Monday, February 3, 2014

The "Burnt Store"- Shopping Cheaply at Salvage Stores and an Important Frugal Lesson

 photo IMG_1722_zps7ad1c8a3.jpgToday, I went to a store my sister, Violet, had told me about already for years... It's not so close by- took over an hour each way to get there (2 buses and a train each way)- which is why I haven't made it there until today... But I had heard wonderful things about it.

This store is called "The Burnt", so I always assumed it was called that because items in that store had come from stores that burnt down, and therefore the items were cheaper, but that's not the case... I have no idea why it's called that, however...

I'd first heard of this store when my Violet, who was shopping there, called me up and asked me if I wanted her to buy me a bunch of bottles of apple cider vinegar- since she saw it being sold for $1.60 a bottle, when it usually costs $3.45 a bottle locally. Of course I told her yes, and that's what I'd been using for apple cider vinegar for a few months- and once I ran out, it hurt to pay full price for it once again. (I use apple cider vinegar in most recipes that call for vinegar, as I don't use synthetic vinegar, wine vinegar is more expensive and too strong of a flavor, and rice vinegar is also much more expensive than apple cider vinegar. I use kombucha vinegar sometimes though.)
So I decided to make a trek there, to hopefully get more cheap apple cider vinegar, among other things. Only Violet told me it wouldn't be so simple. There was a good chance that I wouldn't find any apple cider vinegar there, good price or not.

This store is a "scratch and dent" type store, aka a "discount and salvage" grocery store. What that means is- lets say you have a store or a factory, and some of your products get their packaging ruined. Or they're nearing their expiration date. Or you have overstocks on a certain item. Most people won't want to buy them- people are "shallow" generally, in that they like pretty things, pretty boxes, and pretty packaging, even if the item inside is exactly the same.
If your boxes of Oreos got banged up, so they no longer have crisp edges and corners, or your cans get wet and the labels ruined, what do you do with them? You can't put them on the shelves in the grocery store- people won't buy them. No, you pass them on to a "Scratch and dent" or "discount and salvage" type store, who sells them for rock bottom prices because they aren't visually appealing.

Because of how "the burnt store" gets its products, its always a gamble when you go there. They have some groceries- but not a huge selection, as well as craft supplies, household items, toys, clothing, etc... but their selection is constantly changing.

When I got to the store today, the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover" was going through my head repeatedly. Because that's what the store is. If you want fancy packaging, pristine condition, you won't get that. But you also won't get high prices. Would you rather pay twice to five times the price for a box or bottle that looks prettier, or would you rather get the same quality item for much cheaper, even if the packaging leaves a lot to be desired?
Obviously, I choose the second, and recommend that you do too. (Unless you're giving a food item as a gift. In which case- choose the prettier packaging and pay the higher price.)

So, no, I didn't find any apple cider vinegar. But I did end up coming home with a stroller loaded to the brim with cheap cheap groceries, as well as a few non grocery items.

I hate to admit it, but I rarely have energy to make breakfast in the morning, and my kids, more often than not, eat cereal. And unfortunately, because of cost, the cereal they end up eating often is pure junk, with far too many ingredients than I care for them to be eating, lots of bad stuff in them...
So... when I saw corn flakes at the "burnt store" for really cheap- I took a closer look at them. It was a brand I liked buying, if not for the cost. No, they aren't completely healthy- they do have sugar, and they do have vegetable oils... but they are gluten free (unlike most cereals) and have 5 ingredients only- corn, sugar, oil, salt, paprika extract. Definitely much better than the typical boxed cereal. And while this type of cereal usually goes for $5.70 a box or more (cereal is a fortune where I live), these were going for $1.42 a box... So I bought 12.

They had giant 6.5 lb cans of peas, as well as cans that size of sauerkraut and canned pickled turnips. Since a small can of peas goes for $1.40 regularly in my area, and the 6.5 lb can was being sold for $2.80, I got two... I decided to try out a can of canned pickled turnips, for another $2.80- I bet we'll like it since we're pickle fans. In the end, I didn't go for the sauerkraut, since it was $4.28, and when I eat sauerkraut, I like to get the nutritional and digestion benefits of lacto-fermentation....

