Getting by

Perhaps an inauspicious start to this new feature, but you can see at the dedicated page more or less what it’s all about: any and all Slogger ideas gratefully received at jawslog@gmail.com.

My topic today is Reduced to Clear.

All supermarkets throughout the world (where there is a Sell By Date culture) have an area instore were those items they need to sell are gathered together. The good news is that, almost without exception, it’s perfectly safe to eat them, because sell-by dates tend to err massively on the safe side thanks to fears of being sued. The even better news is that the savings can be spectacular.

The health warning, however, is that there are two reasons why something is Reduced to Clear: (1) the product is crap or (2) the buyers screwed up the supply/demand equation. Only the latter syndrome is worth buying into.

In the last six months since I started being something of an anorak about this, I have picked up some savings so massive, previously one could only ever get them by buying stolen property. (And on me muvva’s grave, M’lud, I swear I never done that).

Examples include 7 oz of Parma Ham for 90p, fresh Tuna reduced from £6.30 to £1.50, plaice fillets reduced from £6.20 to £1.10, Corn fed chicken down from £7.35 to £2.80, and rump steaks that once cost £8.00 being sold for £3.30.

The best days to go in search of these are Sunday afternoons after 2.30 (when the supermarkets want to stock up ready for ‘replenishment’ days) and any time after noon on Wednesdays (before the rush to buy for the weekend starts). Especially good are the last afternoon’s trading before an extended holiday weekend (when they almost give the stuff away) and the last afternoon of such holidays (when unsold stuff can’t be allowed to hang around for another two days before shoppers replenish again).

The golden rule with this approach is, however, don’t buy reductions on stuff marked ‘Everyday Value’, ‘Essentials’ or any of the other weaselly branding used to describe stuff that’s likely to be pretty tasteless/poor quality in the first place. It didn’t sell because nobody wanted it – not even the poor folks.

34 thoughts on “Getting by

  1. My local Waitrose tends to have most reductions on a Monday morning (ex weekend stock, especially meat and fish) or for Thursdays for pre weekend clearance. They are also good for the last ten minutes before closing every day especially for baked goods.

    At the other end there are always 30% off stickers dotted around Lidl.

    Even with these reductions the best value veg is from the local market although the keeping quality is lower.

    • I am also a great fan of BOGOF type deals but these are only good for regular shoppers with their wits about them, being able to spot the bogus value offers. Only use these offers for things you really want and that can go in the storecupboard and last.

    • Hmm, I went to my local market here in my small village and paid, for one lettuce and two beetroot, close to 6 Euros.

      Stuff that, I’m going back to SuperU. It’s one thing to try and support local producers; it’s quite another to be taken for a lemon.

  2. Off topic, Sir Slog, but any chance of a piece detailing your thoughts on the Hollande victory (and “end of austerity”) in the French elections? Cheers!

    • Surely Loire Atlantique Loafer’s explosion in spending signalled austerity’s consignment to le bin rubbish?

    • Give the poor man a chance-as it is he has a work rate that would put to shame almost everyone I have ever met in paid employment, and it is nice to have the odd article on things other than the euromoanzone, however important and jaw droppingly unbelieveable those happenings are.

  3. I agree with Andy’s top tip above also don’t forget the reduced fish at Morrisons.

    Also, some of the ‘best value’ stuff is just the same as the ‘high quality’ stuff just repackaged. My top tip is to always ask yourself what could possibly be the huge difference which justifies doubling the price between two tins of sweetcorn, or a bag of rice or dried pasta ?

    Many things are repackaged because there is an innate consumer snob factor and the supermarket knows this. If it’s not processed in any way (ie baked beans, sausages) then it’s likely to be the same product in a slightly less attractive tin/bag. Extra value salted Tortilla Chips are just as nice as the name brand.

    Also, buy onions and other veg unpackaged. 3 onions could cost you £1 in netting but 30p seperate. But also check the price per kg often I find packaged potatoes are cheaper than those sold loose.

    One of my big bug bears is the sneaky ways supermarkets try and confuse consumers. Tomatoes can be sold price per kg, price per 100g, or price per tomato which means it’s impossible to compare prices.

      • I’ve planted a money tree, so I’ll be ok financially. unless I messed up and planted a euro money tree but at least I’ll have plenty of toilet paper!

    • Yes, I started 3 years ago as part of our own austerity programme. With runner beans costing more than pork per Kg in the supermarket it made sense to try and you don’t need a very large veggie plot to feed 4. As novices we have got approx 1Kg per plant with runner beans and tomatoes – 10 tom plants gave us enough for a year of salads, chutnies and curries. A 2m x 1m bed kept us in spinach, chard and lettuce for a year plus beetroots and spring onions for a season.

