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Saturday, 26 May 2018

Food shopping - questions and answers

Hello. A couple of questions have come up on the Yellow Sticker shopping post. I have answered them, but I will also copy and paste them into this new post. From time to time the same questions are asked, how do you eat all the food before it goes off, and when is the best time to go to the supermarket. 
This is the breakfast I ate yesterday. Usual bran flakes and seeds and nuts mix in the mini chopper. Topped with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, soya milk, and a spoon of Greek style yogurt. 
Breakfast this morning. Same in the bottom of the bowl, with strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, kiwi fruit, and melon.  Some of my fresh fruit will be frozen, I will check it today.

Right, the questions......

Margaret asks....
Hello, Ilona. Wonderful bargains there. However, a lot of those items have a short shelf-life, such as strawberries, houmous, etc, and yet you say that means no more shopping for a week or two. Do you freeze things such as houmous? (I've not tried that, by the way.) I know we can extend Use By dates a little, using common sense, and Best Before dates are often a nonsense, but I do wonder how you can eat all this before it's gorn orf, as they say. 
Margaret P

My reply......
Hi. I check the food in the fridge two or three times a day, and eat things in the order they are going to go off. Soft fruits first, prepared vegetables before whole vegetables. I usually manage to get through it without freezing, but if I find I can't I will freeze, or cook into stews then freeze. 

Bread goes in the freezer. I don't freeze houmous because it is ok up to a week later, maybe even longer.

My meals from now on will be only from the yellow stickers in the fridge. I won't be using tins, packets, or frozen. Priority is to eat what needs eating first, that will be salads, fruit, steamed prepared vegetables. I am strict with that, there is no, what do I fancy today. Looking at my list, I will eat mushrooms every day, either raw in salads, or cooked with egg on toast. I will eat houmous with every meal, salads and steamed veg, and on sandwiches. Hard root vegetables will be eaten last because they last longer. 

A lot of my cooked meals are just steamed veg, I will have six different ones on my plate. 

When all the yellow stickers have gone I eat from the cupboards and freezer for a week or so, until I feel like shopping in Tesco. Then the whole cycle begins again.

And Margaret's reply to me.....
Thank you, Ilona, for such a detailed account of how you eat, and I agree with you - eat what you have that will go off first, not what you fancy today. It's good and if its nourishing and well cooked, it will be tasty regardless of what it is. Yes, we will eat the same things a couple of days running to finish something rather than wasting it. 
All good wishes,
Margaret P

Jane asks........
Hi Ilona
I never know what time to go to get the best bargains. I’m either too early with just 20 p off or too late and there’s nothing left! How do you judge it?

My reply......
Hi Jane. It's always the luck of the draw. One day they might have over stocked and have loads of reductions, other days they might have nothing because it has all sold at normal price. I always get to the store for 7pm because I know that is the time the third ticket is due to go on. They might have done it early if they had a staff member to do it, so I find there is not much left. Or the staff might be too busy to deal with it and are late with the stickering, in that case I have to wait. 

I like the 75% off (3rd sticker) but others may be happy with 50% off so that might not leave much left. I might not get exactly what I want, so I am flexible with my eating and will try most things except meat and fish, as an alternative. It pays not to be too fussy. 

I use Tesco because it is the nearest store to me. Asda always has plenty of reductions in the evening but the store is too far out to take a chance on there being anything I want. 

I suggest you ask the staff at your store what times do they mark down, on the departments where you want to buy, fruit and veg, or meat, or chiller/dairy cabinet, or bakery. Get to know the exact locations so you can go there first when you enter the store. Most stores have dedicated shelves or trollies where the reductions are all together. 

It's a case of getting to know your store, making yourself known to the staff, chatting to them, and it's a good idea to dress down, casual or even scruffy clothes are best. Other shoppers get a bit huffy if a well dressed person scoops up the reductions ahead of them. Look as though you need to buy cheap food. 

Yellow sticker shopping is a habit, I used to go once every ten days, now I leave it 2 - 3 weeks. I get some things in Aldi which are cheaper there. Also shop in discount stores, but then I have to time to do that. It's a trade off between time and money. Invest time in seeking out the bargains and you will save money. Or go to work to earn more money to pay for the food at normal prices because you haven't got time to check different shops. 

Copy and pasting will save me time, and as this is not a forum other people might be asking the same two questions but won't go back to the previous post. Feel free to reply with any of your fantastic food reductions you have found. What time did you go shopping, where can you find your best bargains? How do you use up all the food you buy before it goes off? Time to share your foodie tips. 
It's a Bank Holiday weekend, enjoy yourself whatever you are doing. Thanks for popping in, we'll catch up soon.
Toodle pip 


  1. Friday a.m. is my shopping time, I had found, in the past, that if I get there by 9:30, all of the reduced items were out. Recently, this changed. I've discovered that if I am able to (as in out on an errand) and can pass by around 12, I can pick up the missed reductions. Meats continue to be marked down at 9:30, the dry/pantry goods by 10:30, but store label bread and rolls are 12 it seems. Store bakery items 10. Produce-not sure as it has been so random. Reductions are anywhere from 33-50%.

