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Hipsters to the Rescue: What do YOU do When You Purchase Expired Items?!

1:37 PM MST
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

Check out this email that I received from Hip2Save reader, Fran…


I was reading comments on the Rite Aid Gerber post where readers are talking about wasting money on bad or expired products. Why would anyone “waste” their money? Why wouldn’t they just return the bad or expired for a good product?

Some stores, like Acme and Bottom Dollar have a double money back guarantee. Acme has Fresh or Free – Guaranteed Twice. They will replace your product plus refund your money and Bottom Dollar does the same thing. The reason I’m telling you this is I think this would be a good post “What do you do when you purchase expired or bad products?”

I think this post will be very helpful to your readers. After all, HIP is about saving money, right?

So with that being said, what do you do when you get home and find that products you just purchased are expired or bad? Do you toss them? Do you return to the store and ask for a refund? Please share your thoughts with us!

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  • Mel says:

    I bought 3 bags of pretzel M&M’s at Rite Aid. They tasted stale but I couldn’t find a date on them. I looked inside the package because there were codes for a movie promo and that promo ended 12-2011!!!! I called Rite Aid & they said I can return them but the Mgr. said it’s really hard for them to rotate stock without an expiration date.

    • Li says:

      I purchased a pie at Winco and the sticker on the pie said 7/12 – did not say expires on 7/12 or best by 7/12 – just the date. Well we bought the pie on 7/12 so I thought that it meant made on 7/12. Within 24 hours it started sprouting mold. I took a picture of it and then called Winco. I told them I wouldn’t be at their store for at least a week. I saved the pie and took it in with my receipt a week later and they had no problems refunding my money. The reason I waited was because I didn’t want to waste gas going to the next town for a $3.99 pie. Definitely call the store and let them know and get a name and date/time you talked to that person. I won’t rush back cuz I hate wasting gas.

  • janel says:

    Return it…

  • Bella says:

    I have purchased items before that were expired so now I try to only shop when I am not in a hurry (of course that is more difficult for some with large families/demanding jobs, etc.)…I don’t worry as much about cereal, pasta, chips…stuff like that but I make sure I definitely check out the dates on meat and dairy. Too many times have I noticed that stores do not rotate their products.
    Not to take this discussion in a different direction – maybe it could be saved for another day but what do you do when you get home and notice you were charged more (or less) for an item? Either the sale price didn’t ring up correctly or a clearance item (such as food) that was marked down on the package didn’t scan properly. Do you return it? Call the store? Take it back?

    • Ashley says:

      I always try to check my receipt before leaving the store, then take it to the service desk if I find an error. However, sometimes I forget or just don’t have time, so I will generally take it back to the store on my next trip and get the correct price.

      • Valerie says:

        I do the same thing. I try to check in the parking lot but sometimes I forget or don’t have time. I just make sure to bring my receipt and anything I have with the actual price, usually a print out of my savings card list, and go to customer service desk the next time I’m there. I think they are sick of seeing me, but I’m sick of being overcharged so it goes both ways. I never used to check and now I do every time. I wonder how much money I’ve lost in the past by not looking.
        The worst one I ever found was she put in the wrong code for 3 mangoes that were supposed to be $1 each. Instead I was charged over $27!!! Always check your receipt.

  • shopngeek says:

    Normally I would check the expiration date before checking out, sometime you have to look through the aisle to find the newest one :P (they would put the expiring item in the front but newest one at back). Occasionally when I got expired product I would just return it for a refund or exchange. Never get a double money back though.

  • Karen says:

    Definitely return.

  • Queenjen87 says:

    Yeah, my rite aid is coupon friendly, but their return policy stinks! If you use ups or coupons to pay, you only get what you actually paid back. Grr

  • Laurie says:

    I have never bought anything that has expired. Since I shop Aldi’s all the time everything is always fresh. My local store goes through huge inventory everyday. Nothing sits on the shelves even non perishable food for more than a week. It is so interesting to talk with the employees and managers to really see how everything is run.

