top of page

How To Stretch Your Food Budget, By Shopping Savvy..

Food prices are on the rise is on the rise, so how will you cope with the extra costs of feeding your family? Here are some ideas to stretch your budget.

Having previously been in a position where I wasn't sure how I would pay for our next grocery shop, I can relate to anyone having sleepless nights, wondering how they will feed their family.

In this day and age, you would hope there wouldn't still be food poverty in the UK; after all, we are a developed nation and the fifth richest globally. Still, we have citizens struggling to be able to afford food. With the rise in food prices, inflation going up, wages relatively flat, National Insurance rates about to rise, and massive fuel price increases on the way, I look at how ways you can look to make putting food on your table that bit more affordable.

Yellow Sticker Shopping

Savings of up to 90% on food is a massive incentive for you to head down to your local supermarket to see if you can grab a yellow sticker bargain! I used to run down to my local convenience store every night to do my best to grab the next day's food at a heavily discounted rate. I used to wait around for hours sometimes, just waiting to see what I could find, battling to be at the front when the bargains were dumped in the clearance chiller. It wasn't often I didn't come home with something and then played my own version of Ready, Steady, Cook, trying to devise a meal from a bag of assorted ingredients!

The yellow stickers deals are still there, and an unprecedented number of people are looking to bag a bargain! I have been working a side hustle job in a local supermarket since the start of the Pandemic, and in even less than two years, you can see the demand for yellow sticker food increasing dramatically. There used to be a core bunch of 'regulars' coming in daily to grab a bargain, perhaps 6 or 7 people, and it was pretty calm; however, skip forward to February 2022, and there are on average 40 or so people every day, coming in to pick up a yellow sticker offer. These aren't people just looking for a bargain; these are people looking for their next meal because it's all they can afford, and it's going to get worse as the year progresses.

You may have to contend with more significant numbers of rival bargain hunters, but it's still very much worth the trip to grab a yellow sticker deal. Every supermarket will have different times for reducing their clearance food, so it's always worth asking a staff member in your local supermarket what time they bring out the reductions. You will see the first reductions in the supermarket I work at (around 30% off regular prices) from about 9 am. The final reductions start at around 5.30 pm, hitting the shelves around 6.30 pm. Every store department will have a different maximum reduction rate, typically varying from 70% - 90% off of the regular price.

As an example, items from the Vegetable department will most likely be 80% off; the Bakery will be the same, the delicatessens will be around 70% off, chilled foods such as ready meals and non-butchery meats will be 75%-80% with items from the World Foods section, such as specialist meats and dairy goods, together with items from the Free From section, generally reduced to 90% off.

Here are my tips, as someone that works as a Code Checker, whose job it is to make the reductions, and also a yellow sticker buying veteran, to help you to be able to grab something decent:

  • Please arrive early, it gets super busy, and you want to be near the front when the bargains are brought out.

  • Please don't ask the staff to reduce the item any further than they already have. The reductions rates are set by head office and can't be overruled by anyone other than a manager, and again even they can't go any higher than the maximum discount allowed by head office.

  • Staff can't hold you back products; it's a free for all; we have to be fair to everyone!

  • It can get busy; please don't push or shove getting to the bargains, be kind to each other!

  • Saturday night tends to be the best night for the sheer number of reductions, and Monday night is usually the quietest night, in regards to the number of people in the store, so it's an excellent night to pop in and try your luck! Friday tends to be the busiest night, as lots of people in the store grabbing bits and bobs to get the weekend started!

  • Take someone with you if you can, then you can split up to try and be in two places at once, as often you may find reductions being put out in separate areas of the store at the same time, and this way, you have more chance of grabbing something from more than one section on your visit.

  • Take only what you need! I know it can be tempting to grab loads of a product, especially if there is an excess stock of one particular item, but if you aren't going to be able to use it all, then leave some for others to make use of. This also keeps your bill low and means you aren't stuck with loads of something that may spoil before using it!

  • Most vegetables, meat, ready meals, bread and even dairy such as butter and cheese can be frozen, so that's worth remembering when looking at the reductions.

  • Know how much spare room you have in your fridge/freezer before you head out shopping, the number of times I've come home with items, opened the freezer to find it already full, causing a significant re-organisation necessary, and that's not fun!

  • Remember, larger items such as joints of meat or large packs of food can always be cut up/split into a smaller quantity, therefore potentially taking up less room, but also allowing you to use that purchase for several meals, rather than just one! Invest in a supply of freezer bags!

  • Fresh fruit such as strawberries will last longer if you store them in a glass jar, with a lid, in your fridge. I have had strawberries last a good week extra when stored in a jar than if they were just popped in the refrigerator in their plastic trays.

  • Keep your basket/trolley with you at all times. Unfortunately, I've seen many a person grab a yellow sticker item out of someone's trolley when they weren't looking!

  • Save on the cost of carrier bags, ask the staff if they have any cardboard boxes you can have, and then use that to take your purchases home. Supermarkets often have dozens of handy boxes that the staff will be more than happy to hand over; it saves them from breaking them all down for recycling later!

Cashback Apps

There are several cashback apps whose main aim is to offer you discounted groceries while out shopping, and very often, these could be even free!

Apps such as CheckoutSmart, Shopmium and Greenjinn are the best of the bunch; They will save you money!

There are several cashback apps whose main aim is to offer you discounted groceries while out shopping, and very often, these could be even free! Apps such as CheckoutSmart, Shopmium and Greenjinn are the best of the bunch; They will save you money!

How do they work?