      When you grow your own you know what goes on the produce. But the difference in taste between home grown and supermarket/farm grown is staggering, farm varieties are grown for volume and ease of management and picking, definitely not for taste. Also it seems the quality is getting worse such as with Maris Piper spuds, some supermarkets are cheaper than others for the same things because they get the leavings of others.

      More people are demanding more of the worlds resources, learning to grow your own food as well as cooking it is an essential skill.

      • Growing you own is great but can cost more even if it tastes better, so grow the veg that is more expensive in the supermarket rather than fill your veg plot or tubs with things like onions or parsnips which take ages to grow and take up more room. Courgettes, sprouting broccoli (annual quick growing type not the purple variety) french beans etc Dwarf bush types help if space is limited. I grow spuds in very large 40 litre tub trugs (£3 each from Morrisons) on the patio. Nothing like freshly dug new potatoes.

        Realseeds.co.uk in Wales has great varieties that aren’t hybrid or GM. And if it can grow in Wales then it can grow anywhere in the UK, even sweetcorn etc. To get round the EU’s restrictions on the sale of seeds you join their club for 1p. And they tell you how to save your own seed rather than have to buy every year bringing longer term savings. I’ve used their seeds for the first time this year and also had 100% success rate germinating the seeds compared to around 55% from the commercial growers. They may be cheaper but wasting seed costs money, especially if you buy every year.

  4. Let’s see…

    Eggs – chap down the road who whilst living in a far better house than I can aspire to actually breeds chickens as a hobby. The by-product being rare breed new laid eggs at £1 for six or for ten pullets eggs.

    Fruit and vegetables – nursery outside Felixstowe, ten miles away, but I am a director of a business in the port and need to drop in weekly. An old style market garden and if they have not grown it they know who has. I actually prefer to eat stuff that is in season and local.

    Everything else – Saxmundham Waitrose on a Sunday afternoon after 2.30

  5. Last week – Waitrose Essential tomatoes pack of six 1/3rd off only 66p! Big display right by the front door. Weigh pack at price for loose toms and they come in at 49p….

    I explained this to to two people who had picked up packs of the “cheap uns” but both regarded me as some sort of space debris.

    Management totally disinterested until I said I was going to use the sticker from the weighing machine price to pay for them. Oh no sir there’s extra packaging costs to cover…..

  6. The quick sell prices will rarely be below cost and usually are above it. Margins are retail are ‘healthy’, aka astonishing.

  7. As for sell-by dates: first determine the length of time it is considered safe, then add a 50% timebonus. Not applicable to fresh stuff like dairy products, fish, and poultry. Use your nose and eyes for those. (chicken that’s rotten does not need an explanation. You’ll throw up after the first sniff. :)
    Addition: cream to whip needs to have passed the sell-by date. Fresh cream is very difficult to whip properly to crate the right texture.. The right texture is maintained by the bacteria you’re warned against. With fresh cream – put a package into the sun ( or close to heating) for half an hour or so. No further problems.

  8. Yay frugality! Few tips for the pile:

    1) Use yr freezer. (Get a spare if necessary). Much of the good, cheap stuff freezes, so you can just load up when it’s cheap… buying based on price, not based on what you need right now. (Mine’s still stocked with bargain salmon and half price beef from months ago). Split packs into bagged portions to make best use.

    2) Ask the staff. Some stores have set times for the cheap goods dump. Know this and yr ahead of the pack. (If the staff don’t know or won’t tell, look out for seasoned bargain hunters who look like they might be onto it, and they might spill the beans).

    3) I’ve only seen this once, but when Somerfield was bought out by Co-Op, they had a massive sell off to clear stock (presumably to get parity with the new owners). This also meant selling off the alcohol section… Wines for a quid, £20+ spirits for a fiver. The locals will be writing songs and poems about that day for generations to come.

    Bleedin’ obvious bonus tip: Chrismas decorations, barbeques, garden lights and everything seasonal is cheaper post-season and lives well in a loft.

  9. Flour, yeast, salt, water and a little effort will provide you with probably the best tasting bread you will ever eat, and at a fraction of the price of most of the mass produced stuff you can buy. The process is very forgiving, if a tad messy.

    I use whole bags, either 1kg or 1.5kg, so as to avoid the need for measuring the flour, and because it is just as easy and more economical to make 2 or 3 loaves as it is to make one. A measuring jug deals with the water, and a teaspoon for the (dried) yeast and salt. Mix in large bowl, or bucket; it is usually safe to follow the instructions, which can usually be found on the flour bag, but the process isn’t rocket science and is easily mastered. You can add honey/ sugar to the water before mixing, and a generous glug of a good quality olive oil into the mix, which serves to enhance the quality of the bread considerably. You can knead the dough on a clean draining board, as this serves to contain the mess, or on any other clean kitchen surface.

