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what are salvage grocery stores

What Are Salvage Grocery Stores?

Updated: Feb. 19, 2023

Salvage grocery stores, also known as Bent 'n Dent stores or Banana Box stores, sell foods that are near to or past their "best by" date, items that are discontinued, seasonal merchandise, overstock/excess inventory, products with slightly damaged packaging, foods with package or label changes and items that are returned for various other reasons.

The prices at salvage grocery stores can be much cheaper than the prices at mainstream grocery stores — usually by 50% or more — making them the cheapest grocery stores you're likely to find. See the price comparison chart below.

The prices at salvage grocery stores can be much cheaper than the prices at mainstream grocery stores — usually by 50% or more.

Why Do Foods End up at Salvage Grocery Stores?

Food products will end up at salvage grocery stores for the following reasons:

• Slightly damaged packaging
• Closeouts
• Discontinued products
• Close to freshness date
• Beyond freshness date
• Scratched or dented packaging
• Label changes
• Seasonally packaged items

It's important to note that salvage grocery stores are regulated and inspected by the USDA. All of the foods sold at salvage grocery stores should be safe to eat. Items that are past their "best by" date are still safe for consumption for several months beyond the date on the package, but might not taste as good as their fresher counterparts. Be careful when purchasing food products in dented cans and do not buy if the can is bulging or shows any sign of leakage. Read Tips for Buying from Salvage Grocers and Food Product Dating for more information and guidance.

Where Do the Salvage Groceries Come From?

Manufacturers, food processors and large grocery retailers sell their unwanted items to food brokerage companies and liquidators at large discounts. From bulk canned goods, wholesale packaged items and meats, to baked goods and dairy products, grocery liquidators purchase almost any kind of overrun, surplus, closeout, insurance claim, or salvage items. The liquidators then distribute them to salvage grocery stores, dollar stores, food banks and discount stores throughout the United States.

Pallets of banana boxes containing salvage groceries

The products are typically packaged in banana boxes and sold by the box at a set price per box, regardless of contents. Each box contains an assortment of products, and the buyer never knows what the contents will be, which is why the inventory at salvage grocery stores is always changing. If you find something that you really like it probably won't be available the next time you visit the store, so be sure to stock up while you can.

The inventory is always changing — if you find something that you really like be sure to stock up while you can.
Example contents of banana boxes full of salvage groceries

What Kinds of Foods Can I Buy at Salvage Grocery Stores?

Salvage grocery stores sell all of the same products that you'd find at a regular grocery store:

• Canned goods
• Beverages
• Frozen foods
• Baked goods
• Chips and snacks
• Meats and poultry
• Dairy products
• Cereals
• Pasta
• Sauces
• Fruits and vegetables
• Organic foods
• Gluten-free foods
• Pet food
• Health and beauty aids
• Cleaners and detergents
• Paper goods

Most smaller salvage grocery stores will not sell frozen or refrigerated items (they don't have freezers or refrigerators). Many larger stores will sell bread, milk and fresh produce as a convenience to their customers, and the prices might not be cheaper than they woud be at a regular grocery store.

Know Before You Go

Since most salvage grocery stores are small and get the foods they sell from food liquidators, their inventory is constantly changing and you probably won't be able to find everything you have on your weekly grocery list. Many of the stores consider shopping at their stores to be a unique "treasure hunt" type experience because "you never know what you'll find."

Shopping at salvage grocery stores can be a unique "treasure hunt" experience — you never know what you'll find.

As mentioned earlier, some salvage grocery stores will sell items such as milk and bread as a convenience to their customers and the prices might be the same or more than they would be at a regular grocery store. It's a good idea to have a knowledge of prices before you shop at a salvage grocery so you know whether or not what you're purchasing is a good deal.

Many salvage grocery stores have limited hours of operation, with some only open 2 or 3 days each week, so be sure to check each store's Facebook page or web site before planning a shopping trip.

Salvage grocery stores might not accept checks, and most don't take coupons. Many accept EBT.

The best time to shop at most salvage grocery stores is the day after their truckload of banana boxes arrives, which will give you access to everything that was delivered in that most recent shipment. Be sure to check the Facebook pages of your favorite salvage grocery stores often, since many of them will write posts about the best new deals, and some even post videos or do live streams about their latest arrivals.

How Much Money Can I Save at a Salvage Grocery Store?

A lot! Prices at salvage grocery stores will usually be 50% or more cheaper than the prices at a traditional grocery store.

Example prices of items found at salvage grocery stores compared to Walmart in February 2023:

salvage groceries
ItemSalvage Grocery PriceWal-Mart PriceSavings
Oreo Cookies Family Size$2.99$4.5835%
Tyson Frozen Chicken Wing Sections (4 lb)$9.98$24.3660%
Pepperidge Farm 15 Grain Whole Grain Bread (24 oz)$1.00$3.8474%
Nabisco Fig Newtons$2.00$3.5844%
Land O Lakes American Cheese (5 lb)$9.98$42.4076%
Knorr Chicken Flavor Boullion (24 cubes)$0.30$2.3887%
Heinz Organic Ketchup 2 Pack (44 oz bottles)$7.75$22.9966%
Disney Heart Tin Valentine Chocolates (2.54 oz.)$3.50$5.4836%
Challenge Unsalted Butter (1 lb.)$3.50$4.9730%
Smithfield Anytime Ham Steak$2.00$4.4055%
Total cost for all items$43.00$118.9864%
Prices taken from random salvage grocery stores as shown on their Facebook pages for the month of February 2023

As you can see in the comparison chart above, the savings to be found at salvage grocery stores can be enormous.

Visit the US Map Page to find a salvage grocery store near you and start saving!

More Reasons to Shop at Salvage Grocery Stores

The vast majority of salvage grocery stores are small, locally owned businesses. Buying from these small companies helps support local economies. Often times the store owner also works in the store, is very knowledgeable about their inventory, and can be very helpful in answering questions about their food products — offering friendly, personal customer service.

Salvage grocery stores are often the final chance for food products which have already been rescued once by food liquidators. When you buy your food from a salvage grocery store you're keeping those foods from ending up in a landfill where they would decompose and create greenhouse gases which are bad for the environment.


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