange for buying products that are near or past their expiration or suggested “sell by” dates, dented cans, out-of-season items or overstocked items. Some salvage grocery stores may also sell imperfect produce, baked goods and meat.

Where Do Salvage Grocery Stores Get Items?

The items that end up on the shelves of a salvage grocery store often start out at a manufacturer, distributor or store. When one of these entities no longer wants certain items to remain in its inventory (such as foods that are not selling fast enough or products that are slightly damaged), it may reach out to a third-party food liquidator.

Once the unwanted products are in the hands of food liquidator, there are several potential paths they might take. The products could end up at food banks, with salvage-type food delivery services (like Misfits Market or Imperfect Foods), at dollar stores or, you guessed it, on the shelves of salvage grocery stores.

Is Food at Salvage Grocery Stores Safe to Eat?

Two people looking at a shelf with discounted eggs at a salvage grocery storeMediaNews Group/Getty Images

The government inspects the food you buy from a salvage grocery store like it inspects food at traditional grocery stores. So as long as you follow some key rules of thumb, consuming items you purchase from a salvage grocery store should be safe.

  • Dents: A small dent in an item is fine. But watch out for large dents, leaks or bulging cans. Broken jars are also something to avoid.
  • Torn Boxes: Boxes with tears or dents are fine to purchase as long as the plastic inside the box is still intact.
  • Expiration Dates: Baby food and formula are the only thing you should never buy after the date on the package. With other foods, the “use by” or “sell by” date is a freshness suggestion from the manufacturer that pertains to food quality, not a time limit on when a food is safe to consume.
  • Frozen Food: You should only buy frozen food if you’re confident it has been stored properly.

Tips for Shopping at a Salvage Store

In addition to the tips above, allow extra time when shopping at a salvage grocery store. Inventory can be inconsistent. Salvage store shelves may also not be organized in the same way as your regular grocery store shelves. So, it could take you longer to locate items during your shopping trip.

Be flexible when bargain hunting and see what food options are available rather than expecting to find specific items on a grocery list. It may also be helpful to see what useful food items you can find at your local salvage grocery store first, then visit a traditional supermarket to fill in the gaps with any additional ingredients you need for the upcoming days or week.

Before you visit a local outlet grocery store, look up the hours of the store online along with accepted payment methods. Some retailers may not accept credit cards. Others might offer an additional discount if you pay with cash.

Additionally, consider calling the store to ask which day it receives new stock and plan to visit when new products arrive for the best experience. Some local stores even maintain Facebook or Instagram pages you can follow for advance previews of inventory in your area.

How Do I Find Salvage Grocery Stores Near Me?

Finding a salvage grocery store near you could make it easier to grocery shop on a budget.

If a Google search doesn’t turn up any results in your area, try looking for a salvage grocery store on one of the following directories: buysalvagefood.com or extremebargains.net.

Salvage grocery stores can require a bit more legwork to find the best deals. But visiting these discount stores might save you a ton of money and help you reduce food waste at the same time. If you’re looking for other ways to save on food costs, consider these secret grocery shopping tips for inspiration.