Clearance Queen

by Sarah on January 27, 2011 · 10 comments

If you’ve read The Smart Kitchen for even one day, you’ve probably figured out there isn’t much more I love than a good deal. And I find them. A lot.Now, you might think I just get lucky, but I’m pretty sure that I’m King Midas, except that I’m a Queen, and rather than everything I touch turning to gold….well, it all turns to 50% off.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. Except…oh wait…I had literally just picked up this Fage Total 2% yogurt at Sprouts the other day, when a manager came up behind me and said, “I’ll give it to you for 50 cents.”

Ummm….OK. I’ll take two. Thanks.

This was after I had found these little beauties the night before when I made a quick stop at Randall’s on my way home for a fizzy water and some baby carrots (who can say why we crave what we do?).And if you thought my “clearance touch” only extends to dairy products (although that is where most of my magic happens)…Foccacia and Golden Flax Roll-Ups in the bakery section for 99 cents each? Yep. I’ll take both.
One of you commented a gajillion posts back that “Dang girl. You should do shopping-for-clearance-and-inexpensive-items bootcamp.” Since I can’t comment directly on YOUR comments (sad face, forever)…I stored that away and have been thinking about it for awhile.

I don’t know that there really is a secret to it all…but here are a few things I’ve learned and determined as far as the “Secrets of a Clearance Queen.”

Learn to accept the wiggle room in expiration and sell-by dates.

Even professors of food science have said (and I just saw this yet again in the latest issue of Shape) that cottage cheese, yogurt, and eggs are most likely still good for 10 days after the dates on the packaging.

“Sell-by” and “best-buy” do NOT mean that if you eat them after that date you will die. You probably have at LEAST another week after that….things just lose their “freshness.” For example, the Roll-Up wraps above were at their “sell-by” date, but I could have eaten them all week…however, just like with Flat-Outs, I have always liked to freeze them and use them as needed (they are especially good to use for making crackers or pizzas….even if they’ve been frozen).

And if you get something (meat, etc.) in your freezer at home by the sell-by date, you are good to go. :)

Speaking of expiration dates….

Eat foods that HAVE expiration dates.

Foods go on clearance because they are about to be “past their prime.” Highly processed foods have so many preservatives that they will most likely never go bad (at least not before you or I can buy them…).

The best way to try out something a little out of your normal price range is to buy it when it’s on clearance and then you will be forced to sample it right away.I discovered I kind of dig kefir. This only becomes a problem when you realize now you want to buy it and it’s really expensive. [Hence, you keep your fingers crossed for another sale.]

And by the way…

Visit the g-store often. [And yes, I do really like to refer to it as the g-store in both my mind AND conversation.]

The more often you are there, the more likely you’ll catch something on sale. Often times there are special “Manager’s Specials” that happen and aren’t advertised because they realize after the weekly fliers are printed that they have an overstock. Or they receive word that they are no longer going to carry a certain product in the store. That’s how I discovered the beautiful flavor that is Maranatha Honey Almond Butter. [No worries, it is still stocked at Whole Foods.]
Buy seasonal items in the off-season. Not only is this an inexpensive way to indulge in your favorite candy (it still tastes the same no matter what color it’s wrapped in), it is also how I was able to score some seasonal goodies, like holiday blend coffee or my favorite Clif Bars, “for cheap.”

(OK, so 99 cents each is really like an average sale price for these…but whatever. They were charging nearly $2 for them during the holidays.)

Besides, my tastebuds know no season. [And neither does butternut squash…although apparently the grocery store manager thinks so.]

A lot of times, the “clearance touch” is just a stroke of randomness and chance. [But always peruse the shelf of “must get rid of” items that is usually in the back of the store.]

I ended up getting this box of Cinnamon Puffins for 99 cents…
…just because Barbara’s has switched the packaging and so the store had to get rid of the now “outdated” boxes.[Nevermind the fact that, no matter how hard I try, I just never quite understand why people seem to love these so much. It was a 99 cent mistake I could afford to make once again.*]

*And well, I clearly still ate them. No taste does not mean “OK to waste.

