Shopping for Surplus Groceries

by Merissa on July 2, 2009

in Thrifty Living

If you've never been in a surplus store before, going in for the first time can be a little over- whelming. It's not all pretty and neat like a regular grocery store, on the shelves sit dented cans and broken boxes. Maybe to you it hardly looks like a place to shop! Take your time. Look around at everything, and even when you think you've seen everything in the store if you go around again, it will be different.

Google defines a surplus store as: A surplus store sells items that are used, or purchased but unused, and no longer needed.

I find this statement to be the exact opposite! The items in a surplus store are new and they are needed, you need them! Most of the groceries come from stores or from warehouses. Maybe the warehouse dropped a pallet while stacking it. The cans inside got dirty and they couldn't be sold in a regular store so those pallets get sold to a surplus store. There is generally nothing wrong with the items. They will never be a recalled product, those get destroyed not sent to another store.

What about a dented can? Aren't those dangerous? Most of the time the answer is no. Look at the cans before you put them in your cart. Did the dent in the can go all the way through the metal? Does the top or bottom of the can pop when you push on it? If the can appears to be leaking in any way or is severely dented, don't buy it. A small dent (or even a large one) is usually fine as long as it hasn't "cracked" the can.

What about out-of-date items? Well let me ask you this...when was the last time you went through your entire pantry or medicine cabinet and checked out the dates of each thing before you used it? If you're like me, probably never. We eat outdated things all the time and never give it a second thought. Most items last for long after the date on the box or can is past. Canned items last for years. Crackers and chips are good for months. Check the date before you buy it, if it seems a reasonable amount of time go ahead and get it. Usually out-dated items are even cheaper than regular surplus store prices so the cost is next to nothing.

I encourage you in the next week to scout out and visit your local surplus stores. They may be right around the corner and you didn't even know it! Take your time, scan the shelves. Visit them often, their inventory will change all the time so if there is something there that you might use in the future, get it. I can't make it to all the surplus stores in my area all the time so when I do get to them I stock up on things I know I will use soon. I also buy things for my family members that have even less time to shop there as I do.( And besides its so much fun to have someone to show your finds to!)

Have any tips you've learned from surplus store shopping? Post them in the comments!

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9:36 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Randi September 20, 2012 at 7:35 am

Do we have any surplus stores near us in the Black Hills? I’ve been looking and “need” to find one!


2 Merissa September 20, 2012 at 9:34 am

Yes, we have Robbs in Belle Fourche. They mostly have food and health and beauty products but they have some other things occasionally too with great prices!


3 Elizabeth December 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

I’m a big fan of cereal at the surplus/discount store I go to here in PA. Dented boxes but intact bag-organic cereal too


4 Donna January 20, 2014 at 9:45 pm

I love the discount grocer I stop at on the way home from work. I have stocked up on sodium free diced tomatoes, diced green chilis, sliced olives, sodium free canned veggies, olive oil, crackers, rice, etc for a fraction of the regular store price. They even have the best price on eggs in town. They don’t have too much in the way of organic but shopping there lets me afford shopping at the stores that do.


5 barbara February 2, 2014 at 10:27 am

Try to find foods in glass containers instead of cans; recent studies have me casting doubt that cans are not as safe.


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