    Bake the bread in a deep, heavy, non-stick oven tray; it doesn’t need to be specially for bread-making, any such tray will do. I divide the dough, into four roughly equal lumps, and space these evenly spaced in the tray. A 1kg mix will obviously give smaller loaves than a 1.5 kg mix, but the results are always acceptable either way. Once baked you can eat it, freeze it, or give it to friends and family.

    Bread-making is pretty straightforward, hugely satisfying, and wonderfully economical. It may also be one of the essential skills to have to survive in these times of dwindling incomes and soon to be rapidly rising costs.

    • If you use spelt flour no need to knead the bread, though it is more expensive flour it has more fibre than wholemeal and many gluten intolerant people can eat it. It’s an ancient form of wheat that modern varieties come from. Make the mix, into tin and bake. Makes a very tasty rustic loaf. There is a white version if you don’t like brown bread.

      No kneading either if you use an overnight prove.
      1000g Strong White Flour
      20g salt
      2.5 dry yeast (yes – only two and a half grams)
      560g water (yes – weigh your water)

      Make the dough in the evening, put into very large bowl (plastic washing up bowl a quid from pound shop) with plenty of room to expand as it will treble in size, leave somewhere cool about 15c overnight as it needs 12-15 hours, divide into tins or shape and put on a baking tray and bake off.

      Ordinary plain flour makes for a softer loaf as it’s made from soft wheat rather than the strong hard wheat made into bread flours. Mix and match until you find something you like.

      • Since 1gm of H2O has a volume of 1cc you can safely measure your water! Notice your recipe has no sugar/honey nor butter so therefore you would of necessity need an overnight prove. I use the following recipe:
        500g Wholemeal flour (usually Waitrose Organic and Canadian Strong)
        2 teaspoon dried yeast
        1.5 tablespoon sugar (or similar runny honey
        25g butter
        1.5 tablespoon dried milk
        1.5 teeaspoon salt
        Mixed in Kenwood Chef for four mins
        1 hour prove in airing cupboard
        Knock back in KC and roughly knead to shape of tin
        Prove for furtehr 30 mins
        Bake in fan oven for 25 mins @ 220 C
        Makes a nutty loaf that would rival one of Cranks.

    • My wife has taken up bread baking after a visit from my Mum – She’s enjoying it immensely and of course you’re free to experiment with different grains/flours.

      The other thing that you should never need to buy is Yoghurt. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make, either in a dedicated yoghurt maker or warmed up in the oven, and then left to sit overnight with the oven light on to keep up the temperature.

  10. The most fantastic purchase I made recently was a Wonderbag.
    http://nb-wonderbag.com/ They are like pleated beanbags, and act in the same way as a slowcooker but minus the electricity, so seemed like a no brainer to buy as the price of fuel rockets. At £30 + postage (they are quite big and bulky) you get one, and one is donated to a family in Africa to use, so that seemed a fair enough price too.
    Using the sell off meats etc, and planning a day ahead, (or getting up early) they really do work. I cooked an 8 month cockerel in ours, took 8 hours, of which possibly 10 minutes was on the hob. Usually a bird like that which is rather tough would take 6+ hours of oven time, so it was a very real saving, and the stuff is always piping hot when you unwrap it from the bag.
    So that’s my tip…check it out! All those reduced meat/veg portions take on a whole new meaning :)

  11. My local Sainsburys had a wine offer, from originally £9.99 a bottle to 3 for £12, then on top on that, buy 6 and get another 25% off! Equates to £3 a bottle! Once you have your 6 bottles it was 25% off every wine including Champagne!
    I suppose the only down side was having to throw out all that rice and pasta and tinned food I had in the store cupboard………

    • We got 12 cases when that offer was on. We keep an eye on the website for when it’s on. Spare bedroom now a great store cupboard and wine cellar. Or under the bed if you don’t have a divan type.

  12. Warning for anyone growing their own. I found a load of ground up hard and soft plastic and some shards of glass in my bags of compost this year, even a pink plastic jewellery bead. Bought from a local gardening supplies company, not a chain like B&Q. I don’t have enough home made compost so buy in a good multi purpose. Complained to the manufacturer who claimed to be investigating and then saw their representative on Countryfile blaming the way people are recycling the wrong things into garden waste and there’s nothing they can do…blah, blah, blah. And it meets EU standards and trading standards aren’t interested. I’ll use it in tubs and pots but won’t put it in the beds in the garden.

  13. Magnum: Of course this adulterated sh** meets EU standards. Brobbly a Brit; Lord Haw Haw who signed on the dotted line. Talk about Munich!

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