  2. We only shop when we're running out of food, so it could be any day rather than one set day a week (fortunately, being retired, we can do that. Not everyone is as fluid as us with shopping; they have set days, even set times. Although it doesn't save us money, we shop as early in the morning as possible because later in the day we tend to flag a bit, and it's lovely going into a supermarket early morning, it's all bright and fresh with few people around - heavenly (that sounds we treat shopping as a leisure activity; we don't, but if we have to spend money we like to make the experience as pleasant as possible!) As I say, this is our personal modus operandi, it wouldn't suit everyone and there are fewer bargains at that early hour, but we do keep our eyes open for reductions, but they must be on items we'd normally buy and not just be extra purchases because they've been marked down.
    And thank you again, Ilona, for this post and for explaining your methods of food shopping and using the food you have bought.
    Margaret P

  3. humous freezes ok for me it is a bit grittier when defrosting but still nice tessa

  4. As Ive mentioned before,I only get my tea bags and gravy mix from Tesco because they are 25p and 20p.I stock up on them when I get the coupon through the post,last few years being only £1.50P.Its this amount because my Mam buys some stuff from there and we share the same clubcard number.Now that Aldi have started doing Red Stripe 50% off reductions,I always keep my eyes peeled for them.Its always bread,buns,T cakes wraps...things that i bring home and go straight in the freezer.I did get sausages once and they went straight in the freezer aswell.I usually go shopping in Aldi about half one and thats when Ive seen them.A few people has said to me that they havent seen any...but you have to have a good look because they dont stand out like the yellow stickers do.Its just a thin red stripe saying 50% off on it.Ive had it with the stores like Asda and Tesco.Its doesnt suit my lifestyle to have to buy 2 for 1...or buy 2 get the 3rd free.The meat packs at Tesco...3 for £10..I get joints of beef,pork gammon or chicken from Aldi for alot less than a tenner!xx

  5. I have the pleasure of shopping when I want to rather than set days. Always look at the reduced stuff but would rather be in and out quickly as not too keen on food shopping. Sometimes I get a bargain but I do budget every week. In regards to what to wear to get a bargain? do they really look at customers like that? dressing down to me is what I wear to do some messy gardening that goes straight in the laundry afterwards.I look at how shoppers are dressed these days and then look at pictures from the 40s & 50s people then wouldn't have dreamt of going out without their best on and a decent hat....everyone wore a hat.I remember shopping with my grandmother in the late 50s she always looked smart on our trips but had very little and was very careful with her money but was things have changed.

    1. Staff don't care what you wear when you go shopping. I think it's best not to dress up because other people might wonder why you are looking for bargains when it is apparent that you are not hard up. Just my opinion. I prefer to blend in with the crowd.

    2. Meanqueen.....I agree, as a rule staff don't care. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, this past month, month/half, I have gotten a number of reduced (vastly reduced) items. It was a case of the store ordering too much in, and they had to get rid of it before next sale change. Now I generally don't dress at all flashy, or business like (so to speak), and I've had staff come up and nudge me and point these out. I am thinking if I was dressed more flashy they mightn't...Don't know, but as you say, blend in, and this way I do sort of blend in even with the staff.

    3. In reply Meanqueen....I think I will have to forego any bargains now and in the future then as I won't fit in. My Grandmother and I think also my Mum must have instilled in me to look at least clean and tidy when I go out. I worked in an office for many years dealing with customers, we had a dress code,not suits as such but smart casual (No jeans). I wear jeans mostly these days but I guess I still look smart casual...can't help it in my head now!

  6. I'm a ys shopper too out Tesco is 75% at roughly 7pm too, we have a small Sainsbury's and they're usually 7.30 - 8.00pm plus we have a small Asda and that again is between 7.30 - 8pm very much fruit n veg but great for bread at between 5p to 15p off the bakery section. I usually go once a week when I need fresh milk, most of my food is from Tesco x

  7. Houmous freezes well- might need to stir the oil back in if it separates.
    Not many bargains here we only have a Co-op but often get speciality bread for a song. I slice it before freezing and serve toasted with home-made soup. We sprinkle with Dukkah which I make from spices and toasted sunflower and pumpkins seeds. Yum

  8. We both work and have little time to to hunt down bargains. My husband does work night crew at a grocery, but most of the items that are marked down early enough for him to shop after work are non-food items.
    We only buy ingredients, no prepackaged meals full of Lord knows what.
    We have my mom and two college students with us, so we like to stock up at the first of the month. Then we just buy milk, eggs, and fresh produce as needed. We choose the produce based on price and that usually means we are eating seasonally. We keep lots of non perishable foods on hand like oats, canned chicken, fish, veggies, fruit, milk and jams. We also fill the freezers. We buy huge amounts when the sales are at their best.
    We buy meat at Costco, or direct from the farm in large quantities so we get good quality meat at a fair price. We eat very little grain due to food allergies.
    This works best for us and if sourcing food became an difficult, we could last for some time. We like that peace of mind.