You open the app, and you will be shown a list of all the products that are currently available at that specific time and the discount available. You can filter the list by store, so if you are in Tesco, you can filter offers for Tesco only, and then see what you fancy, so you can go ahead and grab them.

These are all cashback offers, so you need to purchase the items first. Once you have done this, you go to the app, select the claim cashback option and will then be asked what you bought, where and when you purchased it and will be asked to take a photo of your receipt and upload it to the system for their review.

Once reviewed and accepted the apps will repay you the discount amount offered. This will work in a couple of different ways, with Shopmium sending you the money via Paypal automatically within a couple of days. CheckoutSmart and GreenJinn will add the funds to your app account, and you can then withdraw it when you want to; GreenJinn has a £5 minimum payout and CheckoutSmart charges a 5% fee on any withdrawal under £20.

These apps are very worthwhile and will save you money, plus they are an excellent way to try new products, especially at a discounted rate! The three apps I've mentioned have saved me well over £600 since I started using them, and that's a lot of cheap food!

Loyalty Apps

Make use of the supermarket loyalty apps! Some may be better than others, but potentially they will allow save you money when shopping, or offer you some other kind of member benefit such as cheaper days out, cashback for you or charity, and some schemes, such as Nectar, will allow you to earn your points elsewhere as well, in stores such as Argos, petrol stations, online stationery stores, holiday companies and even by purchasing using your AMEX Card, making the chances of collecting enough points to get a decent payout, even the more likely!

Some loyalty schemes will reward you with points for purchasing from their stores, which can later be converted into cash or vouchers, and others offer discounts on specific products, such as Morrisons and The Co-op, which needs you to activate the offers within the app, to ensure you get your discount.

Loyalty apps are free to use (although some such as Tesco also offer paid-for versions, offering enhanced deals in return for a monthly charge) and are, as the name suggests, ways for the stores to co-orse its customers to stay loyal and only shop with them. Still, it's worth checking your apps to see which store offers the best deal when you need to go out and shop!

Some loyalty schemes will reward you with points for purchasing from their stores, which can later be converted into cash or vouchers, and others offer discounts on specific products, such as Morrisons and The Co-op, which needs you to activate the offers within the app, to ensure you get your discount.

Stores such as Tesco offer specific members only deals on products, where a normal price is displayed on the product, and a members-only price, offering a discount. So if you aren't too fussed about what brand you buy or unsure of what to buy, these offers are an excellent way to save money by switching to a highlighted discount item, saving you money, and also allowing you to try a product or brand, that ordinarily you wouldn't buy, (you can be pretty sure that most of these offers are financed by the manufacturer, in an effort increase sales, or to increase customer perception/recognition of its brand/products).

Similarly, it pays to keep an eye out for the store's promotional items. Usually, the promotional items are found on the end of an aisle. The supplier/manufacturer has paid the supermarket a (usually eye-wateringly high) fee to showcase its products in a high impact and busy customer area, often at a discounted rate for the consumer. You may well save money switching to these products, or perhaps pay the same for a branded product, as you would for a supermarket's own brand similar item, which has its benefits, but be careful, these deals are there to entice you into buying more than you intended to buy/spend, and so don't just buy something because it's cheap, to then find it out of date at the back of your cupboard in a years time, it's only a good deal to you if you need it, and/or will use it, buying something you may not use, isn't saving, no matter how cheap it appears, its an unnecessary expense!

Top Tip: Look down... The supermarkets will usually place high margin products that they want you to buy on shelves at eye level, so look down, the lower shelves are where, the lower margin products are merchandised, and these may very well be just as good as the higher up products, but at a lower cost to you, (and lower margin to the retailer), which will ultimately save you money!

Top Tip: Make a list! I know it's old school, but make a list of what you need, and stick to it; that way, you can be pretty sure how much you are going to spend, go home with what you need and are less likely to come home with loads of extra goodies, which at the time looked like a great deal, but once home you realise may have been a rather rash decision, also don't go shopping when hungry! You will eat with your eyes, and your basket will fill up far faster and with more than you intended!

Never shop with kids; they will blow your budget, but if you have to, ensure that you plan your store visit by figuring out how to avoid the sweets and toys aisles! I learned that the hard way!

Cashback Sites

The big-name cashback sites such as Topcashback and Quidco may also offer discounted

goods via their sites; however, the more considerable saving is by using these sites to place

online food orders, as you will find you can earn cashback on your online grocery shop, with

first-time users of the online food ordering services scoring more considerable cashback

rates. If you don’t want to buy your food online, you can still buy a gift voucher for your

chosen supermarket via the cashback sites and earn between 1 % and 4.75% cashback on

your gift card, which will soon add up if you do this frequently!

Reduced Food Apps

Apps such as Too Good To Go and Olio will offer you some fantastic deals on short-dated food.

Apps such as Too Good To Go and Olio will offer you some fantastic deals on short-dated food.

The sites work slightly differently, with Too Good To Go allowing you to purchase a ‘Magic Bag’ from a local shop or restaurant, for the average price of about £3.00, which will contain a selection of short-dated food products, and, if not sold, would typically go to waste. You won’t know what’s in the bag until you collect it, so it’s always a surprise, but you can score some great bargains. Olio offer bargain-hunters free food products. The app allows people with food that they don’t need and want to give away the ability to list what they have, and then bargain hunters can browse through what’s available and then contact the person with the food and collect it. Restaurants and even supermarkets will often give local Olio volunteers excess food to give away. These volunteers will list the products and distribute them, which saves a large amount of food waste going to landfill and ensures that it goes to those who need it.

If you adopt some or all of these tips, you WILL save money on your food bill, its really that simple, and in these uncertain times, every penny really does count...


bottom of page