January 8, 2023

Yellow Sticker or Reduced Items

On money saving  sites here in the UK you will often hear people talking about yellow sticker items.  These are things that have been reduced because they are going out of date, the packaging is damaged or maybe it is not selling well.  Some shops are now putting red, white or orange stickers on reduced food but once upon a time it was always yellow.

I am like a magpie and can spot yellow stickers from the other side of the shop. When I first enter a supermarket I look in the areas that I know might have reduced items.  These are areas like the chilled cabinets, the meat or fish fridges, the bakery, fruit and vegetables. in fact any area that sells items that have short dates.  These reduced items make such a difference to our menu. Two weeks ago I got a load of items with 75% off, including a whole chicken, stewing steak, fresh fish, salad, some ciabatta bread rolls and some chicken breasts. They cost less than £6 in total. These items would not have fitted into my shopping budget if we had paid full price and the standard of our food would be a lot lower.

When Mr S first came to live with me he was embarrassed when I picked up reduced items and would walk away. He told me that he was not going to eat out of date food. (I don’t usually buy out of date food but we do get it from our community pantry sometimes, which saves on food waste and it going to land fill. I usually buy fresh things from the shops that are going out of date that day, or packaged item that are going out of date that month.) Mr S is now as good at spotting bargains as I am, and he has enjoyed things like sea bass and home made ice cream and butter made out of reduced cream.  These things would not have been on our menu if I had to pay full price.

I thought that I would write some tips for buying ‘yellow sticker’ items as there are some pitfalls.

  1. Get to know your local shops and the times that they reduce (some shops reduce a number of times during the day until it is the lowest price)
  2. Check the colour of food, like meat, that it is not grey or brown. Personally I never buy out of date meat or fish.
  3. Check the saving. Is it really worth it and will you use it? Sometimes they are only reduced by a bit, or you can get them cheaper fresh elsewhere. I also ensure I have a meal plan (or an idea what to make with an item), and  room in my freezer before I buy anything.
  4. Don’t get carried away and tempted to buy something because it is dirt cheap. There were loads of tubs of hummus in a shop for 5p each and I picked up 4 to start with, and then put 2 down as I realised that they probably wouldn’t be eaten in time and would be wasted (though since I have found out that you can freeze hummus).
  5. Check if it is a sell by or use by date. I portion meat up and freeze it on the day if it is a use by date (or cook it). If it is a best before date it just means that the product may not be at it’s best after that date but is not dangerous.
  6. You can freeze more than you think you can eg milk, butter, cream, yoghurt, mushrooms (just slice and freeze in a bag), cheese (just grate), fruit and veg (sometimes you might need to prepare them by blanching but things like bananas and raspberries can be just be frozen as they are).
  7. You can often pick up bread for pennies. We don’t eat white bread usually but I will put it in a bread and butter pudding or make a gratin, or a coating out of it. Doughnuts, hot cross buns and croissants are good for bread and butter pudding too.
  8. Some shops reduce in a morning and others at night. I have an Aldi near me that reduces about 1.30pm in the afternoon, another in a near by town that has all the bargains first thing. Sundays are the easiest day to predict bargains as it is usually about an hour before closure. Christmas Eve, and when the supermarkets open just after the Christmas holiday, are good days to find bargains, or after bank Holidays, especially Easter Sunday. The year before last my boot was full of bargains on 27th Dec, when Christmas was cancelled last thing. The food lasted for months in the freezer and some Christmases I have got big Turkeys for £5 in  January which made about 11 meals from each.

I often call in the supermarkets looking for bargains when we are out walking that way. It is easy to get addicted to shopping for yellow stickers and my freezers are always full. Some times I have to give myself a talking to and ban myself from looking. It can, however, really improve your menu for little money if you are careful what you buy. More people seem to have cottoned on to the fact that you can eat well for less by shopping for reduced food, and it feels more acceptable now. Personally I love it when I know my plate full of food is a bargain, I seem to enjoy it more 😊. What are your tips for shopping for food bargains?


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