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Food for thought How to bag a grocery bargain from Lidl, Tesco, Supervalu and M&S

Snapping up yellow sticker food is not only good for your already squeezed wallet, it’s better for the planet too.

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Mary McCarthy with her haul of almost-expired supermarket goods. Picture: Mark Condre

Mary McCarthy with her haul of almost-expired supermarket goods. Picture: Mark Condre

Mary McCarthy with her haul of almost-expired supermarket goods. Picture: Mark Condre

All the supermarket groups lower prices of food close to expiry date which is a big help when finances are tight.

You get a big chunk off the normal prices for still fresh food and with bills going up and wages staying the same - what’s not to love?

There are other reasons too; you’ll be helping keep food waste down because, while some of the unsold stuff is redistributed, some ends up in the bin.

And there is that sweet feeling of landing a good bargain - a good enough reason to buy the yellow sticker items alone!

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The Consumers Association of Ireland warned this month with prices rising more people will have to consider spreading the weekly shop across a few days but is this such a bad thing? Doing one big shop makes it more likely you will chuck food out. And snapping up the yellow sticker food is not only budget friendly — it’s great for the environment.

I love buying reduced food and I whipped around four of the supermarkets to check what’s on offer and ask the employees about the different approaches the shops take.

Tesco

A friendly employee in Tesco Dundrum told me they reduce the food near its expiry date three times a day.

In the morning there was a great choice with a third off - for lunch I bagged a mixed leaf salad for 54 cents, some good looking raspberries for €1.66.

I popped into a Tesco Express in the afternoon and got half price food; a large chicken for €2.50, which I stuck in my freezer, wholemeal bread for 30 cent, which also went in the freezer.

Where to look: The reduced food is kept in a specific chilled area with a sign saying ‘Hate food waste. Love a bargain’. For Tesco Express there is a smaller section in the fridge.

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Tesco Tip: Go in the afternoon/evening for maximum reductions.

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Lidl

A helpful employee in Dundrum told me each week they clear the fridge and put an orange sticker on the remaining produce which shows 30pc off.

I snapped up a huge block of Greek cheese for €1.25 and a large pack of Gouda sliced cheese for €1.61 and streaky bacon for €1.02 - all a third off with an expiry date a good three weeks away.

There were a lot of soups, cheese and sliced meats ; not a huge selection here but then again prices are reasonable anyway.

Where to look: A separate area of the fridge with the ‘Reduced but still fresh’ sign. Elsewhere in the store there is a reduced area for dried foods.

LIDL Tip: Ask an employee what the day they move the stock our of the fridge. This is the only supermarket that did not give the original price on the sticker.

The orange one means 30pc off and the green sticker shows food on its best before date.

Supervalu

I popped in on a Friday morning to the Ranelagh shop and according to a helpful employee at the weekend there is a lot more reduced stuff when their big deliveries arrive.

Food with an expiry date the next day gets cut by 30pc and then on the day of expiry is marked down by 50pc and there are also random bargains.

I got a big salad bowl for 10 cents, SuperValu sausages at half price for €1.25 and some button mushrooms for 50 cents.

Where to look: A separate area of the fridge with an orange flag saying special offer.

Supervalu tips: The reduced food is spaced throughout the store. Ask what day they get their big delivery and how they reduce prices ; it’s a franchise system so every shop will be different.

Marks and Spencer

M&S is simply a bargain hunter's paradise. It is expensive but there is so much top notch food at reduced prices - it’s a sea of yellow stickers.

A lovely shop assistant told me the food on its expiry gets reduced in the morning and again in the afternoon and evening with all the fruits reduced at 2pm. I went in the morning and did a big shop including smoked salmon for more than half price at €3.30.

Some freshly squeezed orange juice for €2.60 reduced from four euro, lamb chops a third off for €3.27 and chicken thighs a third off for €1.14.

M&S is great for treats and I picked up raspberry jellies at half price at €2.45. I stuck my head in that evening and got some ham and pineapple pizzas, down 75pc to €2.27, and bags of oranges for 25 cents which were fine for several days.

Where to look: The reduced food has a yellow sticker and is everywhere.

M&S tips: The later you leave it the better the prices for everything but the best choice in the morning. Fruit reduced at 2pm.

The essentials for successful yellow sticker shopping:

● Don’t be shy! Ask the employees at your usual supermarket for information on how they handle reduced food. They will be happy to help.

● immediately chuck in the freezer what you won’t use that day.

● Ignore ‘sell by’ dates - these are for stock control.

● For a few days after the ‘best before’ date you can sniff it and see for things like milk, eggs, hard cheese (don’t mess with soft cheese) and yoghurts. UK supermarket Morrisons have scrapped their ‘use by’ date because it’s fine to drink for a few days after as long as it is stored ok.

● There is no best before for fruit and veg but with bagged or sliced fruit or veg, it's important to eat it on the expiry date - so don’t go mad with the spinach!

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