Despite the role that the three grocery Fates play, you should still always check the weekly fliers (they are most always online) for non-chance clearance scores…in Austin, if you shop on Wednesdays, when the stores switch over to the next week of deals, you can get the discounts from BOTH weeks. I have been known to strategically time my shopping trips and/or rush to the store late-night on Wednesdays just to take advantage of this or last week’s sale items. (I’m actually considering heading out to Sprouts right now….)

Most importantly…

Don’t be afraid to poke around a little.
Sometimes stores miss that the expiration date is upon is. If it is even one day before, they’ll often give you the discount anyway. When you pick up anything from the dairy case, check the date first, and you might just wind up coming away with 99 cent Voskos [even without your coupons Maria ;)].Me: (with my now-perfected, “aw shucks, aren’t I adorable” grin) These yogurts have an expiration date of the 9th. And I’m pretty sure it’s the 9th, isn’t it? Gosh, I just never even know what day it is sometimes!
Checkout Guy (who practically feels like a member of my family since he’s always there when I am): You’re right, it is the 9th.Me: You think I can get the discount?
CG: Let me call the manager, but I’m sure he’ll give it to you.

Me: You think he’d give me a discount on this tofu that’s expiring today, too?

Of course he did.


That tofu ended up as the base for the Gingerbread Soy “Pudding” I showed you in pictures yesterday. I wish I could say I invented the whole concept, but it is something I was inspired to create from Katie‘s Chocolate-Covered blog. I was doubtful at first, but it is delicious.

For one (large….but not really large enough in my opinion) serving, you need 1/2 block of silken or medium-firm tofu, and a couple of tablespoons of milk of your choice.I go for soy-on-soy…….but in all honesty, once I made it and forgot to add milk and it was still really good, just a little less cream-tastic.

Then, just add sweetener (I used stevia) and vanilla (or maple, even better) extract. Blend.Put it in the fridge to thicken up for a bit…and YUM! [I like mine with extra sugar. :)]It doesn’t taste at all like yogurt, as Katie thought it might, but making it with just sugar and vanilla extract and putting it really close to the freezer in your fridge does result in a flavor akin to the soy frozen yogurt they used to serve in our dining hall in college. And that is a VERY good thing.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristi January 27, 2011 at 7:24 am

I love clearance items. Unfortunately I don't see many clearance items at my grocery store. :(


Michelle @ Housewife in the Raw January 27, 2011 at 7:58 am

I just bought those same Cliff Bars at HEB on clearance too. :) Good tips.


Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free January 27, 2011 at 8:03 am

HOLY CHEESE!!! You are the queen of clearance!!! (Where is that? Germany…hehe…) I should go food shopping with you next time!


molly January 27, 2011 at 9:24 am

you had me at "tastes like the soy frozen yogurt they used to serve in the dining hall in college— ummmm, YUM! i remember that stuff- it tasted like cookie dough somehow!!! i've seen many bloggers make the soy pudding but have always been "weirded out" by silken tofu (it's a texture thing, you know how i am about weird textures… hence i don't do brie or mushrooms or eggplant…weird, i know)…. but when you compared it to that soy frozen yogurt, say no more! i am definitely attempting this weekend!

love & hugs, as always :)


Tricia @ Saving room for dessert January 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

"No taste does not mean "OK to waste."
You and my husband are on the same page! He never throws away anything and looks at expiration dates as suggestions. No leftover is safe at our house. I have to put sticky notes on it if I'm planning another meal out of it or something! Another great post Sarah. I'm in the mood to go to the g-store and negotiate my groceries :)


Maria @ Oh Healthy Day January 27, 2011 at 10:49 am

I'm still working on those coupons!

My sell-by date is how the food looks and smells. Though I usually make Brandon do the smell test just in case.


Eden January 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

Whenever clothes go on clearance, its always something I'd never wear! Like a mumu or snuggie. But I'm not so picky when food goes on clearance! Most coupons dont do me any good, so the clearance section is my friend.


Jen January 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

If you are ever in Michigan, you and your "clearance touch" need to come shopping with me! Awesome deals!!!!



Brittany @ A Healthy Slice of Life January 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm

There is nothing I like more than a savvy shopper (grocery store style!) – what great deals!


Rebeccammendations January 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Those cinnamon puffins are dangerous….


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