  9. Sandy in the USA26 May 2018 at 18:30

    Excellent shopping tips. I have a couple of stores that I go into. I eat organic chicken, but not fish or red meat in general. One of my stores will yellow sticker the chicken so I buy up a few packages to freeze and it lasts a while in curries, soups or stews. Aldi will also yellow sticker chicken, as well as bread and other perishables. I need to find a store here that yellow stickers the fruits and veggies!

  10. Ilona:
    I'm curious - do you have farmers markets in the UK? They are quite common here in the US, and can be a great source of fresh seasonal produce at reasonable prices. Of course they can vary in quality and you have to prep the items when you get home,but that's half the fun. Thanks!

    1. Hi, yes we do. The nearest one to me is eight miles away and is on once a month. I have tried them in the past but found they are a bit more expensive. We have an indoor market in Scunthorpe, my nearest town. It is not very big but seems very popular.

    2. down south nicky27 May 2018 at 13:50

      ditto!farmers markets are for the well heeled!

  11. Brilliant posts thank you for sharing your routine. I used to know someone who was a store manager for Sainsbugs and he said that the staff used to laugh at the sticker shoppers and deliberately make them wait. I never admitted I was a sticker shopper he made me feel very small! My old supermarket was similar and the staff not very pleasant if you asked when they were reducing the prices! It's a shame!

  12. Hi,as usual, I love hearing about your sticker sales. Don't know why, maybe it is sort of sharing the "thrill" of the sticker hunt (I do love a good bargain myself). In the past month, I have gotten a number of hugely great sticker sales myself.

    I really do love seeing your photos of the products when you come home, and photos of the meals you put together with saem. It is inspiring to me, to keep me "on the hunt", grin.

    1. Yes Suzy, I also love to hear about Ilona's yellow sticker forays to the supermarket, and to see the photographic evidence too!

  13. Whilst I was getting a few reductions recently in Tesco a few ladies said afternoons were good in Asda & Morrisons-I've not tried yet x

  14. I always go shopping on Thursday night, after I have dropped my daughter off at trampolining, and before the Dutch as a Second Language coffee table starts, where I volunteer. This gives me about 30 minutes, which is more than enough.

    I once kept tack of what we ate over 3 months and from that, made a stock list of how many items of a certain product we needed in a month. Before my weekly (working towards biweekly) shop I check how many are lacking and add them to my list.

    I also have a blackboard in my kitchen where I write down whatever we run out of, whatever a certain recipe needs, wishes my dds have uttered (those are optional).

    Once I go shopping, I refuse to pay more than €3/kg for fruit and veg, so we eat very seasonal.

    Discounts are never very good here, and staff are very protective of their store. For instance, if you have a voucher and the product is discounted, they will not let you use the voucher, 'because you already had the advantage', even though there is nothing written on the voucher about that.

  15. down south nicky27 May 2018 at 14:00

    we have an asda close by and a marks and spencers,suprisingly the marks n spensers is a much better source of bargains at closing time there are often sandwiches and bakery marked down to pence,i like tesco and sainsbury but they are a bit hit and miss.The most embarrasing thing happened in sainsburys once when i managed to retrieve a good haul of yellow stickers and turned around to find a lady rummaging in my trolly as she thought it was the reduced section!

  16. Meanqueen - just seen this blog. Do you not have one of those devices that goes in your fridge that keeps food fresh for 6 weeks? I've been using one for about 10 years and they mean that you don't have to eat mushrooms (or whatever) for a week just because they need eating. Highly recommend them to everyone I know.

  17. Christina lettink28 May 2018 at 12:08

    Hi Ilona, I live in Belgium close to the German border and I find it always very amazing because of all the huge amount of food that you get with yellow stickers. We don't have this here either in Belgium nor in Germany, of course you can find some fresh food with yellow stickers before or after a weekend, but not several times a day. Last year we went to Wales for a holiday, and my Husband and I could'nt believe our eyes that it' s really true in the big supermarkets,- we bought our fresh fruit only late in the afternoon or in the evening and even in good quality. We remembered 10 or 20 years back, that it was always quite expensive in England to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. We even visited the aquaeduct and canals near Cefn Mawr and Llangollen, because you had so nice fotos on your blog. So I want to say thank you for your nice and interesting walking descriptions, too.
    That was really the reason that we went to Wales last year and we loved it.Now this year we'll go to Scotland and do a lot of walking there. cy Christina

  18. Thanks for these useful tips. I struggle with being organised when it comes to food as basically I don't like cooking and find the whole saga of buying produce and making meals very boring. However I do endeavour to be as cost conscious as possible and try not to waste stuff though sometimes I'll admit I do lapse. I don't eat out of date meat, but I do frequently go past the sell by date on many other items, I don't listen to the nanny state. Years ago my Mum and Nan used their eyes and noses to detect food deterioration and it never did them any harm.


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