So, without further ado, here are our 7 top tips for clearance grocery shopping (based on our experience):
- Word of mouth is the best way to find grocery bargains. After shopping at our favorite store, BB’s Grocery Outlet, we searched for other local clearance grocery stores. The next one we tried, by all appearances, had been shut down long ago. Don’t be afraid to look online, but do yourself a favor and ask around before making a long drive.
- Check payment options. For example, some clearance stores accept debit/credit, but some take only cash or in-state checks. When in doubt, bring cash.
- Check store hours and holidays. BB’s has regular hours Monday through Saturday, but you’d hate to show up on the one day it’s closed for the company picnic. Most stores will have a website you can check.
- Stock up at a clearance grocery store first; fill in the gaps at other local stores. Clearance grocery store deals can change quickly. Inventory depends on products that other stores have overstocked, products approaching their date that have not been sold, and cosmetic damage. Brainstorming a list at home is a helpful exercise for us, but then we’re extremely flexible when we arrive to go shopping.
- Check packaging and dates before you buy. We have no issue buying a battered box of cereal as long as the inner bag hasn’t been tampered with, and with many products, we’re OK with eating food that is close to or has just passed its sell by date. Obviously, this is a personal preference. We have gotten burned a few times—a package of cookies that looked OK from the outside wasn’t sealed inside—but when we’re paying $0.25 to $0.75 for gluten-free crackers, cookies, and pretzels that generally retail at $3 or more, losing $.50 here or there has never given us heartburn. (Health warning here: please, don’t be reckless with your expiration date adventures. Buying meat that expired yesterday is NEVER a good idea.)
- Have a feel for grocery prices. If you buy everything on your list at a clearance grocery outlet, you’ll probably pay a reasonable price for your complete haul. We noticed, however, that we do better with certain items at our regular grocery stores. For example, Costco almost always offers the best price per unit for disposable water bottles.
- Take your time. When you first visit a new clearance grocery outlet, don’t rush. Enjoy the experience of discovering new deals or finding brands that you’re not familiar with. And of course, don’t be afraid to stop and read labels. We’ve made the mistake of buying products that appeared to be gluten free, only to get home and realize we goofed. (We then give ourselves pep talks about how we can still do this gluten-free thing.)
Mostly, enjoy the fact that you’re saving money and helping to use perfectly edible food that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Win-Win!
Have your own tips and tricks for shopping at clearance grocery outlets? Please, comment below.