Monday, March 24, 2008

Crying over spoiled milk

Some friends and I were discussing a recent episode of Oprah, in which several people shared their experiences with Dumpster diving for groceries. Out of curiosity, I decided to call both of our local grocery stores (that's right, two stores--we're a small town and proud!) to find out what they do with food that is about to expire and what they do with it once it's past the stamped date. How fascinating!

Both stores said they reduce the price of meat, dairy and produce to try to get them to sell more quickly. One store said they freeze meat to prolong its sell-by date, and also mentioned that some expired canned goods can be returned to the company!

I was really interested when a store manager mentioned this next example because this had just happened to me. When we were unpacking our groceries recently, I noticed a cereal box that was stamped with the previous day's date. I thought it kind of odd that they would sell a product past its date, but the manager said products that say "best by" are handled differently than those that say "expiration date." Makes sense, I just never knew that.

Both stores said they pitch dairy products and produce that are past their prime, and neither store allows employees to take anything home with them, except for what is in the regular reduced section. One manager said they have that policy so that employees won't think they can take products home if they're near expiring. Interesting! One of the workers I talked to said they used to have several people root through their Dumpster, but that the traffic has slowed down in recent years.

It makes me sad to think of all this wasted food. I'm sure other stores have other policies, such as donating food to shelters or pantries. Do you know your store's policies in this matter? Do you regularly check the reduced grocery sections? Have you/would you ever look through a (grocery) store's Dumpster?


Anonymous said...

our one store doesn't have a dumpster, all trash is kept inside, but they do go to the landfill site daily. I have seen them throw out lots of expired food.

And i have never been dumpster diving.

Anonymous said...

I have sometimes purchased items from the "reduced" rack at our grocery stores, although they don't have much there. Some of the stores in our area donate items to our local soup kitchen.

I have seen reports in the newspaper that some stores in our area pour chemicals over the items they discard to discourage "dumpster diving."

I have occasionally seen people going through the dumpster behind my office -- not sure what they are hoping to find in office discards. We shred sensitive material and recycle most of the paper we generate.

Love you, Mom

mer said...

I don't think I'd ever go through the dumpster, but I have picked up meat and milk products that are marked "reduced". The last time I shopped, I got a gallon of organic milk for $1.50, and a quart of buttermilk marked down to $1.00 The milk had about 3 days before expiring, and we were able to finish it before that time. Did you know buttermilk will keep long past it's expiration date? I've used mine up to 10 days past the date stamped on the carton, but oftentimes, I freeze it in 1 cup increments for muffins, pancakes, etc. I hate to waste stuff!

I don't know what specific days that they mark meat and dairy products down, but it would definitely be worth a call to find out. Thanks for a great idea!

MyHeartIsAlwaysHome said...

I saw that episode also. I always look at the reduced item area. My local Kroger is great about reducing produce, bakery and meat items. I am always on the look out for the Manager Special tag.

Most stores here keep their dumpsters inside or locked. Even so I don't think that I would look through the dumpster.

Amy said...

I always try to get stuff as it gets marked down, particularly in the bakery section of Wal-Mart.

I am so disguisted that this is how things are disposed of. It makes me sad that we can't find a better solution for this issue, even if it is to let employees take the food home with them. At least it would be eaten.

Lauren@Baseballs&Bows said...

Very interesting! I have to say that I wouldn't dig through a dumpster for food, but I do buy the reduced price meat that is close to its date.

Jay's Mom said...

I'm addicted to my local grocery store's clearance rack. I always buy my bread there because it is super cheap. Many of the local grocery stores here in my neck of the woods give all of the food that is about to expire to the local shelters. However, if you make some connections with the employees they usually give their relatives and friends the food that they do not give away :)

Ewokgirl said...

I've bought reduced items before; they can be a real deal sometimes. I bought a huge bag of ripe bananas once for 99 cents, and I baked several loaves of banana bread and muffins for the freezer.

I have not dumpster dived, and I doubt I ever will. We don't need to do that. Personally, I would find doing so a bit greedy if I'm actually able to buy what I need. Someone else may not be so fortunate, so I don't think I should take away their opportunities. Besides, I find the idea of it distasteful.

Amy A. said...

I have dived for furniture and shelves before, but that is usually when the college kids get ready to go home and they toss everything!

When we lived in student housing all the moms would take turns going to the grocery stores to pick up their throw aways. We would get lots of sub sandwhiches, throw away the mushy bread and eat the lunch meat on new bread. They would give us cereal, bakery stuff, but not milk, eggs or anything from the meat section. I guess lunch meat didn't count as meat, ha!

We all really stretched our grocery money that way.

Lisa said...

I saw that show about dumpster diving. Very interesting. I kept waiting for the managers or police to show up. Just wondered if they hit the same stores all the time, and then with the cameras in all, if this would hamper the "divers" success in the future. Once the secret was out. I did notice some things in the bags that I might have eaten, as they "looked" okay, but I don't think I'd ever have the nerve.

I haven't dumpster dived for food, but have picked up household things on the curb or behind some shopping malls.

Just yesterday, I was at a grocery store, and I saw one of the employees dumping probably 50 containers of yogurt that were "about" to expire.

Then I asked him if the store ever discounts milk. He said, they are not allowed to reduce milk for quick sale due to liability if someone got sick from it. We then noticed that there was some milk that had 1 day till it's date - he then pulled that off the shelf. Next we started to talk about the Organic milk, and how it's expiration date was 3 days out. He grumbled about how he wished they would stop selling the stuff because he throws them out every week. 10 gallons at the time. He said no one is buying the stuff at $6.00 a gallon! Why would they, when they can go down the street and get it for $2.00 less.

I came home just sick to think of all that milk & yogurt going to waste!

Pretty sad... and that is just one example.

Jthemilker said...

I can't say that I've ever even thought of this topic although one store in Wilmore, KY regularly discounted meat that needed to be used and that is a blessing to the college students of that town.

BTW - thanks for stopping by my blog and entering my give-away!

Rebecca said...

I saw that episode and was so surprised at what they found in the dumpsters! I'll admit, it was a little tempting to give it a try as grocery prices seem to be getting higher and higher.

I have never been dumpster diving, and need to look into what our grocery stores here do. I know in Colorado I always used to buy meat that was marked down due to expiration date, and I'd just throw it in the freezer.

debra said...

I saw that episode and was intrigued but I would never get into a dumpster. I hope I'm not missing out on too much good stuff! But it is a shame how much food is wasted. I have seen the St Vincent De Paul truck pulled up behind Safeway getting filled with what I assume is expired food. Hopefully it finds a good home before it's too late.