Preserving the Environment

Let’s Hope This Is the Next Big Food Trend

December 11, 2014
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Let’s Hope This Is the Next Big Food Trend
Customers shop at Amelia's Grocery Outlet, a "surplus" or "salvage" grocer that buys manufacturers' closeouts, in New Holland, Penn., March 27, 2008. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images
It has a positive effect on your pocketbook and the planet.

Thinking about your next meal? Forget kale or quinoa or any other trendy fare. Why not try “expired” or “ugly” food instead?

Modern Farmer has proclaimed that salvage grocery stores (where shoppers can find misshapen fruits and veggies, and food that’s past the sell-by dates for steep discounts) are “the next big thing in food.”

The reason why? For an increasingly eco-conscious America, salvage grocery stores don’t just mean savings for your pocketbook, they also help reduce the shocking amount of food that’s wasted in this country.

We’ve said it before: About 40 percent of perfectly edible food that’s produced in this country never makes it onto our plates. That’s 36 million tons of food wasted annually, to the tune of $165 billion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s not to mention all the energy, carbon emissions and environmental destruction involved in farming and the food manufacturing process. To produce food that’s immediately landfill-bound is also incredibly senseless when 1 in 6 Americans are struggling with hunger.

Surprisingly, one reason why so much is wasted is due to confusion about sell-by dates. Many grocery stores (as well as individual Americans) throw out food that’s deemed bad simply because it’s past the date on the sticker. Dumpsters behind big grocery stores have been found “full to the brim” with fresh or packaged foods that are past these arbitrary dates but would never make anyone sick. Truth is, these labels don’t actually mean much. Even the U.S.D.A. says those dates refer to peak quality and are not a time that designates when it’s safe to consume the food.

MORE: Why This Man is Dumpster Diving for His Meal

Additionally, Americans have gotten used to seeing fruits and vegetables that come without a single bump, bruise or bend. Produce that’s less-than-perfect gets tossed out before it enters anyone’s shopping cart.

But salvage groceries are places where unwanted foods and odd-shaped fruits and veggies can find its way to your fork. Modern Farmer writes that these stores sell just about anything you’d find at a conventional grocery store — from potato chips to organic wine — but for a much cheaper price because salvage grocers buy directly from manufacturers and aren’t as concerned with perfect-looking produce. You’ll also find holiday and seasonal foods, failed products, items with misspelled or misshapen labels and other grocery store castoffs.

Unfortunately, there’s no national database of salvage grocery stores, so you might have to search hard for one near you (if there is one at all). But for your wallet and for the environment, it’s definitely worth the effort.

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