As much as I know fresh lemon juice is best in terms of health, I do end up using bottled lemon juice quite often, because I don't have the energy to always squeeze fresh lemon juice, especially if I need larger amounts, so I keep a stock of bottled lemon juice, which costs $1.42 for a quart. At the "burnt store" I found gallon jugs of lemon juice $2.14 a jug, so bought two.

We use grape juice and wine on a semi regular basis in our home, and though I try to make my own from scratch, I was in my first trimester this past summer and really wasn't feeling well, so wasn't able to make a large amount, and we pretty much ran out of the stock that I made this summer... so I've been buying wine and grape juice from the grocery store. Usually the 1.5 quart bottles of grape juice sell for around $5.70 a bottle- I bought 3 1.5 quart bottles for $3.42 each. I also bought 1 bottle of a fancier wine for $5.70, when fancier wines typically go for more than 10 dollars a bottle...

There were some other really cheap groceries there, but gluten filled, so I skipped them...

 photo IMG_1722_zps7ad1c8a3.jpg

There were some other cheap items there, like cheapo dish soap and disposable pans, etc... but I didn't need any, and there were kids' toys, which, honestly, weren't the cheapest price I've seen for them (there are many discount stores for such items in my area). However, I did end up getting the kids 2 packages of imitation Clics- since its a toy that they really like but I can't afford to buy usually since they are so expensive- and paid $8.50 for them, and will be saving them up for a special occasion to give to my kids. Maybe I could have found similar pricing elsewhere- who knows... But either way, it wasn't too expensive.

I  also bought some Happy Birthday candles, since its my and my husband's birthday later this month, as well as a bunch of cheap yellow pencils, chalk, and a book for my kids in our local language that I'm trying to teach them.

Lastly... My kids hate taking baths/showers. They especially hate washing their hair. They love Spiderman and Ben 10 (I have no idea how they even knew about them, since it's not like I actually show them those videos)- my 4 year old is actually OBSESSED with Ben 10. I saw sets of shampoo/conditioner/body wash, for $2.80 each, one with Spiderman on each bottle, and one with Ben 10 on each bottle. Totally unnecessary, and not the absolute cheapest I could get for these things, but not expensive either... but if it will get the kids excited for bath time and more willing to wash their hair, it'll be worth it...

Anyhow, as I was walking through the aisles, it was so tempting to buy EVERYTHING there, such as a rainbow loom set, cheap makeup, spill proof containers, crayons, etc...- such a store, you can't come in with a prepared shopping list- you have to just see what there is... and have self control to actually only spend on what you'll use, what you need, and not just "buy it because it's cheap". An important frugality lesson to remember in such a store is- buying something CHEAP is still more expensive than buying NOTHING. You don't "save money" by buying something cheaper than its usual price if the alternative is simply not buying. Its only saving money if you buy something you would have bought anyhow, at a cheaper price than you would usually pay for it.
I only suggest going to such a store with a limited amount of cash if you are an impulse shopper....

I plan on going back on a semi regular basis, to see what stock they get in next... And I found out that they have a closer location, that'll make it easier for me to get to!

Either way- scratch and dent or salvage stores are definitely worthwhile places to shop, because they'll save you a lot of money if you shop wisely, and remember to not judge a book by its cover. Use google to find where the nearest ones are in your area. (I did find this list of some around the country, but its from 2008, so is not so up to date...)

Have you ever shopped at a salvage store/scratch and dent store? What has your experience been like? Do you shop there regularly? How much money have you saved by shopping at salvage stores?


  1. Just a comment on the hair washing - have you tried letting them wear swim goggles in the shower/bath? My boys hated hair washing mostly because they didn't like the feeling of water on their faces and were worried about getting it in their eyes. The swim goggles fix this problem, and they also think it's funny to wear them in the bathtub!

    1. Its an idea, but I'm not sure it'll work, since they just dont like getting their hair wet, even when their face stays dry... I will give it a try though.

    2. When my kids were little, I had a kind of plastic ring which fits over their head and stops the water/shampoo getting into their eyes (like a hat without the top). I think they sell them in stores for baby equipment or the big pharmacy chains.

  2. Nice! We have one sorta near our house called TH Market. It's kind of a haul but you can find loads of cheaper and useful things. I found oreos for pretty cheap compared to the usual 4 euros you have to pay for a box so that was nice last time we went.

