(At an auction)
Homer Simpson: (raising an auction card) Heh, heh, heh. Watch me burn Flanders!
Homer: Ned Flanders bids $50! (evil laugh)
Auctioneer: Sold! And the recipient of the hundred dollar bill is Ned Flanders!
Flanders: This is going straight to the orphanage!
– from an episode of The Simpsons
In these times of economic uncertainty, many folks are looking to cut costs wherever possible. So as pressure on pocket books continues to mount, highly resourceful household CEOs have begun visiting local auction houses for great deals on — groceries.
That’s not a typo, people. I’m talkin’ groceries as in Fruit Loops, mayonnaise, chicken pot pies, hamburger helper, milk, baked beans, canned corn, and peanut butter.
Grocery auctions, though still relatively unknown, are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing trends in America, and for good reason. In 2008, the United States suffered from the worst food inflation in 17 years. As a result, many people are looking beyond clipping coupons, eschewing name brands in favor of store labels, and taking advantage of promotional sales in an effort to reduce their monthly grocery bill.
Depending on who you ask, those who are willing to buy vegetables in dented cans or other items that are slightly beyond their sell-by date can save money on groceries by as much as 90%.
By the way, those who are leery of buying such products should know that there is generally no prohibition against the sale of food past its sell- or use-by dates. That is because those dates are simply manufacturer guidelines regarding the rotation of shelf stock or period of best quality. Accordingly, most auction houses guarantee the quality of the goods they are selling, allowing bidders to buy with confidence.
But don’t think that all the items at a grocery auction are in less than perfect condition; many items are simply overstocks that grocery stores sell to the auction house.
Some grocery auctions even sell perishables like meat and dairy products, including ice cream. It is also not uncommon for grocery auctions to sell non-edible items that you can usually find at grocery stores such as cleaning supplies, and paper towels.
Although grocery auctions can be found in many parts of the United States, the current epicenter of the grocery auction revolution is centered in the Midwestern states.
While there is no doubt that grocery auctions can result in big savings to your grocery bill, many people will tell you that the best part of attending an auction of any type is the fun and excitement that comes with the bidding process.
Maybe grocery auctions will revolutionize grocery shopping as we know it. After all, when was the last time you got excited buying Fruit Loops at the local market?
If you plan on attending a grocery auction, keep in mind the following tips:
1. Make sure you do your research! Know the grocery store price of any item you are bidding on so you don’t get caught up in the excitement and end up overpaying.
2. Some items are sold by the pallet or case. Make sure you are aware of how many items are in a particular bulk package to ensure you do not overpay on a per-item basis.
3. If you do plan on buying perishables, make sure you bring a cooler chest!
4. Try this website to find a grocery auction in your area. In the keywords section, type “grocery” (without the quotes). Then enter your zip code and, in the drop down menu, select how far from your home you’d be willing to travel. If you are having trouble finding an auction near you, simply choose “Any” and I guarantee you that you’ll see lots of them pop up — although they won’t be close by! Would you believe I found zero grocery auctions in the Southern California region?
5. Check beforehand to see if your grocery auction house accepts credit cards and/or food stamps. Many do, others do not.
6. Read this story from ABC News for specific examples of the types of deals you can get and strategies for how to save money at grocery auctions.
7. Have fun!
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