In additional to buying wholesale and in bulk, another way to save money on food items is to buy “B-stock” groceries. These are food items that did not pass the rigorous standards of the food manufacturer or retailer, but are still (for the most part) acceptable, safe, and nearly as good as the original item but a whole lot cheaper. In the States, Grocery Outlet is the place to go for “B-stock” pantry items. In Singapore, I go to ValuDollar.
What Makes Groceries B Stock?
As someone who was an insider to this industry (when I was a chemical engineer), I discovered that the vast majority of “B-stock” items are mainly due to damaged packaging or mislabeling. Items whose packaging have scratches, dents, tears, smudges, or other minor imperfections are relegated to “B-stock”. Then they are sold in bulk to a retailer for a steep discount.
[Warning: If you buy a dented can, do make sure the seal of the can is not broken. Although most dented cans are safe and have been inspected for structural integrity, there’s always the slim change that one has damaged seams and is therefore contaminated.]
Other products that end up in the “B-stock” bins include items that are nearing or past their expiration dates. As you may know, some food items are required (by law) to have a expiry date of no more than one or two years, even though in theory many canned food items can last 5 or more years.
And some products, such as wheat, rice, salt, sugar, vinegar and honey, can last indefinitely. These are good to stock up on in an emergency. Because nearly all packaged food items require an expiration date, the foods nearing that date get labelled “B-stock”.
Another common reason an item becomes “B stock” is when the product is being phased out or there is new packaging for the item. Perhaps there was a seasonal flavour that was overproduced and now needs to go on clearance. Manufacturers also may overestimate demand for a new item, or simply overproduce an existing item. These overstock items often become “B stock”.
Just How Much Can You Save at ValuDollar?
Here are some items that I found on sale at ValuDollar. I have also listed the price at NTUC for comparison.
ValuDollar is a great place to stock up on these grocery items, but unfortunately, fresh produce, meats, and dairy are hardly ever discounted in the same way as pantry items are, so you can’t get these at ValuDollar. Some places, like Sheng Siong, will mark down produce that shows signs of damage, such as bruising, but are still safe to eat so long as you remove any superficial mold and thoroughly wash/cook the item on the same day. There are also perfectly good produce items that go on sale simply because they are ugly or misshapened.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a big chain of grocery stores here that sell primarily B-stock groceries along with fresh produce and meats. But with ValuDollar, I’m at least able to save money on pantry and snack items.