Thursday, October 19, 2006

Food shopping for less at discount stores (or, Penny's chocolatey nostalgia!)

When I was a kid, my favorite food-shopping trip was to what my sister and I called the "snack-cake store." We'd walk inside, and all of the tasty treats-- always off limits at the regular grocery store as "too expensive"-- filled shelf after shelf. My mom would eye a sign reading "5 for $4" or something like that, and set us loose: "Okay, girls, pick out 5!" Great big boxes of Ring-Dings, Ho-Hos, Yodels and Funny Bones were ours for the taking!

Eventually I learned that the reason we could get them so cheaply was that they were near or past their "sell-by" date (or sometimes were holiday versions past their holiday-- orange-colored Halloween frosting in early November or some such). They always tasted perfectly fine; they were rarely too far past their prime, and a sell-by date is really just a guideline anyway, allowing for plenty of time for the product to sit in your pantry at home. And when I look at the prices for snack cakes at grocery stores now, I realize just how much they were marked down!

While my sister and I were searching through the sugary treats with glee, my mom was searching through the many other products the store had for sale. To be perfectly honest, I never paid enough attention to remember what they were! I think there were crackers and chips, cereal and bread, but I know there was much more than that. I'm pretty sure they didn't just sell products near or past-date, but also goods in damaged packaging, like dented soup cans. But all those details fade into a fuzzy sugar-induced haze...

I haven't been to one of those places in years, but my research tells me they're sometimes called grocery outlet stores, grocery thrift stores, bakery thrift stores, salvage grocery stores, discount grocery stores, discount marts, or a variety of other names.

So, my questions to you: Are there stores like this near you? What do you think of them? If you use them, have you been able to save on your grocery bills? Do you have any tips on what to buy there and what to stay away from? I don't suppose you know of one in Chicago, do you? (Writing this post has made me really hungry for a good ol' Ring-Ding or Yodel...) And, of course, what's your all-time favorite snack cake?


HC said...

There was a bakery thrift store within walking distance of my house growing up. We'd use it periodically, but I think sometimes my parents found it just as easy to just buy all our bread products at the supermarket.

I don't know of any around here. But the grocery store across the street from me tends to have some of the cheaper bread brands. So if I'm cutting back on my grocery bill, I'll go there rather than drive to the big supermarkets.

And as for snack cakes? I was all about the Swiss Cake roll. mmm.

Tiredbuthappy said...

I was a deprived child and didn't even know snack cakes existed until I was an adult.

I remember maybe 10 years ago going to a Pepperidge Farm storefront in New Jersey with my sister that had stuff just slightly past the sell-by date. That's the only store like this I've ever been to, except maybe Aldi. Doesn't Aldi work sort of like this?

But what a great idea. Sounds like both a fun outing and a good way to save money. Also I'm thinking it might be good frugality training for my Little Person. If Penny's experience is any indication, he'd probably remember it and the lesson might stick that way.

Donna Jean said...

We had that store by my grandma's house. She'd stock up for the grand kinds and we always knew the best hiding places for apple snack pies and other goodies. I recall it being a Wonder store and we also got our bread there too.

I've not seen one since my childhood.

Anonymous said...

There is a Sunbeam Bread Store here which stocks breads, rolls, and such. The prices are much better than the grocery store. I buy name brand kaiser rolls, sub rolls and hoagie rolls for $1.09 that cost about $3.00 at Walmart. I buy Queen size Sunbeam bread for .52. I Just make sure the sell by date has a few days left on it.

Darryl V.K. said...

Usually the Salvage Grocery Stores will have these items cheap. Here is an easy way to find one in your town. Go to my site and click on Store Directory. I have hundreds of Salvage stores listed accross the USA.

sweetpea said...

Hi I am trying to get in touch with daryl v.k. i need to get on his website and it won't work. Anyone have any suggestions on how to find him or the website. I a trying to access the list of all the salvage stores by state in the u.s. thanks! Angela