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grocery sources, stretch your dollars

Salvage Shopping in Portland

A few years ago, I ran into a slightly sketchy looking store in outer SE on my way to a party. I was supposed to bring a dessert, and it was the only store I could find. I came away pleased with what I found and have visited the same little salvage grocery store on a regular basis since.

As a family making the most of our food dollars, we have found salvage food stores to be an excellent resource. You can find good prices on REAL food to supplement your farm and buying club purchases. You can also find great deals on better quality junk food, like your husband’s breakfast cereal or favorite late night snack.

Now, if the thought of sorting through imperfect produce or yogurt at it’s best by date makes you cringe , this is not for you. If you are flexible and don’t mind choosing the least bruised bananas so you can save 75% off normal price, this IS for you! The shopping trip pictured above cost me less than $16 and everything is organic. That is five boxes of cereal, nine boxes of broth, four bags of Kettle chips, two pastas, two clamshells of spinach and several pounds of perfect produce for $16!

All the salvage stores I know of are on the outer eastside  or in Gresham. Salvage grocery stores stock products that for some reason could not go to the grocery store. Often a box is damaged, items are nearing their best by date, or an item was discontinued. Some items may be slightly past their best by/sell by date. Stock changes daily and great deals go fast.

Here is a rundown of the ones we have visited.

Everday Deals (SE 146th & Stark or SE 173rd & Division): This is where I first discovered salvage stores. Both stores carry the same inventory at excellent prices. The best thing about these stores is that they carry fresh produce! Lovely spinach and spring greens in 5oz boxes for 2/$1, cabbage at .29/lb, bananas for .25/lb! I try to buy only organic produce and usually find several great options here.  You must be discerning about how much you can eat before it spoils and sometimes the produce is riper than you will find in most grocery stores but overall we have saved significant money by buying produce here. Selection of course varies day to day and some visits will be much for fruitful than others.

Frontier Missions Store (20012 S.E. Stark St): I’ve only been here twice but they had a fair selection of nonperishables and refrigerated or frozen goods.  The highlights of my trip were organic juice bars for .50/box, organic whole grain couscous for $1/lb and Tillamook cheese for $2.89/2lb. They had a good selection of organic boxed goods and prices were equal to or slightly better than at Everyday Deals. They did not have produce. This store supports outreach to Native Americans.

Morrow Brothers Produce (2919 NW Division St, Gresham): This store carries a much more consistent produce inventory but the prices are not nearly as low. Similarly, their salvage groceries are not priced as low as the other stores mentioned. I have found some excellent deals (.33/lb organic yams!), and often in the fall they carry organic Hood River apples and pears for less than .50/lb. However, those are not consistent deals, and I do not go out of my way to stop in here.

I’ll share more soon about what to buy and what to avoid. Do you have any experience with salvage shopping? Any other stores you’d recommend?

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