  • Cindy says:

    It happened to me recently at one of my local Publix’s. I suppose they were forgetful about inventory, but I bought 4 boxes of Bagelfuls on a BOGO sale… Two similar items (flavors in this case) were expired while the other two different ones were fine. They’re still sitting in my freezer. Thankfully they’re not THAT expired and since they’re frozen and not fresh, it doesn’t matter too much to me (I’ve eaten all sorts of things and turned out fine lol). I thought about returning it for a refund, but I’m too lazy, and I really can’t be bothered. Considering I paid less than $3 or so for 4 boxes, I’m just going to let it slide this time. Unless it was something I paid a good amount of money for, it’s just not worth the time and gas money to go back and ask for a refund or an exchange.

  • Andrea says:

    If it is expired enough that I will not be able to use it I will return it. Often I will call the store and tell them as it may take a day or 2 for me to get back to the store. That way they know I am not trying to pull anything shady. I have also gone back when I have been mischarged for an item. I manage my funds down to the penny and every one of them counts these days!

  • Mara says:

    It’s rare that I purchase something expired. My mother-in-law taught me to check dates before putting them in the cart. I was a fast shopper so her telling me to slow down is a no brainier to everyone except me since I’m always busy. However, it has been a few and I mean a few occasions when I have purchased an expired item. With that said whether it was Walmart or Target they have been very nice about it and allowed me to exchange even without a receipt. However, I once purchased a tree from Lowe’s and it had disease. We ended having to burn it because we planted it and realized it had a lot of bugs & worms in it. We were afraid of plague to other trees. Lowe’s said to bring the burnt tree back. I felt bad so I didn’t. Thought we should have done it before hand but I couldn’t see myself carrying a diseased tree back to the store.

  • Rita says:

    I set the item aside with the receipt and take it back to the store on my next visit. I have NEVER had a problem returning anything that was expired. (When I’m shopping and notice something expired I always take it to the customer service counter to insure that no one buys an expired item – its a karma related thing).

    • cathycampo says:

      I try to check the expiration date before I put the item in my cart. Otherwise I show an item to an employee nearby to clear the shelf ASAP. Employees at Safeway respond right away. Employees at Fresh and Easy leave the expired items on the shelf! I know because a year ago, I showed yogurt to an employee saying all of them were old and should be removed. I needed to buy other items the next day and casually looked at yogurts again, and saw them still sitting there! I never shopped there again. For returns, Safeway wants item returned the same day for refund or exchange.

  • jennifer says:

    I found that with Rite Aid stuff was expired and I just let them know or brought the expired ones to them. Most places I don’t check but rite aid I do. Also depending on what it is I will still eat it.

  • Laura E says:

    I throw it out or I call the company.

  • Bea says:

    I don’t hesitate to use canned goods a bit beyond expiration dates, however, if fresh items like dairy or meat are spoiled I do return them and have had good experience with that. Once had a turkey that smelt so bad cooking it had to be taken outside after an hour of baking. The store said a few bad birds are common -especially when they sell a bulk of them around the holidays. They were great about letting me pick any turkey out for free as well as refunding the money for the original bird. I contact the manufacturer for things that are outside of control of the store. I recently found rice sized bone bits in a name brand sausage. After contact with the rep, providing packaging information, they sent me several free product coupons. (This was fabulous as I redeemed them later on a BOGO promotion, thus making all items free!) Picking out good fruit/vegetables is my problem and I have come home with mealy watermelon, internally bruised plums, bitter lettuce, etc. I chalk this up to experience and try to be more careful in the future and buy precut watermelon, less of an item, and smell the produce.

