My local grocery liquidator doesn't actually get all their fresh produce sold before it starts to look a little worse for wear. Often you'll find boxes of produce stacked outside their warehouse door, free to the first taker before they toss it in the dumpster. (Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, Megan!)
Now, anyone with a little kitchen experience and a frugal mindset knows that just because fresh produce isn't pretty anymore doesn't mean it's garbage. I grabbed up a 20 lb box of bananas and 6 sad looking ears of corn for FREE the other day and drove home with a geeky smile on my face.
The bananas had black spots on them but once they were peeled they were soft, white and sweet underneath. Definately not something that you'd want to just eat raw but they had a huge potential for baking and smoothies.
I chopped them into chunks and froze them on trays. Then scooped them into freezer bags for smoothies. If I decide to make some banana bread or muffins, I'll just thaw out the right amount of chunkage in the microwave and continue on with my recipe.
The thing about over-ripe bananas is that they are very sweet with all kinds of natural sugars. Sweeter than a fresh peeled green banana. Just perfect for sweetening baked goodies and cutting back on the white sugar content. And usually if they are overripe they are cheaper or in this case free. So don't pass them by the next time you see them marked down at your local store.
And the corn? The husks were dry and crinkly but I shucked 'em and cooked up the ears today for a pre-dinner snack and they were sweet. Didn't even need to slather them in butter and salt.
So ask your local grocer what they do with their unappealing produce and you just might find yourself with some goodies.