The store closest to us is Dirty Don's in Raytown, Missouri. It's one of those places that if you've never been to it, it's best to have someone drive you the first time so you don't get lost, but the journey is worthwhile. The open floor plan warehouse is filled 100% with pallets of snacks, ingredients, and household items just waiting for a home.
We've bought countless items from stores like this, their prices are literally rock bottom and as long as you're on your toes, they're fun to shop and save at! The sugar pictures above was selling for only $0.50 per bag! There are a few things to look for, so check out the tips below:
1. Check The Expiration Dates: Although this seems like common knowledge, it can be easy to forget once you enter and start to become all googley eyed for cheap canned goods. Some things are just fine after their expiration date (take cornstarch for example — when sealed properly, it's good forever). Other things however, particularly liquid based items like salad dressings, soups and sauces should still be in date.
2. Don't Buy Dented Cans: No matter how good the deal is, the chance of botulism just isn't worth the risk. It's just best to stay clear!
3. Restaurant Grade Products Can Be Portioned Out: In many salvage stores you'll find restaurant-sized products or those specially made for a certain store. For instance, the last time we were in this store there was several pallets of grape jelly (pictured above). It was all still in date, but heaven help anyone who needs that much jelly at once. We often find giant bags of drink mixes, cake batters, muffin mixes, gravy mixes... the list is endless. Although they might not be the healthiest items in the store, they fill out a food storage stash quite nicely. Just remember to use a vacuum sealer to portion them down smaller for easier use or share your find with a friend!
4. Don't Buy Anything Refrigerated Or Frozen: No matter how enticing it might be to purchase 20lbs of Taco Bell Shredded Cheese (or in our case 50 pounds of "fresh" goat cheese for $5 last time we were in), or assorted meats in extreme bulk — just stay away. Just because a product is in a refrigerator or freezer now, doesn't mean it was kept in a controlled environment for its entire time spent on trucks, trains or other modes of transportation before ending up at the store.
5. Examine It Before Tossing It In The Cart: Just because an item might still be well within its expiration date, it doesn't mean it's a quality item to take home. Examine the packaging for rips, tears, perforations or excessive moisture build up. Take extra caution with things in wrappers that aren't as easily checked (say chocolate bars), or make sure the price is low enough to be worth the gamble! It's extra important to check cardboard boxed products for mouse holes. It's an icky thing to think about, but having worked in grocery retail establishments for many years, it's a way of life and continual problem, especially in places like these! If you know of a salvage or reclaimed freight center in your area, please leave the name or address in the comments below so others might be able to experience the joy of this manner of shopping. You can usually find them in the phone books, but more often than not, they're best located by word of mouth! • Related: How to Save Money by Shopping at Whole Foods (Image: Sarah Rae Trover)