  • J says:

    I have bought expired yogurt a few times always trix brand. Bilo did a double refund and pulled the rest off the shelf. WALMART on the other hand was rude and didn’t believe I bought it there it was a month out of date. They did return it and when I went to buy a new pack it was all expired the manager just shrugged it off.
    .go figure

  • anon. says:

    i used to work for walgreens as an assistant mgr and my departments to maintain were the cooler and food aisles. i have to say, i was ALWAYS checking because it was MY responsibility and i would be so embarrassed if someone found something expired. i was constantly cleaning the shelves, etc and maintained it like it was my own house.

    sometimes i would have to work other store locations when someone called in sick and i would always check their expiration in those departments. i was AMAZED at how gross stores were! i would find bottles of juice shoved to the back of the shelf 2 years expired, soup cans and dried fruit up to 4 years expired and once i found something SEVEN YEARS expired. same went for medications.

    now i don’t buy anything without checking the date first. i you ever see dirty shelves, i would just avoid their food all together. because if the shelves are gross, you should see the nastiness in the stockrooms…..

  • Delaina910 says:

    Some foods are still safe to eat after certain dates. Here is a good (reputable) article on this from

  • Delaina910 says:

    P.S. Certain stores will mark food that will expire soon down to 50% off. I go ahead and buy these items and then freeze them if I’m able or simply eat based on guidelines as stated in above link. If something is obviously rancid and it may be the store’s blunder, I would be all means notify and ask for a replacement. Safety of others may be at stake there, which would also be a main area of concern in that case.

    • Nina says:

      I sometimes buy the day old bread and freeze it, it tastes just the same when you thaw it out and its much cheaper! I like the mini bread bowls for soups!!

  • AC says:

    Though it might be frowned upon by others, practically anything that is frozen or packaged can be consumed past expiry. Unless its open, refrigerated, or perishable, you can keep it far beyond the expiration. Remember when your grandma used to can/jar vegetables? Same thing applies to vacuum sealed products.

  • Jamie says:

    The Commissary is notorious for having expired items, I always always always check those dates because I have been burned by it before.

  • tracy says:

    Walmart produce is the place to shop if you want expired items. Is it only my experience that Walmart fruits and veggies go bad overnight?

  • jess says:

    There are actually stores that sell, damaged,expired food such as canned an boxed. I asked them and they said that there is a limit to how far expired it can be before the FDA would require them to toss it. Discount grocery or the local one here i called nick n dents.

    • Jenn says:

      I buy expired foods at these store – usually things like cereal or granola bars. They are usually only expired by a week. That’s fine.

      If I buy something like expired hot dogs from the “real” grocery store I will return them to the store if I can. Since I live out of town I have called the companies before and they send me a free product coupon. I think it’s the stores responsibility but I’m not going to waste the gas money. The company can nag the grocery store if they want.

  • Linda says:

    I used to shop at my local Bel-Air, however when I tried to return (the same day mind you) some Hillshire Farms lunch meat that was expired they told me that they could not take back perishable items, in a not so nice tone of voice either. I showed them my receipt, explained that I had just purchased the item that morning not realizing that it was expired and they still wouldn’t let me return it. Said I should be more careful about checking dates laughing at me as they walked off. Yeah, well they lost not only my business, but that of several others when I posted my experience on their Facebook page. I also called the manufacturer to let them know about the experience as well as the Department of Consumer affairs. I know, a lot of effort for some $2.50 lunch meat, but seriously.

    Turns out one voice can make a difference because the general manager personally came to see me and brought all kinds of coupons and other swag. Too little too late. They lost me as a customer because of how they treated me in front of other customers.

    Other than that, I try to check the dates and if by chance I do buy something that is expired, I try to go back that same day to return it…or call them at the very least.

  • Andrew says:

    I always look at the dates of the products. Recent Wags visit was almost a bust because of the bad M&M dates. If I come back to that store and still see the same product from Sunday on the shelf, I will alert them.

    My local Kmart has a short date area where the stuff is marked 25-75% depending on when it will expire.

    If I ever buy expired food, I’ll return back to the store and demand my money back plus some. Customer is always right.
    I’m pretty sure selling expired food is illegal. If it was baby formula, the store manager would be arrested on the spot. That’s the law,

    • michelle says:

      ^^Seriously? Where do you live? That is just ridiculous and I have never heard anything like that before. What would the crime be? Give me a break.

