Bad Food from the Grocery Store: Do You Return or Toss?

woman smelling bad food

This hasn’t been a great shopping week for me. 

First, we got overcharged several times at different stores.

Then my ‘sale’ items didn’t ring up correctly as I went through self-checkout, and you know what that means: the computer voice telling me to wait, I need help; the helper assisting someone who really should have just gone through the regular checkout line because said person didn’t know how to operate self-checkout; too much time spent waiting on assistance, which meant the kids had touched and sniffed every candy bar within a two-aisle radius and, therefore, had begun wrestling in the middle of  the floor; and me, frazzled and frustrated and ready to ditch everything in my cart and leave.

Which, maybe I should have done. 

When I got home and opened the ‘fresh’ bag of coffee I’d just purchased, I inhaled the scent of not aromatic coffee beans but, well, dead rat. So I did what all good wives do. I called in hubby and said, “Smell this. Does it smell bad to you?” 

Hubby responded with something short of fainting and suggested I toss it in the trash.

It’s not the first time I’ve gotten ‘bad food.’ The other day I purchased strawberries that, by the next morning, had grown fuzzies on their skin. I’ve gotten meat that smelled rank when I opened the package, despite a good sell-by date, and stale bread – in fact, just a few days after the rotten coffee.

If I lived closer to the store, I’d put it back in the car, drive it over right away, and replace the item. As it is, the closest grocery store is a good ten minutes and the one I normally shop is closer to twenty. With gas at $3.50 or so per gallon, I feel I waste more in fuel to get to the store to return the item than I do by just dropping it in the trash. And who wants rotten meat in the fridge for a week until the next shopping trip?

The one time I put yucky meat back in the freezer because I wanted to return it but didn’t want to take it back until my next shopping trip, I worried I’d forget which package was rotten and unthaw it again. I marked it as a reminder, and then I forgot I had it; a few months later, I tossed it in the trash.
But I know this is wasting money. The coffee, though on sale, wasn’t at its lowest price, and meat is never cheap to throw out. I need to make a better effort of taking the yucky food back to the store and asking for an exchange or my money back. But I need a better system for doing so. 

The coffee is on the counter until tomorrow, when I grocery shop. One week later, I will return it to the store and let them take a whiff. If they don’t pass out, I’ll request my money back or an even exchange. 

How do you handle getting bad food from the grocery store? Do you hang on to it until you return and then exchange it? Do you make a special trip to the store to do so? Or do you toss it in the trash and chalk it up to lost money? 

What do you think?

Bad Food from the Grocery Store: Do You Return or Toss?

Kathy Murdock works as a full time writer and web designer. Recently planted in the middle of the deep south from the busy streets of Los Angeles, when she's not coding Wordpress websites or writing about women in business and thrifty motherhood, Kathy spends time photographing alligators, playing with her family, and running. ... More

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  1. Profile photo of FNLBird FNLBird says:

    I would definately return the item but, why waste gas unless the item is needed at the moment (return it when convienient to myself is my thought (within reason)? Also, I have written the company and sent receipts for refund.

  2. Profile photo of kristina kristina says:

    So far the only bad thing I got was some pre-packaged fish which I called the maker and had them give me full refund. (By mail) Then toss the package.

  3. Profile photo of Valerie Valerie says:

    I would at least call the store (if you can’t go back that day) the moment you discover the bad food they will usually work with you, and this also helps them know what is going on. I have had this problem and I called the store they then told me to dispose of the food and bring my receipt with me on my next trip and they will refund or replace said item. If it is a corporate store like Wal-mart and this is a common problem I would definitely get in touch with corporate headquarters. It sounds as if some quality control program needs to be better reinforced.

  4. Profile photo of Tiffany Tiffany says:

    I’d return the next time you go to the store or in the area. You paid for it and should get the product you expect to get. I’ve worked at Wal-Mart and I must say that most workers don’t rotate products. The meat and dairy department did it more since they have strictor regulations, but I still always check dates. There have been a lot of times that there have been expired cheese, cereal, etc. Sometimes it has to do with the vendors too as I almost walked away with expired crackers i fI wouldn’t have double checked. I’m a cheap person though and ever dollar counts.

  5. Profile photo of Holly Holly says:

    I have an even worse story. My toddler consumes the Gerber yogurt at least once a day, it’s nearly an addiction, but it’s good for him, and since he’s not much of a meat eater, the pediatrician encourages for the protein. Okay, so we give him plenty. We probably go through at least 2-4pks a week. At our local Kroger, we picked up 2 packs, which is our usual. We picked it up on a Monday evening. The first pack was gone by Thursday(I checked those in the recycling after I discovered the date on the other ones, they were fine). On Friday, with breakfast, second pack opened. Plain mixed grain baby cereal which he still loves, milk and a cop of yogurt. A couple hrs later, not long before his next meal, he vomits…a lot. He was 21 months at the time, and had only vomited one other time. I couldn’t figure out what happened. No temp, no unusual food, nothing out of the ordinary. The next morning, my happy little boy wants his yogurt, I grab a container, and notice the expiration… expired 5 weeks before! I gave my little one an expired dairy product….not a proud moment, but I trusted Kroger to keep expired products off the shelf. The manager, not the assistant manager, got an earful. And we exchanged it for an non-expired one. I was furious…they made my baby throw up, something he just doesn’t do hardly ever, because…as the manager admitted rather sheepishly, some of their employees are a little lax. I suggested new employees, or he himself needed to get in the baby aisle, and check the baby yogurt to make sure it didn’t happen to another baby, and he did just that.

  6. Profile photo of bethpacas bethpacas says:

    My store will not only replace the item but also gives me my money back on the item.

  7. if this is an on going thing at the store you shop at(and yes i know you live far from said store) but id find a new one to go to…but first would make it a point to go over to said store and do some rightfull complaining and tell them they just lost a customer due to there poor food that doesnt stay fresh, you are probly not the only one getting bad things from that store and likely there are others…

  8. Profile photo of United United says:

    i work at walmart and i would take it back if for nothing else than so the store knows that this particular item needs to be investigated further

  9. Profile photo of dschlitter dschlitter says:

    This doesn’t happen to me very often. However when it does I usually just throw it out.

  10. Profile photo of Keydi80 Keydi80 says:

    I take back bad food I paid for your product to be good and it’s not I need a refund and to speak to your store manager…..

  11. Never had that problem before. Yet, anyways… I usually check the dates and the color of the foods (like meats and vegies). I agree with Mida, change stores if you can. I know it takes time to look for dates and see if the coloring of the food looks good espacially with children. If you can, ask your husband or someone to watch the kids while you go, so that you can make sure everything looks fresh or up to date. Hope this helps and good luck!

  12. Profile photo of mida mida says:

    another think to help you its change the store. try another store to shop because some store dont have good quality product.

  13. Profile photo of mida mida says:

    so far i have no problem, but before i buy I check the date and make sure its seal. Also I dont buy a lot only week worth of grocery. if it goes bad its goes in the trash its not worth it to go the the store unless is very expensive like shrimp, steak or fish. I been luck so far.

  14. Thankfully I never had that experience before, but with this economy it will definitely hurt to toss food in the trash, but as you mention gas is expensive so I would just throw it away and next time make sure I double check dates, the appearance and freshness of what I buy. I am sorry you had to go through this experience.


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