Bargain hunters aren't just using coupons at supermarkets to save a few bucks on groceries. Grocery auctions are becoming more popular as a way to save money in the recession and fight spiraling food prices, and it turns out that the expiration date on many food items doesn't mean that eating it will harm you, according to an Associated Press story.

Some auctioneers even accept food stamps at the sales, which operate like regular auctions, but with bidders going after dry foods and frozen foods instead of antiques and furniture.


Some of the items end up at auction houses because they're out-of-date. But auctioneers stress that they're still OK to eat. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't generally prohibit the sale of food past its sell-by or use-by date. Those are manufacturers' terms that help guide the rotation of shelf stock or indicate the period of best flavor or quality.

A Feb. 9 sell-by date on a bag of frozen pizza bites didn't faze Linda Dennis, a group home manager from Wilkes-Barre.

"The quality and taste may go down, but that doesn't mean you can't eat it," Dennis said.

The food auctions are becoming more popular as people try to stretch their grocery bills. The auctions sell leftover or damaged goods from supermarkets, distribution centers and restaurant suppliers.

At Schleeter's Auction in St. Marys, Ohio, some regulars have told the owner that they now do most of their grocery shopping at the auction and only go to the store for milk and lunch meat. He estimates that his customers can knock 50% off their grocery bills.

Recent deals at a grocery auction included six boxes of frozen broccoli for $2, a 14-pound hunk of pork ribs for $20, 10 Baby Ruth candy bars for $2, and a variety of frozen foods.

Schleeter's Auction's next grocery auction is June 6. Col. Kirk's Auction Gallery in Millville, PA., is having a grocery auction on April 4.

Kirk's Web site reminds buyers that restaurant owners are welcome. Whatever restaurants buy their food at auction must offer some great deals on meals. Follow those trucks home.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.AaronCrowe.net


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