      • Cara says:

        He said its illegal to sell expired baby formula and in California, that’s true. There is a representative in the House of Representatives trying to get a bill passed to make it illegal everywhere. Formula is one of the few things the FDA regulates sell by dates on. A quick google search before acting like someone is an idiot would probably be a good idea next time.

      • Andrew says:

        According to NJ state law, selling expired baby formula is punishable by being arrested.
        It wouldn’t be me calling the cops, it would inspector on the site. They would have the right to arrest whoever store manager on duty for negligence. The local newspaper had a story months ago about how Kmart was fined heavily for selling expired formula.

      • Jenn says:

        Haha! That’s so ridiculous it’s funny. I’d love to hear you call up the cops to arrest a store manger for selling expired food.
        Also, the customer is not always right. Get a job in customer service and you’d lose your entitled attitude in a jiffy! ;)

    • santha says:

      I work at Wags, if we are caught with expired baby formula it is instant termination for our store manager, our Sba and any BA who has signed off on the check list on who has checked the formula for the month. ( the Sba and the Ba because baby formula is in their dept.). I have never heard of any arrests but who knows.

  • Donna Shelley says:

    I return the item. But this has made me wonder exactly what the stores i purchase from have as their “policy” on this. Many of them keep that quiet so if the returner does not mention this policy then they just receive their refund.

  • Jenn @ Spend Less, Shop More says:

    Our local grocery chain (HEB) offers a Fresh or Free policy — if you find an expired item in the store, you can get one of the same item that’s in date for free when you bring the expired item to the cash register! Needless to say, it’s a very popular policy with couponers, and it cuts way down on the possibility of accidentally buying an expired item.

    • Maggie says:

      I did not know that HEB had that policy. I purchased some lunchmeat there that was expired. I went back the same day in the afternoon, and asked if I could exchange it and they did not mention the “free” policy. After that I started paying attention to their expiration dates and some items in the fridge show that they expired a month or so…
      Of topic – Sometimes I have problems with HEB cashiers with printed coupons, so it’s not my favorite store…

  • spi_cy13 says:

    Selling expired things is a fairly common practice at my local Kroger. I have purchased (inadvertently) expired boxes of cereal from Kroger. When I found out about it, I exchanged the expired cereal for fresh ones. To help avoid this, I check the expiration date before purchasing and try not to shop in a hurry.

  • Amanda says:

    It doesn’t really happen to me because I always make it a point to check expiration dates!! Why wouldn’t you? Even lots of non-food items have expiration dates. I also always check my receipt before leaving the store to make sure everything rang up properly and all the coupons came off. But I also don’t have a child trying to drag me out of the store either! I’m not sure what you can do in that case. I always take a long time in the stores, even when I *think* it will be a quick trip. That is the one thing I hate about my couponing.

  • paige says:

    i took my items back to my local food lion and they let me get new items, if im not mistaken i believe they told me to check my items before i took them off the shelf, which i am laughing about now lol

  • Beth says:

    In California, CVS has to give you a $2 courtesy coupon for expired products. I think they limit it to once per visit but there were times in the past that I’d find multiple items and get multiple $2 courtesy coupons for my trouble.

  • Tammy says:

    I return all expired items to the store for replacement or refund. I usually call first to notify customer service of the issue.

  • Donna says:

    Earlier this year I bought a large ham at Sams Club that I noticed was 10 days expired when I got it home. You can bet I brought it back, it was over 30 dollars! Also, at Walmart I bought a jar of a brand name Cherry Jam that I found mold growing on when opened. It was not expired. Going through the return line at Walmart is a nightmare, (maybe to discourage people from returning items?), so I just threw the jam out. The next jar I bought was also molded even though the jar was properly sealed so I took it back with the receipt. The person at the service desk acted like she didn’t believe me even though I showed her the mold. She seemed very irritated that I bothered to return it and told me she couldn’t refund the money, only store credit because it was a food item. I said fine, but I was opening any future jars before I leave the store. I was at all times very polite to her and do not understand the attitude. After reading the other comments I will also be checking the dates on all the food, not just milk and eggs. Luckily I have not had any more problems with molded jam. Cherry Jam rocks!