  3. How much did it cost to get to the store ?

    I just saw an american vintage video (from the 1950s) about hair care for ladies.
    It says that you have to wash your hair often... by that, they meant : every two weeks !
    I guess it depends on how fast your scalp gets greasy, but mine is very dry and can actually stay two weeks without washing :D So I would say don't worry to much about the hair washing, sebum is here to protect the hair afterall ;)

  4. $2.91 for transportation. We get free transfers from bus to train to bus, etc... within an hour and a half.

  5. In the USA we have Big Lots (another called Ocean State Job Lot). Next time you're in the states, see if there is a Big Lots near you. It's the same thing- and HUGE. Even if you don't buy anything, it's always amusing to see what they have in stock. Though honestly, I find using coupons at even a high end grocery store like Trader Joes is less expensive than most of the stuff at scratch and dent places. If coupons aren't an options though, they are a good second option. And again, they are forever amusing to see the variety of items for sale.

    KK @ www.preppypinkcrocodile.com

  6. I used to live near a salvage store, and the cans without labels were a lot of fun. What's for dinner tonight? Who knows! Peas were never a thing of joy but lots of other stuff was.

    The goggles idea is terrific; I have a family member with issues with washing and I'll suggest it.

  7. We have a similar type store that, fortunately, is easy to get to so I can hop in and see what's for sale (if you can hop anywhere with five kids in tow). The produce is almost always cheaper but you have to use it quickly. The problem I have, like you mention, not buying extra stuff that I don't need. Even if chips or hot chocolate or whatever is cheaper, if I didn't need it, it wasn't really a good buy!

    We also have a warehouse type place that's run by a church that can have spectacular deals or even free food that the local grocery store can't sell (one time they had bags and bags of bread and rolls, etc) - but they're really catch as catch can.

    The difficulty I have with this type of shopping is that each store, and even each grocery store, has certain things that are cheaper. I keep a price book, so I usually know which one is the best - but then, does the time and gas justify "store hopping"? I try to tack the store trips on to other errands to save money but sometimes I get burned out on going to different places.

    1. Walmart does price matching. I write down what each thing on my list is going for on sale at another store, then go to Walmart and put a sticky note on everything noting the sale price elsewhere... saves a lot of money without the "store hopping".

  8. sounds so interesting. but I do not think we have any stores near us.

  9. I used to go often to a scratch-and-dent store, but it closed. One of my favorite things about it was the weird brand names: Rocky Fresh? Festal? Do-U-Rite? One time we found such a variety of Festal canned foods that we made a dinner featuring them and had some friends over for a Festal Festival. More recently, we bought Lake Shore canned pumpkin, an ordinary enough name but a bizarre label, depicting a boy cooking in a giant pumpkin hung like a cauldron over a campfire on the lake shore, while wearing nothing but a jaunty hat and a towel wrapped around his waist with his bare hip sticking out.... We still have the label hung on our kitchen cabinet to laugh at!

    I started shopping at the scratch-and-dent in my early 20s when I still drank soda pop regularly. They had cans of pop 8/$1 displayed in trash cans. The hitch was that they were strange brands and flavors, and about every 10th can was damaged. I would dig for the intact cans of appealing flavors, then dump them all in a sink of soapy water when I got home to remove the gunk from cans that had ruptured. It was a great bargain--for empty calories!

  10. I had to lol at the burnt store title. I live in Florida and there's a road/area with the name Burnt Store... And here's a "rumor" of why it's called that... http://www.c21burntstoremarina.com/legend-of-burnt-store.html

  11. We have a store like that near-ish us, it's an hour away, so we just incorporate it into our monthly grocery trip. I love the prices, and it's dangerous to head there without a shopping list. One thing to keep an eye on is expiration dates. We keep expired pre-made food (pepperoni, tortillas, salad dressing, etc) in the fridge until we're ready to use them, just in case.

  12. Just had to comment - I'm so impressed at how much you fit into your stroller! Wow.

  13. These stores can always save one many, many dollars, BUT - carefully check the expiration dates on items. Generally, within one year of expiration the item should be okay as long as the package is not bulging, torn, etc. I have found items with REALLY way out expiration dates that I did not notice until I opened them at home.


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