Shoppers at Crazy Groceries

Shopping for “Best Before” Deals at Crazy Groceries

Several weeks ago I was ranting on Facebook about Black Friday. My friend Josef, also an American living in Joburg (in fact Josef and I grew up in neighboring towns outside Baltimore, Maryland), commented he doesn’t bother with Black Friday because he finds way better deals year-round at Crazy Groceries.

Black Friday is a hot Facebook topic, and my rant elicited dozens of comments. But Josef’s caught my attention.

“Crazy Groceries?” I asked. “What’s that?”

I was in for a treat.

Outside Crazy GroceriesOutside Crazy Groceries, in the blandest of bland Joburg shopping centers off Malibongwe Drive in Strijdom Park.

Crazy Groceries is, of course, a grocery store. But it stands apart from other grocery stores in that: 1) everything sold there is non-perishable; and 2) most of the products are past their “best before” dates.

Best before signs in Crazy GroceriesBest before warnings at Crazy Groceries.

As I understand it, “best before” dates are different from “sell by” dates. None of the products at Crazy Groceries are fresh or perishable, hence they can’t actually rot or make you sick just because the best before date has passed.

(Incidentally, there is a lot of debate about sell by dates and best before dates and whether they mean anything at all, ever. Check out this episode of one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible, for more on the subject.)

So some of Crazy Groceries’ groceries are a bit past their prime. So what? We live in a post-ageist society. Old, young, or somewhere in between, the array of Crazy Groceries products is always changing, always new. And best of all, everything is discounted.

Monday Afternoon at Crazy Groceries

Crazy Groceries is slightly tricky to find. Strijdom Park is one of those bland, industrial suburbs on the outskirts of every big city — a busy, four-lane highway flanked by shopping centers three-deep on each side, with street vendors wandering between cars in the traffic selling cokes, hats, remote-control cars, pumice stones, and everything in between.

It took Marie-Lais and me a few minutes to find the tiny Pheonix Centre amidst the Malibongwe Drive melee (luckily Josef told me Crazy Groceries is next to Luv Land — a popular porn shop — and those are always easy to spot), and then a few more minutes to actually manoeuvre through a series of connecting parking lots to reach it.

Marie-Lais and I went to Crazy Groceries because we both wanted to write about it; I hadn’t planned to shop. How naive I was.

Shoppers at Crazy GroceriesA long shelf filled with cleaning products and toiletries in Crazy Groceries.

Christmas-themed toilet paper at Crazy GroceriesA nine-pack of two-ply toilet paper for R44 ($3.50). The same toilet paper at Spar costs R60. I guess it’s a reject because of the Christmas theme, although oddly it is the Christmas season now. And the holiday picture is only on the package, anyway — the toilet roll itself is plain white. I bought one.

The other cool thing about Crazy Groceries is the eclectic international nature of its selection, with lots of imported foods not easily available in normal grocery stores. I spotted cans and jars from the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Thailand, Mexico, and many more.

Mixed pickle from Crazy GroceriesMysterious mixed pickle.

Golden syrup from Crazy GroceriesI have no idea what this is but I like the look of it, and a can costs less than $1.

Apparently Crazy Groceries receives big pallets full of merchandise and they never know exactly what they’ll get. As Josef said, it’s like a lucky packet of groceries.

I like that Crazy Groceries is selling merchandise that would otherwise be thrown away and end up landfills. And I like that it’s a small, family-owned business.

Inside Crazy GroceriesMarlene, behind the counter, is the sister of the owner.

Here’s what I came away with:

What I bought at Crazy GroceriesA nine-pack of toilet paper, two cans of black beans (hard to find in South Africa), a box of Italian pasta, two packs of dried cranberries, a bag of banana chips, 20 off-brand ziplock bags, two toothbrushes, a tube of Colgate, three snack-sized packs of mixed nuts, and a jar of spicy mustard. I spent R204, or about $16.

‘Tis the season when we’re all broke, so there’s no better time for Crazy Groceries. I think they sell school supplies, too. So get out there before everyone comes back from holiday, while the traffic on Malibongwe is less unbearable.

Crazy Groceries is at Shop No. 718 Phoenix Centre, Malibongwe Drive, Strijdom Park. Call +27-11-791-3140.

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14 Comments

  • Reply Brenda R December 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    You’ve lived all this time in SA and you haven’t met Lyle’s Golden Syrup before? Amazing! They used to try and tell us Americans that it was better than maple syrup. It’s NOT but it has its own thick taste.

    • Reply 2summers December 26, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      I think that’s why I ultimately didn’t buy any. I figured it couldn’t be as good as maple syrup 😂

      • Reply catji December 27, 2017 at 10:41 am

        🙂 ok, Lyles was […is?] *the* brand of golden syrup. (CANE syrup!) British brand. And they kept the old style logo, the can label. (I hate when old brands change that, everyone does.)

        However. 🙂 It’s a “matter of taste,” i suppose, but long ago, i decided that the good old Illovo syrup is better – it’s a dark reddish colour. (There are 2, one is called “Traditional,” it’s the dark reddish one.)

        “Peanut butter and jelly”? The SA equivalent is peanut butter and syrup. A “working class” staple since forever. And it’s also used with the corn porridge.
        So, if you’re a “peanut butter and jelly” person…try it. 🙂 Although note that most peanut butter now is sweetened, so…? But there are two brands of peanut butter that have unsweetened “original” versions.

        • Reply 2summers December 27, 2017 at 10:44 am

          Thanks so much for the background. Funny how a simple picture of a can of food can generate so much interesting discussion! I have ‘golden syrup’ threads going on Facebook and Twitter too 🙂

  • Reply Christie Collier-Mann December 26, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    There’s a new shop called Best Before in Sandton too – https://www.facebook.com/BestBeforeSA/

    • Reply 2summers December 26, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Oh interesting – it’s a trend!

  • Reply autumnashbough December 27, 2017 at 1:05 am

    I once asked my Dr. Sister about expiration dates on drugs. She snorted contemptuously and told me that unless it was a liquid, drugs rarely expire.

    • Reply 2summers December 27, 2017 at 9:42 am

      I know for sure that toilet paper never expires.

  • Reply Mr Bunny Chow December 27, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    going back to the Lyles Golden Syrup, look closely and you’ll notice that the lion on the tin is dead and being eaten by bees…..

    this is what Wikipedia has to say about it

    The tin bears a picture of the rotting carcass of a lion with a swarm of bees and the slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is a reference to the Biblical story in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in which Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness”.[3] While it is not known exactly why this image and slogan were chosen, Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man, and it has been suggested that they refer either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold.[1] In 1904 they were registered together as a trademark,[1] and in 2006 Guinness World Records declared the mark to be Britain’s oldest brand.[4] Lyle’s golden syrup was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1911.[1]

    • Reply 2summers December 27, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      Wow! Just wow.

      • Reply Sine December 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm

        oh yes, wow, what a story!

  • Reply Sine December 28, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    and LOL, the toilet paper made me laugh. How can there be a “best before” date for that, I thought. And then of course, the Christmas theme. Too funny.

    • Reply 2summers December 28, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      I guess that’s why it’s only R16 off, which in reality is not very much money. But anyway, it’s fun

  • Reply Tricia September 11, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Google for Best Price stores in your area. Distributor in Midrand, also named Best Price, same area as Kingsley

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