Best Grocery: To stock a frugal pantry
Let's face it: Groceries are expensive, and if you're squeezing every dime, what better place to do it than the Grocery Outlet, affectionately known to wiseguys as the Gross-Out. Founded in San Francisco in the 1940s as a warehouse overstock discounter, the chain promises "bargains only!" and swears every trip is a treasure hunt, since its selection is determined randomly by product surplus. You can stock up on cheap discontinued favorites or otherwise-pricey items such as breakfast cereals if you don't mind an encroaching expiration. You really never know what you'll find -- products tend to be brand-name knockoffs and the ultrageneric, such as boxes simply stamped "no name honey graham wafers." You'll often find familiar names in the form of outdated diet trends (Liptons' Carb Options soup mix), products that just never caught on (Spam singles) and ill-received ventures into new territory (Carnation-brand tuna? Jolly Rancher gelatin cups? Cashew Roca?) This is also the place to scope abandoned promotional oddities, such as a double-wide box of Cocoa Pebbles with a racecar-themed bowl embedded in the middle, a concept originally commissioned by Target, apparently. And no worries, the holidays are never over at Grocery Outlet -- there's still plenty of pumpkin pie filling, squeezable cranberry sauce, and Valentine-themed red velvet cake mix. Just be sure to check that date stamp.