    • lacy says:

      Just a friendly note… jams and jellies don’t mold. They grow yeast, and it is completely harmless to scrape it off the top and continue to use it as normal. I knew that seems suspect, but it really is safe. Also, it isn’t necessarily an indicator that the food has gone bad, it’sjust being nature… because honestly, if bacteria, molds, and yeasts dint want the food I’m putting into my body, neither do I! Hope I’m not offending you, I just went to culinary school and ess hoping to put your mind at ease a bit :-)

  • Nikki says:

    Here where I live (Bristol, Indiana), we have a nice chain of stores called Martin’s Supermarkets. I’ve had quite a few issues with different things over the years- meat that smelled bad before its sell by date, products that expired before I bought them, etc. Every single time they were happy to let me exchange them for a new one. I think it’s worth a shot. Groceries aren’t cheap!

  • TnM_Travel says:

    Return it. I bought mayo at Target earlier this year, and they took it back without any issues.

  • Lucy says:

    I return the item on my next shopping trip.

  • T.S. says:

    I return it for sure! I don’t waste a cent!

  • Lucy says:

    I return it on my next shopping trip.

  • sue says:

    I always check for the expiration date and if I can’t find it, I don’t buy it. Also always check your receipt before leaving the store to make sure the price rang up correctly or use self check out if possible that way you can check the price of each item. But the other thing I have noticed is make sure the cashier gives you the correct change back . I have had a problem with this recently from more then one store and have to question if it’s being done on purpose.

  • AnnaMarie says:

    It depends on the item. If I buy fresh meat, I expect it to be fresh and will return it if not.

    I work retail and I am in charge of the food department at my store. I work my Dated Items listing religiously to try to get the products marked down and sold before the sell by/expiration date. I also buy a large volume of the marked down products myself. When I can pay .65 for a large case of Oreo cookies just because the sell by date is there or past, I love taking advantage of that. The USDA website will tell you how long the items are good past the sell by date. Most shelf stable items are good for nearly 2 more years.

    I have a huge stockpile at home and I recently found a jar of peanut butter that had a date of Aug 2011. I popped it open and had a spoonful. Still tasty, might make some cookies with it, Cake Frosting or add it to some icecream. When I intentionally buy marked down expired cake mixes I will bake a cake and if it taste good but does not rise properly I use any remaining boxes for cookies or pancakes. The company websites always have plenty of recipes for alternate use of a product.

    I buy a lot of candy at or past their date and use it to make other things. Bite size bars can go into the middle of cupcakes, mixed into icecream Blizzard style, or melted down for fudge or fudge topping.

  • Liz says:

    I check it out on there sre a lot of things that sre still good past their expiration dates.

  • Sonya says:

    I first call the 800 number for the company & give all of the information from the product package. Many times they ( the company ) will enforce policies, such as better product stock rotation, faster than the local management at the store. Often, I get coupons direct from the manufacturer. Then I always return the product, no matter what it is or how much I paid for it.

    Just think of how much money the stores make from people don’t return bad products…

  • abby says:

    I eat it! Salad dressing is 2 years old, tuna is 4 months old, etc. The only time I care is with vegetables, meat and fruit.

  • nicole says:

    Normally I try to return an item but once I bought baby formula, a lot of it, and didn’t think to check the date immediately. well, I always check the date prior to opening and giving to my child and these were all similac premix that expired a year before! this called for a phone call to the store and corporate. I went in for a refund and checked the shelf again and they were all expired. no one even went back there and checked the dates and it had been three days since I called.

  • Alexis says:

    Return it immediately! I purchased a gallon of milk from Family Dollar one day because it was right around the corner from my home, and I needed it quickly. Once I got home and gave some to my daughter in her sippy cup, she kept spitting it out. I looked at the date and took it right back. The gave me a refund but left all of the expired milk in the refrigerator. I know because I went back the next evening out of curiousity.

