Hey Brother, Can You Spare Some Expired Food Products?

Just reading this story in the Wall Street Journal last week (registration and subscription required) made we want to reach for that bottle of Pepto I keep close at hand when traveling to developing countries. But regardless of whether or not my stomach is more sensitive than others, it's certainly a sure sign of economic hard times -- not to mention inflation -- when you see stores like SharpShopper, that specialize in food maker's expired and surplus goods, see their cash registers ringing up more sales. According to the above linked article, these "surplus or salvage grocers, a little-noticed segment of the food industry ... [are booming] at a time when U.S. consumers face the highest rate of food inflation in almost two decades, along with steep gasoline prices and a sputtering economy."

So what can you find at these preservative-laden store? "Surplus grocers sell 'closeouts,' which include products that manufacturers have discontinued, seasonal items that are outdated and goods that are near the date when manufacturers expect freshness to wane," the Journal article notes. Even though I show my cheap side most in the grocery store -- I'm always looking for sale items when I shop -- I could not bring myself to knowingly purchase something that's already expired. And I know my standards are not extreme relative to my colleagues or other family members. Given this, I suspect that many shoppers at these stores are truly facing tough economic times and aren't just cheap bastards like me. And even if they're not familiar with the term "Stagflation", they're certainly feeling its impact.

Jason Busch

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