A while back someone disparaged Discount Foods Warehouse, my favorite food salvage store until it closed down. I concede that the place was dirty, but I loved to shop there. Discount Foods Warehouse was exhibit A, that, while doing any bargain hunting, it is important to overlook some unappealing aspects of a given venue in order to find hidden gems.
At some estate sales, the house might smell stale, but that doesn't mean there aren't some great buys on tools, even if you wouldn't choose your next set of bed sheets from the musty basement. At Discount Foods, I had absolutely no qualms about going to find what was good. There might be a water-damaged bag of flour (no, thanks), canned food with icky labels (not so bad, since these can be washed), and other things in unopened cases. When I look for deals, I try not to look at the big picture, but look at items on an individual basis. I would ask myself, "Is this bag of split peas usable, or is it unsafe? Is this cheese moldy, or is it good? Is this lemon juice too expired?", not "Is the ambiance nice? Are the shelves organized? Are the surroundings clean?"
When we go to garage sales or thrift stores, we try to find the treasures amidst the junk. It is in junky-looking thrift stores and garage sales that I often find the best items, at the most reasonable prices; conversely, at the so-called "upscale" thrift stores, the prices tend to be more than I'm willing to pay and I walk out empty-handed.
At a food salvage store, armed with the same attitude, I find some write-home-about-it bargains, including Camembert cheese for $1.00/lb. Camembert is pricey stuff, and we would never have purchased it from a normal store, but I got it for far less than even the cheapest processed cheese at Aldi. I find that, because I can spot the good among the bad, I find great things in unexpected places, even Dumpsters and trash piles. Maybe those "shopping" venues aren't for everyone, but it means better availability for those of us with an open mind and a soapy rag.
If you find yourself put off by anything other than typical shopping destinations, just remember that if you open your mind, the dollars will fall in. An item doesn't need to be presented in a lovely showcase for it to be just what you need.