  • Julie says:

    I return them; I’m always nice/polite and I tell the customer service rep I know it’s not their fault. I just take a “Things happen!” approach and I have always been able to swap for the same or similar product right away. It has also helped me to call the store before hand and give them a headsup.

    I bought a box of Mini-Moos creamers at Kroger b/c we were moving, clearing the fridge, wanted shelf-stable coffee creamer. Dumped one into coffee the next morning; it looked like I poured curds into it. A 2nd did the same. This was weird b/c the product was IN-DATE. It was CLOSE, but not expired. I took the box back and explained what happened. They didn’t even ask to open one or check but they did have the stock boy pull ALL that had that same (still good) date. I got a swap. WEIRD,

    Another time I bought a gallon of organic milk. It was wet on the bottom but I thought it was condensation. By the time we got the bag home, there was an INCH of milk in it! I then opened the cap (*doh*) thinking we’d just pour the rest into a pitcher. But I guess the leak had made it go BAD also, even tho it was in-date. I called Kroger and explained it to them; the lady was kinda skeptical especially when I said we’d opened the cap, but at the store they let me swap it.

  • thejoyouspath says:

    Last week, I purchased Meijer brand chicken tenders. They tasted horrible and when I looked at the ingredients, I noticed that they had hydrolyzed soy protein in them, in addition to the chicken. Gross. They were not expired, but they were definitely a “waste” of money. I took them back to the store and got my money back! Meijer always stands by their products, by the way, so you never have to worry about trying a new product and not liking it.

  • Ashley R says:

    i’d vote if I still have that receipt, return

  • lacie says:

    I have recently had a bad experience with expired product. My daughter who is 2 nearly 3 has been on enfagrow ready made milk drinks since she was barley 2. I like to buy them since they are good for her and also I can carry them around without having to refrigerate them. also there are always coupons for them so they aren’t usually as expensive. Many cons for this product.. since she is still wanting to drink milk at every meal.. etc.. Well I went to my good old walmart… and got 6 packs ( which is what I normally get) of these drinks, I put one container into the fridge and the rest in my stock shelves. Well she had drank two of these and I noticed she was sick to her stomach… not waiting to finish the drink… throwing up and had the scoots. My daughter always drinks all of her milk and is a very healthy kiddo.. So I took one of the drinks from the refrigerator and poured it into a glass .. Well.. It came out clumpy…. It was nasty as can be. So I took another from a different package and same darn thing!!! No wonder she wouldn’t drink the darn thing it was sick. I then freaked out when I took ALL the rest of these boxes out of the store room and they ALL had expired 6 months ago!!!! I was furious, I called enfragrow, They made it right,.. they sent me two cartons of the item free. along with a few coupons for money off. and also send a post card a week later making sure Mira (my daughter) was ok. They also told me to connect with the manager at the walmart.. I did and the manager while on the phone to me had to go and pull more off the shelf.. He thanked me and when I got back into town (I live 45 minutes from a store) he offered me a 40$ gift card for the product and the gas to come in. Now I am glad they did what was right.. but still My kid got sick from this crap…. and by law they are to check for expired product! Just for this reason! anyways.. I ALWAYS NOW check everything I put into my cart….

  • krj says:

    Well…this is timely..I was in Walgreens this morning and when I selected a carton of a dozen eggs-I noticed a couple of the cartons had expired a couple of days ago. I meant to say something to the person at check-out but completely forgot until reading this post. I just retrieved my receipt from the shred pile and called the store. The person who answered was very courteous and apologized and said she would go look at the remaining cartons immediately.

  • Jeremy says:

    My newborn twins starting getting sick so we checked dates on the formula and it had been expired for 6 months! So we called Sams and they gave us new formula but as far as the claims department they have gave us the run around for the last 2 months. What should we do? We have taken every step necessary as we shipped it to Gerber to be tested luckily nothing was wrong with it, but I still feel upset this was overlooked at my brand new local Sams club.

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