A Renewed Interest in Salvage Grocery Stores


Here at Wellness Warrior we’re always on the lookout for innovative solutions to curb food waste. Sometimes, however, it’s the old practices that deserve a second look. With the price of groceries steadily on the rise, it’s no surprise that folks are searching for a better way to buy affordable healthy food.

Although salvage grocery stores have been around for some time now, a recent announcement confirms that ex-president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, is opening a salvage store. It has brought a resurgence of interest in the topic. While it’s clear that his store adds to the trendy factor of the salvage surge, the question remains, what does it all mean for our environment, wallets and our tummies?

The USDA has reported that our country’s post-harvest food waste at the retail and consumer levels is an astounding 133 billion pounds. Some of this relates to what we, the consumers, throw out after purchasing our groceries, but much food is discarded long before it even makes it to our table.

Traditional grocery stores have extremely rigid, and dare we say unreasonable, with their produce rules when it comes to what they deem acceptable to sell. That’s where Salvage Grocery stores step in, buying up the discarded grub from the traditional stores and offering it to less picky, more frugal and oftentimes waste conscious clientele.

How are they able to do this safely? Well, it might surprise you to learn that there are no regulations or across-the-board standards when it comes to sell-by dates. Yep, that’s right. With the acceptation of baby formula, food manufacturers are left to mark their own declarations about when their products lose their fresh-factor. Two cereal makers, for example, with almost identical products might arbitrarily mark their product with different sell-by dates. Although the freshness may begin to fade it does not make the food unhealthy or even unappetizing to eat. In other words, there is no more cause to worry about food poisoning at a Salvage Grocery store than anywhere else.

Salvage stores, which are said to have begun within the always-frugal Amish communities, offer similar products as your standard grocers. The main difference is that the fruit might be a little misshapen or the cans might be dented. That funny looking apple receives a big mark down in price however, making it more than worth it to many shoppers.

A recent article in Modern Farmer sites the Salvage Grocery store, “Fresh to Frozen” which is based out of Richmond Virginia. They have been around for nearly 30 years and offer item price updates on their Facebook page. Examples include,

5 pounds of tomatoes for $1, 2 pints of strawberries for $1, Pillsbury Grands biscuits for 58 cents, 10 pounds of potatoes for $2.99, and Earthbound Organic spring lettuce mix boxes for $1.68. Hopey and Company in Black Mountain, North Carolina sell bananas at 49-cents per pound, grass-fed ground ribeye at $4.99 per pound, and Simply Orange juices for $1.99 each.”

With a good variety of healthy food and prices that are hard to beat, these types of stores are an especially great resource for lower-income communities. An article in The Atlantic details Rauch’s thought process when deciding how to model his salvage grocery store. The article explains that Rauch’s store in particular...

…will operate as a non-profit, with items priced to compete with fast food. Early in the planning process, he decided to stop short of giving food away like a food bank or a soup kitchen. Rauch tells me that the vast majority of America’s food insecure are working poor, unwilling to accept handouts, but also unable to afford nutritious food.”

At a time when there is so much financial inequality and overall waste, it seems like a great solution for both the environment and our wallets. If you are interested in finding a salvage grocery store near you, this list will get you on your way to munching on deliciously deformed produce.

PHOTO: courtesy of modernfarmer 


Read all articles by Juniper Briggs


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